Talgayeeta: Pacifist to Warrior

The Cayuga are one of the Five Nations of the Iroquois League Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca). At the beginning of the American Revolution, a large number of Cayuga moved to Canada and never left. The remainder of the Cayuga were scattered among other tribes. After the Revolution, some went to the Ohio frontier where they joined other Iroquois, and became known as the Seneca of Sandusky. Others became the Oneida of Wisconsin, while a number remained with the Iroquois in New York. However, the majority are currently on the Grand River Reserve in Ontario, Canada (http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/tribes/iroquioi/cayugahist.htm).Talgayeeta (pronounced tall-gah-YEE-tah) was born in 1731, in the primarily Cayuga village of Shamokin. The village was located on the shores of the present Shamokin River, just below the Forks of the Susquehanna. Today, the city of Sunbury, Northumberland County, PA occupies this site. Talgayeeta is better to known to many of us as Chief Logan of the Mingo (Eckert, 1995). Although some sources state the Talgayeeta was Seneca, he was Cayuga.

Talgayeeta’s father, Shikellimus, had a great affection for the English. As Eckert (1995) points out, Shikellimus was “noted for his unfailing hospitality to whatever whites visited his village, treating one and all with a generosity far beyond anything anticipated” (pg. 26). As a consequence of this generosity, Shikellimus came to know and admire William Penn. Through this association with Penn, Shikellimus was introduced to and became close friends with John Logan, an intimate of Penn. When Shikellimus had a son in 1731, he gave him the Cayuga name, Talgayeeta. In order to honor his friend, John Logan, Shikellimus bestowed on Talgayeeta the alternate name, Logan.

During Talgayeeta’s formative years the French and British were in constant conflict. These series of battles eventually became known as the French and Indian Wars. In the 1740’s both countries were engaged in trade with the Native Americans, and both claimed “ownership” of what was then the Ohio country. In the early 1750’s the French built Fort Duquesne (eventually to become Fort Pitt, then Pittsburgh) in order to support their trading centers.

The French and Indian Wars are typically described as the French and their Native American allies having a series of battles against the British. However, a relatively well-known battle indicates otherwise. There was a Miami village known as Pickawillany, which was a British trading center, located on the Great Miami River in western Ohio, near the present town of Piqua (pronounced pick-way), OH. The French, along with their Native American allies, totally destroyed this village and its occupants in 1752 (http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=498).

Those, like Talgayeeta, who chose to remain unaligned with either side during the French and Indian Wars, essentially became refugees. Eventually, he and expatriates from other tribes became associated with a group he named the Mingo—chiefs, all, and warriors, all.

The French and Indian Wars ended in 1763 with the British as victors. The tribes that sided with the French were now left alone to fight against colonial expansion.

In 1767 Talgayeeta moved to the shores of Kishacoquillas Creek, near the Juniata River in Mifflin County, PA. There he met and married Mellana, a young Shawnee woman. Koonay, his sister, met and married John Gibson, a white trader in the area. In the valley of the creek Talgayeeta established a village known as Talgayeeta’s Town. While there, he became as popular for his hospitality and generosity as was his father. Thus, Talgayeeta became known as “the friend of the white man” (Eckert, 1995).

By 1770 white settlements were increasing which, in turn, created in significant loss in game. Life became difficult for all Native Americans in that area. As a consequence, Talgayeeta left his village. As Eckert (1995) points out, the Mingoes broke into smaller groups, some relocating to the Ohio Country. Talgayeeta, Mellana, as well as his sister, Koonay, and other family members moved to a Lenape (Delaware) village located at the juncture of Indian Cross Creek and the Ohio River, approximately 70 miles below Fort Pitt. Over the years this village became known as Mingo Town.

Gradually, this village, too, began to grow smaller, as members started moving into the interior. Talgayeeta also moved with his family, but remained along the Ohio shore, just above the mouth of Beaver River, approximately 25 miles below Pittsburgh. As before, game became scarce, so they moved--again. This time they moved 25 miles south, crossed to the Ohio side of the river, and settled at Yellow Creek (near today’s Steubenville, OH). This village also became known as Talgayeeta’s Town. By this time, according to Eckert (1967), Talgayeeta had incredible influence over the unaligned tribes.

