Ohio History Journal







To Voltaire is ascribed the remark that Penn's Treaty with

the Indians was the only treaty not sworn to and the only one not

broken. No doubt he did not intend his epigram to be taken too

seriously, but it is tragic truth that most treaties, whether signed

in European palaces or in rough frontier forts, with great civilized

nations or with primitive savage tribes, have been broken. But

if Voltaire had lived a little longer he could have added, "There

was another treaty between American settlers and Indian tribes-

men, made not by a Quaker but by a soldier, which was never

broken by its authors." In the words of Rufus King, "It was a

grand tribute to General Wayne that no chief or warrior who

gave him the hand at Greenville ever after 'lifted the hatchet'

against the United States."1 Other conflicts were indeed to

arise between land-hungry settlers and distrustful Indians, but

these were contests by other men, on other issues and for different


Let us first take a look at the background of Wayne's double

victory, in war and in peace. Thanks largely to the efforts of

George Rogers Clark, the northwest country had been retained

by the young American republic, and thanks to that masterpiece

of constructive statesmanship, the Ordinance of 1787, plans were

already on foot for its orderly settlement. But the land was an

unconquered wilderness, the Indian tribes were hostile and British

agents from Canada held strategic points with their forts. On

maps the United States reached the Mississippi; in living fact

the nation reached only the Ohio. Almost as much as Kentucky,

the Ohio country deserved the title of "dark and bloody ground."

Here Algonquian tribes had clashed with Iroquois in a kind of



* Presented at the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the

Treaty of Greene Ville, at Greenville, Ohio, August 2, 1945.

1 Rufus King, Ohio, First Fruits of the Ordinance of 1787 (Boston, 1903), 262.




No Man's Land savage warfare; and here the first settlers from

the East were regarded as trespassers on Indian hunting grounds.

The Indians of the Northwest Territory were a remarkable

race of men. To be sure, they never reached the high level of

civilization of the Aztecs, Mayas and Incas of the Mexican,

Central American and Peruvian plateaus. They did not live in

cities, nor commonly on farms. Simple hunters of the woodland,

they were sparsely scattered over an immense area. In all likeli-

hood, the Old Northwest contains today a hundred inhabitants for

every Indian who roamed its forests in 1795.

But a people can be formidable in other ways besides number.

Like the ancient Spartans the forest Indians were a people made

for war. They could pass through unbroken wooded country

leaving no more trace than an army of ghosts. They had craft,

skill and cunning to supplement their hardihood and valor. They

were as hard to bind by treaty as it is to hold a handful of quick-

silver; time and again American agents would think they had

reached a final settlement, only to discover that they had infuriated

one tribe by making an agreement with its rival, or that they had

bought land from some inferior chieftain who had no right to

sell. Among the native leaders were men of character, power and

dignity, such as Blue Jacket of the Shawnees, Little Turtle of the

Miamis, and, greatest of all, Tecumseh, who was the ablest ally the

British found in the War of 1812.

The British position in the Northwest from 1783 to 1795 was

a peculiar one. They were on soil which belonged, by right of

treaty, to the United States. They found excuses, however, for

remaining. For one thing they insisted that the United States

had not fulfilled all the promises of the treaty which closed the

American Revolution, and the western forts were kept as surety

that the claims of British loyalists dispossessed of property during

the Revolution would be paid. Again, they urged that a sort of

Indian buffer-state be maintained between the Great Lakes and

the Ohio River, where both Americans and British could trade but

neither would settle in such numbers as to disturb the natives.

This policy naturally pleased the Indians. It was scarcely in


TREATY OF GREENE VILLE                      3


human nature that the British would not take advantage of this

native good will to turn the Indians into military allies. In vain

the cautious British home government urged that nothing be done

which might tend to provoke war with the United States; the

actual agents, the men on the spot, found it necessary to sell, and

sometimes even to give, arms and supplies to the Ohio tribes to

keep their favor. This double policy of authorities in London and

their local agents in Canada and the Northwest caused the British

to present one face to the Americans and another to the Indians.2

Doubtless some Canadians expected that war would break

out soon in any event between Britain and the United States. In

1794, Lord Dorchester recklessly told an assembly of Indian chiefs

that war might come "within the course of the present year; and,

if so, a line must be drawn by the Warriors." The British home

government rebuked him for such provocative and undiplomatic

language, but Lieutenant-Colonel John Butler told another Indian

conference that there was a "great prospect" of war.3 Lieutenant-

Governor John G. Simcoe built a new fort at the rapids of the

Miami in open defiance of American demands that the British

give up their old forts in the Territory. A very small incident

along the territorial frontier might have touched off another war

with Britain eighteen years before it came in 1812.

