The battle of Tippecanoe occurred Nov. 11, 1811, and helped precipitate the War of 1812 a few months later. During the battle, a 35-year-old Potawatomi chief, Whap-ka-zeek, was shot in the left leg. Wounded, he awaited his fate. But after the Indians were routed, Gen. William Henry Harrison’s soldiers took the chief to a field hospital where his leg was amputated. He was nursed back to health, given a crutch and a pony and allowed to return home.
That home was a Potawatomi village near present-day Spring Arbor. When the first white settlers began arriving about 20 years later, Whap-ka-zeek was still living there. The village site is memorialized by the Falling Waters Historic Park at Hammond and S. Cross roads, about a mile southwest of Spring Arbor.
The War of 1812 was primarily an American-British conflict. However, Indian allies played a key role, especially in the Great Lakes region. The Potawatomi were part of Shawnee chief Tecumseh’s multi-tribal alliance, which sided with the British and fought in several battles.
At one point, Harrison’s army was marching from Indiana to Detroit when two American soldiers — McDonagh and Limp — were captured by the Potawatomi along the St. Joseph Trail. By various accounts, both were burned at the stake in villages at or near Jackson.
Among Jacksonburg’s early settlers was William R. DeLand, whose young son, Charles V. DeLand, grew up to become one of Jackson County’s pioneer newspaper editors. Just before his death in 1903, Charles DeLand published his “History of Jackson County, Michigan.”
He personally knew many of the Potawatomi in the area, including Whap-ka-zeek, and he described the chief as a “tall and athletic Indian.” The chief “was always very grateful for the care he received and was always a friend of the ‘he-mo-ko-mans’,” Charles DeLand wrote.
That friendship was critical in Jackson’s early days. The War of 1812 might have been history by then, but Indians still had a major grievance — the settlers’ encroachment on their lands. All they needed was a leader to rally them for a stand against the whites.
Tecumseh had tried, but he met his own death in the War of 1812.
In 1832, the Sauk chief Black Hawk appealed to the Potawatomi and other tribes to join in an effort to drive the white man from Indian lands.
Of that tense period, William DeLand wrote in an 1852 issue of the Jackson Citizen, “Rumors of incursions and massacres spread over the country, gathering terrors as they went, and quite a few people actually moved back to the east through fear occasioned by these stories.”
The rumors were fed by reports that the local Potawatomi would be going to a great council with Black Hawk. People feared the tribe would take the warpath.
Men of the village prepared for trouble. But the women took a more practical, domestic approach. They planned a village feast for the Indians, conveniently timed before the men were to leave for the council with Black Hawk.
“The chiefs and braves nearly all came in, but they were very solemn and reserved and not inclined to talk,” Charles DeLand later wrote. “The provisions were served in pails, kettles and baskets, and the Indians feasted all day.”
Before departing for the council, the Indians were given meat, bread and pies. Also, each warrior was given a pint of whiskey.
“As they started off, old Whap-ka-zeek turned to them and simply said, ‘You good chimokeman squaws,’ ” according to Charles DeLand.
The Potawatomi met with Black Hawk but declined to join his fight. They returned to their villages, and peace and quiet prevailed.
That was Jackson County’s last serious Indian threat. Several years later, the tribes were removed under terms of previous treaties.
Charles DeLand wrote, “In 1839 and 1840 the general government effected the removal of most of the Potawatomi to the reservation set apart for them near Green Bay, in Wisconsin.”
Units of the 4th U.S. Infantry and 2nd U.S. Cavalry, under Brig. Gen. Hugh Brady, “came to Jackson and camped on the Moody Hill, along where Ganson Street now runs, and began to gather up the Indians.” About 1,500 were collected and escorted to Detroit, where they were taken by boats to Green Bay.
Charles DeLand offered this blunt assessment of the exodus: “The removal of the red men abated a great nuisance to the settlers, though they were not considered dangerous. … They were great beggars, and visited the settlers’ cabins without warning and insisted on being fed and lodged, on cold winter nights. If accommodated, they were peaceful and orderly when not under the influence of liquor, and very seldom made trouble but they were nonetheless a great nuisance and the people were rejoiced to be rid of them.”
Source : Ken Wyatt, "Peek Through Time: A look back at Jackson County settlers' relationships with Indians", Jackson Citizen Patriot, June 25, 2011.