An Averted Peril

: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

In 1786 a little building stood at North Bend, Ohio, near the junction of

the Miami and Ohio Rivers, from which building the stars and stripes were

flying. It was one of a series of blockhouses built for the protecting of

cleared land while the settlers were coming in, yet it was a trading

station rather than a fort, for the attitude of government toward the red

men was pacific. The French of the Mississippi Valley were not
r /> reconciled, however, to the extension of power by a Saxon people, and the

English in Canada were equally jealous of the prosperity of those

provinces they had so lately lost. Both French and English had emissaries

among the Shawnees when it had become known that the United States

intended to negotiate a treaty with them.

It was the mild weather that comes for a time in October, when

Cantantowit blesses the land from his home in the southwest with rich

colors, plaintive perfumes of decay, soft airs, and tender lights a time

for peace; but the garrison at the fort realized that the situation was

precarious. The Shawnees had camped about them, and the air was filled

with the neighing of their ponies and the barking of their dogs. To let

them into the fort was to invite massacre; to keep them out after they

had been summoned was to declare war.

Colonel George Rogers Clarke, of Virginia, who was in command, scoffed at

the fears of his men, and would not give ear to their appeals for an

adjournment of the meeting or a change of the place of it. At the

appointed hour the doors were opened and the Indians came in. The pipe of

peace was smoked in the usual form, but the red men were sullen and

insolent, and seemed to be seeking a cause of quarrel. Clarke explained

that the whites desired only peace, and he asked the wise men to speak

for their tribe. A stalwart chief arose, glanced contemptuously at the

officer and his little guard, and, striding to the table where Clarke was

seated, threw upon it two girdles of wampum--the peace-belt and the

war-belt. We offer you these belts, he said. You know what they mean.

Take which you like.

It was a deliberate insult and defiance. Both sides knew it, and many of

the men held their breath. Clarke carelessly picked up the war-belt on

the point of his cane and flung it among the assembled chiefs. Every man

in the room sprang to his feet and clutched his weapon. Then, with a

sternness that was almost ferocious, Clarke pointed to the door with an

imperative action, and cried, Dogs, you may go!

The Indians were foiled in their ill intent by his self-possession and

seeming confidence, which made them believe that he had forces in the

vicinity that they were not prepared to meet. They had already had a

bitter experience of his strength and craft, and in the fear that a trap

had been set for them they fled tumultuously. The treaty was ratified

soon after.