Ohio History Journal







Away back in the thirties of the 19th century, a literary

magazine of high order called "The Hesperian of the West" was

published in Columbus, Ohio. In fact, it is the only literary

periodical that ever was published in the Capital City of Ohio.

In the publication of this magazine,

William D. Gallagher and Otway

Curry, both men of high literary at-

tainments were associated together as

editors. Poems from the pens of both

of these writers have been published

largely throughout the west, with the

writings of Geo. D. Prentice, Phoebe

and Alice Cary, Piatt, Mrs. Sigour-

ney and other distinguished authors,

in a book published somewhere in the

fifties under the caption "Poets and

Poetry of the West." I have in my

possession, two volumes of the "The

Hesperian" in which are published

several articles which are of historical interest to the citizens of

Columbus and Franklin County. Almost within sight of the

capitol building on the west bank of the Scioto River, ten miles

north of Columbus, where the "Wyandot Club" has erected a

monument to mark the spot where the noted Indian Chief, Leather

Lips* was executed was enacted a thrilling tragedy in the summer

of 181O.

While some of the pioneers residing along the Scioto can

relate incidents connected with the execution of this Indian Chief,

handed down by their ancestors, the Sells' Davis' Currys' and

others, still these stories are largely traditional.

*His Indian name was Shateyaronyah.


The Wyandot Chief, Leather Lips

The Wyandot Chief, Leather Lips.          31


When a young boy, I remember distinctly hearing my father

and my Uncle Captain James Curry who served in the war of

1812 with Asa Davis and who was also an intimate friend of

Captain Samuel Davis a famous Indian fighter with Simon Ken-

ton and Lewis Whetzel, relate in every detail the story of Leather

Lips, as told to them by these old pioneers. In a volume of the

Hesperian, published in 1838, is an article written by Otway

Curry which gives the full particulars of the execution as related

to the writer by Mr. Benjamin Sells and other witnesses to the

execution who were living at the time the article was written

and so far as can be ascertained, it is the only authentic history

ever published. The article written by Mr. Curry is prefaced by

a brief history of the Wyandot tribe to which Leather Lips be-

longed, as follows:-


The great northern family of Indian tribes which seem to

have been originally embraced in the generic term Iroquois, con-

sisted, according to some writers, of two grand divisions, the

eastern and the western. In the eastern division were included

the five nations or Maquas, (Mingos) as they were commonly

called by the Algonkin tribes and in the western the Yendots

or Wyandots, (nick-named Hurons by the French) and three or

four other nations, of whom a large proportion are now entirely

extinct. The Yendots, after a long and deadly warfare, were

nearly exterminated by the Five Nations, about the middle of

the seventeenth century. Of the survivors, part sought refuge

in Canada, where their descendents still remain; a few were

incorporated among the different tribes of the conquerors, and

the remainder, consisting chiefly of the Tionontates retired to

Lake Superior. In consequence of the disastrious wars in which

they afterwards became involved with other powerful nations of

the northwestern region, they again repaired to the vicinity of

their old hunting grounds. With this remnant of the original

Huron or Wyandot nation, were united some scattered fragments

of other broken-up tribes of the same stock, and though com-

paratively few in number they continued for a long period, to

assert successfully the right of sovereignty over the whole extent

of country between the Ohio River and the Lakes, as far west as

32 Ohio Arch

32        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


the territory of the Piankishaws or Miamies, whose eastern bound-

ary was probably an irregular line, drawn through the valley

of the Great Miami, (Shimeamee) and the Ottawah-se-pee or

Maumee, river of Lake Erie. The Shawanese and the Dela-

wares, it is believed, were occupants of a part of the fore-men-

tioned country, merely by sufferance of the Wyandots, whose

right of dominion seemed never to have been called in question,

excepting by the Mingoes or Five Nations. The Shawanese

were originally powerful and always war-like. Kentucky re-

ceived its name from them, in the course of their migrations

between their former place of residence on the Suwanee river,

adjacent to the southern sea-coast, and the territory of the Yendots

in the North. The name (Kantuckee) is compounded from the

Shawanese, and signifies a "land or place at the head of a river."

The chosen residence of the Wyandots, was at an early

period, as it is now, on the waters of the Saun-dus-tee or San-

dusky. Though greatly reduced in numbers, they have, perhaps,

attained a higher degree of civilization, than any other tribe in

the vicinity of the north-western Lakes. For the following speci-

men of the Wyandot language and for the greater part of the

statements given above, we were indebted to the Archaeologia


One, Scat.                                               It rains, Ina-un-du-se.

Two, Tin-dee.                                         Thunder, Heno.

Three, Shaight.                                        Lightning, Tim-men-di-quas.

Four, An-daght.                                       Earth, Umaitsagh.

