Monday, April 30, 2012

Charles Case: Political Leader, Congressman, Civil War Officer

In the decade leading up to the Civil War, Charles Case, Fort Wayne attorney, politician, and U.S. Congressman, was at the forefront of debates over the extension of slavery and the rights of black Americans.  At home and as U.S. Congressman for the 10th District, he consistently argued against the Kansas Nebraska Act that would allow slaveholders to move into western territories.  He spoke out for his belief that the Declaration of Independence ensured black Americans freedom and basic rights of citizenship.  He risked his political career, then his life to defend what he believed were the highest principles of our free democracy.

Born in 1817 in Ashtabula County, part of the massive Ohio Western Reserve, Charles Case was destined to champion social reforms.  People on the Reserve valued good schools and lively political debate.  They also welcomed some of the earliest New England missionaries who led the movement to end American slavery.

Ashtabula County was also home to future national antislavery leaders.  As Case grew to manhood, Joshua Giddings was beginning his first term as U.S. Representative.  Case studied law in Jefferson, the county seat, with Benjamin Wade, the future Republican leader of the U.S. Senate.  Wade was then beginning his career in the Ohio legislature leading efforts to repeal laws discriminating against black Americans.  In 1848 Case joined Giddings in forming the new Free Soil Party to block efforts to allow slavery into western territory.

In 1850, at the age of 33, Case moved to Fort Wayne to practice law in our rapidly growing canal town.  He served on the town's first school board and led an unsuccessful effort to fund building the first public school.  Along with other reformers who were concerned about widespread alcohol abuse, he joined in the emerging temperance movement.  When Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, Case joined the groundswell of opposition to the spread of slavery.

I first became aware of Charles Case when I discovered microfilm of "The Fort Wayne Standard" in the Allen County Public Library.  Case served as its antislavery editor during its first months in the summer of 1854 when he and other local leaders formed a new opposition political party, the People's Party.  For the next year, "The Standard" became the most forceful antislavery newspaper in Indiana.  Case wrote about fugitive slave cases and challenged people to understand the hypocrisy of slavery in a so-called free democracy.  He covered the political campaigns of Samuel Brenton, the Methodist clergyman who represented our district in Congress and national political debates. 

Case gained further public recognition during the summer of 1855.  A man from Ohio who was described as a "mulatto" (mixed race) was arrested under the provisions of the 1851 revised Indiana Constitution that banned all people of color from coming into Indiana.  His arrest brought about one of the most dramatic tests of Fort Wayne's willingness to enforce legal restrictions against black Americans.  Case along with Lindley M. Ninde, another forceful antislavery leader, took on the well publicized case and won broad support for its dismissal.

When Samuel Brenton died in March 1857, Case was nominated by the newly formed Republican Party to complete Brenton's term as U.S. Representative in the 35th Congress.  Despite the strength of Allen County's Democratic Party, Case won solid support from voters in the large 10th Congressional District in the special election.  He did not shy away from his record as an outspoken opponent to slavery, even though his reputation as an abolitionist was a political liability.  He argued that the federal government had the responsibility for blocking the spread of slavery.  In October 1858, Case was re-elected, now to the 36th Congress.

Case's record in local newspapers and "The Congressional Globe" document his consistent efforts to limit slavery to the South, despite astonishing pressure to compromise in order to prevent war.  Along with other antislavery leaders, he was labeled as a "Black Republican."  He was shunned not only by Democrats but also by more moderate Republicans.  As civil war broke out in Kansas and violence erupted on the floors of Congress, Case held on to his uncompromising principles.  On the eve of the Civil War, Case and other Radical Republicans helped elect Abraham Lincoln and build the backbone of the Republican Party that encouraged more moderate Republicans to resist compromise.

In the months following Lincoln's election in 1860 prior to his inauguration in March 1861, the nation was in a state of panic.  Seven states from the deep South left the Union.  Case was harshly attacked in local newspapers for his unwillingness to try to bring these states back and prevent further seccession.  In vote after vote Case supported the policies of the President elect.  Although Case's principles had cost him re-election to a third term he had helped ensure the promises of a free nation.

In 1861, at the age of 44, Case helped organize the 44th Indiana Volunteer Infantry and served as its adjutant general.  With the 44th, he fought at Fort Donelson and Shiloh.  Until his health was finally broken, he served as colonel of the 129th Infantry during Sherman's campaign through Georgia.  After the Civil War he practiced law in Fort Wayne, then in New Orleans.  He spent his final years in Washington, D.C. He was buried in Washington"s Congressional Cemetery.

