The Herald Bulletin

September 5, 2009

In History: Legacy of Chief Anderson

By Stephen T. Jackson, Madison County Historian

He was born along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania near a river ferry called Anderson’s Ferry, now Marietta, Penn.

His father, a man of Swedish ancestry named John Anderson, operated the ferry. John was known among the Delaware Indians residing in the area as an honest man; one well loved by the Delaware people.

John married the daughter of the great Delaware Chief Netewatwees (Net a wat wees). Unfortunately, history failed to record her name. To this union was born a son, a half-breed, who was given the Delaware name Kikthawenund (Kik tha we nund).

Loosely translated the name means, creaking boughs. His father gave him the English name, William Anderson. The year of his birth was not recorded, but I estimate it to be the mid-1750s.

The Delaware were divided into three sub-tribes or clans called the Unamis, Unalachtgo and Minsi. Each had its own dialect of the Delaware language and was known by an animal name, Turtle, Turkey and Wolf which was the emblematic totem for the clan. William Anderson was a member of the Unalachtgo, or Turkey clan by virtue of his mother’s affiliation.

Chief Anderson’s house

Several moves brought him to the Ohio Territory where in the early 1790’s the Delaware, along with many other tribes, were at war with the United States over settlers moving onto their lands. Peace was finally negotiated with the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. Anderson, who was by then Chief of the Turkey clan, was one of 14 Delaware chiefs whose mark appears on this famous treaty.

Forced by treaty to leave Ohio, Chief Anderson moved to what is now the city of Anderson, Ind. His son, Sarcoxie who was born in 1784, recalled moving to the White River when he was 14 years old, and thus establishing Chief Anderson’s arrival here in 1798.

Anderson was less than 20 years old when he first married. Her name is unknown. She had at least two sons when they married. The eldest was named Swannuck and the other, Pushies. His wife died several years later.

In 1784, Anderson married again. Her name was Ahkechlungunaqua. She also had at least two sons when they married: Lapahnihe and Tahleockwe, plus a daughter named Aukeelenqua. Some sources say she also had a third son, Secondyan.

William Anderson and his second wife had three children of their own. A son, Sarcoxie, born in 1784, followed by another son, Sosecum, and a daughter, Mekingees, born in 1789. (Note: Mekingees became the wife of William Conner.) Additionally, there was another child mentioned in our county histories named Oneahye. Anderson’s second wife died of fever in June 1805. He never married again.

During Chief Anderson’s stay here he lived in a two level, doubled-sided log house at what is today the southeast corner of Eighth Street and Central Avenue. We know this because after the Delaware departed this area the house was occupied by John and Sally Berry. Their son, Ninevah, who was a resident of Anderson for many years afterward, told the story of living in Chief Anderson’s former house when he was a boy.

Refusing Tecumseh

Chief Anderson was elevated to Chief of the Delaware Tribe during a large assembly of Delaware Indians held in his village in 1806. His elevation came upon the death of the Tribal Chief, Tetepachsit, in March of that year. It was a position he did not want, according to his descendants, but accepted and carried out with dignity and quite effectively.

The next five years passed in peace for Chief Anderson. However, in 1811 he was visited by the Shawnee Indian Tecumseh who, along with his brother The Prophet, was raising a confederation of Indians to reclaim the lands in Ohio and Indiana for the Indians. Chief Anderson stubbornly refused to lend his influence to Tecumseh’s cause and refused aid or assistance.

With the defeat of the Indian confederation at the Battle of Tippecanoe, Nov. 7, 1811, near Lafayette, the cause collapsed. Afterwards, Indiana Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison requested all the peaceful Delaware leave Indiana and relocate to Piqua, Ohio, which they did. The governor wanted no interference as he planned to eliminate all hostile Indians from this part of Indiana.

It was during the early part of 1813 that Chief Anderson’s village was burned by the army along with all the other villages along the river. No place of refuge was to be left standing for the hostile Indians to take shelter.

It wasn’t until after the conclusion of the War of 1812 that the Delaware returned to Indiana. Anderson’s Town was re-built and began to grow in size as it became the principal village of the Delaware in Indiana.

Westward move takes shape

During the administration of President James Monroe, the policy of moving Indians west of the Mississippi River began to take shape. First, it was necessary to persuade the Delaware to cede the lands they were occupying. This was accomplished by a series of treaties with the government covering the cession of lands.

The most significant treaty involving the Delaware was held at St. Marys, Ohio, on Oct. 3, 1818, whereby the Delaware gave up their occupancy rights in Indiana. Chief Anderson signed this historic treaty in exchange for land beyond the Mississippi River. The Delaware were given three years in which to prepare for their removal.

On Sept. 20, 1821, Chief Anderson and 1,346 Delaware Indians from Indiana left the banks of White River to begin their journey west. By now the chief was approximately 66 years-old.

It was a difficult journey most of which was overland to the Mississippi River where they crossed on ferries to Missouri. They settled for a while along the Current River in southwest Missouri and then moved on to other parts of the state.

No promised land

Anderson was always trying to find a suitable place on which his tribe could settle but nothing pleased him. The tribe remained in Missouri until the fall of 1830 when, by another treaty, they were relocated to Kansas Territory.

The old chief, now in his seventies, hoped that before his death he could lead the Delaware to a promised land they could call their own where they could live in peace without interference from settlers or enemy Indians. But it was not to be.

In the latter part of October 1831, the beloved Chief Anderson died. His death could have occurred from the then prevalent smallpox in the area. He was approximately 76 years of age. It is believed he was buried near what is today Bonner Springs, Wyandotte County, Kan.

He had led his people well during a period which was very difficult for him and his tribe. Through an interpreter he wrote to the authorities in Washington several times seeking better conditions for his people. Never once did he threaten but always maintained a peaceful attitude when dealing with the government. However, when threatened by the neighboring Indians tribes, he defended his people by engaging in warfare.  

President William Henry Harrison said of the Delaware, “A long and intimate knowledge of the Delaware in peace and war, as enemies and friends, has left upon my mind the most favorable impression of their character, for bravery, generosity, and fidelity to their engagements.”

The noble chief would have been pleased by this testimony, and pleased to know his legacy lives on in the city that bears his name.

The Madison County Historical Society is located at 15 W. 11th St., Anderson, and is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It can be contacted at 683-0052.