Note: Chief Pierre Moran & the Potawatomi Chief Pierish of Pierish’s Village (N. Manchester, IN) are one and the same.

Source: Elkhart Daily Review, June 27, 1906.
The writer of the following article was Edwin R. Beardsley, the oldest son of Dr. Havilah Beardsley. His article was written 75 years after the events occurred. Dr. Beardsley purchased in 1831 the land from the Potawatomi Chief Pierre Moran, and then platted the town of Elkhart.


How he Prevented a Massacre of Whites in Early Days

Many of the unrecorded incidents attending the early occupation of this country, worthy of a place in its annals, have faded from the public mind and are remembered only by a few who have outlived their contemporaries, and they too will soon pass away and the record be blotted out forever. But the trials through which the St. Joseph Valley passed during the occupation were, exceptionally peaceful and uneventful, yet the exodus of the Indians and the coming of the white man was attended with such miraculous transformations that the most ordinary incident becomes of interest.

Before the advent of civilization, Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan was the ideal home of the Indian. Its primeval uplands were meandered with clear ever-flowing waters, and its uplands were dotted with beautiful lakes and grass-covered plains. The bottom lands along the streams were prolific in plums, grapes, paw-paws, hazel-nuts, and the black and white walnut, while the uplands abounded with the huckleberry and the hickory-nut. Herds of deer roamed at will, black bears were not uncommon, raccoons and squirrels sported in the forests, flocks of prairie chickens, wild turkeys, pheasants, and pigeons were on every hand, and the lakes and streams were teeming with wild geese, ducks, and fish, and were the home of the muskrat, the mink, the beaver, and the otter. So abundant was the wild fruits and game that the simple wants of the Indian were within the reach of his outstretched hand, and he lived happy and content with the present, and without fear of the future.

At the confluence of the Elkhart and the Cristiann* with the St. Joseph River, the prodigal bounties of nature were more in evidence to the Indian and available than at any other point. The configuration of those streams afforded navigable routes from the four points of the compass over which the various tribes or bands traversed in their canoes, and meeting at the confluence of the streams were brought together in large numbers, and erecting their camps, joined in feasting, pow-wows, war-dances, games and amusements.

Their camps were placed in the shade of the trees which lined the banks along the mouths of the Elkhart and the Cristiann, and at the connection of the race-way with the Cristiann, four or five were continually occupied, one of them by Chief Moran, owner of section five now covered by the City of Elkhart.

This beautiful and fruitful region was a most sacred inheritance to the Indian from his long line of forefathers in the misty past, and was dearer to him than all else in life, and he would sooner die a thousand deaths than relinquish it, but, without his consent and without remuneration, he was forced to peacefully leave it forever. Never was there a more critical time in the life of a people than this, but the appeals and eloquence of Chief Moran, and the chiefs of other tribes, prevailed over the frenzied passions of the Indians and held them from precipitating a bloody massacre of the whites.

The unwritten story of the Indian is illuminated by many deeds like Moran’s but if ever placed upon the records, it must be done by the white man; the red man had no literature by which to perpetuate his deeds, nor monument to hand down his name, and though for ages he owned this vast continent and was lord of the beast and the forest, yet with the exception of an occasional arrow-head turned from the soil by the plow, he has left no trace of his existence.

“A noble race; but they are gone
With their old forests wide and deep,
And we have built our homes upon
Fields where their generations sleep.”

The Potawattomie Nation of Indians was governed on the old feudal system; at the head was the great Chief (Pokagon) and under him were petty Chiefs in charge of tribes varying in numbers from seven hundred to ten hundred over whom they had absolute authority, but were amenable to the Great Chief for their acts, Chief Moran’s tribe numbered about eight hundred and fifty.

Chief Moran was of powerful stature, six feet tall, straight as an arrow, and dressed in the fashion of the whites. He was intelligent, eloquent, honest and brave. He had been taught the rudiments of an education, and could read and write and speak the Indian, English and French languages. He had a keen sense of justice, and ruled his tribe with gentle firmness. His life of trials had tinged his features with sadness, and they were blemished by the loss of the end of the nose, but the deformity was fairly removed by an artificial nose piece.

Chief Moran frequently consulted with Doctor Beardsley upon questions of Indian policy, and the writer, then (1832) eight years old, remembers that on one of these occasions the Chief, with much feeling, related the circumstances attending the mutilation in substance as follows:

When about nineteen years old, he became enamored with the charms of a young squaw who, while receiving and encouraging his attentions, was being courted by another admirer, and the young squaw being undecided in her preference, the contest of the two rivals became urgent and warlike with threatened tomahawk embellishments, but finally the superior attractions and amorous tactics of Moran turned the scales in his favor, and the rejected suitor retired from the field.