As people in Fort Wayne chose to forget the Civil War and struggles of black Americans for full citizenship, Charles Case became lost in memory.  Few monuments to Union soldiers were put up to remind us of their sacrifices and of why they fought.  Now 150 years later, it's appropriate to recover a leader who so skillfully and forcefully articulated the struggle for a better future.  We can try to imagine him at work in the second floor office of "The Standard" along Columbia Street (a block that has long disappeared).  We can envision political rallies with brass bands and torch light parades in front of his home at the corner of West Wayne and Van Buren Streets.  We can look back on the presidency of Abraham Lincoln as one of our country's greatest tests of survival.  Case's astonishing record as a leader from Northeast Indiana helps us understand this important time.

[Research note:  For further reading, see newspaper microfilm at ACPL for "Gazette" Feb.27, 1873;  "Daily Gazette" July 2, 1883; and "News-Sentinel"  July 14, 1926.  See also author, "Charles Case:  A Radical Republican in the Irrepressible Conflict" in Dec. 2011 Indiana Magazine of History.]

Friday, April 27, 2012

Observations on the Chief Richardville House National Historic Landmark Designation

At a press conference on April 17, Todd Maxwell Pelfrey, executive director of the History Center, offered a brief history of the life of Chief Richardville.

“Born in Kekionga (in what would become Fort Wayne) in 1761, Chief Jean Baptiste de Richardville (know as Pinsiwa, “The Wildcat,” in the Miami language) served as the Akima or Civil Chief of the Miami from 1814 until his death in 1841.  His legacy and the legacy of his people were secured through his implementation of a seemingly benign yet revolutionary piece of treaty making, the establishment of fee-simple title to Miami homelands throughout Indiana and construction of permanent residences for tribal leaders on these lands.  His home at 5705 Bluffton Road was constructed in 1827, funded in part by the 1826 Treaty of Mississinewa, along with eight other residences for his sub-chiefs throughout northern Indiana.
“Richardville’s descendants lived in the house until 1908, when it passed into private hands.  The History Center purchased the house in 1991 and conducted a $360,000 restoration of the full exterior and portions of the interior in 2002 and 2003.  The home opened for public tours in summer 2004 and today is the site of the Miami Indian Heritage Days series held on the first Saturday of each month from May to November.”

“The Chief Richardville House (Akima Pinsiwa Awiiki) bears many noteworthy titles, including the only treaty house in the nation, one of the oldest Native American structures in the country, the oldest Greek Revival style house in the state, and the oldest structure in northeast Indiana.”

George Ironstrack, of Miami (OH) University’s Myaamia Project, offered remarks about the historical significance of the landmark designation.

“Historically, Akima Awiiki - the Chief's lodge - sat at the heart of the village, physically and emotionally.  Important visitors were always greeted at the edge of our village and then taken to the Akima Awiiki, where they could be cared for and made to feel at home.  The Akima Awiiki was where new friendships were kindled and old friendships renewed.  It was where vital material goods were distributed to people, and where both men and women gathered to discuss the past, present, and future of their community.  The Akima Awiiki was built, maintained, and used to meet the needs of the people whom the akima served. A leader’s home and his belongings were always at the “mercy” of his people.  Good leaders, however, were compensated for this obligation through the many gifts they received.  As a result, the homes of great leaders often reflected the regard with which they were held.

“As the shape, size, and needs of our community changed, the Akima Awiiki changed with it.  Bent saplings, cattail mats, and elm bark shifted to splits logs, hewn boards, and chinking, which in turn shifted to brick, plaster, and planed wood.  But while the materials changed, the purpose of the Akima Awiiki remained largely the same.  The Akima Pinšiwa Awiiki - Chief Richardville's house – occupies an important place in the history of our development as a tribal nation.  In that wonderful home visitors were honored with great hospitality.  In it and around it our community gathered to present their thoughts to their servant leader.  And it was at that place that the wealth of the community was distributed during treaty annuity payments. 

