Monday, October 8, 2012

Amanuensis Monday: Tecumseh

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

I began this project back on February 16, 2009.  Since I began, many others have joined in on the meme. I am thrilled that this meme I started has inspired so many to transcribe their family history documents. Why do we transcribe? I provide my three reasons in the linked post. You may find others.


Recently I learned that the Niagara Historical Society has uploaded transcriptions of their first 44 publications.  I have found references to several kin within the documents.

Notes on Niagara, No. 32, Niagara Historical Society, 1919. [Note: The list of officers within the document are dated 1919-1920, so I am assuming that is the publication year.]


Mrs. Van Every of West Flamboro, told her children, about 1860, what she could remember of the great warrior, Techumseh. "The Indians were near us. Tecumseh went off about five miles from West Flamboro village, near the great burial ground where your father and the late Hon. Jas. Crooks dug up the big copper kettles, pipes, beads, clay crocks and tomahawks without number. He was dark copper color, six feet in height, broad shouldered, deep-chested. He had long arms, a prominent brow, firm chin, Roman nose, piercing eyes and black hair. He wore a toque of eagle plumes, silver half moon ornaments in his fine robe and beads on moccasins and leggings. He was quiet, lonesome, proud. His wigwam stood north of our house. He often warned his people against firewater. He harangued thousands of Indians, who were still as statues of stone. When he raised his arm, they said "Hough!" meaning "Attention!" He was a man no one could forget, a perfect Demothenes in eloquence. He swayed his hearers like reeds. His words were like an electric charge. My brother at 16 would dress up in Indian fashion and repeat the speeches of Tecumseh, which seemed to have fixed themselves in the minds of my mother and brother. Some sentences I remember. They ran as follows:

"The Pale Faces who fought against our fathers, the British are our enemies.

They came to us hungry, and they cut off the hands of our brothers, who gave them corn. We gave them rivers full of fish and they poisoned our fountains. We gave them mountains and valleys full of game, and in return they gave our warriors rum and trinkets and --- a grave. The shades of our slaughtered fathers can find no rest, their eyes can see no herds on the hills of light in the hunting grounds of the dead. Until our enemies are no more, we must be as one man, one chief whose name is DEATH! I have spoken."

Tecumseh was a remarkable man. Brave, merciful, he did everything in his power to prevent cruelty in his followers. He did what many white men have not done – conquered his love of drink. He travelled from the Gulf of Mexico to the North, trying to form all the tribes of Indians into one Confederacy, and shewed great administrative powers, so that his memory should not be forgotten.


1. The NHS indicates "These are not scans of the original publications but retyped editions." As such I can't be certain it is exactly the same as the original. Differences may have been introduced into numbers and spelling.

2. There is no indication of the original source of this reminiscence. Possibly the family recorded the reminiscence and then provided it to the Historical Society sixty years later.  That introduces a lot of uncertainty. I believe the encampment near West Flamboro is a reference to Tecumseh's involvement in the War of 1812, and Tecumseh was killed in 1813, so that does limit the span of time the recollections could have come from.

3. Mrs. Van Every isn't identified beyond her surname. However, according to Mary B. Piersol's genealogy, Records of the Van Every Family, 1947 - It is my fourth great grandparents, David and Sarah (Showers) Van Every who settled in West Flamboro.   Sarah was born about 1761; she could have lived into her 90s.  Could it be Sarah's reminiscences at an old age? She mentions having a brother, age 16, who dressed up like Tecumseh. I doubt Sarah (Showers) Van Every would have had a 16-year old brother in 1812-1813. Both of her parents would have been in their 60s when the brother was born.

David and Sarah's son, David Jr. did remain in West Flamboro.  His wife, Eliza (Jones) Van Every, could certainly also be this Mrs. Van Every. However, Mary B. Piersol writes that Eliza was one of six sisters. Eliza may have had a brother of whom Piersol was unaware. I think this is the most likely explanation.

According to Piersol, most of the other siblings of David Jr., including my 3rd great grandfather, Andrew, moved to South Dumfries. Michael Van Every was granted land in West Flamboro, but "there is no evidence he ever lived in Flamboro; in the Assessment Roll of 1820 he is located in Trafalgar Township." And Piersol doesn't mention Michael having a wife, or children.

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