John Tipton (1786-1839)—Indiana Pioneer, Patriot, Planner, Prodigious Land Speculator, and

Principal Provider of Political Patronage


Compiled and edited by John Knarr


John Tipton played a significant role in the early history of the state of Indiana. His prolific presence on the map of Indiana was astounding. He contributed in so many ways to the historical events preceding the organization of Wabash County and the founding of North Manchester. It is hard to imagine anyone else who was so intimately involved and so successful in so many important activities in our state’s early history during a lifetime cut short by death at 52 years of age. We are fortunate to have access to Tipton’s papers, his copious notes, reports, observations, journals and correspondence. He arrived in the Indiana Territory penniless and without a father. He had no formal education. He had no law degree. He was not a polished writer or orator. Tipton tried his hand in so many varied businesses. He rapidly rose in the ranks of the Indiana Militia. He won appointments and elections, from local to county to state-wide contests. Tipton’s network of contacts, with traders, businessmen, political leaders, military and Masonic fraternity was unsurpassed by anyone I have read about in our state’s history. He was involved in so many types of negotiation—location of county seats and the state capital, state boundaries, Indian land cessions and Indian removal, state legislative and U.S. Senate committees. Tipton was a proponent and practitioner of political patronage. He was also a significant land speculator. Land Office records reveal that he was the original owner of land in several different counties in the state of Indiana (Vermillion, Wabash, Fulton, Carroll, Jackson, Tippecanoe, Adams, Harrison, Bartholomew, Allen, Huntington, Cass).  Tipton purchased land from the Land Offices at Jeffersonville, Terre Haute, Crawfordsville, Fort Wayne, LaPorte and Winamac. He platted numerous towns in several different counties, including Lagro in Wabash County. Tipton accumulated thousands of acres which few others could match during lifetimes much longer than his. The early pioneers in Wabash County crossed paths with Tipton during the 1820s and 1830s. The following chronology and outline highlight the activities and roles in the fascinating life and career of John Tipton.

August 14, 1786. John Tipton was born in Tennessee, present-day Sevier County. The Tipton family was of Irish lineage. John Tipton’s father was born in Maryland.

November 4, 1791. Capt. Jacob Tipton was killed at St. Clair’s defeat. Jacob was possibly an uncle to John. April 18, 1793, near his home in Jefferson County TN, John Tipton’s father, Joshua Tipton, was killed by a roving band of Cherokee Indians. In the inventory of Joshua’s estate was listed “one negro wench”.


In 1798 William H. Harrison became secretary of the North-West Territory; a delegate to Congress in 1799 from the NW Territory; and governor of the newly formed Territory of Indiana in 1801 (including Illinois).


1807. John Tipton, with his mother and siblings, arrived in Indiana. The family located at Brinley’s Ferry, Harrison County, IN. The Tipton family at that time included John, his mother, two sisters, a half-brother.


Spring 1807. The Larkins family was travelling along the Buffalo Trace (Vincennes-Clarksville Trace), and was attacked by a Delaware Indian band; the father was killed and mother and her five children were taken captive. In response, the Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison organized the Indiana Rangers to provide a rapid response and deterrent to such attacks. The Buffalo Trace in 1807 was the main transportation route between Louisville KY and the Indiana Territory’s capital of Vincennes. John Tipton served for a time as a scout and guard in the Rangers along the Trace. By October 1807 Tipton was Commander of the Second Division of Rangers. [Col. William M. Cockrum, Pioneer History of Indiana (1907), p. 202]  Summer 1809. Tipton became a member of Captain Spier Spencer’s Yellow Jackets. The “Yellow Jackets” were so-called because of the color of their uniforms. The Yellow Jackets marched to Vincennes on general orders of Gov. Harrison. This expedition was prelude to the “Battle of Tippecanoe” and the campaign against Indians on the Wabash River. During the War of 1812 Tipton served as a major in command of two ranger companies at Fort Vallonia. At the Battle of Wild Cat Creek (1812) several rangers were killed.


June 20, 1811. Appointed justice of the peace for Harrison County.

1810-1812. There were numerous attacks on settlers; the British Agent of Indian Affairs in early 1811 incited the northwestern Indians to hostilities against the encroaching waves of new settlers. In September 1812 the Pigeon Roost Creek massacre in Scott County took place; every settler killed by a band of Shawnees.


1811. Marched with Gen. Wm. Henry Harrison to Tippecanoe. Harrison moved against the Indians while Tecumseh was in the South, drumming up support amongst the Creeks and Seminoles for his Indian confederation. The Tippecanoe campaign lasted 74 days. John Tipton was an ensign in Spier Spencer’s regiment.

October 28, 1811. Fort Harrison was built north of Vincennes and just below where Terre Haute is now located. Nine months later, Capt. Zachariah Taylor was involved in defense of this fort, the first step in a career leading to the Presidency.


