As It Were: Central Ohio Native Americans had important role in War of 1812

Pioneer surveyor Lucas Sullivant arrived in what is now central Ohio in 1795.

He came in the wake of the Greenville Treaty, which opened the southern two-thirds of what soon would be Ohio to settlement. Sullivant and his survey crew of several men were given the task of surveying for sale and settlement of the northern tier of the Virginia Military District between the Scioto and Miami rivers.

Ed Lentz
Ed Lentz

In 1797, he laid out a town at the site on the west bank of the Scioto and called it Franklinton.

Sullivant built a fine new brick home in the center of his new town and in 1801 brought his wife, Sarah Starling Sullivant, to live in Franklinton. The Sullivants would raise three sons in the house, which was something of a showplace in the community and attracted the attention of people – native and newcomer alike.

A later local history described early Franklinton and its visitors.

“After the Treaty of Greenville, the Indians mostly disappeared from the neighborhood, but a few still lingered about.”

During the War of 1812, Gen. William Henry Harrison used Franklinton as one of his major bases of operation. To ensure success in his campaign against the British, he needed the support of the “neutral” Native Americans who had not joined the Shawnee leader Tecumseh and the British army in Detroit.

A later account described the conference of June 21, 1813: “The Delaware, Shawnee, Wyandot and Seneca tribes were represented by about 50 chiefs and warriors. Gen. Harrison represented the government, and with him were his staff and a brilliant array of officers in full uniform. Behind was a detachment of soldiers.”

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“The general began to speak in calm and measured tones befitting the grave occasion, but an undefined oppression seemed to hold all in suspense. … At length the persuasive voice of the great commander struck a responsive chord, and when Tarhe, the Crane, the great Wyandot chief, slowly rose to his feet, and standing for a moment in a graceful and commanding attitude, made a brief reply, and then with others pressed forward to grasp the hand of Harrison, in token, not only of amity in agreement but to stand as a barrier on our exposed border, a terrible doubt and apprehension was lifted from the hearts of all.”

The great elm tree where the conference was held stood for many years near the Hawkes Hospital at West Street and Davis Avenue. When the tree was removed due to age and disease, a stone marker with a plaque was placed to mark its location.

“After Harrison’s victory of the Thames, in Canada (in 1813), bands of Indians from the villages on the headwaters of the Scioto came to Franklinton to trade with Lincoln Goodale, Starling and Delashmutt, R. W. McCoy, Henry Brown, Samuel Barr and other storekeepers as the merchants were then called.

“These Indians brought furs, skins, baskets, maple sugar, cranberries, dried venison and other articles for which they would accept pay only in silver. Having obtained the coin, they bought ammunition, tobacco, knives, axes, cloth, pigments for tattooing, blankets, brightly colored calicos, and finally a supply of whiskey … for the ‘high drunk’ with which they closed their trading transactions.”

“During one of these trading expeditions, a massive Indian named Bill Zane … took offense at Mrs. Lucas Sullivant because of the accidental loosening of one of his bundles left at her residence and was (brandishing) his hunting knife when Mr. Sullivant rushed in, seized (him) and hurled him out of doors.

“The marks of Zane’s hunting knife, with which he had angrily scratched the measure of a piece of calico on the chair board, were for a long time preserved as family mementoes of the episode.”

With the War of 1812, family tragedy struck the Sullivants. A family history tells that story.

“Franklinton was the rendezvous of the second army under Harrison, gathered after Hull’s surrender, and the Kentucky troops under the command of the gallant and venerable Gov. (Isaac) Shelby were encamped on the premises of Mr. Sullivant, and his house was the welcomed resort of the officers and men, many of whom were the personal acquaintances of himself and his wife.

“She was a ministering spirit to the sick soldiers, in camp and hospital, supplying their wants from her own table and stores. In 1814, a malignant and contagious typhus, or cold plague, as it was called, broke out in camp, and she contracted the disease, of which she died April 28 of that year … to the poor and needy, the sick or afflicted, she was indeed a “Lady Bountiful,” and the memory of her gentle manners, her good deeds and abounding charities long survived her.”

Sarah Starling Sullivant was 32 years old. Lucas Sullivant never remarried. He raised his three sons in the great house on the southwest corner of Franklinton’s public square. He, and Sarah and many other members of family and loyal acquaintance are buried together in Green Lawn Cemetery.

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News and The Columbus Dispatch.

This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: As It Were: Ohio's Native Americans had important role in War of 1812