On the following night, while Moran was asleep on his bunk in his wigwam, wrapped in blissful dreams of his fair Indian maid, the rejected suitor crawled into the wigwam and fiendishly bit off the end of Moran’s nose, and being aware that according to the Indian criminal code, this was the greatest of crimes, and that the victim was in honor bound to take the life of the offender, he precipitately fled and sought the deepest recesses of the forest and employed every stratagem known to those deepest in woodcraft to obliterate his tracks to baffle and mislead his pursuer.

Impelled by a burning thirst for revenge, Moran hastily dressed the wound and with rifle and blanket started in pursuit. With consummate skill, he found the trace of his enemy and, step by step, followed its torturous course through thickets and swamps, over hills and valleys, through storm and sunshine, perils and disappointments. At night, rolled in his blanket, he slept under the stars, or in the storm, and lived upon the fruits of his rifle. Weary and worn, with unfailing sagacity, he slowly followed ever westward through regions distant and unknown.

Several months passed by, and the despairing, dusky maiden with heart so touched, so pierced, so lost, had whispered the name of her lost lover to the glimmering lakes, the tinkling rills, and the dying winds, and had sung many doleful ditties to the man in the moon, when Moran, with a scalp at his belt, returned weary and faint to his wigwam, and on the morrow placed the scalp in the keeping of the Sachem, and with a warhoop the law was fulfilled. The wedding soon followed, and, as the novels say, they lived happily ever after.

Until his twentieth year, his home was at or near Detroit, where he formed the acquaintance of Gen. Cass, Gen. Tipton, Gen. Harrison, and other American and French officers, and became familiar with the policy, power and resources of the American government, and through them and other sources of information learned that the Indian races had been driven back from the Pacific coast to near the center of the continent, attended with the loss of their lands and extinction of nearly all the nations and tribes of Indians; a process of devastation which, if not checked, would eventually sweep the last surviving Indian into the Pacific ocean.

From this sad picture he formulated the axiom that a nation could not exist without owning a domain; to part with it was National suicide, and that the advance of the white man could not be held in check by force of arms.

He was painfully conscious of the inferior capacity of the Indian, as compared with the civilized races, and of his inability to cope with them in diplomacy or in war, and so long as these relative conditions continued, the safety of the Indian evidently would be best secured by maintaining peaceful relations with the continental powers, and in no other way could he see hope for the Indian; therefore the true policy was to observe strict neutrality during the wars of the Americans with foreign nations and thereby give the victorious power no cause to oppose the relations of peace.

The intelligence, wisdom, and eloquence of Chief Moran gave him a commanding influence on the councils of the Nation which was secretly sought by the English emissaries who offered considerations of great value for his influence to induce the tribes to join with them in war against the Americans, but these were loyally rejected by Moran, and he also defeated them in their efforts to subsidize other chiefs.

It was in recognition of his sterling quality and incorruptible loyalty that the government reserved to him section five, then considered the most valuable of any in the St. Joseph valley.

On important occasions, Chief Moran was appointed as envoy to councils held by the tribes of the Nations, where he was brought into communication with Blackhawk, Red Jacket, Keokuk, Tecumseh, and other famous Chiefs, and urged upon them the adoption of the policy that the Nations hold their lands, and for the purpose of mutual protection, join in a confederacy, and contended that if the Nations would hold their lands in perpetuity, the Nations would exist in perpetuity, otherwise they will melt away and leave the Indian bereft of hunting grounds, country, and home.

And in 1809, when General Harrison obtained a cession of the Potawatomies on the Wabash, he attended the conference and exerted his logic to impress the assembled Chiefs with the importance of his policy, and urged them to enter into a binding engagement that no land he sold except by consent of all the Chiefs, but in vain; the power of the white man’s fire water, and the duplicity of the Indians was greater than logic or eloquence.

But his untiring efforts to arouse the Chiefs to a sense of their duty to the Nation by establishing a Confederacy of the Nations, met with a disastrous defeat when at a later conference or treaty, a majority of the Chiefs, while under the influence of fire water and the seductive persuasions of the white man, entered into a binding agreement to sell to the United States Government one million acres of land at three cents per acre; at which rate in frontier currency, four acres were equal in value to the skin of one muskrat.