November 7, 1811. Upon death of his captain at Tippecanoe, Tipton took over command of a rifle company. Captain Spier Spencer was killed in action on November 7, 1811. There were a total of 179 killed and wounded soldiers. According to Tipton’s journal, there were also 37 horses killed, wounded or lost. An election of officers was held, and Tipton was elected and commissioned as Captain of the company within one hour after the battle “as a reward for his cool and deliberate heroism displayed during the action.” [Isaac Naylor quoted in Pershing, Life of General John Tipton and Early Indiana History, p. 43] John Tipton kept a daily journal, the only one kept by any participant in the 1811 expedition. Tipton’s original diary is at the Indiana Historical Society. He related in the diary his experiences in standing post, scouting, hunting lost horses, repairing guns of his company, acting as a spy, hunting game for his mess and making himself generally useful, keeping close touch with his comrades. [Wm Wesley Woollen, “John Tipton,” in Biographical and Historical Sketches of Early Indiana (1883), pp. 185ff]


1812-1813. Tipton was involved in the defense of the frontier settlements against the Indians. He commanded the militia stationed on the frontier of Harrison and Clark counties. His headquarters was located at Fort Vallonia. When Captain Tipton was promoted to the rank of Major, he had under his command 29 men. In 1813 he led Captain Dunn’s company of rangers through the wilderness; also in 1813 Tipton acted as “officer of the spies during the campaign to the Indian town on the West Fork of White river.” [Woollen, p. 189]


Rapid promotion in the Indiana militia: major in Fifth Regiment in 1812; lieutenant colonel in 1813; colonel in 1814; brigadier general, Third Brigade, in 1817. Governor Jonathan Jennings commissioned Tipton as Major General January 25, 1822. [Tipton Papers I:293]


First home in IN was in Harrison County on the Ohio River. Opposite the mouth of Salt River in KY, Tipton operated a ferry. In 1814 he purchased 62 acres of farmland and established a home. He paid for it by making rails, repairing guns and working as a farm hand. Had duties of militia officer, justice of the peace, deputy sheriff.


1816. Purchased property in Corydon, county seat and first state capital of IN established in 1816. Tipton opened a tavern and hotel in his home in Corydon.

1816 and 1818 Tipton elected sheriff of Harrison County. The 1816 election was the first election held under the new State constitution.


March 1818. Appointed commissioner to relocate county seat of Warrick County.

December 1819. Appointed commissioner to relocate county seat of Owen Co.

August 1819. Tipton was elected representative to the Indiana State Legislature from Harrison County.


January 1820. Appointed to commissioners to select and locate a new site for the new State capital. Tipton kept a journal of his trip to select the capital. [Indiana Magazine of History, March-June, 1905] Vincennes, Corydon, Madison, Terre Haute, Vallonia, Strawtown, Indianapolis and other towns petitioned for consideration. The commissioners visited and assessed the merits and advantages of all these places. Indianapolis was selected by a close vote. Tipton was favorable to Indianapolis, while William Conner promoted Strawtown. The Fall Creek site was chosen, upon General Tipton’s motion. [Woollen, p. 190] As this selection was being made in June 1820, the first two families arrived at the mouth of Fall Creek by boat loaded with household goods. [Woollen, p. 190; Jeannette Covert Nolan, Hoosier City: The Story of Indianapolis (1943), pp. 20-23]


1821-1822. Appointed commissioner by the Indiana Legislature to meet with the Illinois commissioner and establish the boundary line between Indiana and Illinois. Tipton insisted that an error had been made by the surveyor in failing to establish a true meridian, and that the city of Chicago and the territory comprising Cook County belonged to Indiana. But the report was ratified by the Indiana Legislature at the 1822-1823 session, and Chicago was forever lost to Indiana! [Pershing, p. 31]


Served as a director of the State Bank at Corydon. Ventured into the New Orleans trade, as Abraham Lincoln once did. This was during the heyday of flatboating in Indiana when Hoosier boatmen were a common sight in New Orleans. New Orleans was the “wonderland of the West” and a trip there meant as much as a trip to Europe today. [Cockrum, pp. 508-510]


Influential in placing the county seat of Bartholomew County near land he had entered. Tipton failed in having it called “Tiptona”. Instead, Columbus was the name selected in 1821 by the commissioners. It was reported that his foes believed that “Tipton is getting along a little too damned fast.” Tipton was a Democrat and “Whiggish tendencies” prevailed then in Bartholomew County. [George Pence, “Makers of Bartholomew County”, Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. 22, No. 1 (1921)] Tipton surveyed the Mauk’s Ferry State road from the Ohio River by way of Corydon, Salem, Brownstown to Indianapolis. And in his survey, Tipton just happened to “miss” Columbus, two miles to the west of that road. Was this an intentional snub for losing out in the name game? [see Pence’s article]

Tried unsuccessfully to become a land officer (e.g. in Indianapolis). Land office positions were political plums in great demand and represented the best paid Federal jobs in Indiana.


