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Title: Topenebee
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The Potawatami tribe of Indians, with the Kickapoos, inhabited the territory along the Wabash valley on the western side of the river from the Little Vermillion which empties into the Wabash near Newport in Vermillion county, north to the Tippecanoe, and all of the state of Michigan, all of the state of Wisconsin, and northern Illinois. This was the most monarchial tribe of the Indians in all North America and the principal chief and sachem of the Potawatamies presided over their counsels, directed their tribal affairs and was the head of their religion. Topenebee held this position among all the Potawatamies in North America for about fifty years. He and his sister, Kaukeama Burnett, were full-blooded Potawatamies. Their father first married the daughter of a Kickapoo chief and Sheshepah, the Kickapoo chief, was the only child by the first marriage. He held his chieftainship among the Kickapoos from his mother, and his high position among the Potawatamies from his father. Topenebee was not a warrior. He was more of a circuit rider and it took all his time to visit and look after the welfare of the many tribes of Potawatamies over which he presided. Topenebee's headquarters was in the vicinity of Attica. I am of the opinion that he made his local headquarters in the vicinity of the numerous springs, from those in Ravine park, in Attica to what is now that Clark place, this side of Riverside.

Topenebee took part in the defense of Ouiatenon against General Charles Scott in June of 1791. He also took part in the defense of Ouiatenon against General James Wilkinson in August of the same year and perhaps some of his Potawatami aged men and squaws were killed by Major John F. Hamtramck in 1792 at the mouth of the Vermillion river. He took part inthe battle of Falling Timbers (Wayne's Victory in August of 1794) and signed the Treaty of Peace made with General Anthony Wayne at Greenville Ohio, on August 3, 1795, as the principal chief of the Potawatamies. He signed the Treaty of Peace at Mississinewa on October 16, 1826, as the principal chief signing that treaty. In the treaty made on the Tippecanoe river October 27, 1832, he signed as the principal chief. And at the treaty made at Chicago on the 26th day of September, 1833 he again signed as the principal chief, so that his signing of treaties extended over a period of thirty-eight years.

From 1805 to about 1808 the Shawnees were trying to make treaties with the various tribes in this locality. Sometime in the fall of the year 1807 Topenebee and the Kickapoos and Potawatamies, Miamis and Winnebagos met Tecumseh and his prophet beneath the spreading branches of a splendid oak that stood within the corporate limits of the city of Attica. Many of the older citizens can remember this tree. It stook on the lots where Frank Merrick now lives and according to Jack Hegler was cut down about 1866 for the construction of the house in which Mr. Merrick lives. This oak was locally know as "The Council Tree" and was pointed out to visitors on account of its beauty and its historical connection. It was cut down by a man named Mitchell, and there was a general regret among the citizens of the city when the tree was destroyed. In this council it was agreed that the Shawnee tribe, under Tecumseh and his brother, The Prophet, might have as their hunting ground the territory drained by Shawnee creek and then a line drawn from there to the watershed of the Tippecanoe river, and up the Tippecanoe river about twenty miles. So Tecumseh and The Prophet and their tribe located at the mouth of the Tippecanoe in the spring of 1808, by permission of the Potawatamies and Kickapoos, as the result of the council held beneath the oak in which what is now the city of Attica.

In the allotment of land to the Indians Topenebee took his grants here and there over the large territory over which he presided, among them a splended piece of land in Benton county, which after his death was sold by his heirs to Edward Sumner. Sumner lived on Shawnee prairie in Fountain county and owned four hundred acres of land, which he sold at $40.00 an acre. He made a sale of his personal property, bought Topenebee's grant in Benton county and from this purchase made the foundation of the millions which was afterwards the property of Sumner's estate. The famous Caldwell and Hawkins law suits in Warren and Benton counties were over land once owned by Topenebee and of the land granted to him.

Topenebee went from this locality into the state of Michigan. In the latter part of June in 1840 he passed from among the inhabitants of earth and took his trackless way along to the happy hunting ground. The gentle zephyrs laden with the perfume of blossoms from the tree and vine and shrub, blew softly past his wigwam; the song birds came to warble their harmonious notes of lover over his funeral bier. The tribe of the Potawatami sincerely mourned the departure of their beloved sachem, their worthy and trusted chief, and bore his remains to an Indian graveyard and laid them in the bosom of the earth, which he deemed as his mother. Thus this loved and loving child of nature went the way of all the earth, and now there remain but a few legends and scattering references by early historians concerning him. And yet, there is sufficient to show that he was a greater man then Tecumseh in his day and exerted a far greater influence among the red men of the central states. But is was ever thus- the popular glory is to the warrior and the heroes of peace have but scanty praise.

Date: 1/1/1916
Origin: Historical Sketches of the Wabash Valley
Author: J. Wesley Whicker
Record ID: 00001179
Type: Book
Source Archive: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Entered By: Amber M Knipe

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