2014-05-20 / Front Page

All Things Historical... From The Gosport History Museum

The Ten O’clock Line Treaty
by Annie Arthur,
Curator

The town of Gosport boasts of being the town that sits on The Ten O’clock Line, which it is. But I have had some people ask me what actually is The Ten O’clock Line.

It all began in 1809 in the Indiana Territory and was suppose to established a boundary line between the Indians’ land and the white man’s land. Up to this point, the Indians had joined forces with the British to try and stop the advancement of American white settlements in the territory. Despite the fears and opposition, a plan was devised to create this dividing line between the native inhabitants of the territory and the advancement of the white inhabitants. In other words, we will draw a line across the state and you stay on your side and we will stay on our side.

The tribes had sold around 2,900,000 acres to William Henry Harrison, the governor of the Indiana Territory and later, the first governor of Indiana. This land boundary was to be established to divide the territory into two lands, one for the Indians and one for the white settlers. A treaty to this effect was to be finalized in Fort Wayne in 1809. At first it was known as the Treaty of Fort Wayne. The tribes involved were the Eel River, Delaware, Potawatomi and the Miami. The Wea and Kickapoo were the actual inhabitants of the land in the treaty. The Shawnee, lead by Tecumseh, were not included in the negotiations and had been told to leave the area previously by Little Turtle, chief of the Miami.

The Ten O’clock Line monument (1957) was designed and sculptured by noted Owen County artist and sculptor Frederick L. Hollis, on land made available by the David Gray family, descendants of Ephraim Goss, first settler in Gosport in 1818. (Staff Photos) The Ten O’clock Line monument (1957) was designed and sculptured by noted Owen County artist and sculptor Frederick L. Hollis, on land made available by the David Gray family, descendants of Ephraim Goss, first settler in Gosport in 1818. (Staff Photos) There have been several stories as to how the treaty became known as The Ten O’clock Line. The most popular is that the Indians did not trust the surveyors’ equipment, so a warrior threw a spear into the ground at ten o’clock in the morning of the signing of the treaty. The shadow of the spear became the treaty line. Another name for the treaty was the Twelve Mile Line, a reference to the Greenville Treaty and the establishment of this new line that ran parallel to it but twelve miles further west.

The Miami did opposed the treaty. According to The Greenville Treaty, they claimed they had already been guaranteed their possession of the lands around the Wabash River. They also wanted any new land sales to be paid for by the acre and not by the tract. Harrison refused to purchase the land by the acre. Talks went back and forth and continued for about two weeks. Finally, the Pottawatomie convinced the Miami to accept the treaty as originally devised by Harrison. The Treaty (then known as the Treaty of Fort Wayne) was signed on September 29, 1809, giving the Indiana Territory over 3,000,000 acres, mainly along the Wabash River north of Vincennes. But the treaty was yet to be finalized until the reluctant Wea Tribe finally accepted the treaty terms. This was helped along by the Miami. By the spring of 1810 Harrison had completed negotiations and the treaty was finalized.

But it was not to last. The Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, had a brother known as The Prophet. He had been against the treaty and was always making trouble by turning the Indians against the settlers in the treaty land. The Prophet was said to be a very imposing man, tall and massive and blind in one eye. His influence among the Indians was very strong and in 1811, only one year after the finalization of the treaty, Harrison went to war with The Prophet in the Battle of Tippecanoe. The Prophet and his warriors were soundly defeated.

Tecumseh had warned his brother not to attack the white man but The Prophet was not to be stopped and he told his warriors that the white man’s bullets could not harm them. At dawn that morning, the Indians attacked the white soldiers at a campsite near the Wabash and Tippecanoe River junction. This village would later become the capitol of the great Indian Confederacy and is now called, Prophet’s Town. The attack lasted about two hours. Out of about 1,000 white troops, thirty-seven soldiers were dead, twenty-five others were later to die of injuries, and around 126 were wounded. The Indian casualties were unknown. Angered by their defeat, the Indian warriors stripped the Prophet of his power. He was rejected and later died in Wyandotte County, Kansas, in November of 1834.

Harrison remained governor of The Indiana Territory until September, 1812. At this time, he was put in command of the Northwestern frontier in the War of 1812. He was in command at the Battle of the Thames, where Tecumseh was killed. The Battle of Tippecanoe is said to have been the beginning of The War of 1812.

The Ten O’clock Line Treaty was short lived. Gosport was founded in 1829 and was built on the tract of the old Ten O’clock Line.

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