1823. Tipton was appointed by President James Monroe as the Federal agent to the Indians of the Upper Wabash. The first Indian Agency in Fort Wayne had been established on January 1, 1802 with William Wells in charge. As Indian agent Tipton had important duties to license traders and settle their claims and disputes with Indian tribes, enforcement of regulations, disbursement of annuities and gifts, expenditure of funds for improvements, and punishment of unruly Indians. [Tipton Papers I:7] Tipton was agent to the Miami, Potawatomi and Eel River Indians, numbering in total 2,441. {Tipton Papers I:9] Tipton’s salary as Indian agent was $1,200 per year. This salary and position enabled Tipton to build up his fortune. Tipton’s predecessor as Indian Agent had been John Hays (1820-1823). Hays was from Cahokia, Illinois, and Indiana residents wanted Hoosiers in this agency’s post. John Tipton was the first Hoosier to fill the position. Others had served as Indian Agents before Tipton but they were not really from the territory that was to become the state of Indiana--William Wells, John Johnston, Benjamin F. Stickney, Dr. William Turner, John Hays.


1823. “Gen. John Tipton, who came to Fort Wayne in 1823 as Indian agent, was a leading spirit in the movement for the formation of a new county, of which Fort Wayne should be the seat of justice….”  [History of the Upper Maumee Valley II (1889), p. 374]. Allen County was formed out of Randolph and Delaware counties; bill was passed December 17, 1823. Tipton suggested that the new county be called Allen, in honor of Col. John Allen of Kentucky, who was killed January 22, 1813 at the battle of the River Raisin. [“Battle of the River Raisin”, in John E. Gunckel, The Early History of the Maumee Valley (1902), pp. 48-50] The original plat of Fort Wayne laid out in 1824 was duly recorded at Winchester, Randolph County; the records were subsequently transferred to Allen County. [Wallace A. Brice, History of Fort Wayne (1868), p. 297] Tipton served as foreman of the grand jury for the first circuit court held in Allen County. The first case on the 1824 docket was one of trespass, and the first application for a divorce in Allen County also occurred during the first session of this court. The nearest newspaper at that time in which these matters received publicity was about one hundred miles away—the Enquirer of Richmond IN. [Ibid, p. 298] In 1826 it was determined for the first time to keep a register of marriages in Allen County. Before this time, Allen County still was a part of Randolph, and all such licenses were procured at the Clerk’s office in Winchester, county seat of Randolph County. The first marriage license found recorded in Allen County was in 1834. It had often been the custom for officers of the army to solemnize marriage without a license; some marriage licenses had been issued from the Clerk’s office in Miami County OH; yet others were procured at Vincennes in Knox County IN; and many lived together with no license at all. [Ibid, p. 310] The first will recorded in Allen County IN was that of Abram Burnett in 1828. [Ibid, pp. 299-300] By the Fall of 1825 Allen County had some fifty voters; Fort Wayne had about 200 inhabitants. [Ibid, p. 307] In 1830 there were only 252 males, over 21 years of age, in Allen County. [Ibid, p. 308] In 1828 the Allen County Probate Court issued “letters of administration” upon the estates of Abram Burnett and La Gro, two Indian chiefs, who were owners of reserves resulting from the 1826 treaty.


November 13, 1824. Tipton to Thomas L. McKenney of the War Department, Washington: The Indians embraced by the Fort Wayne Indian Agency numbered 2,441, including the Miami, Eel Rivers and part of the Potawatomi. Tipton’s map showed the respective locations of the Indian villages and the number of Indians living in each. Tipton pointed out that the distance between Washington and the Indian Agency at Fort Wayne was about 592 miles: “The most frequented route is from Washington to Wheeling VA thence passing Zanesville, Columbus, Urbana & Piqua Ohio….” The number of whites in the vicinity of the Indian Agency in Fort Wayne was about 300 of which 75 were males over 21 years of age. “The Rivers are Maumee, Wabash, great and little St. Josephs, St. Marys, Salamanie, Mississiniwa, Eel River, Tippecanoe, and Kan.Ke.Kee. There is [sic] no mountains within the agency, the country level, soil in this vicinity good but rather wet, covered with a thick forest of timber consisting of Oak, Hickory, Ash, Sugar, Walnut &c &c between Eel River and Tippicanoe thinly timbered, and west of the latter level wet Prairie interspersed with groves of low Black oak timber, Soil not fertile. On the Elk Heart part rich Prairie and part fine timbered land. On the Wabash, Soil timber and water excellent, with great quantities of lime Stone. Country generally healthy.” [Tipton Papers I:408-9]


In 1824 Tipton disbursed annuities: Miami, $17,300, Eel River Indians, $1,100, and Potawatomi, $1,700. The Indian annuities were in turn spent on goods bought from Indian traders such as traps, blankets, guns, colorful cloth, trinkets, and liquor. The Indian traders of the Wabash were principally established in Fort Wayne such as Coquillard, Lasselle, Comparet, Taber, Hamilton and the Hannas and Ewings. While the Indians were exploited and outnumbered by the whites, it is apparent that this circulation of thousands of dollars of annuity payments boosted or subsidized frontier economic development.


