May 10, 2015

Chief Richardville and a case of burning at the stake in Indiana?

I am a member of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution). A few weeks ago a tour of the DAR markers around town was arranged and I decided to go along.

The very first marker was of  Chief Richardville who rescued a man from burning at the stake, the Miami Indians were accustomed to frequently burn their prisoners, according to the book, The Pictorial field-book of the War of 1812 by Benson J. Lossing. I thought that burning at the stake happened only on the east coast to those accused of being witches. 

Jean Baptist Richardville also known as Peshawa, (meaning wildcat) was the son of Joseph Dronet De Richardville, a Frenchman, and Tacumwah, the sister of Miami Chief Little Turtle. 

About 1792, a white man was bound at the stake and the Miami Indians were ready to light the wood on which the man stood. Richardville, a young man at the time, his mother implored him to free the prisoner as she shoved a knife in his hand. Asking him to step up to the plate and claim his place as future chief. With diligence the prisoner was freed and taken secretly in a canoe down the Maumee River. Many years afterwards the prisoner ran into Richardville at a small town in Ohio thanking the Chief for his bravery and that the prisoner's life was spared. 

Richardville is said to have been buried on the grounds of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Fort Wayne, Indiana. At the time of his death his worth was estimated at $1,000,000, which is about $23 million at today's standards. He was not only the richest man in Indiana at the time but the richest Native American. 

Additional source: History of the Maumee Valley by H.S. Knapp