Five, Wee-ish.                                         Deer, Ough-scan-oto.

Six Wau-shau.                                          Bear, Anu-e.

Seven, Soo-tare.                                       Raccoon, Ha-in-te-roh.

Eight, Aultarai.                                        Fox, The-na-in-ton-to.

Nine, Ain-tru.                                          Beaver, Soo-taie.

Ten, Augh-sagh.                                      Mink, So-hoh-main-dia.

Twenty, Ten-deit-a-waugh-sa.                  Turkey, Daigh-ton-tah.

Thirty, Shaigh-ka-waugh-sa.                    Squirrel, Ogh-ta-eh.

Forty, An-daugh-ka-waugh-sa.                  Otter, Ta-wen-deh.

Fifty, Wee-ish-a-waugh-sa.                      Dog, Yun-ye-noh.

Sixty, Wau-shau-waugh-sa.                       Cow, Kni-ton-squa,ront.

Seventy, Soo-tare-waugh-sa.                                         Horse, Ugh-shut te.

Eighty, Au-tarai-waugh-sa.                                            Goose, Yah-hounk.

Ninety, Ain-tru-waugh-sa.                        Duck,Yu-in-geh.

One Hundred, Scute-main-gar-we.             Man,Ain-ga-hon.

The Wyandot Chief, Leather Lips

The Wyandot Chief, Leather Lips.             33


God, Ta-main-de-zue.                               Woman, Uteh-ke.

Devil, Degh-shu-re-noh.                           Girl, Ya-weet-sen-tho.

Heaven, Ya-roh-nia.                                 Boy, Oma-int-sent-e-hah.

Good, Ye-waugh-ste.                                 Child, Che-ah-hah.

Bad, Waugh-she.                                      Old Man, Ha-o-tong.

Hell, Degh-shunt.                                     Old Woman, Ut-sin-dag-sa.

Sun, Ya-an-des-hra.                                  My wife, Uzut-tun-oh-oh.

Moon, Waugh,sunt-yu-an-des-ra.             Corn, Nay-hah.

Stars, Tegh-shu.                                        Beans, Yah-re-sah.

Sky, Cagh-ro-niate.                                  Potatoes, Da-ween-dah.

Clouds, Oght-se-rah.                                 Melons, Oh-nugh-sa.

Wind, Izu,quas.                                         Grass, E-ru-ta.

The foregoing sketch of the history and language of the

Wyandots, though certainly not strictly necessary, will, it is hoped,

be deemed not altogether inappropriate as an introduction to the

following narrative of the circumstances attending the death of

a chief of that nation. The particulars have been recently com-

municated by persons who were eye-witnesses to the execution,

and may be relied upon as perfectly accurate.

In the evening of the first day of June in the year 1810,

there came six Wyandot warriors to the house of Mr. Benjamin

Sells on the Scioto River, about twelve miles above the spot where

now stands the City of Columbus. They were equipped in the

most war-like manner and exhibited during their stay, an un-

usual degree of agitation. Having ascertained that an old Wyan-

dot Chief, for whom they had been making diligent inquiry was

then encamped at a distance of about two miles farther up on the

bank of the river, they expressed a determination to put him to

death and immediately went off, in the direction of the lodge.

These facts were communicated early in the ensuing morning,

to Mr. John Sells, who now resides in the City of Dublin on the

Scioto about two miles from the place where the doomed Wyan-

dot met his fate. Mr. Sells immediately proceeded up the river

on horse-back in quest of the Indians. He soon arrived at the

lodge which he found situated in a grove of sugar trees, close

to the bend of the river. The six warriors were seated, in con-

sultation at a distance of a few rods from the lodge. The old

chief was with them, evidently in the character of a prisoner.

3 Vol. XII.

34 Ohio Arch

34       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


His arms were confined by a small cord, but he sat with them

without any manifestation of uneasiness. A few of the neigh-

boring white men were also there and a gloomy looking Indian

who had been a companion of the Chief, but now kept entirely

aloof,-sitting sullenly in the camp. Mr. Sells approached the

Indians and found them earnestly engaged in debate. A charge

of "witch-craft" had been made at a former time against the chief

by some of his captors, whose friends had been destroyed as they

believed by means of his evil powers. This crime, according to

the immemorial usage of the tribe involved a forfeiture of life.

The chances of a hunter's life had brought the old man to his

present location, and his pursuers had sought him out in order

that they might execute upon him the sentence of their law.

The council was of two or three hours duration. The ac-

cusing party spoke alternately with much ceremony, but with

evident bitterness of feeling. The prisoner, in his replies, was

eloquent, though dispassionate. Occasionally, a smile of scorn

would appear, for an instant, on his countenance. At the close

of the consultation it was ascertained that they had affirmed the

sentence of death which had before been passed upon the chief.