January 1825. John Tipton wrote John Ewing, Chairman of the Indiana Senate Committee on improving navigation on the Wabash: “We believe that a canal to connect the waters of the Wabash and Maumee is perfectly practicable; its length will be about twenty-five miles—the country level, part of the soil sandy, though susceptible of the object. The St. Joseph’s river can be brought on the summit level, and will probably afford a supply of water for a feeder at all seasons.” [Tipton Papers I:441-2]


In 1825 two Miami chiefs, Richardville and Le Gros asked Tipton for permission to visit the new President (John Quincy Adams) in Washington. Tipton wrote on February 5, 1825 to Lewis Cass: “…I think it my duty to give it as my opinion that it will be best to let them go. PS …will accompany them if so directed by you.”  The following week, Lewis Cass responded: “I cannot give a final answer to the application of Le Gros for permission to visit Washington. There is a standing instruction from the Department, prohibiting these journies of Indian Chiefs, unless the sanction of the Government shall be previously obtained. I will write on & state the wishes of the Miami chiefs, and think it probable, they will be permitted to go there.” [Ibid, p. 443] Tipton’s Journal records the trip to Washington in January 1826. Expenses of the trip were estimated at $450.00, exclusive of interpreter Conner’s salary, according to a statement in the Tipton Papers [I:517,520n13] The Department of War, Office of Indian Affairs, reimbursed the expense of the Le Gros trip to Washington.


In 1826 Tipton was appointed a commissioner (with Lewis Cass and James B. Ray) to negotiate with the Miami and Potawatomi Indians for their lands. In preparation for the treaty meeting at Paradise Spring (Wabash), Tipton advertised and awarded contracts for the requisite provisions needed. Some of the merchants who sought to provide what was going to be needed were located in Centerville, Wayne County. Centerville was the oldest town in that county. [Andrew W. Young, History of Wayne County, Indiana (1872), p. 166]  Much of the provisions and supplies came into the Treaty Ground via Fort Wayne.  Crates of rifles were shipped from New York and Philadelphia, and other supplies were obtained at Cincinnati. Salt, silver, 10,000 lbs. pork, 250 flour barrels, and 53,592 pounds of fresh beef all flowed from Ft. Wayne to the Treaty Ground. The receipt for such provisions was originally recorded at Fort Wayne. John Tipton was in charge of such contracts [Tipton Papers I:566ff.], and the Kintner brothers were given responsibilities for provisioning and securing the Treaty Ground in the fall of 1826. [For more information on the Kintners, see NMHS Newsletter, May 2016] Tipton placed an order of 50 muskets with bayonets and ammunition. Those firearms were sourced from the quartermaster at Detroit. [Tipton Papers I:557, 567] Five boxes containing 50 rifles were shipped from Cincinnati. [Tipton Papers I:566] According to another communication from Tipton, the five boxes of 50 rifles came from Forsythe Dobin &c of Wheeling and delivered to Fredrick R. Kintner via Fort Wayne. [Tipton Papers I:566,569] Merchants from Wayne County IN were solicitors for patronage and applicants for contracts including Ray and Blair (July 7, 1826). Martin M. Ray was the governor’s brother. “All the articles except Beef can be furnished on better Terms here than else where. The Beef can be had in the White river country [i.e. Wayne County IN]  on advantigious [sic] Terms—.” [see also History of Wayne County (1884), 2:313] Col. James Gregory and Martin M Ray were awarded the contracts for 40,000 lbs fresh beef, 10,000 lbs pork and 250 bbls flour. Calvin Fletcher, Indianapolis attorney and state senator 1826-33 had written a letter to Tipton on July 3, 1826  in praise of Gregory: “Gregory will bee [sic] an applicant to supply rations for the treaty—I need not tell you that he is a worthy and meritorious friend for you know his worth—I do sincerely hope you will have it in your power to favor him in that particular.” [Tipton Papers I:549] The advertisement for bids to be received by August 10, 1826, was printed in the Indianapolis Gazette, July 18, 1826.  [Tipton Papers I:545] On December 1, 1823 James Gregory, Indiana state legislator, had signed a petition to the U.S. Senate in support of the appointment of General John Tipton as Indian agent at Fort Wayne. [Tipton Papers I:329] Gregory was a colonel in the militia. He was living at Shelbyville at this time and represented his district in the state Senate. He was born in North Carolina in 1783, removed to KY in 1810, and to Washington County, Indiana Territory in 1813. In 1822 he purchased land in Shelby County and in 1831 moved to Warren County. Gregory served ten sessions in the Indiana Senate, 1820-22, 1823-31, and three in the lower house, 1834-35, 1837-39. James Paxton of Indianapolis, Abram Conwell and Jonathan John of Connersville were not successful in their applications for the position of general contractors.  [Tipton Papers I:545n42]


