Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Treaty of Fort Finney

1780s Spring House

The 18th century stone spring house in Shawnee Lookout Park is where the 1786 Treaty of Fort Finney was signed on January 31st.

In 1975 the building was moved from its original nearby location where Fort Finney once stood on the Ohio River, the present location of the Duke Energy power plant. It might be one of the oldest buildings in the Cincinnati area. A replica of the treaty is inside the building.

Defense plan of Fort Finney at the mouth of the Miami

The treaty was supposed to cede most of southern Ohio to the US.  In exchange for the land, the Americans also promised to keep white squatters from settling on land reserved exclusively for the Indians. This was the first surrender of territory to Americans by Indians west of the Alleghenies. Like many treaties, only some Indian leaders signed the treaty and many other Indians in the region did not recognize it at all. It was also typical to lure tribal leaders to "negotiations" and then mislead them in the interpretation of the terms knowing that none of the Indians could read or write English. This really made the treaty worthless even among those who signed.

Several Wyandot, Delaware, and Shawnee signed the treaty. It is interesting to note that signing for the Americans was George Rogers Clark, who became a well known "Indian fighter" and also the older brother of William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame. Also signing was Richard Butler, not the lead singer of the Psychedelic Furs, but a veteran of the Revolutionary War who later died at the disastrous St. Clair's Defeat. The story goes that Butler was infamous among many Indians and at that battle he was not only scalped but his heart removed and consumed by Shawnee several warriors.
Fort Finney marker near the power plant
Text of the marker: 
A company of soldiers from Fort Pitt landed at the mouth of the Great Miami October 22, 1785, and immediately began the building of a fort near this site. It was named Fort Finney in honor of Major Walter Finney, who was in command of the operation.
The Continental Congress had commissioned generals George Rogers Clark, Richard Butler, and Samuel H. Parsons to make a peace treaty with the Shawnee Indians and to mark off lands to be allotted to that tribe.
This site was chosen as being "most convenient to the principle body of savages and nearly equal distance from the rapids (Louisville) and the interior part of Kentucky and Limestone (Maysville)"
Invitations were sent to the reluctant Indians, who finally met by the council house near the fort during the middle of January, 1786. On January 31, 1786 the treaty with the Shawnee Nation was signed, resulting in the immediate removal of hostile Indians from the area.

Erected by the Cincinnati Gas & Electric Company - 1953

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