No other Indian on the frontier was as widely respected by both whites and Indians as this Mingo. Time and again his wisdom and persuasiveness had prevailed to smooth strained relationships between the two races, and his word carried great weight, not only among the Cayugas and Senecas, but among the Delawares, Shawnees, Miamis and the Wyandots, as well. (Eckert, 1967, p. 86)

Native Americans were literally being forced to continually relocate further and further away from encroachment of white settlers. In hopes of bringing these intrusions to an end, a delegation of Shawnee, led by Pucksinwah, father of Tecumseh, met with Talgayeeta at Talgayeeta’s Town on Yellow Creek (Eckert, 1967). Because of his reputation and his marriage to Mellana, Talgayeeta was sympathetic to the Shawnees’ problems with white infringement into the Ohio Country. Pucksinwah wanted to enlist the help of Talgayeeta in aligning the various tribes into one force against the whites.

Pucksinwah made an impassioned plea (Eckert, 1967). Whites were increasing their harassment of the Shawnee. The whites were also interlopers in the traditional Native American Can-tuc-kee hunting lands. Whites were crossing the Ohio River often masquerading as Indians stealing horses, pillaging Native American villages, killing and scalping the members of these villages. Members of other tribes were blaming these atrocities on the Shawnee. Rumor had it that armies, to be led by Lord Dunmore, were amassing in the east to march against the Shawnee and, possibly, other tribes. The Shawnee could not stand alone. Pucksinwah needed the help of Talgayeeta to unite the tribes to stand against the whites.

Eckert (1967) goes on to describe Talgayeeta’s response as no less eloquent. Talgayeeta never raised his hand against whites, even when members of his own family were killed in battle. It was pointless, he said, to fight against a nation that seemingly had unlimited resources in terms of men and materiel. Where the Shawnee not also guilty of the same crimes that they claimed against the whites? Does waging war make war disappear, or does war increase the need for justification and retribution? No, Talgayeeta would not support Pucksinwah. Instead, he proposed that he would send emissaries to ask of the whites to exercise the same restraint he was asking of the Shawnee and their allies.

Clearly, Pucksinwah was disappointed, but he argued no further. As he mounted his horse, he turned and spoke to Talgayeeta one last time. “[Talgayeeta] was a wise man but he must be aware lest Matchemenetoo, the Bad Spirit, blind him to the inevitable and he one day find himself in grave peril from the white man. There was not now, nor could there ever be, a true and equitable peace between Indian and white” (Eckert, 1967, pg.88).

This meeting took place on March 16, 1774. Little did either man know that in just a few weeks another meeting would occur along the Ohio River, at the mouth of Little Beaver Creek, which would seem to turn Punksinwah’s admonition into prediction.

“A huge man, brutish in appearance and speech, Jake Greathouse positively loathed Indians and, according to those who knew him, had murdered several in the past” (Eckert, 1995, pg. 42). Michael Cresap also had an inherent “dislike of Indians, which while not manifest, became evident in his actions and speech” (Eckert, 1995, pg. 33).

On April 30th, 1774, about a month and a half after Pucksinwah met with Talgayeeta, Jacob Greathouse and his companions, met with Michael Cresap and his party at the mouth of Little Beaver Creek in what is now Columbiana County, OH (Eckert, 1995). Two days earlier, Cresap told Greathouse, Cresap and his men killed two of three friendly Shawnee warriors at their Pipe Creek camp (located near present day Steubenville, OH). In turn, Greathouse told Cresap that Lord Dunmore was gathering an army to attack the Shawnee on the Scioto River.

During the course of their discussion, Greathouse casually asked Cresap of the location of Talgayeeta’s village. Cresap said that it was located some miles up Yellow Creek. However, Cresap went on, there was a group of about 20 Mingoes from Talgayeeta’s village camped right along the Ohio River close to the mouth of Yellow Creek.

That night the two groups of men made camp, and departed early the next morning. Cresap and his men continued upstream towards Fort Pitt. Greathouse and his men maintained their course downstream.