“The house also stands a symbol of our people's strategic attempts to resist land loss and forced removal through peaceful negotiations.  The nineteenth century was a confusing time for my people, and it remains no less confusing for us today.  The treaties we made with the United States of America rapidly diminished my people's land base, in exchange we were promised a secure, albeit smaller, homeland upon which to rebuild.  These treaties also promised us the means to rebuild: money, education, new infrastructure – like houses and farms, and expertise – like blacksmiths, millers, and teachers. 

“The Akima Awiiiki stands then as a powerful symbol of both success and failure.  It was built in exchange for land that we dearly loved, and it became one of the centers of our resistance to forced removal – a resistance that ultimately and tragically failed.  This home and the people who lived within it witnessed a horrific fracturing of their community, which included land loss, population decline, forced removal, cultural and language loss, and the scattering of Myaamia people across the continent.  This was a breaking that we were not supposed to survive.

Michael Galbraith, ARCH executive director, Daryl Baldwin and George Ironstrack at the press conference.

“And yet, here we are.  Myaamia people still call the Wabash River Valley home.  Myaamia people, my own family included, still call Fort Wayne home.  And those who made that heart-wrenching journey in 1846, rebuilt the nation that Pinšiwa and others strove to so hard to maintain.  Today, we still gather as a people to celebrate our lives and to remember the difficult sacrifices made by our ancestors and our beloved leaders, like Pinšiwa.  The National Historic Landmark recognition of the Akima Pinšiwa Awiiki is a great point of pride for all the people of the Fort Wayne area, while our perspectives and experiences may differ, the story of that great place belongs to all of us.”

Daryl Baldwin of the Myaamia Project also offered his commentary on the importance of this landmark designation for the Miami.

Over the years I have had several opportunities to visit akima awiiki ‘the Chiefs House’. The house may symbolize history for many, but for some of us it serves as a symbol of transition in an ongoing story of our survival as a tribal nation. This survival story, which includes the historic events associated with akima awiiki, is very relevant to our contemporary times. Just as Pinšiwa grappled with the challenges associated with protecting our sovereignty, developing an economy, and educating our youth, we still, to this day, continue building our community infrastructure to support our future.

“We survive today as Myaamia People because of our distinctiveness. We have a history, strong kinship ties, a belief in our leaders, and the desire to pass on our language and culture to the next generation. These aspects of our peoplehood are what made us a nation historically and continue to define us today. Myaamia tribal leaders have long understood this and Pinšiwa acknowledged this reality in 1832 during a treaty negotiation when he stated:

“’We are governed by our own laws and subject to none other.’”

“Pinšiwa was one of many who have and continue to lead our nation today. From the times of Pakana during the turn of the 19th century, through the leadership of Pinšiwa, who brought us to a time of great hardship with an unwanted removal west, and on to our present leader katakimaankwa ‘Chief Gamble’, who with other current elected leaders carry out our nations work in the Miami lands of Oklahoma. We have always been a people; a nation; a sovereign. Today, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma has 4,000 citizens with populations concentrated in Oklahoma, Kansas and Indiana.

“When I see the house I am reminded of this ongoing story. Like the stones in its
foundation, the house represents one stone in our nations story. Small and insignificant by itself, but when put into the context of the whole is a pillar in our nations work.

“The preservation of the Pinšiwa awiiki helps us remember. For those of us who live here in the footprints of our history, the house continues to be a place of gathering, learning, and sharing. For those who live far away the house helps us feel ‘home again’ in kiihkayonki. I am really pleased that my grandchildren will be able to visit this Myaamia national landmark.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Parkview Field, Tin Caps and History

by Carmen Doyle--History Center front desk personnel and baseball fan

            The number one reason to go to Parkview Field is, of course, to see the TinCaps play. But since the TinCaps can’t play everyday, Parkview Field was designed to be used year round.

The local music video “My City” by the rap group CertiFLYYED showcases well known Fort Wayne landmarks. Among the most recognizable, and one that is featured heavily throughout the video, is Parkview Field, home of the TinCaps. A lyric even talks about getting our “tincaps fitted on.”

Parkview Field, and the TinCaps, have been a great thing for Fort Wayne since they moved downtown in 2009. The field was designed to complement the downtown neighborhood, even basing its architecture on the nearby Firefighters’ Museum. Parkview Health bought the naming rights to the new ballpark and has tried to bring healthy choices to the park while still retaining the unique baseball characteristics.