General Anthony Wayne had to face other foes besides the

untamed wilderness, the hostile Indian tribes, the unfriendly Brit-

ish traders, the halting and hesitating politicians of the Atlantic

seaboard. He had to recover the prestige of American arms, badly

tarnished by the greatest defeat that the Indians had ever inflicted

on an American army. General Arthur St. Clair, a brave officer

in the confidence of George Washington and Governor of the

Northwest Territory, had been surprised by a large force of Indian

braves in 1791 and his ill-disciplined force was almost wiped out.

More than six hundred Americans had been slain and other hun-



2 There is an excellent study of this inconsistent British policy, and the motives

behind it, in A. C. McLaughlin's paper, "The Western Posts and the British Debts"

(American Historical Association Report, 1894); and a more recent account in Beverley

W. Bond's The Foundations of Ohio, Carl Wittke, ed., The History of the State of Ohio

(Columbus, 1941), 328-38.

3 McLaughlin, loc. cit., 439-40.



dreds wounded. The Indians had discovered that the white man

was not invincible. Tribes that had been hesitating whether to

fight the Americans or to make treaty with them were now con-

vinced that they were able to hold the line of the Ohio River

against all comers.

Where diplomats and soldiers alike had failed before him,

Major-General Anthony Wayne was ordered to carry into the

Ohio country both the olive branch and the sword: to make an

enduring peace with the native tribes and crush any resistance

which they might offer. Some thought that the gallant veteran

of the Revolution was not the man for the post. No one ques-

tioned his courage; but St. Clair, too, had been personally brave.

Was not Wayne rash and overdaring? Had he not the nickname

of "Mad Anthony?" Or even granting that he might prove a

sufficiently cautious general to defeat the Indians, would he have

the patience to conciliate them? Could he avoid trouble with the

British? These misgivings were very natural at the time and

only success could refute them.

The military issue was settled at the Battle of Fallen Timbers

on August 20, 1794, nearly a year before the Greene Ville Treaty

was concluded.  This well-planned, well-fought fight crushed

at a blow the allied Indian tribes and wiped out the memory of

St. Clair's defeat. Then the Indians had another disillusionment.

The British, instead of joining in the war, closed the gates of

Fort Miami on their braves. Under the very shadow of the guns,

Wayne's forces destroyed the trading post of Alexander McKee,

the most active British agent in supplying firearms to the tribes,

and burned the standing corn. Major Campbell, commanding the

fort, protested at this close approach of General Wayne to a Brit-

ish garrison; the answer to this was easy and obvious--what was

a British fort doing on the soil of the United States? The British

government had no desire to risk a general war, especially on an

issue in which they were clearly in the wrong, and in the mean-

time negotiations were going ahead across the Atlantic for "Jay's

Treaty" by which the British consented to abandon their forts in

the Northwest Territory. But the Indians knew little of the


TREATY OF GREENE VILLE                  5


considerations of world diplomacy which restrained the British,

and all that they could see was the shut gates and the silent guns

of a British fort.

Now Wayne was ready to prepare his peace. The peace con-

ference was to be held at Fort Greene Ville, named after Wayne's

good friend Nathaniel Greene, whom some authorities consider

second in ability only to Washington among the officers of the

American Revolution. The Indians were slow to come. They

were wary, suspicious and distrustful of white men in general,

and their recent defeat had embittered as well as discouraged them.

British agents still warned them not to trust American promises.

They had their own factions and parties, and scarcely healed

tribal feuds. Every previous negotiator had made the mistake

of dealing with the Indians in a hurry; obtaining the marks or

signatures of a few chiefs for a few gifts and then assuming

that all the tribes were bound by that agreement.

It was precisely at this point that Wayne showed his genius.

His treaty differed only in detail from St. Clair's unsuccessful

Treaty at Fort Harmar in 1789, and this in turn rested on the

Treaty of Fort McIntosh in 1785, supplemented by a Treaty at

Fort Finney with the Shawnees in 1786. These treaties were

honestly made (which is more than can be said for all the Indian

treaties in American history), but they always left the Indians

feeling they had been rushed into an agreement which they had

not really understood, and by which they were not rightly bound.

