13 June 2013

Chief Papakeecha and the village he left behind

Indian Village Cemetery, 1836, and Highway 5 on the left
If I am ever late to anything, you can assume one of two things have happened.  Either I am in a ditch, or my standard arrive 5-10 minutes ahead of schedule was over-compensated for and I arrived 20 minutes ahead of schedule......so I'm doing a little sight-seeing.

That's what happened when I arrived in Cromwell a full 25 minutes ahead of the meeting at which I was scheduled to speak.  So I kept driving south of out Cromwell-having never driven that stretch of Indiana Highway 5.  Not sure of where I would turn around, when I got about a mile and a half south of town my jaw dropped as I entered into a little hamlet that just bled history.

Original post office, c. 1855 (left) and church, c. 1880 (right)
The highway dropped and curved toward a small cemetery.  There was a short string of 1800s homes on the left side of the road, along with a picturesque chapel, and a small church on the right side of the road with the cemetery.  These were all situated on a small bluff.  I had entered "Indian Village" not to be confused with the incorporated town in St. Joe County.

Indian Village Brethren Church, 1879
The town, once called Alcinda, was the reservation home of the Miami Indian chief by the name of Papakeecha...which sounds more Italian to me.  The chief, whose name means "flat belly" (no doubt a product of 6 minute abs) lived in the village from 1827-1834.  He was chief from 1820-1837, at the time of his death and just before the removal.  An Indiana Historical Bureau sign marks the location of an Indian stove in the village where the Miamis prepared their last meal before being removed from their reservation lands.  The cemetery dates to the 1830s and a few nearby buildings, including the village's first post office, date to the early settlement period by European Americans.

Houses on the village's "main street" and bluff, all c. 1870
Yeah-it usually is pretty easy for me to get jazzed up about these things.  But I thought the setting was exceptional.  As I shot pictures in all directions from the cemetery entrance, I'm sure the mechanic across the street wondered....what the keecha anyway.

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