Early Traditions in Newton County Indiana

During the time the Indians held possession of this country, but only a short time before the whites began to crowd in on them, two of the Indians, one named Turkey Foot and the other Bull Foot, got into a fight, caused, it is said, by a drunken brawl, in which one or both were killed — tradition says both. They were placed in a sitting posture, facing each other, and a log pen built around them to keep away the wolves. My impression is that there was but one in the pen, as John Myers, who came to this country in 1836, informed me that soon after he came, while on a hunting expedition, he saw the pen and went up to it, and while leaning against the log pen, his dog got his head through the crack and got hold of the dead Indian’s foot and gave Mr. Myers quite a scare for an instant. This pen, he told me, was in a grove about two and one-half miles southwest from where the town of Morocco was afterward located. In the same grove Silas Johnson built his house and re-sided until his death.

Dempsey Johnson, one of the early settlers of the county, has given to me his version of the interesting tradition, as he gathered it from the first residents of this region. I shall insert Mr. Johnson’s story, just as he turned it over to me.

The Two Indians

In Beaver township, Newton county, Indiana, there were two groves of timber, one called Turkey Foot Grove and the other Bull Foot Grove, the latter being located in the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 30, township 29 north, in range 9 west, and Turkey Foot Grove being located in the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter and the northeast quarter of the southwest quarter of section 32 in said township and range aforesaid. These two groves were about a mile and a half apart.

It is reported that Turkey Foot went over to visit Bull Foot, that they had a quarrel over some matter and Turkey Foot killed Bull Foot. Then, for revenge, Bull Foot’s son killed Turkey Foot, after which he stood the two bodies upright against two trees standing close together, with their faces toward each other. He then cut poles and built a pen around them. When the white men began to settle in that neighborhood they gathered up the bones of these two Indians and buried them near where they were found.

The above information was given me by the early settlers. Jacob Ash was the first white man to live in Turkey Foot Grove. He moved there in the year 1842. His daughter, now Catherine Dearduff, is living in Morocco at this time. In said county at that time there were but two houses between Turkey Foot Grove and the town of Rensselaer, Indiana, one of which was occupied by John Murphy and the other by Philip Reynolds, both being in Beaver township. James Cuppy was the first white man that lived at Bull Foot Grove. Silas Johnson and Robert Archibald bought Cuppy out and moved there in the year 1846. The writer came with them, and saw within Bull Foot Grove a lot of poles in a thick clump of brush, and the neighbors said that this marked the resting-place of the two Indians. From the years 1846 to 1848 I was at Bull Foot Grove a number of times, and saw where the bones of the two Indians were supposed to be buried, which spot had been rooted up by the hogs, and small bones were present that had been rooted out.

Dr. Charles E. Triplett, Sr., came from Kentucky in the year 1856, and went down to Bull Foot Grove and took up quite a number of bones, among which were two thigh bones. Those thigh bones showed that one was a tall man and the other a short man. They further showed that the short man had had his thigh bone broken some time in his life, and that it had overlapped and grown together. He said that Turkey Foot was the taller of the two.

He got this information from a man named Sol McCullock, he, McCullock, stating that he had seen them.

Turkey Foot Grove has black oak, burr oak, elm, cherry and hackberry timber. Bull Foot Grove had the same kind of timber, excepting the elm. Turkey Foot Grove is in a good state of preservation at this time, containing about forty acres of large timber, while Bull Foot Grove has all been cleared away and the land is now used for agricultural purposes.

(Signed) Dempsey McD. Johnson.
Morocco, Indiana, November 16, 1910.

There is another tradition that Bogus Island (northwest of the present station of Enos) was headquarters for a gang of horse-thieves and counterfeiters, and much has been said and written in regard to the same. I think the stories have been greatly exaggerated, but this much is undoubtedly true: At one time, along about 1837, two or three men were on the island and engaged to some extent in making counterfeit silver coin. They were arrested and brought before Wesley Spider, a justice of the peace, who then lived in the same house afterward occupied by Zechariah Spider. These men were tried and bound over to court, but they forfeited their bond and the case never was tried. For these facts I am indebted to Wesley Spider, who gave them to me in an in-terview shortly before his death.

There was one case of horse-stealing of which I had some personal knowledge, having met and talked with the parties who were in pursuit of the thief, both when they were go-ing and on their return. This was, I think, in 1857. A horse had been stolen in the neighbor-hood of Milford, Illinois. A party consisting of some twelve or fifteen men started in pur-suit. They got on the track of the thief and followed him, and at a house a little east of where the town of Conrad now stands, they found the horse, also shortly got in pursuit of the thief, who jumped into the big ditch be-tween Beaver lake and the Kankakee river, but a short distance from where they found the horse. As the thief was climbing up the bank of the ditch, on the opposite side, the party fired at him, as they all had guns, and he fell back into the ditch, dead. They then went back to the house, got their horse, and arrested the man living there and took him to Rensselaer, where he was afterward tried and sentenced to three years in the penitentiary for harboring horse thieves. His name was William Shaffer.

Source: Ade, John. Newton County: a collection of historical facts and personal recollections concerning Newton County, Indiana, from 1853 to 1911. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., c1911.

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