White Eyes

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White Eyes
Tribe Lenape
Born c. 1730
Pennsylvania?
Died November 1778
Predecessor Netawatwees (Newcomer)
Native name Koquethagechton
Nickname(s) George White Eyes
Known for Negotiated a Lenape state; peace emissary in Lord Dunmore's War; trader, tavern keeper; founded settlement near present day Coschocton, OH
Spouse(s) Rachel Doddridge, d. 1788
Children George Morgan White Eyes (1770?–1798)
Relatives Son was raised by his friend, George Morgan

White Eyes, named Koquethagechton (c. 1730–November 1778), was a leader of the Lenape (Delaware) people in the Ohio Country during the era of the American Revolution. Sometimes known as George White Eyes, his given name in Lenape was rendered in many spelling variations in colonial records. White Eyes was a tireless mediator in turbulent times, negotiating the first Indian treaties with the fledgling United States, always working towards his ultimate of goal of establishing a secure Indian territory. His death under mysterious circumstances during the American Revolutionary War may have been an act of murder covered up by United States officials.

Early life and education[edit]

Nothing is known about the early life of Koquethagechton. Likely born in present-day Pennsylvania, he was first noted in the English colonial record near the end of the Seven Years' War (French and Indian War), as a messenger during treaty negotiations. This occupation suggests he may have been well suited for interaction between Indians and whites, although he could not read or write, and probably did not speak English—at least not well.

Migration and career[edit]

After the war, when European white colonists began settling near the Lenape villages around Fort Pitt in western Pennsylvania, the Native Americans moved further west to the Muskingum River valley in present-day eastern Ohio. By this time, many Lenape had converted to Christianity under the influence of Moravian missionaries and lived in villages led by them. The missionary towns also moved to the Muskingum, so that the Lenape, both Christian and non-Christian, could stay together. Though not a Christian, White Eyes ensured that the Christian Lenape remained members of the larger community.

In the early 1770s, Lenape attacked the Philip Doddridge family farm, along the shores of Chartier's Creek near Statler's Fort (Washington County, Pennsylvania), killing some members of the nine-person extended family and capturing others. They carried away three young daughters and a son, and the grandmother. The five-year-old girl Rachel Doddridge was known to have been adopted into the tribe. As a young woman, she married White Eyes, who had become chief. Her cousin Philip Doddridge reported seeing her as an adult at a trading post, but, thoroughly assimilated, she was not interested in a reunion with her British relatives.[1]

White Eyes established his own town, known as White Eyes's Town, near the Lenape capital of Coshocton, Ohio. In 1774, the Lenape Grand Council, an association of chiefs, named White Eyes as principal chief of the nation.

In the early 1770s, violence on the frontier between whites and Indians threatened to escalate into open warfare. White Eyes unsuccessfully attempted to prevent what would become Lord Dunmore's War in 1774, fought primarily between the Shawnee and Virginia colonists. He served as a peace emissary between the two armies, and helped negotiate a treaty to end the war.

Revolution and death[edit]

General Lachlan McIntosh

When the American Revolutionary War began soon after the end of Dunmore's War, White Eyes was negotiating a royal grant with Lord Dunmore that was intended to secure the Lenape territory in the Ohio Country. After the American revolutionaries forced Dunmore out of Virginia, White Eyes had to begin anew with the Americans. In April 1776, he addressed the Continental Congress in Philadelphia on behalf of the Lenape and two years later completed an alliance with the United States by a treaty signed in 1778 at Fort Pitt. It called for the establishment of a Lenape state, with representation in the American Congress, provided that the Congress approved. White Eyes died before the treaty was submitted to Congress, and the matter was dropped.

The treaty provided for the Lenape to serve as guides for the Americans when they moved through the Ohio Country to strike at their British and Indian enemies to the north, in and around Detroit. In early November 1778, White Eyes joined an American expedition under General Lachlan McIntosh as a guide and negotiator. Soon after, the Americans reported that White Eyes had contracted smallpox and died during the expedition. After his death, the Lenape alliance with the Americans eventually collapsed.

Years later, George Morgan, a US Indian agent, trader and close associate of White Eyes, who had helped negotiate with Native Americans in the Fort Pitt area, wrote a letter to Congress claiming that the chief had been "treacherously put to death" by American militia in Michigan. He further wrote that the murder of White Eyes had been covered up to prevent the Lenape from abandoning the revolutionaries. No other details of what happened have survived; historians generally accept Morgan's claim that White Eyes had been murdered, though the reasons remain obscure.

White Eyes' British-Lenape wife Rachel Doddridge was reportedly murdered by white men in 1788. Their mixed-race son George Morgan White Eyes (1770?–1798) was cared for by the family friend George Morgan. Later he was educated at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), where his tuition was paid by the Continental Congress. He graduated in 1789.[2]

White Eyes Township in Coshocton County, Ohio was named after the chief as a tribute to his influence on the early history of the county.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Huff, Earle, and Winifred Huff Wiegand, The Doddridge Family in England and America; early records from AD 700. 1961.
  2. ^ "Brief History of Students of Color at Princeton", Thriving at Princeton, 2007-08, July 2007, Princeton University

Further reading[edit]

  • Barrett, Carole, Harvey Markowitz, and R. Kent Rasmussen, eds. American Indian Biographies, Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2005.
  • Booth, Russell H. The Tuscarawas Valley in Indian Days: 1750-1797. Cambridge, Ohio, 1994.
  • Calloway, -----. The American Revolution in Indian Country. Cambridge University Press, 1995.
  • Doddridge, Joseph. Notes and the Settlement and the Indian Wars of the Western Parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania from 1763-1783, inclusive, together with a review of the State of Society and Manners of the First Settlers of the Western Country, reprint, General Books LLC, 2010.
  • Dowd, Gregory Evans. A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1992.
  • Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.
  • Weslager, C. A. The Delaware Indians, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1972.
  • White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815, New York, 1991.

External links[edit]