Source: Wabash Weekly Plain Dealer, July 18, 1867

The Aborigines of the Wabash Valley


Mr. George Winter, an artist of Lafayette, who was well acquainted with Brouillette, and with the history of the tribes who formerly occupied the Wabash Valley, contributes the following sketch to the Lafayette Courier:

Jean Baptiste Brouillette, the Miami Indian, well known throughout the Wabash Valley, whose death you noticed in your paper recently as having died at his residence on the Mississinewa river, eight miles above Peru, in the 78th year of his age, was a remarkable man.

Jean Baptiste Brouillette, needs not the flattering touch of the artist's pencil or the investment of the poets fanciful recitals to make him attractive to the public attention, separately from his innate qualities as a man. I remember distinctly when I first saw Brouillette. He was on a visit to Logansport, in the fall of the year of "payment." The Pottawattamie Indians were at that time very commonly seen in Logansport. Ewing's establishment was a means of attracting the Indians to that point.

It was headquarters, too, for the receiving of peltries, bought in large quantities. There they were properly packed, and shipped to the East. It was not unfrequently that some of the Indians came to Logansport to buy goods. at Ewing's trading post, which stood diagonally to the "Washington Hall," then kept by our old friend, Capt. C. Vigus.

The Miamies were frequent visitors to the vicinity of Logansport, for the purpose of paying a reverential tribute to the memory of the dead, as there was, but a few rods distant from the South section of the bridge which immediately led to the "National Reservation," an extensive Indian burial ground, which was an attraction to the curious traveler, as he was passing through this new and undeveloped country. No doubt but what this depository of the aboriginal dead was mostly confined to the Indians who died at the village of Ke-na-pa-cum-qua, which stood on the North bank of the Eel river, some six miles above the confluence with the Wabash. "Charley's Reserve" is known as being in the vicinity of its old village. Many of the older citizens are familiar with the beautiful view that could be seen from Reed's old log cabin, on the northern bank, near the Peru road. The scene that thus presented itself to the eye included the old site of the village of Ke-na-pa-cum-a-qua.

The Miami burial ground, near Logansport, contained the remains of the renowned chief and warrior, No-ha-me-nah, or as he was more familiarly called, Captain Flowers.  The graves were generally covered with bark. The chief's loomed up above all others of lesser consequence. It was rudely constructed of logs, within which was placed a pine box, or che-pe-em-kak, protecting the remains. The chief's rifle, tin cup, powder horn, and other relics were deposited, so that the spirit might carry along with it in its flight the chosen earthly objects, to the beautiful world of the future hunting ground. There are no signs now to indicate the burial ground. I remember well when the same spot yielded to the plough-share. It proved a rich soil, but it seemed strange to see the beautiful tassel of the corn thrown out, where, but a few years ago, there was a breathing of sanctity upon the lowly graves. When the plough-share ran deep into the graves, the

"Brown skulls, in spite of ugly death
On the grass grinned merrily.
"You could hear men's rotting and ennobling bones
Rattle together with unctious glee,
For they mocked the sighs, and scoffed at the moans
Of silly and frail humanity."

It was a painful fact, of which no doubt rested, that the grave of No-ka-me-nah did not rest long after burial in peaceful repose. It was a good rifle they consigned to the grave with the chief, but the enterprising Christian man had soon possession of it, and many a deer has fallen since at its sharp crack, and the venison sold for fifty cents per saddle, proving satisfactorily that the violation of a red man's grave was a pecuniary gain.

But why should we underrate moral acts? Stealing from an Indian grave is, after all, but a white man's 'smart' trick of trade!

But to return to Brouillette, in whom we are more particularly interested. He was a "French half breed, of elegant appearance, very straight and slim." In personal appearance he had a decided commanding mein. In height he stood six feet two inches. His tout ensemble was unique, as his aboriginal costume was expensively showy. He wore round his head a rich figured crimson shawl, a la turban, with long and flowing ends gracefully flowing over the shoulders, silver ornaments or clusters of earbobs, testified their weight, by a partial elongation of the ears. His hair was jetty black and ornamented to a face, by no means handsome, forehead not expansive, and his visage as a whole, was meager, but withal his face was certainly thoughtful, and expressive of great power.

He wore a fine frock coat of the latest fashion. When the Indian assumes the white man's garb, he always chooses a frock coat. It is an object of beauty to his eye. His "pesmoken" or shirt, was white, spotted with small red figures, overhanging very handsome blue leggings "winged" with very rich silk ribbons of prismatic hues, exhibiting the square skillful needlework. A handsome red silk sash was thrown gracefully over his left shoulder, and passing over his breast, and under the right arm, with clusters of knots, and fringed masses gave point and style to Brouillette's tall and majestic figure.