Some time later that day, Greathouse and his three companions, Bill Grills, and John and Rafe Mahon, put ashore at Baker’s Bottom, which was directly across the river from the mouth of Yellow Creek (Eckert, 1967, 1995). There, according to Eckert (1995) they met twenty-eight men, who were “ . . . a motley group—loud, mostly drunken and filthy” (pg. 91). A man named Tomlinson greeted Greathouse, and within minutes the two had their heads together discussing something in undertones. From where they stood on the river’s edge, looking diagonally downstream, they could just make out the Mingo camp. Over dinner, the two men shared their conversation with their companions.

Shikellimus shook his head regrettably. They had a great deal of work to do, because they were breaking camp in the morning (Eckert, 1995). However, not wanting to offend these white visitors, he offered to send some skilled Mingo marksmen across the river a bit later. All shook hands in agreement, then Greathouse and Tomlinson departed.Waiting until full darkness was upon them, Greathouse and Tomlinson crossed the Ohio River to the Mingo camp where they were greeted in a friendly manner by aging Shikellimus, himself (Eckert, 1967, 1995). Talgayeeta, away with other Mingoes on a hunting expedition, was expected back tomorrow. Greathouse, who was reasonably fluent in Iroquois, returned the greetings. He told Shikellimus that they were camped just across the river with 6 other men, and invited the Mingoes to share some fine rum and, perhaps, hold a marksmanship competition.

A short time after Greathouse and Tomlinson arrived back at their camp, a canoe put ashore and 6 Mingo men stepped out along with a middle-aged Mingo woman, and very pregnant Mingo woman who carried a little girl about a year old on her back in a cradleboard (Eckert, 1967, 1995). One of the men was Talgayeeta’s brother, Taylaynee. The middle-aged woman was Mellana, wife of Talgayeeta. The pregnant woman with the cradleboard was Talgayeeta’s sister, Koonay, wife of John Gibson. Taylaynee, Mellana and Koonay all refused the rum. The other men, however, drank long and frequently, while the white men only took small sips. For a time the atmosphere was filled with laughter and small talk. However, before long, the Mingoes who were drinking the rum started to show signs of inebriation.

It was now time to start the marksmanship competition. Greathouse created a target from a handkerchief, and pinned it to a tree. He then invited the Mingoes to show their skill (Eckert, 1967, 1995). After some discussion and wagers made, Greenhouse’s party shot first (Eckert, 1995). The Mingoes then stepped forward to take their turn. As all the Mingoes fired at the target, a group of a group of white men sprang from hiding. The Mingoes, with rifles now empty, reached for their knives and tomahawks. They had no chance. Within seconds twenty-six rifles opened fire, and all the Mingo men fell dead or dying.

Mellana was screaming (Eckert, 1995). An attacker with a flintlock pistol ran up to her and shot her in the forehead. Koonay, while running towards the canoes, with cradleboard still on her back was tackled from behind. Her child rolled free crying and screaming. Koonay, too, started to scream as she struggled to free herself from her attacker.

Other men who came out from hiding went up to the dead Mingoes and began scalping them. About this time a look-out shouted a warning. The Mingoes were heading across the river to investigate what was happening (Eckert, 1967, 1995). Quickly, the men reloaded and hid in the darkness until the Mingo canoes came within range. Koonay was dragged away behind a rocky ledge and held down (Eckert, 1995).

Hearing the shouts of the approaching Mingoes, Koonay rammed her knee into the groin of the man who was holding her down. Stunned and in pain, he jerked his hand away from Koonay’s mouth to protect himself (Eckert, 1995). Koonay screamed out a warning, but she was cut short when she was struck in the face by her captor.

At a signal from Tomlinson, all rifles open fire. Most of the Mingoes in the canoes were killed instantly. Those who were not, tried to swim back towards the Ohio side of the river. Only 3 people made it. Shikellimus was not one of them (Eckert, 1967).

