Beginning in 1955, The Washington Herald published articles written by Russell Colbert, our editor’s great-uncle. During this bicentennial year we will re-publish excerpts from the series for your enjoyment. These excerpts are unchanged from their originals and may contain terms that are considered less acceptable today, but were considered appropriate in that time.  We hope they prove useful to you in appreciating the history of this area we call home.

Origins: Daviess County and the Ten-o-clock Purchase (originally published May 23, 1955)

Most of the land in what is now Daviess county was ceded by the Indians to the United States government in a treaty entered into at Ft. Wayne in 1803. This treaty was signed by William Henry Harrison, then governor of the Indiana Territory, on behalf of the United States and by 15 Indian chiefs, the principal Indian being Chief Little Turtle of the Miami confederation.

All of the county except the extreme northeaster corner was included in this cession. The remainder of Daviess county was ceded by the Indians in the famous Ten-o-clock Purchase at Ft. Wayne on Sept. 30, 1809. The northern boundary of this purchase was the “ten-o-clock line” – the line formed by the shadow of trees on a clear day in September at 10 a.m. This type of line was occasioned by the fact that the Indians had no confidence in the American surveyors; they indicated that the American surveyors could make the line run wherever they wished it to run. The Indians would, however, accept natural lines or markings, such as a river, creek, chain of hills or shadow of trees.

Legally, all the land of our present Daviess county had become the property of the United States government by 1809. However, the land could not be purchased or “entered” by settlers until the government survey was completed. Southern Daviess county was surveyed in 1804 by a party of engineers led by a man named Buckingham. As recently as 1927 one of the witness trees on this survey was still standing in the east White river bottoms.

The Ten-o-clock Purchase led to serious Indian difficulties in this vicinity. This purchase had included well known Indian hunting grounds in Clay and Sullivan counties and the younger Indians threatened to kill anyone who entered these grounds. What is now Daviess county was then on the frontier and there was trouble between the settlers and Indians from 1809 until the close of the War of 1812. In that war the Indians sided with the British. During this unrest the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, was the Indian leader. The British commissioned him a brigadier general in their army in the War of 1812, and it is said that this was the highest rank ever attained by a North American Indian in the army of a civilized nation.

In the summer of 1811 Governor Harrison moved up the Wabash river with a small force of about 900 men against the Indiana encampment near where Lafayette is now located. En route, he built Ft. Harrison above the present city of Terre Haute. The battle of Tippecanoe was fought early in the morning of Nov. 7, 1811; although it broke up the Indian encampment, which was the governor’s objective, it resulted in the death of 52 Americans. Among the dead was Major Jo Daviess [sic][1] of the Kentucky volunteers. Jo Daviess was a lawyer and as federal district attorney for Kentucky, had brought the first prosecution against Aaron Burr for treason; he did not secure a conviction. Daviess county was, of course, named in honor of the major. It is estimated that 10 or 15 men from what is now Daviess county took part in the Tippecanoe campaign; that is, however, simply an estimation. Since Daviess county had not been created at that time we have no way of getting at the exact statistics.

[1]  Daviess has become a common misspelling. The surname originally was spelled Daveiss.