Parkview Field was designed first to be a baseball stadium. And there are some things about being built for baseball that cannot change. The infield can’t change- there has to be 90 feet between the bases. The outfield allows a little leeway, but the most creative part of a ballpark is the concourse. And it is here that the stadium shines. There is no bad seat in the park. From standing room only and lawn seats (bring your own blanket to sit on) to the group seats in the Treetops Rooftop Party area, every seat offers a great view. Parkview Field was designed with the classic baseball stadiums in mind- the Treetops area was inspired by the rooftop seats at the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field. Unlike Wrigley, however, these seats are controlled in-house. This means that the ballpark can offer not only a great view of the field, but also that anyone seated there still has access to all the park’s facilities. These seats are designed with tables and high top chairs, offering a great view of the field while allowing someplace to set your food down. The Treetops Rooftop Party area is set aside for groups and offers a catering menu of some of the wonderful food options that Parkview Field has to offer.

There are over 20 different food and beverage choices offered. There are the normal ballpark food choices such as hot dogs, peanuts and crackerjacks. However, there are some unusual options available. Among the more atypical alternatives is a gluten free menu. Upon request, two of the food carts can put a hot dog, hamburger or sandwich on a gluten free bun and offer gluten-free chips to go with it. (There is also a gluten free beer available!)  Parkview Field offers other healthy choices as well. Picky kids can get a PB&J with the option of milk or juice. (Or pop, if they’ve had enough health!) Adults can get veggie paninis or burgers. A choice unique to this ballpark is the Apple Cart, which offers a rotating menu featuring Apple Dumplings and Apple WonTons, as well as fresh apples, for those people feeling the need for health. Parkview’s concessions are prepared in-house so everything is fresh.

Another seating choice in Parkview Field inspired by a classic ballpark is the seating atop the left field wall in homage to the Green Monster in Boston’s Fenway Park.  Left field has seating called Home Run Porch, set up for group outings. While the 12” height of the left field wall is somewhat smaller than Fenway (Fenway’s left field is over 37” high) it’s a way in which the TinCaps pay homage to one of the only remaining classic ballparks. (Because Parkview Field isn’t an old ballpark, there aren’t any seats with blocked views.)

The nod to Boston may also be a nod to local baseball history. Chick Stahl was a player from Fort Wayne who was a player/manager for the Red Sox in 1907, although he never played at Fenway.  Stahl committed suicide under mysterious circumstances and is buried in Lindenwood. The History Center has an exhibit with Stahl’s shoes on display. Parkview Field has an interest in local baseball history, decorating the park with banners depicting famous players and teams. There is a banner in the lawn section with a photo of Stahl. The History Center also has another exhibit on local baseball history: a display about Isabel “Lefty” Alvarez and the Fort Wayne Daisies. The Daisies are also pictured at Parkview; there is a banner as well as a plaque that has a brief history of the Daisies. The photo of the Daisies came from the History Center’s collection. 

 The North Gate is directly visible from the Main Library and also has a very small public park just outside the gate. Going through the Main Gate means that the wonderful Fort Wayne skyline is framed by the park. Even when Harrison Square is completed, the skyline view will still be perfectly framed.  (The only thing Harrison Square is supposed to block is the view of nearby fast-food places.)

A feature of Parkview Field that isn’t normally found in ballparks is the kids’ area with a climbing wall and inflatable moonwalk. There is also a splash pad and small amphitheater. The splash pad may not have the best view of the field, but the grassy amphitheater does have a view of the game, if a little far away.  This offers kids areas to move around without blocking someone’s enjoyment of the game.  While the kids play area isn’t open unless there’s a game on the rest of the park is. Parkview Field offers a walking path- the concourse is 1/3 mile, and the park is open for walkers every day unless there is a scheduled event at the field.

Before you go to your next TinCaps game, why not visit the History Center and get a closer look at baseball history? The History Center will also be at the TinCaps game on Thursday, April 26 helping to support the continuing history of baseball and to allow you the opportunity to learn more about our wonderful museum. CertiFLYYEd, the rap group from the popular “My City” video, will be performing as part of the Last Saturday event in April. The last Saturday of every month the History Center offers half-price admission.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chief Richardville's Portraits: An Unsolved Mystery