Inquiry having been made by some of the white men, with refer-

ence to their arrangements, the captain of the six warriors pointed

to the sun and signified to them that the execution would take

place at one o'clock in the afternoon. Mr. Sells went to the

captain and asked him what the chief had done. "Very bad

Indian," he replied, "make good Indian sick"-"make horse sick,

- make die, -very bad chief." Mr. Sells then made an effort

to persuade his white friends to rescue the victim of superstition

from his impending fate, but to no purpose. They were then in

a frontier situation, entirely open to the incursions of the northern

tribes and were, consequently unwilling to subject themselves to

the displeasure of their savage visitors by any interference with

their operations. He then proposed to release the chief by pur-

chase-offering to the captain for that purpose a fine horse of the

value of $300. "Let me see him," said the Indian; the horse

was accordingly brought forth, and closely examined; and so

much were they staggered by this proposition that they again

The Wyandot Chief, Leather Lips

The Wyandot Chief, Leather Lips.          35


repaired to their place of consultation and remained in council

a considerable length of time before it was finally rejected.

The conference was again terminated and five of the Indians

began to amuse themselves with running, jumping and other

athletic exercise. The captain took no part with them. When

again inquired of, as to the time of execution, he pointed to the

sun, as before, and indicated the hour of four. The prisoner

then walked slowly to his camp,-partook of jerked venison -

washed and arrayed himself in his best apparel and afterwards

painted his face. His dress was very rich -his hair grey, his

whole appearance graceful and commanding. At his request,

the whole company drew around him at the lodge. He then

observed the exertions of Mr. Sells in his behalf, and now pre-

sented to him a written paper, with a request that it might be

read to the company. It was a recommendation signed by Gov.

Hull and in compliance with the request of the prisoner, it was

fixed and left upon the side of a large tree, at a short distance

from the wigwam.

The hour of execution being close at hand, the chief shook

hands in silence with the surrounding spectators. On coming to

Mr. Sells he appeared much moved, - grasped his hands warmly,

spoke for a few minutes in the Wyandot language and pointed

to the Heavens. He then turned from the wigwam, and with a

voice of surpassing strength and melody, commenced the chant

of the death-song. He was followed closely by the Wyandot

warriors, all timing with the slow and measured march, the

music of his wild and melancholy dirge. The white men were

all, likewise, silent followers in that strange procession. At the

distance of seventy or eighty yards from the camp, they came

to a shallow grave, which, unknown to the white men, had been

previously prepared by the Indians. Here the old man knelt

down, and in an elevated, but solemn voice, addressed his prayer

to the Great Spirit. As soon as he had finished, the captain of

the Indians knelt beside him and prayed in a similar manner.

Their prayers, of course, were spoken in the Wyandot language.

When they arose, the captain was again accosted by Mr. Sells,

who insisted that if they were inflexible in their determination to

shed blood, they should at least remove their victim beyond the

36 Ohio Arch

36       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


limit of the white settlement. "No!" said he, very sternly, and

with evident displeasure, "No; good Indian fraid,--he no go

with this bad man-- mouth give fire in the dark night, good

Indian fraid-he no go!" "My friend," he continued, "me

tell you white man, bad man, white man kill him, Indian say


Finding all interference futile, Mr. Sells was at length com-

pelled reluctantly, to abandon the old man to his fate. After

a few moments delay, he again sank down upon his knees and

prayed, as he had done before. When he had ceased praying, he

still continued in a kneeling position. All the rifles belonging to

the party had been left at the wigwam. There was not a weapon

of any kind to be seen at the place of execution, and the specta-

tors were consequently unable to form any conjecture as to the

mode of procedure, which the executioners had determined on for

the fulfilment of their purpose. Suddenly one of the warriors

drew from beneath the skirts of his capote, a keen, bright toma-

hawk, walked rapidly up behind the chieftain brandishing the

weapon on high for a single moment and then struck with his

full strength. The blow descended directly upon the crown of

the head and the victim immediately fell prostrate. After he

had lain a while in the agonies of death, the Indian directed the

attention of the white men to the drops of sweat which were

gathering upon the neck and face; remarking with much appar-

ent exultation that it was conclusive proof of the sufferer's guilt.

Again the executioner advanced and with the same weapon in-

flicted two or three additional and heavy blows.

As soon as life was entirely extinct, the body was hastily

buried with all its apparel and decorations and the assemblage

dispersed. The Wyandots returned immediately to their hunting

ground and the white men to their homes. The murdered chief

was known among the whites by the name of Leather Lips.

Around the spot where the bones repose the towering forest has

given place to the grain fields and the soil above him has for years

been furrowed and re-furrowed by the plow-share.