According to the terms of the 1826 treaty, the Potawatomi annuity was increased to $2,000 and the Miami annuity to $25,000. Potawatomi debts to the traders of $9,573 and Miami debts of $7,727 were assumed by the government. Over the next two years $41,259 of goods was to be distributed to the Miami. If the tribe had not agreed to the terms of the treaty, payment for such goods was to be made out of their annuity! [Art. 4, the treaty was reprinted in Charles Elihu Slocum, History of the Maumee River Basin (1905), pp. 412-413] The Indian cession of lands and treaty provisions opened the way for building the Michigan Road and the Wabash and Erie Canal. The Indian lands ceded became subject to the administration of the General Land Office. Land was then surveyed and advertised for sale. The Indian treaties also authorized the patenting of certain lands to chiefs or other tribal members. The Indian owners then disposed of their land to the traders or speculators without processing by the Land Office. This was a non-statutory method of land disposal that only required the Indian agent approval and the agent was then required to report that the Indians had received fair value for their land. Thousands of acres were thereby patented. In the 1826 Treaty with the Miami, three and one-half sections were retained by Richardville, two sections to the chief’s sons; sixteen and one-fourth sections to other Miami. The Potawatomi treaty in 1826 resulted in some 29,600 acres granted to chiefs, “half-breeds” and others, 58 Indian scholars and some white men with claims against the Indians. Isaac McCoy (History of Baptist Indian Missions, 1840} acknowledged that, rather than benefitting the Carey Mission school, the reserves were sold to whites and proceeds used for food and clothing. Traders, Indian agents and land speculators consequently benefitted by obtaining land for less than market value.


The insertion of reserves into treaties was supported by the Indian traders. Often the traders attempted to get the Indian chiefs to assign these reservations to them for payment of debt, real or otherwise. And sometimes the Indians sold their reserved land to different buyers in more than one conveyance. Chief Pierish was guilty of such duplicitous transactions. Pierish’s village at one time was located on the Eel in the vicinity of present-day Manchester University. Pierre Moran (Pierish, Peeresh, Perig, Peirreish, Morin, Morrain) was born in Warren County IN, the son of a French trader, Constant Moran, and a Kickapoo squaw. Pierish married a Potawatomi after being banished by the Kickapoo. Pierish’s village at North Manchester was depicted on John Tipton’s map of the Fort Wayne Indian Agency drawn in 1824. Tipton’s map indicated a total of 59 persons (34 and 25) at the village which was located on the Eel River site. “Morrain’s village” was on the list of approved Indian trade stations within the Fort Wayne/Detroit Agency. [Tipton Papers I:466]  Pierish was signatory of several treaties. In the Potawatomi treaty of 1821 a section had been granted him at the mouth of the Elkhart River. In 1827 Pierish sold that land to Richard Godfroy of Michigan. In 1831 Pierish made a second deed for the same land to Havilah Beardsley for a larger sum. Beardsley laid out the town of Elkhart on the land after coming to a compromise agreement with Godfroy. Pierish returned to Warren County IN and from there moved to Benton County IN, where “Parish Grove” is named after the Indian chief. [Tipton Papers I:371 n.95] Pierish’s band had 15 in October 1826 as enumerated in the Tipton Papers; Pierish’s wife had 6 associated with her, so the combined number associated with Pierish/Peirish in 1826 was 21 total. [Tipton Papers I:616] In May of 1827 “Morin’s son” and “Peirreish” received provisions: 3 barrels of flour and 200 lbs of bacon for Pierish’s son and 2 barrels of flour and 100 lbs bacon for Pierish. Pokagon was listed as receiving 13 barrels of flour. [Ibid, 735-736]


Four days after the Miami treaty was signed in 1826, Chief Le Gros stipulated in his will that the four sections to which he was entitled should go to John Tipton. Tipton ended up paying the chief’s heirs $4,000 for the 2,560 acres he had received to offset the ensuing unfavorable publicity. Le Gros (Big Body, Machekeletah) was chief of a Miami village at the mouth of the Salomonie River. The town of Lagro, at this site, was named after him. Le Gros had signed the treaties of 1814, 1818, and 1826. In the 1826 Treaty, four sections were reserved to him. [Tipton Papers I:342]


