The Burnett Family
Contemporary with Zachariah Cicot, whose activities and influence had such a large effect upont he early history of the Wabash Valley, was the Burnett family. Like Cicot the Burnetts were half-breeds but while Cicot cast his lot with the whites and was one of General Harrison's trusted scouts, the Burnetts chose to cast their fortunes with the Indians. They left their name upon the early records of this and adjoining counties and it is often encountered in the records of the land transfers to this day.
The elder Burnett was a Frenchman from the Vincennes settlement, who had come up the Wabash and lost his heart to an Indian princess. It was Kaukeama, the sister of Topenibe, the principal chief of the Potawatamies of this locality, whose black eyes captured the adventurous Frenchman, and so strong was their attachment that Burnett was adopted int othe tribe and they were married. Sheshepah, who I have written up in an earlier sketch was a half brother of Kaukeama and Topenibe. His mother was the daughter of a Kickapoo chief and thru her he inherited a chieftainship among the Kickapoos, the honor and prestige of which he also shared with his half-sister. So it was thus no ordinary squaw whom the Frenchman Burnett took to wife.
Burnett and Kaukeama were the parents of Abraham, Nancy, Rebecca and James Burnett and the grandparents of William Burnett. There is a legend to the effect that the father and his eldest son were killed in the Battle of Kickapoo. Another son, Abraham Burnett, is known to have been in command of the band of Kickapoos and Potawatamies which attempted to ambush Gen. Harrison's army in 1811 in the southern part of this county where the bluffs and ravines extend down to the river opposite the vicinity of Perrysville. Had it not been for the cunning Zachariah Cicot, who may have had an intimation of the ambush from some of his Indian henchmen, the battle which became famous as the Battle of Tippecanoe might have been fought in this county. Cicot led the army back from the river ten miles into the open country onthe opposite side and the surprise of Burnett and his Indians failed.
The Burnetts made their home in what is now Wabash township, Fountain county, their camp being located near a spring in what is now Capt. Schuyler LaTourette's barnyard. The fine spring there is still known as Burnett's spring.
In after years when the United States government made settlements with the Indians the Burnetts were well provided for. They got six sections of land, most of it in Tippecanoe county, but almost one section of it in the northeast corner of Fountain county. That large flint deposits, whcih have been operated for years, and from which the refractories brick plant of Danville, Ill., secured the material for its fire brick, is on the Burnett reservation. North of Lafayette on the north side of the Wabash river was a larger grant of land to these Burnetts known also as the Burnett reservation. The name also clings to a creek in that locality.
On Oct. 16, 1826, in a treaty made with the Indians at the mouth of the Mississinewa where that river empties into the Wabash, in addition to the lands in Tippecanoe and Fountain county, Abraham Burnett was given three sections of land, to be located at the village of Wyanamae, now Winamac, the county seat of Pulaski county. Nancy, Rebecca, and James and the grandson William were each given one section of land, which was located in northern Indiana. Capt. Schuyler LaTourette's parents remembered well when Burnetts left the land they entered. Robert Ray and myself spent a day with Capt. LaTourette and looked over the home grounds of the Burnetts. I afterwards visited a relative at Dana, in Vermillion county, Indiana, and received further information from him regarding these Indiana relatives of his.
From the LaTourette place the Burnetts were taken north into the state of Michigan, I think Hetfield had charge of this migrating party and Charles McKinney of Richland township has the story from Hetfield's son, who marched a ways with the Indians as they left here.
In about 1860, Thomas Marks, who lives near Odell in Tippecanoe county, went to Kansas to take up a homestead and there met William Burnett, the grandson of Kaukeama. He was then an old man but still retained his chieftainship. Mr. Marks purchased of him a horse, saddle, and bridle, and was directed by Chief Burnett where to find the best lands for entry. Mr. Marks told me that under ordinary circumstances this horse, saddle and bridle at least calculation was worth $100.00 but Burnett, after learning where he was from, would accept from him only $12.50.
The Burnetts' sympathies were always with the Indians and the British. While they received large grants of land fromt he United States government, they took an active part always with the Indians, against the interests of the government, and were different in their views from Cicot. They were never friendly to Cicot for the reason that he was always loyal to the American government and was ready and actually did sacrifice everything he had but 40 ponies to aid Gen. Harrison. He was ready to give everything, even his life, that the Wabash country might be part of the territory of the United States. No man could do more.
In his old age Cicot always considered that he had not been fairly dealt with in the matter of land grants as the Burnetts, who had fought the government, were given more than he who had stood by it and sacrificed greatly for it.
Source: Historical Sketches of the
Wabash Valley, pp. 10-12
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