Wayne was resolved that this time there should be no chance of

honest error or of dishonest misrepresentation. All chiefs of all

tribes should come, with as many warriors as would attend them.

He would explain matters to them all; over and over again if

necessary, as one teaches the multiplication table to a backward

child. They were not to be made drunk, or be dazzled with gifts

or promises, or be puzzled by legal forms. They should be talked

to in the terms they understood, and be free to raise any objections

they wished, until at last every tribe was sincerely convinced either

that the land cessions demanded of them were right and just, or

that resistance to them would be hopeless folly. Wayne's soldiers




murmured and complained: If we are not to fight the Indians any

more, why not go home? Why wait on the pleasure of savages?

With an iron patience he held to his course and negotiated for

weary months to bring the tribes together. The conference itself

was not a brief one, it lasted from June 16 to August 1O; much

longer than most of the diplomatic conferences which have marked

the course of the present war. But the greatest test of Wayne's

patience was the preliminary work of getting the Indians to come

at all.

In this work of gathering the tribes, Wayne was greatly

assisted by French interpreters, who were legally British subjects

but who cared little whether the Union Jack or the Stars and

Stripes floated over their heads so long as they could peacefully

continue their fur trade with the Indians. A number of them

signed as witnesses to the Treaty of Greene Ville, and Dr. F.

Clever Bald says that "their labors were invaluable in making that

treaty possible. By inducing the savages to trust General Wayne,

they performed an inestimable service to the United States."4

Apparently, like George Rogers Clark before him, Wayne had

the abilities necessary to sway the doubtful French Canadians

from the British cause to the American in the Old Northwest.

When the full conference assembled there were 1,130 Indians

representing a dozen different tribes.5  They negotiated after the

Indian fashion, with long and leisurely debate, much eating and

drinking and picturesque ceremonies. Wayne they addressed as

"Elder Brother"; he spoke to them as "Younger Brothers." Coun-

cil fires were lit, pipes of peace burned, belts of white wampum

delivered, captives exchanged. At the opening day of the con-

ference, June 16, Wayne welcomed the Braves in the name of



4 Dr. F. Clever Bald's pamphlet, How Michigan Men Helped Make the Treaty of

Greenville (1945). The author is University War Historian of the University of Michi-

gan. The writer wishes to take occasion here to thank Dr. Bald, and Dr. Randolph G.

Adams of the Clements Library of American History, for giving him access to manu-

script materials connected with the Greene Ville Treaty, especially some photostats of

Wayne's letters preserved by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

5 Wyandots -----------180                        Chippewa --------- 46                            Wea and

Delawares ---------381                         Potawatomi --------240                         Piankishaw ------ 12

Shawnee -----------143                          Miami and Eel                                        Kickapoos and

Ottawa ------------- 45                          River     73                                             Kaskaskia ----- 10


TREATY OF GREENE VILLE                        7


the "Fifteen Fires"; that is to say, the fifteen states in the Ameri-

can Union. He said, in part:

I have cleared this ground of all brush and rubbish, and opened

roads to the east, to the west, to the north and to the south, that all

nations may come in safety and ease to meet me. The ground on

which this council house stands is unstained with blood, and is as pure

as the heart of General Washington, the great chief of America . . .

I have this day kindled the council fire of the United States: we will

now cover it up, and keep it alive, until the remainder of the different

tribes assemble.

On the fourth of July, Wayne celebrated the nineteenth an-

niversary of the Declaration of Independence, carefully explaining

the ceremonies to the Indian guests. By July 15, enough of the

chiefs and warriors had assembled for Wayne to open practical

business negotiations. He read and explained the earlier treaties

which the Indians had not observed. There followed some days

of very shrewd bargaining, quite like a European peace conference,

in which elaborate courtesies and formalities decently draped the

self-interests of the diplomats. It would be the greatest of mis-

takes to assume that because a man is a half-naked barbarian that

he is therefore given to what is called "shirt-sleeve diplomacy."

On the contrary, in many primitive societies etiquette is both more

elaborate and more rigidly observed than it is among civilized men.

Wayne knew well that an Indian would forgive an injury before

he would an insult, and that any inattention to his rank and dignity

would be counted as such an insult.