1827. Tipton established the first mail route in the Wabash Valley, with Robert Hars [Horse] as first postmaster at Treaty Ground. In a communication to Allen Hamilton on April 28, 1827 from Fort Wayne, Tipton wrote: “SIR  Agreeably to your request I will state the distances by computation between the different points on the new post route from Crawfordsville to this place (to wit) from Crawfordsville to Covington seat of Justice of Fontain County is about 23 miles thence to Lafayett in Tippecannoe County 30 miles, mouth Deer creek 18 miles, mouth of Eel river 20 miles, Treaty ground 35 miles, to Fort Wayne 47 miles. At the Treaty ground mouth of Eel river and Deer creek will in my opinion be a sufficient number of places to open the mail between this place and Lafayett and I will take the liberty of recommending Robert Harse (Horse) for p m at the first and H B McKeen at the 2d and for the 3d am unacquainted but will refer to Gen Saml Millroy who lives near that place for information of the Subject.” [Tipton Papers I:703n48-49] The first regular mail route to Fort Wayne began in 1822-1823 when the mail was brought to Fort Wayne from Maumee and Piqua, OH. Prior to that time the mail was delivered ony by private and special messengers. The mail carriers from Piqua and Maumee made the trips regularly, usually camping out one night on the road. [Brice, History of Fort Wayne, p. 312-313] In 1830 David Burr, postmaster at Treaty Ground, and Jonathan Keller had a contract to carry a weekly mail from the treaty ground to Marion in Grant County. [Goodrich and Tuttle, An Illustrated History of the State of Indiana (1875), p. 429]


In 1828 the transfer to Logansport of the Indian agency at Fort Wayne was authorized. Tipton and his friends succeeded in acquiring control of the Indian reserves set aside by the treaties of 1826 at the junction of the Wabash and Eel rivers. Logansport was established on the George Cicott reserve. Tipton purchased much of the 640-acre reserve, and then laid out subdivisions to the town of Logansport. Tipton also was able to acquire the Richardville reserve adjacent to the Cicott reserve on the east. Tipton became the prominent leader in Logansport and profited handsomely. The Indian traders gravitated to Logansport, and grog shops were numerous. Tipton wielded much influence. As Indian agent he could revoke the licenses of Indian traders and could terminate their contracts for supplying Indians with goods and services. Tipton could also disallow their claims against the Indians for debts or injury. In 1931 both Richard Helvey and Samuel McClure lodged complaints with Tipton that “Charleys party” had stolen one hog (Helvey:$8) and some furs (McClure:$12.50). [Tipton Papers II:429-432]

1828. Eel River band of Miami surrendered a reservation of 64,000 acres. Tipton agreed to distribute goods worth $2,000 and a quantity valued at $8,000 the next summer, along with a number of horses, saddles, bridles and oxen. Tipton also promised to build twelve log houses. In another treaty the Potawatomi surrendered title to nearly a million acres in northwestern Indiana and 130,000 acres in southwestern Michigan. In return the Indians were promised $30,000 of goods immediately, with $15,000 in goods and silver in the following year. Their annuities were also increased by $3,000. Individual reserves consisting of 10,240 were authorized by the 1828 treaty.


Tipton’s patronage increased dramatically, and his patronage was highly sought after. He could allocate to friends various jobs and contracts for food, lumber, and agricultural tools. By 1830 he appointed two subagents, one or more interpreters, two millers, a gunsmith, two blacksmiths, three assistants and ten laborers. He hired guards and help to transport funds and silver for annuities, to police the treaty grounds, and to carry out treaty provisions, such as furnishing cattle (to be slaughtered for fresh beef) and pork and salt.


1828. The town of Logansport had yet to be named. Tipton suggested that the place be called “Mouth of Eel River.” Others proposed “Logan” in honor of the Indian Chief Logan, who had been friendly to the whites during the Indian wars. To arbitrate this matter, it was decided that Tipton and Col. Duret should shoot at a mark, and the one coming nearest to it, four shots out of seven, was to have the honor. Duret won the contest by coming nearest the mark four times. The town therefore was named Logan; the suffix “port” was added later, making it Logansport. [Pershing, p. 37] Duret, of French parentage, had been an Indian trader. In 1823 he became John Tipton’s chief clerk. When the Indian Agency moved to Logansport, Duret moved too. At the first election held in Cass County after its organization in 1829, Duret was elected clerk of the court, Auditor and Recorder. [Benj. F. Stuart, History of the Wabash and Valley (1924), pp. 71-79]

1828. Tipton built the first saw mill and flouring mill in the area of Logansport (Forest Mill). In September 1828 Tipton contributed $150 to the total of $500 raised to start Eel River Seminary, the first school in a county numbering less than 300 persons. January 1, 1829. Tipton, with no formal education, was chosen as the first president of the Eel River Seminary. [Thomas B. Helm, History of Cass County, Indiana (1878), p. 17]


December 31, 1831. Tipton resigned as Indian Agent. His successor was William Marshall (1832-1835).


