Central Indiana’s First Contract
By David Heighway
In 2016, huge events occurred all over Indiana as people celebrated the bicentennial of the state. However, this year is an equally important but less noticed bicentennial. October will see the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of St. Mary’s. The treaty was as significant to the state of Indiana as the Louisiana Purchase was to the United States. Essentially, it created the central part of the state.
Conner and Mekinges
The main treaty was with the Miamis who were the pre-eminent tribe in Indiana. This treaty was signed at St. Mary’s, Ohio, on October 6, 1818. However, the area that would become Hamilton County was occupied primarily by the Delaware or Lenape Indians. The John Melish map of the state from 1819 shows nothing in the central area except for Delaware villages on the upper part of the west fork of the White River.
A separate treaty made with the Delawares was signed on October 3 by Chief Anderson – whose Lenape name was Kikthawenund – and other Delaware leaders, most of whom lived in what today is Madison County. Among the names were Lapahnihe or Big Bear, James Nanticoke (the Nanticoke Indians were a tribe allied to the Delaware), Captain Killbuck, Netahopuna, The War Mallet, Petchenanais, and others.
An interesting name on the treaty is “Captain Ketchum”, a person who likely had relatives in what would become Hamilton County. George and Charles Ketchum (or Ketchem) were a Delaware father and son who stayed in the local area after other members of the tribe had left, possibly because George had injured himself when out hunting food. They were related to the Brouilette family of fur traders and possibly to Chief Anderson. At one time, they owned land in what today is downtown Carmel.
William Conner is listed on the document as an interpreter. This was, of course, the treaty that caused his Indian wife, Mekinges, to move west with her family in 1820. Three months after his Delaware family left, Conner married Elizabeth Chapman, one of the first single white women to move into the area.
The area became known as the Delaware New Purchase. This larger area was soon broken up into sections called Wabash County, which covered the Wabash River drainage area, and Delaware County, which covered the White River drainage area. This put the future Hamilton County in Delaware County, which is how people from the area were listed in the 1820 national census. Hamilton County was declared its own county in 1823. The Delaware New Purchase eventually became about 35 different counties.
There are many bicentennials coming up in the next few years. Indianapolis will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2020, although we Hamilton County residents like to point out that the site of the city was determined at William Conner’s house near present-day Fishers. (Fishers itself will turn 150 in 2022.) 2023 will be the bicentennial of Hamilton County and the city of Noblesville. The state legislature passed an act on January 8, 1823, that after the first Monday of that April, (which was the 7th), the county’s boundaries would be established, and it could create a government. Noblesville was also platted in January by William Conner and Josiah Polk.
Celebrating the creation of the county and city has always been a big event. For some reason, when the centennial was celebrated in 1923, October 3 & 4 were chosen for the date. When the sesquicentennial was celebrated in 1973, it was a year-long event with the main celebration happening between June 30th and July 7th. It will be interesting to see what will be done for the 200th anniversary.