Now the whites returned to camp . . . . Under orders from Greathouse [Koonay] was lashed by her wrists to a pole which was then raised and angled into the fork of a tree so that her feet hung a foot or two off the ground. The frontiersman cut away her garb and tossed it aside; then he jerked the tomahawk from his underarm sheath and with one vicious swipe, laid open her belly, spilling its pitiful contents in an obscene hanging mess. (Eckert, 1967, pg. 83)

One can only imagine the emotions that coursed through Talgayeeta the following day, the 2nd of May, 1774, as he moved among the scalped and mutilated bodies of his family and friends. Punksinwah’s warning to him, uttered just 6 weeks earlier must have been echoing in his mind. He was blinded then just as he was blinded several nights ago when Blue Jacket, a Shawnee, told him of the killings of two Shawnee men by Michael Cresap and his men (Eckert, 1967). Blue Jacket warned him. Blue Jacket told Talgayeeta that he overheard Cresap and his men planning to destroy Talgayeeta’s village on Yellow Creek.

Now, as he stood there on the banks of the Ohio River, Talgayeeta raised his tomahawk and spoke. “I, Talgayeeta, give my vow . . . . For every life taken here, ten of the Shemanse will die under my hand. . . . And, I, Talgayeeta, vow it: By my hand alone, twenty lives for my unborn nephew!” (Eckert, 1967, pg. 60) At that moment, Talgayeeta the pacifist died; Talgayeeta the warrior was born. By June Talgayeeta had 30 scalps hanging from his belt Eckert, 1995). Lord Dunmore finally had his war.

On May 18, 1774, seventeen days after the attack on the Mingoes, John Gibson arrived at a cabin on Redstone Creek in what is now Fayette County, PA (Eckert, 1995). Gibson walked up to the cabin and knocked on the door. Michael Cresap opened the door and looked at the stranger. Gibson pushed his way in, introduced himself as the husband of Koonay and the father of the unborn baby that Cresap killed. Then a shot rang out. Gibson’s bullet caught Cresap along the right side of the forehead.

According to Eckert (1995), Cresap, frightened and crouching on the floor of his cabin, claimed that it was Greathouse who killed his wife and baby. Gibson said, yes, but while Greathouse did the killing, Cresap lit the fire. After a lengthy struggle, where Gibson came out the victor, Gibson left Cresap with a warning. “Get the hell out of this country and don’t come back. If I see you again, I’ll kill you” (pg. 72). A short time later Cresap was on his horse heading toward Fort Cumberland and beyond.

In his Amplification Notes, Eckert (1995) says that Koonay’s toddler survived Greenhouse’s attack on the Mingoes, and was subsequently carried to Catfish Camp (currently Washington, PA), and from there taken to the Redstone area on the Monongahela. At that point she was turned over to William Crawford, who, in turn, returned her to her father, John Gibson. After this, history is silent about this child. We do not even know her name.

In July and August of 1774 Col. Angus McDonald, a member of Lord Dunmore’s army, formed and led an expedition against the Shawnee at Wapatomica, a village about sixteen miles below the present city of Coshocton, OH (Eckert, 1995). By the time he arrived there he found the village abandoned and most of the wegiwas and cabins on fire. McDonald ordered to everything that was left of the village to be burned. No one was quite sure, but it seemed that the Shawnee were moving much deeper into the interior, perhaps at the headwaters of the Mad River, about one hundred miles due west of their current position. This was the first so-called battle of Lord Dunmore’s War.

Roughly a month after McDonald discovered the Shawnee had departed Wapatomica, Gen. Andrew Lewis, along with about eight hundred men, arrived at a broad expanse of the Ohio River, and made camp on September 30, 1774 (now known as Point Pleasant, WV) (Eckert, 1995). Lewis was to meet Dunmore here, so he dispatched messengers up the Ohio River to find out not only where Dunmore was, but when he was expected to arrive. Nine days later Lewis was still waiting. In the interim, Dunmore and Lewis exchanged messages, the sum of which was that Dunmore changed plans, but Lewis refused to follow.

On October 10th, 1774, a full battle broke out between the Shawnee and Lewis’s men at Point Pleasant. Lewis and his men were penned-in by the Ohio River and the attacking Shawnee. Eckert (1995) describes the battle see-sawing back and forth, hour after hour. Eventually, word reached Hokolesqua (Cornstalk), leader of the Shawnee that a force of five hundred militia reinforcements was rapidly approaching. As a consequence, the Shawnee began a deliberate, methodical retreat that was well-defined and very gradual. By the time The Battle of Pleasant Point was over Pucksinwah was dead. And, for all intents and purposes, Lord Dunmore’s War was over.

