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A Shawnee Indian walked from Oklahoma to Bluffton

To see the land where he once camped

By Fred Steiner

First of a series of articles pertaining to indigenous people of the Allen, Hancock, Hardin and Putnam counties. 

From a 1928 Bluffton News, history of the community–While Michael Neuenschwander, the first Swiss settler to this community, constructed a temporary hut as his family dwelling a party of Indians came through and stopped.  

Neuenschwander gave them some salt and the next day their returned with gifts of venison and turkey. The peaceful relations thus began were never broken as long as the Indians remained in the Ohio territory. 

Bluffton News story from the 1890s–Bluffton’s oldest inhabitant, Joseph Mumma, remembers many things of the community in the 1840s when he was a youth. 

He tells of the time when friendly Indians would take him on a pony to their camp, a quarter of a mile away. These Indians were probably part of the Sandusky or Shawnee tribe that later emigrated west to the Mississippi, when these lands became more thickly settled. 

Not all story have happy endings
The European immigrants and indigenous people’s relationship was not always a happy one, like the stories above. 

The plight of native Americans, in many ways ethnic cleansing, expelled from our part of the state in the 1830s, is one of our most tragic stories. 

The two stories above are second- or third-hand almost fairy-tale accounts. One wonders if they actually occurred.

The only first-hand accounts from the Bluffton News of Europeans and native Americans tell a different story. These accounts mostly tell of settlers encountering graves. The stories raise questions including:

• What did the early European settlers do with the remains discovered in their fields?

• Did these early settlers give any thought to the people they replaced?

• Would we, today, respond any differently than our ancestors’ responses?

This column’s focus shares several first-hand Bluffton News and area newspaper accounts of the discovery of native American remains and artifacts.

From the Oct. 7, 1880, Bluffton News

A number of Indian bones were found on the farm of Peter Schumacher, Sr., west of Bluffton, on Riley Creek. The bones were found buried in a gravel bank buried about five feet underground. 

From the Oct. 10, 1907 Bluffton News

Some interesting discoveries of Indian skeletons have been recently made in the Reuben Thut gravel quarry of which we hope to tell the News readers more later on.

A second encounter
Robert Kreider recalled a later Reuben Thut native American recollection. Thut, then an elderly man, said that “long ago” he met a Shawnee Indian who had walked from Oklahoma to see this land where he once camped. 

That story, more personal and introspective, occurred near today’s swinging bridge over the Big Riley on the Bluffton University Nature preserve. It was the property that Thut owned at the time. 

Kreider said that Thut told the story to Kreider’s school classmate, Gordon Alderfer. 

From an 1880s Ada Record
One day last week J. H. Quist, plowed up on a knoll on Roland Matthew’s farm, near Huntersville, a lot of Indian relics consisting of a dozen arrow points of different sizes and shapes; also a skinning stone, a mulet (sic) tube, some petrified and fossilized small bones, shells, etc. all were found within a few rods of each other.

The rest of this story is at: