Middlesex County Ontario Border Incidents

In 1813, the Indians of the Western and London Districts held a great council on the St. Clair River, at which it was decided to capture and kill all American sympathizers on each side of the river. A friendly squaw gave the alarm, and the greater number fled to Detroit; but King, an Englishman, who settled in Canada, did not think they would harm him; but next day, he and a man named Rodd, husband of old mother Rodd, were shot and killed the Indians not approaching near enough to recognize them as Englishmen. Among the savages engaged in this affair were Old Salt, Black Foot, Wapoose (the medicine man), and Wawanosh, who died at Sarnia about 1878. For those miscreants the British erected houses in 1828 near Sarnia, building material and shingles being purchased from Burtch, of Port Huron. At Marine City, and, indeed, along the American bank of the St. Clair River, the settlers suffered much during the War of 1812-14. Families were marked out for Indian vengeance by the British on account of the older boys being in the American army, and it was common for a mother and her children to hide in the willow groves for weeks. The tragedy at Bunce’s Creek, a few miles south of Port Huron, points out the manner in which this war was conducted in Western Canada. A party of five soldiers started from Fort Gratiot to row to Detroit. A company of Indians under Tawas, a quarter-breed, was at this point awaiting them, and, when the soldiers appeared, hoisted a white flag to decoy them. The troops, unfortunately, rowed toward the creek; but when close to the river bank, the Indians opened fire, killing four of the men, leaving the fifth to sink or swim in the river. He saved himself, however, and, after many hardships, returned to Fort Gratiot. The Indians made life along the border so unendurable that all the families, except Mrs. Harrow’s, moved to Canada, and swore allegiance to the British; but many returned after the defeat of Proctor on the Thames.

The half-breed Magee commanded the Indians during Major Mulir’s occupation of Detroit, or from the surrender of Hull to the arrival of Harrison. At times the Indian captain would be so drunk regular troops would have to remove him. Whether drunk or sober his power over his dusky command was remarkable, and it is said that Magee’s terrific yell (he had a voice like a lion,) would gather round him all the savages, as a bugle call would gather the regular troops to Mulir’s quarters. During the year ending in October, 1813, a number of Americans were killed along the border, and it required the greatest care and vigilance on the part of the British commanders to check the Indians, as well as their own troops, in their murderous designs on border women and children, who had moved into Canada, and taken the required oath of allegiance. The original instruction to the savages to annihilate the Americans was, however, carried out by them, as far as it was possible. In 1812, and for years before, the Shanaway Indians resided on Big Bear Creek, making camps up that creek and the Thames, from March to October, and spending the winters near Lake St. Clair. There were five sons, who were all British warriors. One of them named Megish was killed at Lundy’s Lane by Capt. Chesby O’Blake, who was mate of a brig lying at Newburyport, who, being blocaded by the British, tied up his ship, and, with his men, joined Scott’s brigade.

Nimecance, or Lightning, a son of Kioscance, served under Patrick Sinclair, commander of the British garrison at Pine River, now St. Clair City, Mich. In 1817 this Indian was 105 years old, and still attended to his corn fields, four miles south of the Port Huron Custom House. He died about 1824, aged 112 years.

His father, Kioscance, was chief of the Otchipwas, in their wars against the Wyandots and Six Nations. His fleet was so extensive that it covered the old broad St. Clair from Point Edward to Walpole Nicholos Plane, chief of the Sarnia Indians, is a great grandson of old Kioscance. His tribe was known as the Rapid Tribe, whose village was about a mile northeast of the present town of Point Edward, prior to their removal to Fort Gratiot, after their incursion into the Erie country.

Okemos, the nephew of Pontiac, and head chief of the Otchipwas, was born in Michigan in 1763. In later years he performed feats of valor for the British at Sandusky, which won for him the name of being the greatest warrior and chief of his tribe. He, with Manito Corbay and sixteen other warriors, was afterwards sent out by the British Commandant at Detroit to reconnoitre as far as the British rendezvous at Sandusky. They ambushed a party of mounted American riflemen, but suffered so terribly from the charge which followed, that they would not join Tecumseh in 1812. Okemos died in 1858, with a name known from Sandusky to Niagara and Detroit.

The half-breed, John Riley, who in early years resided at Port Huron, but made his home along the Thames, Bear Creek, and Aux Sauble. was a great hunter. One Sunday, while walking in the woods with a boy, he discovered a large log in which some animal was living. He said to the boy “Abscoin, hashapun” (John, a raccoon). The boy entered, but came out with great speed, crying “Moguash, Moguash” (a bear, a bear). Riley drew his tomahawk, and when the bear’s head appeared buried the weapon in his brains, thus obtaining 400 pounds of bear without intentionally breaking the Sabbath, of which he pretended to be a strict observer.