When Indiana U.S. Senator James Noble died in 1831, Tipton had the opportunity to enter national political office. Although lacking in formal education (he never went to school), Tipton had political skills and a vast network of connections. On December 9, 1831 he was elected to fill Senator Noble’s tenure in office. Tipton received 55 votes on the seventh ballot in the state legislature. In running for re-election in 1832 after the expiration of an abbreviated term, Tipton promised his supporters patronage positions as land officers, postmasters, clerkships, surveyors, and contractors for supplying goods to the Indian Office.


December 10, 1832 Tipton came out on top in a closely contested contest; nineteen ballots were taken in Indianapolis before he was finally elected.  On more than one occasion, Tipton was President Andrew Jackson’s guest at the Hermitage in Tennessee. [Pershing, p. 36] John Tipton was a Jacksonian U.S. Senator from Indiana when Peter Ogan and his brother John, along with their families first showed up in 1835 along the banks of the Eel. William Hendricks was the other Indiana U.S. Senator [anti-Jacksonian] at that time. Hendricks was Senator 1825-1837, serving on the Senate’s important committee on roads and canals from 1831-1837.


Lewis Cass was Secretary of War during Andrew Jackson’s Administration. Cass was in charge of Indian affairs. Tipton’s close ties to Cass helped him in his work on the Committee on Military Affairs, Indian Affairs and Claims to which Tipton had been assigned. Tipton continued to exert influence in Indian matters on the Wabash. While Senator, Tipton supported appropriations for internal improvements such as the National Road, improving the Wabash River below Lafayette for navigation, bridging the Wabash, the Michigan Road, a harbor at Michigan City,  and the Wabash and Erie Canal. All these measures facilitated rapid development in the Hoosier state.


1833-1835. Tipton was proprietor of 4 additions to Logansport which he platted.


1837. Tipton became chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Roads and Canals, succeeding his Hoosier colleague Hendricks.


1834-1837. Land Cession Treaties with Miami and Potawatomi. 85,360 acres of Potawatomi land were obtained for prices ranging from 62 ½ cents to $1.25 per acre. These treaties satisfied the Indian traders since the treaties provided that Indian debts would be paid out of the price received for the land.


August 27, 1838. Appointed by Indiana Gov. David Wallace to form a volunteer company of 100 volunteers and report to Col. Abel C. Pepper, Indian Agent, to effect the removal of the Potawatomi from IN. Tipton oversaw the westward removal and migration of the Potawatomi, while at the same time, he held his seat in the U.S. Senate. Logan Esary commended Tipton for accomplishing this removal of the Indians without any bloodshed (Indianapolis News, October 28, 1912). But this episode was tragically not well planned. Known as the Trail of Death, Tipton started with 859 Potawatomi men, women and children, leaving September 4, 1838. Only 268 horses and 26 wagons were hastily provided for the trek to Kansas. Ill-clad and lacking fresh food and having too few wagons resulted in a miserable treatment of Indians. Sickness, chills, fevers and malarial diseases, and malnutrition ravaged the poor migratory party. On the way 156 died, many were children. Tipton had initiated the march, and then turned over command to William Polke near Danville IL. Polke’s biography was comparable in some aspects to that of Tipton’s. Polke’s family had been taken captive by Indians in 1782. In 1794 Polke served with Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, and he was at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Polke served as judge of Knox County IN 1815-1816. In 1816 he was a member of Indiana’s state constitutional convention. He served in the Indiana state senate 1816-1817 and 1820-1821. Polke was a teacher among the Ottawa at Carey Mission in Michigan during 1824-1825. William Polke was Isaac McCoy’s brother-in-law. Mrs. Elizabeth (Polke) Spencer Boone of Corydon and Mrs. McCoy were sisters.[Tipton Papers I:467-8] Polke became the commissioner for the Michigan Road in the 1830s. Polke was the proprietor of Plymouth, IN. In 1841 he was appointed by President William Henry Harrison to head the Fort Wayne land office. He died April 26, 1843 at Fort Wayne, and was buried with military honors at an early cemetery located in the vicinity of McCulloch Park where also is the grave of Samuel Bigger, Indiana’s seventh governor, who also died in 1843. On June 27, 2016, Polke’s life was honored in a special Bicentennial event in Fort Wayne. State Senator David Long (R-Fort Wayne) narrated Polke’s colorful life at this event.


Tipton was an active and distinguished leader in the Masonic order. His membership and leadership in the Masons provided an advantageious network of contacts. In 1817 Tipton received the Master Masons degree at Corydon. On January 12, 1818, Tipton was a Representative to the Grand Lodge, Madison IN. He was also elected Senior Warden, becoming the very first man in Indiana to hold that office. 1819-1820 he was elected Deputy Grand Master, and Grand Master, at Jeffersonville IN. While living in Fort Wayne, Tipton proceeded to organize a lodge of Masons, “Wayne Lodge, No. 25, F.A.M.”. The first meeting was held in his room in a block house “within the pickets of the fort”. [Brice, History of Fort Wayne (1868), p. 296] Upon the organization of the Fort Wayne lodge, Tipton was elected its first Senior Warden; also made a Representative to the grand lodge which met in Indianapolis, and was elected Grand Master. In 1827 Tipton became a Royal Arch Mason, taking the degree in Louisville. When he moved in 1828 to Logansport, Tipton organized a lodge of Masons, Tipton Lodge No. 33. November 27, 1828, elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Indiana.


