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Natchee the Indian
Many Stories, Some Factual

By Ivan M. Tribe


Natchee the Indian was a popular figure at staged fiddle contests across the country during the late 1930ís.
His picture appeared on the front of this program for a contest held in Charleston in November 1936.

In the annals of traditional fiddlers, especially in the decade of the Great Depression, the name of Natchee the Indian is often mentioned. With very little personal information and virtually no recordings available, he seemed to take on the stuff of legend. When concrete information did begin to surface in the 1970’s, the legend persisted as it does to this day. Here is what is known. 

“Natchee” was born Lester Vernon Storer, probably on December 26, 1913, near the community of Louden, Bratton Township, Adams County, Ohio, not far from the Serpent Mound Memorial and the larger town of Peebles. His parents were George and Anna Sprinkles Storer. Natchee claimed this birth date in an August 1945 article in the National Hillbilly News. He also gave his birthplace as the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona and claimed to have been three-quarters “Osage Apache.” While the birth date is probably correct, the remainder is pure fiction.

According to niece Sue Storer Rapp, daughter of Natchee’s older brother John Earl Storer, Natchee’s great-grandmother was a full-blooded Shawnee orphaned as a child in West Virginia and adopted by a white family that came to Ohio. This would make him one-eighth Native American.

Like his contemporaries Lester Storer grew up learning farm work, but presumably not learning to like it. Researcher Richard Matteson found the Storer family living in Bratton Township in 1920. But in 1930 Lester, John Earl, and mother Anna lived in Springfield, Clark County. Lester learned to play fiddle and guitar, and he and John had a band around Springfield. According to Sue Rapp, musical groups in those days “needed a gimmick.” Lester had some Indian-like features, so he let his hair grow and he took the made-up name “Natchee.” His mother made him what Sue called “an Indian costume.”

Natchee became acquainted with Lloyd Copas, another Adams County native from Blue Creek, who ultimately became famous as country music singer “Cowboy” Copas.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.