One incident may suffice to give some idea of the spirit of the

negotiations. Little Turtle, the shrewd Miami chief who had

called Wayne "a chief who never sleeps" during the Fallen Tim-

bers campaign, arose in his place on July 22 and addressed Wayne

in tones of dignified remonstrance:

You have pointed out to us the boundary line between the Indians

and the United States, but I now take the liberty to inform you, that

that line cuts off from the Indians a large portion of country which

has been enjoyed by my forefathers time immemorial, without molesta-

tion or dispute. The print of my ancestors' houses are everywhere

to be seen in this portion. . . . I was much surprised to find that my

other brothers differed so much from me on this subject: for their

conduct would lead one to suppose that the Great Spirit, and their




forefathers, had not given them the same charge that was give [sic]

to me, but, on the contrary, had directed them to sell their lands to

any white man who wore a hat, as soon as he should ask it of them.

Two days later, on July 24, Wayne replied. He pointed out

that the lands had been twice paid for already, once at the Treaty

of McIntosh, again at the Treaty of Muskingum (or Fort Har-

mar), but "notwithstanding that these lands have been twice paid

for . . . such is the justice and liberality of the United States, that

they will now, a third time, make compensation for them." As for

Little Turtle's argument that the Indians should keep forever

the lands given by the Great Spirit to their forefathers, Wayne

stated, "It appears to me that, if the Great Spirit, as you say,

charged your forefathers to preserve their lands entire for their

posterity, they have paid very little regard to the sacred injunction:

for I see they have parted with those lands to your fathers the

French, and the English are now, or have been, in possession of

them all . . . The English and French both wore hats; and yet

your forefathers sold them, at various times, portions of your

lands." One can see the grave Indian warriors exchanging smiles

at Wayne's effective irony.

Then Wayne read from the Treaty of Versailles, closing the

American Revolutionary War, and from Jay's Treaty, still hot

from the pens of its authors, the clauses by which the Northwest

had passed to the United States and by which the British agreed

to give up their forts within its bounds. Even Little Turtle was

convinced. On July 28 he said, "I do not believe the hatchet was

ever before buried so deep. I fancy it has always, heretofore, been

cast into shallow running water, which has washed it up on dry

land"--a very good way indeed of phrasing the difference between

the Treaty of Greene Ville and previous attempts at pacifying the

Indians.  By the end of July the conference had unanimously

agreed on the terms of peace, but it required a few days longer

to prepare the engrossed treaty copy on parchment for the formal

signing, on August third. Speechmaking and feasting continued


TREATY OF GREENE VILLE                            9


a few days longer but the diplomatic negotiations which led to

the treaty had passed into history.6

The Treaty of Greene Ville stipulated, in brief, for peace and

friendship; the return of prisoners of war; the cession of certain

lands, and payment for them in goods worth $20,000, together

with an annual addition of $9,500; the right of Indians to hunt

peaceably in ceded territory; the right of the Americans to cer-

tain roads and river portages; guarantees against unlawful settle-

ment, dishonest trading, and acts of violence by either side. The

ceded territory took in all southern and central Ohio, a small part

of Indiana, and sixteen isolated but often very important outposts,

such as "the post of Detroit" and "one piece of land six miles

square, at the mouth of the Chicago river, emptying into the

southwest and of Lake Michigan."7 Today many more people

live in the tracts of Indian country ceded at Greene Ville than

lived in the whole United States when the treaty was made.

Now that the Indian had buried the hatchet and the English-

man had retired to Canada, the American pioneer had still one

more enemy to face--the wilderness. The region which is now

the State of Ohio was forested almost throughout its extent. The

Reverend James B. Finley, an early Methodist circuit rider, thus

enthusiastically describes the countryside around Chillicothe:

The lofty sugar-tree (maple), spreading its beautiful branches;

the graceful elm, waving its tall head, the monarch of the forest; the

black and white walnut; the giant oak, the tall hickory; the cherry

and hackberry; the spicewood with its fragrance; the papaw, with its

luscious fruit; the wild plum; the rich clusters of grapes which, hanging

from the massy vines, festooned the forest; and, beneath all the wild



6 The official account of the negotiations may be read in American State Papers,

IV (Washington, 1832), Indian Affairs, I, 564-83. There are many interesting secondary

accounts, such as Frazer E. Wilson, The Treaty of Greenville (Piqua, 1894); Beverley

W. Bond, Jr., The Foundations of Ohio, 347-48; C. E. Slocum, The Ohio Country (New

York, 1910), 131-43; Thomas Boyd, Mad Anthony Wayne (New York, 1929), 305-22,

and others.

7 The text of the Treaty of Greene Ville is in American State Papers, IV, Indian

Affairs, I, 562-63. Maps of the treaty line are given in many books; the one in E. H.