Tipton concentrated his land accumulation and town-lot business in Logansport, Lagro, Huntington and Fort Wayne. He acquired Canal lands totaling 1,600 acres; Michigan Road lands, 368 acres; Individual Indian reserves of 4,260 acres; and Federal lands 1,311 acres (in Bartholomew and Tippecanoe counties as well as on the Upper Wabash). Tipton’s totals were exceeded only by the Hanna brothers (11,200 acres of Canal lands); Ewing brothers (27,761 acres) and Hamilton, Taber et al. (13,600 acres). The Michigan Road was completed in 1834, and Tipton saw to it that it went through Logansport. The Michigan Road lands were bought by Tipton partly with funds borrowed from the School Commissioners of Fulton County; the Canal lands were bought on 17 years credit; and other land was acquired through bank loans. The Indian reserves were acquired by him because of his friendship with the chief Le Gros as well as a result of his business relations with Allen Hamilton and Cyrus Taber. Tipton owned approximately 8,600 acres total in Indiana. [Tipton Papers I, p. 49] In Logansport his approximately 2,000 acres and the dam site was valued at $100,000 in 1838. In addition to land investments, Tipton had partnerships in trading houses and in mail delivery from Indianapolis to Niles, MI. He weathered the financial panic of 1837. Tipton died on April 5, 1839, when he was just 52 years old. Had he lived longer, he might have enhanced his legacy and wealth even more. One wonders what might have been had John Tipton and his wife had not experienced health issues and had lived several more years.


Another example of Tipton’s influence and patronage—Gillis McBean died in Logansport the same year as Tipton in 1839. McBean had come to Harrison County from Scotland sometime before 1816. He served in the militia and county treasurer in 1818, and was naturalized in April 1820. John Tipton invited McBean in 1826 to move to the northern part of the state and be a miller for the Miami Indians. McBean then settled at Logansport, where he operated a hotel. He served as county agent and represented Cass County in the legislature 1833-1836. [Tipton Papers I:175-176; Helm, History of Cass County, p. 59]  As the following communication from Tipton to Major Jacob Arganbright of Corydon (Nov 26, 1825) illustrated, Tipton had many friends he was attempting to serve and satisfy:


“…It is probable that I will have to employ some person to superintend a saw and a grist mill for the miamie Indians next spring. Will you remove your family and live in the Indian Country 55 miles from this place [Fort Wayne] and attend the mills. Your salary will be allowed by myself and shall not be less than three hundred dollars pr anum. If you will not come show this letter to Gillis McBean. If he will not shew it to wyatt C Sampson I think either of them will. If you intend to come let no person but your wife know it. If you do not come tell Gillis and Sampson to say nothing to any person but whoever will come write me immediately to the City of Washington by that time I will know certain whether I will want the miller and will write when he may come on. I want it kept secret. I have many old friends, some would be offended. I cannot serve all at once, but will serve them as fast as I can. You know my will is always above my ability to serve my friends. If I had the Treasury of the world, my old friends should roll in wealth.”


In a volume of biographical sketches of U.S. Senators (cited by Pershing, p. 37): “John Tipton, the subject of this sketch, has been noticed as the Ensign hero of Capt. Spencer’s company at the battle of Tippecanoe. He is of medium height, well set, short face, round head, low wrinkled forehead, sunken gray eyes, stern countenance, good chest, stiff sandy hair, standing erect from his forehead. He is the Chairman of the Committee of Indian Affairs, a position he is eminently qualified for, having been for many years Indian Agent and well acquainted with most of the western tribes. He is a man of great energy and character, is a most faithful Senator, always in his seat ready to vote. He is not what is called an eloquent debater, still he is plain and strong as a speaker. He sees a question clearly and marches directly at it without rhetorical flourishes.”


John Tipton is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Logansport; Plot 13-0869-10.


Earnest, judicious, ambitious, crafty, multi-talented and successful, John Tipton left a lasting mark on the formative stages and annals of the State of Indiana.


Note:  In the May 2016 issue of the NMHS Newsletter, p. 11, it was wrongly given that John Tipton’s son, Spear, had the middle name of “Shields”. John Tipton’s middle name was Shields, but his son’s middle name was Spencer, in honor of the Captain killed at Tippecanoe. John Tipton’s first wife was Martha Shields, daughter of John Shields; his second wife was Matilda Spencer, daughter of Spier and Elizabeth (Polke) Spencer.


Correction: In the May 2016 issue of the Newsletter, we neglected to list NARAGON & PURDY, INC., CPAs as 2016 supporting members of  NMHS.