The recent well-deserved celebration of the Chief Jean Baptiste Richardville's house calls to mind the known images of the chief and the challenges that historians have faced in interpreting them. As one of the most prominent Native Americans of his generation and one of the wealthiest people of his time in Fort Wayne, it stands to reason that Richardville would have posed for his portrait. Indeed, there are two bonafide portraits of the chief with well-established provenance. The earliest is a watercolor painted in 1827 by James Otto Lewis as part of his Aboriginal Portfolio. Lewis visited northern Indiana, attended a treaty signing ceremony, and painted portraits of chiefs from several tribes. Conscious of the fact that his portraits would reach an eastern audience, he endeavored to portray them in their most exotic terms, complete with nose rings, pierced ears, and tattoos. His portrait of Richardville is quite conventional compared with the others. The chief wears a peace medal around his neck and is dressed in conventional clothing. Lewis portrait his eyes looking strangely upward - perhaps an oblique attempt to rob Richardville of his dignity. (See below).

 In old age, shortly before his death, Richardville posed for another portait by the noted Indiana artist R. B Crafft. This painting has long been privately held in the possession of his descendants. It has been widely reproduced and is considered an authentic, faithful, and sympathetic depiction of the chief. (See detail, below). Crafft painted a number of other portraits of Fort Wayne pioneers, including an image of Richardville's daughter Catherine and her husband, Chief Francis Lafontaine, both of which are in the collection of the Forks of the Wabash Museum.

A third portrait of a man with features similar to that of Richardville, painted by an unknown artist but perhaps Horace Rockwell, is also published widely as an image of Chief Richardville. (see below) It remains part of the collection of the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society and even appears on brochures for the house. Despite the resemblance of this man to the chief, there are significant problems with this attribution. The date and exact provenance of this painting are not known. The clothing of the man appears to be from the 1830s or 1840s, a time when Rockwell was painting oil portraits of many prominent Fort Wayne residents. However, the subject appears to be far too young for that time period to be Chief Richardville, who was then quite elderly. The unknown gentleman seems to be in his 30s, at most, suggesting a birth date of the 1800s or 1810s - certainly not an image of the aging chief born in the 1760s. Perhaps the artist attempted to flatter Richardville by painting him as a young man, but a more likely hypothesis is that it is a portrait of one of his sons. Perhaps it is of his eldest son, John Richardville. The mystery begs further analysis by a Richardville genealogist and it remains unsolved.

 In any case, whoever this painting depicts, let us celebrate the accomplishments of this intriguing man and at the same time contemplate the mystery of the above image. Hopefully, a more accurate attribution will one day be made.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Photos of Chief Richardville's Marker

Thomas Alter, superintendent of the Catholic Cemetery, graciously responded to our request for some photos of Chief Richardville's marker. Please see below...and note how the stone has deteriorated over the years.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Voice of the Miami

“Father, we think our answer is good—You point to the West and ask us to go there—There I shall never go, nor will my people. They are all opposed to leaving here. They will not sell their lands. I speak not for myself, but for my people—What you hear from me is the voice of the Miami. We have answered more than once that we will not sell, and still you ask us for land. You tell us again that our Great Father loves us—His acts do not show it—If he loved them he would clothe and feed them—He would not send them into the western wilderness. You go about like the fox in the night to gather information, to steal our opinions. We know the value of our soil as well as the White Man can tell us—Here the Great Spirit has fixed our homes—Here are our cornfields and cabins—From this soil and these forests we derive our subsistence, and here we will live and die—I repeat, we will not sell one inch of our lands.” From Peshewa to the United States, selected excerpts from the proceedings of treaty negotiations at Forks of the Wabash, September 25-26, 1832 (“Notable American Indians, pg. 100)

Chief Richardville's signature appears below.

As someone who grew up on the Great Plains, I find the stories of persons who lived their lives melding the two cultures of Native American and “white” together fascinating. You don’t see that “out west” because by the time those states were being settled, the Indians had been run off their land so often they didn’t have many options but to stand and fight. But it was different to a certain extent in the early days of Indiana. While the British didn’t condone intermingling with the Native Americans--their goal being to take the land for their own purposes--the French were more likely to intermarry and adopt some Indian customs. Doubtless, it wasn’t as altruistic as that sounds. Ultimately, though, the British philosophy won out and tribes were forced to move further and further west and off the land they had once owned.

We have several books in our gift shop about those days in our history and an outstanding example of an historical figure from those times in Jean Baptiste Richardville—Chief Richardville as we know him from his home in Fort Wayne.

