Story of William Wells, Captured and Adopted by Indians Who then Became Scout with General Wayne
Famed Figure in Early History of this Section Became Member of Indian Chief Little Turtle's Family; At One Time Owned Several Hundred Acres of Land in Miami County.
By: Leonard U. Hill
Published: January 24, 1948, Piqua Daily Call, Piqua, Ohio
William Wells was captured, as a boy of about eleven years of age, from near Louisville, Kentucky, by a raiding band of Miami Indians. He was taken from northern Indiana and, after all his white blood had been washed out, was adopted into the tribe and treated as one of their own. As proof of this statement, in due time this adopted white captive married into the immediate family of the great chief of the Miami Confederation, Neshi-kin-no-quoh, called Little Turtle.
William Wells by now had been given an Indian name which by interpretation into English meant the Blacksnake. On two different occasions he fought with the Indian warriors against invading white forces. First in 1790, near Fort Wayne where General Harmar was repulsed with considerable losses, and again the following year on Nov. 4, 1791 at the site of Fort Recovery, Chief Little Turtle and his band of warriors, including Wells, dealt General St. Clair, and some 1400 men one of the worst defeats ever given by the Indians to the whites, in American history.
Joins Wayne's Army
After these events, during some serious reflection, William Wells pondered that with his own hands he might have killed some of his kindred from Kentucky, and it did not seem to please him. Here a few lines will be quoted from Calvin Young's book, page 179, Little Turtle--The Great chief of the Miami Indian Nation.
"The approach of Wayne's Army in 1794 stirred anew conflicting emotions based upon these indistinct recollections of early ties, of country and kindred on the one hand and of existing attachments of Indian wife and half-breed children on the other. After a period of mental struggle he finally decided to cast his lot with the whites and resolved to make his decision known. According to reliable tradition he made known his secret purpose of leaving his adopted tribe in true Indian fashion as follows:
Taking with him the war chief, Little Turtle, to a favorite spot on the banks of the Maumee, Wells said, 'I now leave your nation for my own people; we have long been friends, we are friends yet; until the sun reaches a certain height, from that time we are enemies. Then if you wish to kill me, you may. If I want to kill you, I may. When the sun reached the designated height, Mr. Wells crossed the river and took the direction toward General Wayne's camp. Soon after this he was made Captain of Scouts connected with Wayne's army. Because of his recent and intimate connection with the Indians, Captain Wells rendered efficient and meritorious service to the cause of the advancing whites. General Wayne and his army defeated the Indians at "Fallen Timbers" Aug. 20, 1794.
The following summer we find Captain Wells as interpreter at Fort Greenville where the "Treaty of Greenville" was being negotiated, and he was one of the signers of that famous document. Near the end of that conference, Blue Jacket, a chief of the Shawanese, arose and requested General Wayne to inquire of President Washington "If it would be agreeable that two chiefs from each nation should pay him a visit, and take him by the hand, for your younger brothers have a strong desire to see that great man, and to enjoy the pleasure of conversing with him." This suggestion was adopted by all the tribes present and the following year, Captain Wells went along as interpreter for the Miami chiefs.
After the Treaty of Greenville and the establishment of peace, Captain Wells joined his wife and family and settled a short distance from the confluence of the St. Marys and St. Joseph on the banks of a small stream called Spy(?) Run. This is now located in the northeast part of Ft. Wayne. Later, the government granted Wells a preemption of some three hundred and twenty acres of land including his improvement.
Proceeded Col. Johnston
By appointment of the government, Wells afterwards became Indian agent at Ft. Wayne, in which capacity he served several years, and was succeeded by Col. John Johnston in 1802.
According to records in Miami County courthouse, on Feb. 5, 1805, William Wells of Ft. Wayne entered the south half of section 3/T. 7 R. 6.
This land was where the Miami village was located from 1747 to 1752 and at the extreme east edge of which was located the English trading post Ft. Pickawillany. There can be little doubt that in obtaining possession of this particular portion of land, William Wells was influenced by his long and intimate association with the Miami Indians and that this spot was their home in times past. At later dates the same year Wells also entered the following tracts: N. E. quarter sec. 31 T. 7 R. 6, all of fractional sections 32 and 33. T. 6 and many other sections and quarter sections located southwest of Piqua; near Casstown and east; also in what is now Shelby and Champaign counties.
Some of Wells' heirs still owned some of this land and were paying taxes on it as late as 1828.
Although Chief Little Turtle was born and lived most of his life at a little Indian village about twenty miles northwest of Ft. Wayne, he died of gout of July 14, 1812 at his lodge, in the yard fronting the house of his son-in-law, Captain William Wells. He was buried near the center of an orchard on this same 320 acres of land previously mentioned. As mentioned in a previous article in this series, in less than a month after this Captain William Wells with a few friendly Miami Indians left Ft. Wayne and hurried to Fort Dearborn. There he lost his life in that heroic struggle on Aug. 15, 1812.
I will here quote from an address delivered June 12, 1893 by E. G. Mason, then President of the Chicago Historical Society, at the unveiling of Pullman Memorial Monument. "Such in merest outline, was the battle, and one of its saddest incidents was the death of Capt. Wells. As he rode back from the fray, desperately wounded, he met his niece and bade her farewell, saying: "Tell my wife, if you see her--but I think it doubtful if a single one escapes--tell her I died at my post; doing the best I could. There are seven red devils over there that I have killed.' As he spoke, his horse fell, pinning them to the ground. A group of Indians approached; he took deliberate aim and fired killing one of them. As the other drew near, with a last effort he proudly lifted his head saying: 'Shoot away' and the fatal shot was fired. So died Chicago's hero.