Roseboom and F. P. Weisenburger's A History of Ohio (New York, 1934), 93, super-

imposes the treaty line and the chief land grants on a modern county map of Ohio.




rye, green as a wheatfield, mixed with the prairie and buffalo clover--

all formed a garden of nature most enchanting to behold.8

Enchanting to behold, yes; but there was another side to the

forest, as the pioneer knew only too well. To quote from another:

Only those who first cleared off these rough and sterile hills, who

erected the first rough cabins . . . with blankets and quilts for doors and

oiled paper for window-glass, with chimneys built of split sticks and

mud . . . value properly the comforts of a good modern home. Only

those who have grubbed the thick underbrush and saplings; who have

used the ax in deadening and felling the heavy timber, the maul and

wedge in making the first rails; who have chopped up the trees, piled the

brush, and then been smoked almost blind while burning the logs and

brush . . . can have any idea of the pleasure there is in contemplating

a beautiful, smooth lawn, without a stump or log. None but those

who have held the first plow, amid roots, stumps, stones and trees,

while the faithful team was pulling and jerking it along, with the roots

breaking and flying back against the plowman's shins . . . can really

enjoy the delight that this same plowman feels while holding the plow

as it moves slowly along . . . without a root or stump to obstruct it.9

Labor played a bigger part than capital in the early days of

the West. Cheap land attracted the poor, whereas the hardships of

pioneering repelled the well-to-do. William Allen White, the fa-

nous Kansas journalist, has pointed out that when his own an-

cestors John and Fear White, crossed the mountains from New

England and New York to Ohio at the beginning of the nineteenth

century they had. "practically nothing that Abraham did not have

when he and his tribe trekked out of the land of Ur three thousand

years before. John and Fear had the tamed horse, the tamed cow,

the domestic chicken and the tamed pig. They had fire and the

lever and the wheel . . . Fear Perry wove the wool that made the

garments of her family. She knew the secrets of dyeing that the

mothers in Israel knew. And John could work with iron and

hammer at steel . . . Except for the gun and the book, Abraham

with a little tinkering would have been able to understand every-

thing that John had in his covered wagon."10



8 Rev. James B. Finley, Autobiography, or Pioneer Life in the West (Cincinnati,

1853), 105.

9 Isaac J. Finley, and Bufus Putnam, Pioneer Record and Reminiscences of the

Early Settlers and Settlements of Ross County, Ohio (Cincinnati, 1871), 5-7.

10 William Allen White, The Changing West (1939), 4.


TREATY OF GREENE VILLE                  11


Few and simple as were the tools of the pioneer, they gave

him the advantages he needed in his struggle with untamed nature.

The iron-bladed ax and iron-shod plow cleared the forest and

furrowed the soil. The boat-bottomed, canvas-topped wagon could

be floated across any ordinary stream. Wild game and wild grains,

fruits and berries, were so abundant that food was seldom a seri-

ous problem, though the pioneer often went many weary and dan-

gerous miles to find a "salt lick" where the deer were wont to get

salt. "Wild meat," says one pioneer, "without bread or salt, was

often their food for weeks together. If they obtained bread, the

meal was pounded in mortar or ground on a hand-mill. Hominy

was a good substitute for bread, or parched corn pounded and

sifted, then mixed with a little sugar and eaten dry; or mixed

with water as a beverage. On this coarse fare the people were

remarkably healthy and cheerful."11

He adds, "The men's apparel was most made of deer's skin.

This, well dressed, was made into hunting shirts, pantaloons,

coats, waistcoats, leggins and moccasins . . . Deer's hair or oak

leaves was generally put into the moccasins, and worn in place

of stockings and socks. The household furniture consisted of

stools, and bedsteads made with forks driven into the ground and

poles laid on these . . . and on this beds made of oak leaves . . .

They rocked their children in a sugar trough or pack-saddle."12

These brave men and braver women who settled the Ohio

country were neither the first American pioneers nor the last.

From the first settlement in Virginia to the last in Alaska the

whole American story has been one of westward settlement. But

the opening up of Ohio has a special importance. In this compact

and central region between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River

was the gateway through which the men from Connecticut, from

New York, from Virginia, from Pennsylvania, could pass to the

new frontiers in Michigan, Illinois, the Great Plains, the Rockies,

the Oregon country. It was the hand of Wayne which swung wide

the gate.


11 Finley, Pioneer Life, 69.

12 Ibid., 70.