Killbuck Tied To Missions and Role As War Chief

The creek that bears his name, an elementary school, a golf course and a business are the only reminders we have today of his existence in Madison County.

His father was the well-known Delaware Indian chief, Gelelemend.  Upon the son’s baptism by the Moravian Church, May 21, 1789, he was given the Christian name, Charles Henry Killbuck.  We know him simply as Killbuck.  His baptism occurred at a place the Indians called Pettquotting, which is near Milan, Michigan, south of Ann Arbor.

Killbuck next appears in the historical record in January 1801.  The Moravian Mission at Goshen in the Ohio Territory sent him to meet with the chiefs and the Council of the Delaware on White River.  His mission was to obtain permission for the Moravians to send missionaries to work among the Delaware on White River.  Permission was obtained, although history records more than one interpretation that later led to problems for missionaries who came here.

It wasn’t until September 21, 1805, that killbuck appears again.  During his visit to the mission station east of Anderson, he translated a sermon from English into Delaware, delivered some letters and three Indian hymn books.  The purpose of his visit was to find out how the Delaware felt toward the missionaries, as there was a concern in Goshen about how successful the White River mission was in converting the local Indians.

A large gathering was held at the village of Chief Anderson two days later to hear what Killbuck had to say.  No record exists of the proceedings other than the local chiefs were anxious to have gathered about them a large number of Indians so that, outwardly, they would give an appearance of strength to Killbuck and his party, which included six Wyandotte from Ohio.  He stayed for a week, leaving on the 28th for Goshen.

Early in the year 1813, the Indians living here were directed by General William Henry Harrison to leave the area while his troops dealt with the Indian uprising led by a Shawnee Indian called The Prophet, who was the brother of the famous Tecumseh.  The Delaware relocated to Piqua, Ohio, where they stayed for some unknown period of time.  When they returned to this area, Killbuck came with them.  Some villages such as Anderson’s Town were reestablished while a few new ones were formed.

One of the new ones was Killbuck’s Town or Buck’s Town.  The site was on a high bluff east of White River, one mile northwest of the town of Chesterfield on what later became the Carroll Bronnenberg Farm.  A government survery conducted in 1821 locates the village on that specific site.  During the survey, the site produced broken flints and fire-cracked rocks.

Killbuck probably occupied this site until he was forced to leave the area in 1821 under the terms of the Treaty of St. Marys, Ohio, which he signed in 1818.  His mark on the treaty appears as Captain Killbuck.  In the Delaware tradition, the title of captain was given to the chiefs who assumed control of the tribe during times of conflict and were generally considered next in rank under the head chief.  Today’s traveler can easily find the site, which is a short distance southwest of the intersection of CR 75N and CR 300E.  A home is now situated on the bluff and over looks White River where it makes a westward bend. 

In 1821, Killbuck and his family moved to the Moravian settlement of New Fairfield in Canada.  During 1825, Chief Anderson wrote to the chiefs of the Miami demanding an indemnity of $3,000 for the murder of six Delawares that occurred over a period of years, beginning in 1809.  When the Miami refused, Anderson sent a second message to which he added a note from Captain Killbuck, reading in part, “I am the war man and the war councilor….you have heard a great deal from my head chief and you have not listened to him.  I now speak as the war chief of my peoples to you.” The Miami chiefs understood the significance of the threat, and paid, although a lesser amount, to keep the peace.

When Chief Anderson wrote to the Miami, he was living in Missouri as the tribal chief.  As war chief, Killbuck would have been next in rank to Anderson and I believe must have been living there also, but no records written or oral exist about him and thus his story comes to an abrupt end.  However, there is one local legend about him that persists.  It says that after his death, his remains were buried in an unknown site somewhere in the woods north of the dam on the creek which bears his name.  The woods are located on what was known, in earlier times, as the Sparks’ Farm, and later became Shadyside Park in Anderson.

By Stephen T. Jackson, Madison County Historian

The article above appeared Sunday, May 3, 2009, in the Herald Bulletin.

Published in: on June 4, 2009 at 8:59 am  Comments Off on Killbuck  
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