The sale was denounced by the Indians as a disastrous crime, and with bitter indignation their Chiefs as traitors, and the whites as robbers, and in 1830 when Blackhawk refused to abide by the conditions of the treaties, and caused a revolt and bloody war against the whites in Illinois and Wisconsin, his emissaries found the Potawatomies in Northern Indiana smarting under the outrage of this sale and anxious to join in the revolt, which they would have done if not for the interference and influence of Chief Moran, as earlier we mentioned in this article.

For several months the scattered and defenseless whites were in painful suspense; rumors of revolt were in the air, tales of nearby massacres passed from cabin to cabin, the dreaded warhoop was expected at every moment, and the horrid butchery which would follow. The most isolated families abandoned their cabins and united with others, and some sought safety in the stockades, once if we remember correctly, at Goshen, and steps were taken to erect one on the island at Elkhart, now Island Park, but the project was abandoned upon the assurance of Chief Moran that the tribes would not revolt.

Had Chief Moran, and his assisting Chiefs, failed to restrain the furious Indians, but few of the whites would have escaped the tomahawk, as the Indians largely outnumbered the whites, and timely assistance was not within reach, and then there would have been bloody pages in the early history of Elkhart, as there are in the history of many of the border towns.

But the war cloud passed by, the whites returned to their occupations, and Moran turned to those darker clouds then sweeping in black and threatening folds across the Indian’s sky; the Potawatomie had sold his inheritance for a mess of pottage, and opened wide the last barrier to the destruction of his race, and in distant wilds beyond the Mississippi must meet his fate. The brave, loyal heart of Chief Moran was broken; the hunting grounds would be desecrated, the wigwams deserted, and the broad forests, the murmuring streams and sunlit plains would know them no more; he would obey the law, part with section five, and when the iron hand of the government closed the bond, he would go into exile with his people.

But when the dreaded day of departure came, and the command, “Forward March” rang out upon the air, the heart of every Indian was pierced as with a dagger; it was the triumphant note of the white man’s greed, the knell of the Indian’s dying hope, a shriek from the graves of their ancestors. Abandoned by the Great Spirit, they were overwhelmed with despair and in the deepest extreme of self-debasement. No word, nor sigh, nor sob was heard, but every cheek was crimsoned with shame, and from every eye there gleamed the fire of eternal hate.

That was the most pathetic episode that ever did or ever will occur in the St. Joseph Valley, and cruel fate could impose no greater load or cause no deeper pain to the heart of Chief Moran as in the van of his people he marched in funeral procession away from the land he loved well, never to return, and the descendants of those pioneers whose lives he saved, know not, nor care not,  that he ever existed – but Moran cared least of all for fame, only for the approval of his people.

This imperfect sketch of Chief Moran is derived from such fragments as the writer remembers of the story as told by Moran himself; many of his adventures and experiences in his private and public life are now forgotten, but the writer takes pleasure in recording this much, and in expressing admiration of the nobility of his manhood, and those higher qualities of heart and mind which placed him above his fellow Chiefs. Though an Indian, he was a man of character, true aspirations, and a leader. So deep an impression did his personality make upon the mind of the writer—then eight or ten years old—that now, after three-fourths of a century have passed, his personal appearance, expressive features, geniality and tones of voice remain the most clearly imprinted of his youthful memories, and he recalls the feeling of awe his presence inspired, and that his words carried the weight and mystery of a Delphic Oracle.

An injustice has been done him by neglecting to honor a street or park in the city of Elkhart with his name. When the Clifton Hotel was built—now Bucklen—it was the wish of Doctor Beardsley that it be given the name of Moran. The wish was not granted and the name is unknown and unsung – but

Why all this toil to build a name?
Why sigh for wealth or strive for fame?
Remembrance dies with “here he lies”
And “dust to dust” the empty prize.

In those early days there was no ban, either of legal or public opinion, upon the use of alcoholic drinks. The low cost of ten or twelve cents per gallon of whiskey—three cents for one drink or five cents for two, placed it within the reach of all, and it was drank by all without any questions of propriety. With few exceptions the white men were not given to over indulgence in its use, but the red man yielded bodily and mentally to its blandishments without reserve or thought of resistance, and fell a helpless victim into the hands of the scheming white man.

This weakness of the Indian, Moran considered the most serious obstacle in the way of adjusting the conflicting interests of the two races. It was the cause of turmoils between them and of incompetency of the chiefs when at important conferences or treaties. Its danger was fully impressed upon his mind by an experience in that line with Godfrey of Detroit, who had induced him to drink deeply, and while stupefied obtained his signature to papers representing that for value received he had sold to Godfrey his reserve section five and authorizing the Indian Department to deed the same to Godfrey: (an Indian cannot himself convey his lands to another; it must be done by the Indian Department). When recovered he had no recollection of the transaction, and it was two or three weeks later when he discovered the fraud and that the consideration was an old worn out horse and cart, but after a long and costly investigation the fraud was exposed and the deed withheld.