Intellectually, the Miami soared far above mediocrity. His mind was clear and strong. He had great comprehension and scope of thought.

Brouillette had a great reputation as an orator, possessing great volubility of language. He was a very peaceable man, and a great friend of the whites, among whom he claimed many friendships. He was also a great "Medicine man," (though not a juggler), professing a knowledge of the healing art. I well remember sume time in the summer of 1843, when in Berthelot's trading establishment at Peru word was brought that Pee-waw-pe-o had stabbed his squaw, in revenge for some family grievance, and that she had been taken up to "Deafman's Village," on the Mississinewa, where Brouillette resided with his mother-in-law, Francis Slocum, known as the "Lost Sister." Under Brouillette's care the Indian woman recovered from her would, Captain Brouillette, for he was proverbially known among the whites by that sobriquet, was the first Miami Indian that cultivated corn with the plow. Brouillette has often visited Lafayette. In the year 1851 I met him. He was then on his way to the Wea Plains, a spot identified with his early childhood. The purpose of his visit then was to obtain certain roots possessing medicinal properties. At that time the noble looking Indian, though still retaining his erect bearing, yet the unmistakable marks of increasing years were shown in the deepening lines of the face, and the former jet-black hair, being impinged with Time's frosty touch. More recently, perhaps in 1863, Brouillette, with some other Miamies, were on a visit to Peter Longlois' in the vicinity of Lafayette. These red men were attracted to the artesian well, and were observed testing the qualities of the water, when I approached the group and found among them Jim Godfrey, son of the old war chief, Francis Godfrey. Captain Brouillette and Jim gave a friendly recognition, and a little, pow-wow followed relating to the time when I had made sketches of them, "long years ago."

Brouillette's birthplace was on the Wea Plains. The period of his birth was a time of fearful strife, and when "grim-visaged war" disturbed the peace of this remote region. The famous Indian village of Ouiatenon was a stronghold of the Miami Indians, and to destroy this ancient village was regarded of such importance by the United States Government, that an expedition, in the year 1791, was sent out from Kentucky, 800 strong, commanded by Brigadier General Scott.  Dillon, in his historical notes in reference to this Valley, states that many of the inhabitants of Ouiatenon were French, and lived in a state of civilization. By the books, letters, and other documents found there, it is evident that place was in connection with and dependent on Detroit. A large quantity of corn, a variety of household goods, peltry, and other articles were burned with the village, which consisted of seventy houses, and many of these were well furnished.

The citizens of today can hardly realize that but a few miles distant from LaFayette there existed such an extensive community of mixed civilized and savage people at so early a period as 1790, yet an early period of historic existence precedes it. An Indian once very beautifully and touchingly expressed himself in reference to the strife that grew out of the pale face's invasion of their county: "Know ye, that the village of Ouiatenon is the sepulchre of our ancestors."

Brouillette was a half-breed; his father was a Frenchman, and was made a Captain when a youth. By a remarkable coincidence, Captain Brouillette's wife's mother was also a captive, whose discovery, in her old age, after a captivity of sixty years, in the year 1837, on the Mississippi river, awakened an intense interest. Frances Slocum, the "lost sister," was captured from the village of Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania, on the Susquehanna, in 1777, by some hostile Delaware Indians. -- She was five years old when made captive, and was adopted into the family of the Chief Tuck-hoss, who was a man of great distinction. Frances, when she grew up to womanhood, was married to a Delaware, and subsequently to a Miami Chief, called the "Deaf man." The village on the Mississinewa, was called the "Deafman's village," where the captive lived twenty years previous to her discovery. The village was well known to the Indian traders, and the old settlers. Our respected fellow-citizen, H.T. Sample, has known this locality over forty-five years, and was well acquainted wit the "Deafman", Brouillette, and the captive. I visited the village in the fall of 1839, and made a sketch of the "captive" -- a valuable subject for the pencil. She died some sixteen years since. Captain Brouillette died at the village on the 7th ult. -- There are but a few of his tribe remaining in the old forest home, to hold him in remembrance. But while a Miami lives, Brouillette will ever have a place in the mind and heart. Brouillette became a convert to Christianity through the missionary labors of one of the Slocums, a nephew of the "Captive" who settle among the Miamis after the discovery of his aunt.

Brouillette attached himself to the Baptist denomination. He entered into his religious profession with an earnest zeal, so much so that he became a missionary among the few of the tribe that yet remained in the State of Indiana, along the Mississinewa River, Pipe Creek, and other old cherished localities of the Miami people.