Kingston on King’s Creek

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I’m still not finished telling about the September 26 ride from Fort Loramie to Urbana, Ohio.

By the time I reached King’s Creek, shown in this photo, I had already decided to end the day’s ride at Urbana. This was the second-to-last remaining destination of my revised route plan.

There had been a mill here — actually behind where I was standing when I took the photo. During the War of 1812 two blockhouses had been erected by the mill, according to Joshua Antrim’s 1872 history of the county.

Why two of them, the author didn’t say. Usually people would not want to divide their forces. Were there two factions in the town that didn’t get along with each other well enough to join together for the common defense? In any case, the blockhouses weren’t needed for their purpose.

In telling about this, the writer of the chapter about this place (one Edward Morgan) immediately segues into a description of Indians making use of the mills. He almost seems to be implying, though he doesn’t say so directly, that they were using the mills during the war years, too.

I didn’t see anything photogenic where the mill might have been, so I settled for a photo of the old store just to the south of it.

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It appears to be the store that was owned by John F. Rettberg at the time of the 1874 atlas. I’ve circled it in red. (The above screen shot from that atlas is courtesy of Historic Map Works. If you click on the image, you’ll be taken to the original Historic Map Works page from which it was taken.)

The 1881 history of Champaign County says Rettberg came to the U.S. from Germany in 1854 — which means he came well after the pioneer period that most attracts my interest.

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Kingston is in Salem Township, the same township where James McPherson is said to have lived with Shawnee people. The township boundary is shown by a violet-colored rectangle. In this map, Kingston (now called King’s Creek) is shown with a red marker. The county history writers tell us that King’s Creek is where the first European-American settlers came — beginning around 1802.

King’s Creek empties into the Mad River near the southwest corner of the township. Later on, beginning around 1809, another wave of settlers came to the floodplain on the upper part of the Mad River Valley, approximately where the yellow marker is located — where James McPherson is said to have lived.

I wish we knew more about the village where McPherson lived even before these “settlers” came. Did Shawnee people come to live by him, or did he come here to live here because that’s where some Shawnee people lived. Did they find the floodplain a good place to grow corn, like it is now? If they came to the mill at Kingston, I suppose it was because they had grain to grind.

Edward Morgan, a resident of Kingston, doesn’t have much to tell about the place where they lived but he did see Indians when they came here to Kingston. At the risk of making people cringe at the attitude shown towards a race and culture different from his, I quote here from page 250 of Antrim’s 1872 history:

To these [block] houses, which were enclosed by tall pickets, the settlers would flee in times of danger; but the Indians never disturbed them there; great numbers of them, mostly squaws, were every day to be seen coming to, and returning from the mill, with their little buckskin sacks filled with corn, and thrown across the naked backs of their bob-tailed ponies, upon which the squaws rode astride, some of them with their “pappooses” fastened to a board and strapped upon their back. On dismounting, the squaw would place the board to which the baby was tied against the wall of the mill, in an erect position, then take off and carry in her sack of corn, and immediately return and nurse her pappoose. The writer once saw an Indian squaw, in a great hurry, accidentally place her child upon the board wrong end up. The youngster soon discovered the mistake, and although a wild savage, its cries and screams precisely resembled those of a white child.

Many of the writers of county histories of the time refer to Indians by lumping them together with wild animals, so I suppose it was a revelation to him to learn that an Indian baby would cry like a white baby.

It’s tempting for me, at least, to be condescending towards Morgan’s condescending attitude toward his Shawnee neighbors, but maybe a better way to use this anecdote is to remember that there have been times when I, too, have had moments of revelation about “other” people. Some of them have come about when I’ve met people on my bicycle rides. Like the time when a guy in a pickup complete with gun rack and guns stopped — to ask if I had seen his dog, which had gotten lost. I presume there will be more such revelations to come.

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  • You have come up with some very interesting stories about the Native Americans. The story of the Indian women at the Mill in this posting gives one an idea of the feelings that exsisted between the races back then. It was shameful how the Natives were treated.

  • Spokesrider

    Hi, Hal. I think your interpretation is right. It would probably be best not to make too much of the writer’s motives in writing about it — he may have been telling it because he learned something that day, or he may have been trying to make a gentle point for his friends and neighbors to learn from. But like you say, it does give an indication of the feelings that at least some people had about Indians.

    BTW, I recently came across one of your paintings on the web where I hadn’t expected to find such a thing, then neglected to make a note of it so I could find an excuse to work it into a blog article. Now I don’t recall where it was. Maybe I’ll do better if I run across it again.