Acting as guardian for the Indians the Government imposed heavy penalties for selling or giving alcoholic liquors to them, but as yet the opportunities for procuring them were limited, and but few abuses of their use had occurred, and now Moran was much disturbed by a rumor, soon verified, that an Indian trading post was about to be established at Elkhart, just platted.

It was erected on the southeast corner of the block, north of the block on which is now located the new post office building, by an Indian trader named Hatch. This the writer believes was the first building in Elkhart. He had authority to sell liquors to the sick only, and in quantity not to exceed one pint.

Though thinly clad, the Indians were so inured by their abstemious life and rigors of climate that but rarely were they sick or in need of medicine, and yet it was no sooner known that a barrel of whiskey was on tap at the Post, than large numbers of the tribe were seized with the most extraordinary and alarming symptoms of a fatal sickness, demanding immediate treatment, which could be obtained only at the Post, and throwing aside prudence, and regardless of distance, fatigue or exposure they hurried their feeble steps to the Mecca of relief and converted the Post into an insane asylum, much to the astonishment and alarm of the trader.

In a state of nature before contaminated by the white man, the Indian was the child of nature, trusting others as he trusted himself, and was a stranger to falsehood and theft, but alcohol opened up to his sensual nature a new world of pleasures and emotions which he would not wrong to employ deception to obtain it.

Their pathetic appeals, distorted bodies, and tear-dimmed eyes did not deceive the trader, but he dare not refuse the coveted medicines; their anger once aroused pandemonium would reign, and then, on the other hand, a compliance with their demand would be equally as fatal, but the good genius of the trader arose to the occasion, and appealing to them in their own tongue he obtained their consent to compromise of one-half pint each, a quantity so small that there would be no danger of a drunken orgy.

Contingencies having a more serious termination than this were likely to occur, and Moran foresaw the necessity of adopting measures to prevent them, and proposed a plan which, though not in accordance with law, yet would subserve the interests of peace better than the law then in force, and as peace was the object of the law, the Government would not object. The plan seemed feasible and was agreed to by Hatch.

Calling a meeting of the Indians, (the first temperance meeting ever held in the northwest) he gave them a talk, as the Indians would express it. We have no record of his words but they were something like this: “Our White Father at Washington who loves his children of the Forest, has sent them the Post, trusting that it may supply their wants and lighten their burdens, but beware under the velvet glove is hidden the iron hand. Its fire water is a remorseless trap, set by the cunning white man to catch the simple red man, and bites like an adder: It withers the arm of the brave, it brings sorrow in the wigwam and grief to the heart of the Great Spirit for the weakness of his children. It will blight you as the frost upon the tender vine, or the lightning the sturdy oak. From their graves your fathers are calling upon you to be men and shun the demon that lurks in the fire water, whose fiery scorpions will drive you from your hunting grounds, sanctified by the bones of your ancestors and the owl and the bat will dwell in your wigwam, and the fox and the wolf will rob your papooses of their bread… Then he dwelt upon the importance of maintaining peace with the whites, and the certainty of its being broken if they lost themselves in drink, and mixed with the whites, and closed with saying that there must be no excesses, and the power to prevent them rested with their Chief, and they must pledge themselves to submit to his government in this matter. The Indians were unanimous in their expression of confidence in their Chief and their pledges of submission of his authority.

Moran then explained that in order that they should not be entirely deprived of their rights in the use of whiskey, and that disorder be voided, he would authorize from time to time the formation of bands of not more than twenty in each, the band to elect two or their number to act as guards, and who during the day of service shall abstain from drinking any kind of intoxicants whatever. With an order from the Chief the guards shall procure of the Post a jug containing one pint of whiskey for each man in the band, excepting the guards. The guards shall disarm the members of the band, and conduct them beyond the boundaries of the camps, and as wanted, the guards shall measure to each man his just proportion of whiskey, and it shall be his express duty to prevent riotous conduct, or the presence of witnesses, and to see that they remain upon the grounds until recovered from the effects of the whiskey.

The writer does not claim that the above is an exact copy of the compact between Moran and his tribe, but it is clearly deduced from the manner in which they complied with it, as witnessed by him in company with a son of Moran. On that occasion the fun “fast and furious,” but the guards with watchful care nipped the incipient quarrels in the bud and good humored revelry prevailed; and in this manner Moran secured the safety of the Post and avoided friction with the whites.