On October 26, 1774 Simon Girty, Simon Kenton and John Gibson found Talgayeeta’s camp beneath the branches of a large, spreading elm, on the south side of Congo Creek (located in what is now Pickaway County, OH). The reason they were there was to talk to Talgayeeta about his refusal to attend the peace conference instigated by the events at Point Pleasant. History tells us that Talgayeeta spoke thus:

I appeal to any white man to say if ever he entered Logan’s cabin hungry and I gave him not meat; if ever he came cold or naked and I gave him not clothing. During the course of the last long and bloody war, Logan remained idle in his tent, an advocate for peace. Nay, such was my love for the whites that those of my own country pointed at me as I passed and said, ‘Logan is the friend of the white man.’ I have even thought to live with you, but for the injuries of one man, Colonel Cresap, in the last spring, cold and unprovoked, murdered all the relatives of Logan, not sparing even my women and children. There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature. This called on me for revenge. I have sought it. I have killed many. I have fully glutted my vengeance. For my country, I rejoice at the beams of peace; but do not harbor the thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on his heel to save his life. Who is there for mourn for Logan? Not one.

A little less than seven years later, on April 5, 1791, Colonel Orr and a group of about 200 militia men were riding up the Kentucky side of the Ohio River with about one hundred men following in flatboats. The mounted men encountered George Edwards and Thomas Marshall (Eckert, 1967). The two men reported seeing “a large party of Shawnee” on the north shore. The militia also encountered David Thomas and Peter Devine who confessed that they had been forced by the Shawnee to lure ashore a large group of whites traveling the Ohio River, all of whom were now dead. Thomas then disclosed where the Shawnee were, their number and the location of their camp. At that Orr asked the men to continue on down the River to Maysville and report on the militia’s progress.

Further along the shore of the Ohio, the militia eventually discovered “[f]orty-nine bodies of men, women and children, all of them scalped and most of them mutilated in some respect” (Eckert, 1967, pg.417). Of the forty-nine bodies, sixteen belonged to the Greathouse party. There were twelve children, two young men, and a young woman. It was clear that Talgayeeta’s pregnant sister was not forgotten when the men saw what happened to Jacob Greathouse and his wife.

We will never know what Talgayeeta might have said or thought about the revenge taken by the Shawnee. By the time this event took place Talgayeeta was dead for almost ten years. On June 17, 1791, at the approximate age of fifty, Talgayeeta was murdered near his home by an unknown assassin who put a tomahawk in his head from behind.

Much of Talgayeeta’s life remains obscure, particularly those years after Greathouse’s attack on the Mingoes of Yellow Creek. In fact, almost everything about Talgayeeta is debated among scholars. Was his name Talgayeeta? Tahgajut? Tachnechdorus? Sayechtowa? Tocanoadorogon? James Logan? Or John Logan? Does it really matter?

Some question whether Talgayeeta of this story was actually the author of Logan’s Lament (“Who is there for mourn for Logan?”). Does it really matter?

Of what consequence will it be if we someday find that (Oh my goodness!) much like Tecumseh, Talgayeeta was not a chief, but a leader. If we find the answers to any of these questions, will they in any way invalidate the overall message of this story?

And, one might also ask, to what extent do we do disservice to the American Indian population overall by continually asking how much of this story is fact and how much is fiction? Atrocities on both sides notwithstanding, is it really so hard to believe that there was, at one time, at least one Native American, who believed in the goodness of all races?

Sources Cited

Access Genealogy. (n.d.) Cayuga Indian Tribe History. Retrieved from http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/tribes/iroquioi/cayugahist.htm Eckert, A. W., (1967). The Frontiersmen. Bantam Books. New York.

Eckert, A. W., (1995). That Dark and Bloody River: Chronicles of the Ohio River Valley. Bantam Books. New York.

Ohio History Central: An Online Encyclopedia of Ohio History. French and Indian Wars. Retrieved from http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=498