The Chief’s home at 5705 Bluffton Road is now a National Historic Landmark. On April 28 you’ll have a chance to visit with free admission as we mark the official dedication. From 1 to 3 p.m. you can walk the grounds, take a look inside the house, and learn more about the man. Then, on the first Saturday of the month, May through November, you can experience different facets of Miami culture as each month we feature a different artist teaching about everything from weaponry to drumming to beading to the use of herbs to the building of a wikiami.

Legend has it that Peshewa—the “Wildcat” (Richardville’s Indian name) was born under an ancient apple tree at Kekionga or current Fort Wayne. His birth in approximately 1761 was toward the end of the French and Indian War. At about this same time, the French surrendered the fort at Kekionga to the British. In 1763, the Miami massacred the British garrison stationed at the fort, having maintained their primarily pro-French leanings.

There are over a dozen possible “Indian” names for Chief Richardville. Those used most in this article are “Peshewa” and “Pinsiwa”.

Peshewa’s father was French—Antoine Joseph Derouet de Richerville and his mother—Tacumwah, which means water bird—was Miami. She was also known as Maria Louisa. The Richardville (as the name later became) family made a living in the fur-trade. Husband and wife worked together and passed along their knowledge to their son. In 1770 the father moved to French Canada. Peshewa spent time with both parents, residing in Canada and attending school there and becoming fluent in both French and English as well as his native Miami language.

Richardville and his mother became entrepreneurs, building a trading empire based on control of the portage between the St. Mary's and Wabash rivers.

Miami culture is intriguing in that women held a high ranking, particularly those who were daughters of chiefs. According to the application submitted to gain landmark status for the house,

“Pinšiwa‘s mother had an equally distinguished heritage. Tahkamwa (Maria Louisa) was the sister of Pakaana , the Myaamia‘s akima (principal civil chief). Tahkamwa most likely served as an akimaahkwia (women‘s chief) at Kiihkayonki, and oversaw many of the aspects of village life: Women of the elite, or chiefly class, could also hold positions as either village or war chiefs or medicine women, the same designations used among the men…As chiefs, their power was inherited through their fathers, who would also have been chiefs. Tahkamwa was the daughter of a chief and was probably a chief herself, since she engaged in activities that came under the domain of a woman chief. Jehu Hay, the British Agent at Detroit in 1774, described Tahkamwa as a powerful political influence, and stated, ‘she is capable of doing a good deal of mischief and the rest of the French Traders are under some apprehension that she will…’ Prospering from her political control of the portage, from which as much as $100 a day was earned, Tahkamwa was an established trader whose example and tutelage guided her son.”

Most historians believe Richardville to have been Little Turtle’s nephew and to have been present with him during the bulk of Miami-American armed conflicts during President Washington’s military actions in Indian-held lands of what was then the Northwest Territory. Little Turtle is considered to have been the leader of a coalition of Algonquin-speaking tribes known as the Miami Alliance or Wabash Confederation which fought against American takeover of Indian lands in the 1780s and 1790s. Richardville signed the Treaty of Greenville OH in 1795 while in his early thirties.

The history of this time is too long and too complicated to explain in detail here. Suffice to say that the tribes worked hard to retain their lands and way of life, but to no avail against the drive West by the government of the newly formed United States.

In 1800 Peshewa married Natoequah, a Miami woman, and together they had a son and three daughters. He avoided Tecumseh’s battles and the War of 1812 by living in Canada, returning to the Fort Wayne area after the war ended and becoming civil chief of the Miami in 1814, upon the death of Pacanne, who had fought alongside Little Turtle and led the tribe as its leader.

According to the History Center’s web site:

“As American settlements spread through the Old Northwest Territory, it became clear that the United States government intended to remove local Indians and inhabit their land. Richardville, through clever negotiation, was able to maintain a Miami presence in Indiana long after other tribes had been forced to leave the area, notably the Piankashaws in 1805 and the Wea in 1820.

“In 1818, through Richardville's intervention, individual families were given legal land grants as small parcels of privately held reserves scattered throughout northern Indiana. Richardville himself eventually controlled over twenty square miles of choice property along the St. Joseph, St. Mary's, Mississinewa, Salamonie and Wabash rivers. This act provided the means for half of the Miami people to remain in Indiana after their official removal in 1846, five years after Richardville's death.

