The last page of a sad chapter of American history was written at this Ohio River community today.
Chief Cornstalk, the Shawnee Indian leader who was taken hostage and murdered by white men to whom he had come to talk peace, was given a final resting place in a small park near the field of his most famous battle.
His oft-moved grave now lies beside those of Colonial soldiers killed in that struggle—the battle of Pt. Pleasant, Oct. 10, 1774 and Frontier Heroine Ann Bailey.
In a lengthy ceremony at noon today, Cornstalk's last remains— three teeth and 15 bone fragments—were sealed in an aluminum box in the center of a four-ton stone monument bearing the simple inscription: "Cornstalk."
The monument and remains had been removed from the grounds of the old Mason County courthouse, which is being torn down to make way for a new court building.
It was at least the third time the chieftain's body had been interred.
After his death In 1777, he was buried near Fort Randolph the Colonial outpost at which he had been killed. Then in 1840, street- builders here unearthed his grave, and the remains were moved to the courthouse grounds,
This year, with the decision to raze Mason County's old courthouse and erect a new $700,000 structure in its place, it was decided to move the grave to historical Tu-Endie-Wei Park at the junction of Ohio and Kanawha Rivers.
Amateur archeologists began digging last Saturday morning, and after 10 hours of fruitless labor, it was feared that the chief's remains might not be found. But early Sunday, persistent diggers came upon rust stains from the metal box in which Cornstalk had been reburied. In loose earth, they found the teeth and bone fragments which were decided to be "undoubtedly those of Cornstalk."
The reburial today was directed by members of the Pt. Pleasant chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The story of Cornstalk's seizure and murder is one of the dark spots in American history.
Born about 1735 in what is now Ohio, the future chieftain was named "Kei.gh-tugh-qua," meaning "maize plant"—hence the English name "Cornstalk."
Little is known of his early life, but by 1763 he had become a Shawnee tribal chieftain and led war parties against several white settlements.
In 1764, soldiers raided his tribal town and took him captive. He was carried to Fort Pitt as a hostage, but escaped the following year.
In the following years, he became Sachem of all Shawnee tribes and finally king of the northern confederacy of Indian tribes, composed of the Shawnees, Delawares, Mingoes, Wyandottes and Cayugas.
On Oct. 10, 1774, he led 1,100 of his braves against an equal number of Colonial troops at Pt. Pleasant and after a violent battle, was defeated.
Following his defeat, Cornstalk pursued a peace policy and forbade his braves to molest whites.
But in 1777, with the American Revolution at its height, he returned to Pt. Pleasant with two companions to warn settlers that the British were trying to incite his tribesmen to attack them.
Fearing an attack, Colonial soldiers seized Cornstalk and his companions and imprisoned them in Fort Randolph as hostages.
A month later, Cornstalk's son, Ellinipsico, came to the fort to see his father. During his visit, a soldier walking near the fort was killed by an Indian and other soldiers rushed to Cornstalk's quarters to kill him In revenge.
Cornstalk, who is described by historians as a handsome, intelligent, and highly honorable man, stood calmly in the doorway to his room and faced his slayers.
He was felled by nearly a dozen rifle shots. The soldiers then entered the room and killed Cornstalk's son and two companions.
The murder of their chieftain turned the Shawnees from a neutral people into the most implacable warriors, who raided Virginia settlements tor 20 years after the incident.
Sources on Cornstalk