Kumekumenon, or Macompte, although residing for years on the western border of Lake St. Clair, exercised much influence over the Indians of Western Canada until 1816, when death relieved him of power. His sons one bearing the same name, and one Francis moved to Lakeville, Mich, in 1830. The latter, with Truckatoe and Kanobe, was subsequently an important man until the westward movement of the tribes. Kanobe moved to Canada in 1827.

Shignebeck, a son of Kioscance, was 109 years of age at his death in the thirties. Ogotig, a daughter, lived to see 107 years; old mother Rodd, who died in 1870, on the Sarnia reservation, was 104 years old, while Onsha, a third son of the chief, reached a very old age.

Old Wittaniss was a sub-chief among the remnant of the Hurons in 1776. About that time he assisted the British, and during the war of 1812 was one of their Indian allies.

Tipsikaw, who left the St. Clair region for the west in 1837, was a brave of great speed and a celebrated wrestler.

Negig, an Indian Chief, who died in 1807, was one of the best known Indians in the St. Clair District.

Kishkawko, a desperate Otchipwa, served in the War of 1812.

Among the Indians who traversed this western section of Canada,, and, indeed, claimed parts of Michigan, were Black Snake and his son-in-law Black Duck. Like the half-breed, John Riley, they considered themselves Americans, but were friendly to the British Indians. On one occasion, the Canadian Indians visited what is now Port Huron, to hold a feast or picnic. Whisky was plentiful, and with it they were eloquent speakers. Among the Britishers was a brave from the Aux Saubles, who boasted of his war career in 1812-13, and told the number of American scalps he had taken during the war. Black Duck listened, and when the speaker had finished, addressed him thus: “You are a great brave; you have killed many Americans; you have taken their scalps. The Americans you killed were my friends, and you will kill no more.” Black Duck buried his tomahawk in the boaster’s brain, and the feast ended. At this time and for years after, the Indian wigwams were chinked with moss some capable of sheltering twenty persons. Deer was plenty: the present Nelson Beaver killed over 2,000 in his younger days, and often furnished London with venison to supply all demands.

In March, 1828, a youth named Petit set out from Port Huron to search for an Indian hunting party, under Tawas, who were in Canada all winter. Others had set out before this, but failed to meet Tawas. In this search he was accompanied by one armed Indian, who had, some years before, murdered his squaw, where Sarnia now stands, and hid the body in Black River at Port Huron. The two proceeded to Sebewaing, and, following the lake’s Canadian shore, they reached White Rock. Next day they discovered Tawas and his band in a sugar camp, which they had selected on account of the stream close by affording plenty of fish. The Indians had a number of brass kettles of various sizes, which had been presented to them by the British Government. He purchased from them 500 marten skins, at one dollar each, but did not buy the large quantity of coarse furs which the band had collected.

A young Indian named John Seneca, of the Muncey tribe, was induced to go to the United States during the war. There he was compelled to enter the army, and was subsequently killed. His father, Peter Seneca, believed a resident of Mt. Brydges guilty of leading his son away, and treasuring up revenge, attacked the young man in September, 1870.

In April, 1887, the Hallelujah Band, of Moraviantown, visited Munceytown, and on the 23rd, a similar band was organized there with Chief W. J. Waddilove, captain of the men, and Phoebe Waddilove, captain of the women, with Peter Jones, lieutenant of the first, and Frances Wilson, of the second band.

Nelson Beaver, chief of the Caradoc Reserve, was sixty years connected with his tribe up to 1881. Among the agents of whom he speaks highly were Froome Talford,who succeeded Col. Clinch; Agent McKenzie followed Clinch, and in 1878 Agent Gordon took charge. In 1881, the “order system” was roundly denounced, and ultimately abolished. (Vide Sketch of Nelson Beaver)

When Robert Summers was keeping the Old McFadden House at London, about 1849, an Indian approached from York street, while the chief Nelson Beaver, came down from Dundas street. The two Indians met at the corner, but Nelson’s salutation was not understood as Indian No. 1 proved to be an Oneida. Beaver said to him: “What are you saying? You’re a blacker Indian than I am, and yet you can’t speak Indian. You’re a fool. Can you talk anything?” The query led to a quarrel; both Indians took off their blanket rolls or budgets, but the moment the argumentum ad hominem was to be made, Beaver picked up his roll, and, running over to the crowd on the hotel piazza, cried out, “Didn’t I fool that Indian, eh?”


W. A. & C. L. Goodspeed. History of the County of Middlesex, Ontario: from the earliest time to the present, containing an authentic account of many important matters relating to the settlement, progress and general history of the county, and including a department devoted to the preservation of personal and private records, etc. London: W. A. & C. L. Goodspeed, Publishers, 1889.

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