“In recognition of his role as a principal chief among the Miami people, the U.S. government provided $600 toward construction of a house for Richardville along the banks of the St. Mary's River. The chief contributed some of his own wealth toward the house that eventually cost $2,200 when it was built in 1827. In his spacious and elegant home, he reportedly entertained some of Fort Wayne's earliest civic leaders like Samuel Hanna, Allen Hamilton, and William Rockhill.”

In its description of the historical significance of Richardville’s life, the landmark application describes him:

“Throughout the course of his life and to 1789 in particular, Pinšiwa learned to be a cultural broker with the surrounding Indian tribes; with the French and the English; with U.S. military leaders and government officials; and with the growing numbers of U.S. settlers, who crossed the Ohio River into Indian land. These situations required Pinšiwa‘s ability to negotiate and broker between parties who had profoundly different, mutually incomprehensible,‖ worldviews. Pinšiwa spoke the language of the Myaamia, as well as the language of the United States, France and England. The Middle Ground‖ approach and process required a rough balance of interest, need, and power between the parties. As the Pays d’en haut (Great Lakes ―upper country‖) matured and civilizations increasingly collided, the cultural brokerage of leaders, such as Pinšiwa became ever more crucial. The presence and interaction of Myaamia, French, British, Spanish, and United States citizens, other tribes of the Great Lakes and those tribes fleeing U.S. frontier expansion, made the collection of Kiihkayonki villages in which Pinšiwa was raised as cosmopolitan a community as any that existed in the Great Lakes region.

“At a young age, Pinšiwa had been trained to utilize his heritage, ingenuity, and skill, to become an influential assistant to his uncle, the akima Pakaana. He also became a trader under the tutelage of his mother and stepfather, Charles Beaubien. Pinšiwa‘s command of the language and customs of the Euro-American world also gave him an advantage as he attempted to maintain the Middle Ground‖ equilibrium between Euro- American and Indian cultures. Educated in both the French and Myaamia tradition, he gradually ascended to de facto status as akima upon the removal of his uncle to Vincennes after 1785, and became fully recognized as akima by the Myaamia and the United States government by 1818.”

But according to the book “Notable American Indians” by Alan J. McPherson and James Carr, there is another view of Richardville:

“He won many important concessions during treaty negotiations with the United States from 1815 through 1840, including procurement of the Great Miami Reserve, a reservation of some seven hundred sixty thousand acres in north central Indiana, during the council at the Treaty of St. Mary’s (Ohio) in 1818.

“However, some also accused Peshewa of using his political position for his personal financial gain as well as lucrative considerations for his family and close friends. During his lifetime, he received large grants of money and land and was awarded several homes from the United States government. He became the richest Indian in Indiana and possibly ‘the most wealthy man of the native race in America,’ according to historian Henry Schoolcraft.”

Lois Shepherd Headings, who wrote a definitive article about Chief Richardville for the “Old Fort News” (Vol. 61, Nos. 1 & 2)in 1998, states, “Richardville’s contemporaries were sometimes derogatory—a few traders and officials decrying his cunning and deceit, finding his craft too subtle. But others found him laudably prudent, careful, and deliberate, a patient listener, even beloved and esteemed.”

Chief Richardville died on August 13, 1841 in his house on what is now Bluffton Road. According to Headings’ article, “his casket was ferried down the river to the French-Catholic church in Fort Wayne (on the site of the current Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception). His remains lie under Cathedral Square. “ Cathedral Square is at the intersection of Lewis and Calhoun Streets in downtown Fort Wayne.

Doris M. Perry, writing in “The Old Fort News”, (Vol. 53, No. 1, 1990), explains “he was considered the wealthiest Indian in Indiana. He left his family thousands of choice acres of land, a safe full of gold (writer’s note: the safe remains in the house at Bluffton Road for your viewing), trading posts and several houses. His granddaughter, Mongosehquah, reported that it took the family a day and a night to remove the gold found hidden in the house and on the grounds…”

The National Historic Landmark designation, acquired on March 2, 2012, says the structure is a rare example of a treaty house and the only surviving treaty house remaining in the nation. It is also the first Greek Revival style house in northeast Indiana.

Several generations of the Chief’s descendants owned the house until 1908 when it passed out of the family and eventually became the office for the Spy Run Gravel Company that mined much of the surrounding area, leaving the house on a one-acre pedestal of land. The Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society acquired the property in 1991 and has restored the building's exterior.