"Villains, as well as heroes, played an important part in early local history. Among the best known of the old-time troublemakers who carried on their intrigues and evil doings near Fort Wayne was a trio most appropriately dubbed the 'dirty Girtys.' They were the three sons of Simon and Mary (Newton) Girty, an early pioneer couple in the Middle West. The father Simon was killed by an Indian in 1791.
All three brothers—James, George, and Simon—‘gained notoriety because of their alliance with the savage Indians. Simon, who was worse than either James or George, was usually referred to as 'thee Great Renegade' or 'the White Indian' and with good reason. Although illiterate, Simon early showed a certain amount of talent. Captured by the Indians in 1756, he was released in 1759; and for four years he seems to have been employed as an interpreter about Fort Pitt.
"Later employed as an interpreter for the Continental Congress, Simon finally deserted the American cause. He worked almost constantly among the Indian tribes in the Ohio country, where he strongly opposed all efforts toward peace with the Americans.
"Although he was influential in saving the life of Simon Kenton and several others, the 'Great Renegade' encouraged the torture of captives. At the burning at the stake of Colonel William Crawford, in June, 1782, as well as a number of other burnings, Simon was a delighted spectator. He took part in many battles, including those of the defeat of St. Clair and the battle of Fallen Timbers.
In 1784 he married Catherine Melott, a captive. With the British surrender of Detroit, Simon had to retire to Canada. There, in 1818, totally blind and crippled with rheumatism, he died a dispirited man.
Henry Hays’ journal (printed in Griswold’s History of Fort Wayne, Vol. I and in Quaife’s Fort Wayne in 1790) gives an interesting picture of the part played in 1790 by George and James Girty as traders in the area which is now Fort Wayne."
Materials: “Simon Girty” in Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. 7, p. 323
Butterfield, Consul William: History of the Girtys, 1950
Boyd, Thomas: Simon Girty, the White Savage, 1928
“Simon Girty” by John A Murrell. In Nye, Russel B.: A Baker’s Dozen, 1956, pp. 97-115.
Quaife, M.M. Fort Wayne in 1790, Reprinted by Allen County Public Library.
Evaluation: A study in steady degeneration of character.
Let’s Take a Trip to See:
1. On U.S. Highway 24 just 18.4 miles south of Toledo, Ohio is Fallen Timbers State Park where occurred the battle in which “Mad Anthony” Wayne and his disciplined soldiers defeated between 1,500 and 2,000 Indians ending almost 20 years of border warfare which had which had been stirred up by such men as the Girtys.
2. The Catholic Cemetery on Lake Avenue where stood a Shawnee village called Chillicothe. Here James Girty lived for a time. His brother George lived in a Delaware village some four miles from Fort Wayne.