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Howard County History

Village on the Wildcat Part Six: The Congressional Record

(from Footprints, May 2019)
By Gil Porter

Kokomo Early History Learning Center

Sarah Tumpkin, an 86-year-old widow in Zionsville, had contacted the Howard County clerk at one time, to obtain a copy of her marriage license.

As the Kokomo Tribune reported on Jan. 26, 1914, Tumpkin, who married George W. Tumpkin on Christmas Day 1847 (the license was retrieved), was a daughter of John Harrison, the county’s first elected sheriff (misidentified in that 1914 Tribune article as “Eli” Harrison). Also attributed to Mrs. Tumpkin were details of her parents’ home “on the Wildcat creek about three miles north of New London,” that she was “thirteen when the family moved to Howard County” in 1841, and in particular her knowledge of “the proceedings” around the choice for the county seat and her father having an active part in them.
She remembers David Foster, the newspaper reported, and knew the city when the “only house on it was Foster’s cabin.” The county, she said, was “still covered with timber” and was “an Indian reserve.” Mrs. Tumpkin also remembered “that when her parents first settled in the county, their home was about two miles from an Indian village called Shapendocia” (emphasis added; in Miami: Šaapontohsia).

Harrison’s farm was just east of the first reserve in the county granted to an Indian – the Peter Longlois reserve from the Treaty of 1834 (which today is the Green Acres subdivision), too close to be the Indian village Mrs. Tumpkin referenced. However, her recollection does correlate to the location for a village described by Miami leader Wapamungwah (Thomas F. Richardville), a great-grandson of Pinšiwa (Jean Baptiste Richardville) -- a Miami village known by the name Šaapontohsia.

This name appears again, as part of the Congressional Record for the United States of America.

On Jan. 30, 1846, in Washington, D.C., John Pettit, a member of the House of Representatives for the state of Indiana at the 29th U.S. Congress, offered four petitions on behalf of constituents: two about paying chaplains from treasury funds, a third concerning a post-road from Lafayette to Marion, and a fourth that perhaps provides new perspective for us today about the people living in the “Village on the Wildcat.”

To wit: A petition from 10 Miami Indians and their families, “praying” that they “may be allowed to remain in the county, instead of moving west of the Mississippi.”

Putting their support emphatically on the record, the petition was also signed by 101 “white men residing on the Great Miami reservation.” Howard County population figures were not reported until the 1850 federal census. However, the Indiana state census in 1845 recorded "444" white males in Richardville County ("274" had "voted" in the 1844 election). So, one-fourth of the “white males” in Richardville County were standing with their Indian neighbors, calling for continuity in their community. Their application additionally included an unprecedented and potentially narrative-changing request: not only to have the Indians stay, but that they “be allowed to purchase and sell land as citizens.”

Two individuals are identified as the petitioners, a white man, David Foster, and a Miami Indian, Šaapontohsia, perhaps the primary-source representatives of two cultures striving to be one community. An old record from the past, and a new story for our town.