An extremely rare broadside with a map of the Shawnee settlements along the Scioto River, accompanied by a long account of Lord Dunmores War of 1774 and the subsequent captivity narrative of John Slover. The text is remarkable for evidence of the author’s deep respect for the Shawnee and regret for their harsh treatment at the hands of American frontiersmen.
Felix Renick (1770/71-1848)
Ohio settler Felix Renick was born in Virginia and moved with his brothers to the Scioto Valley in the late 1790s.
“He was influential in establishing the beef cattle industry in the Scioto River Valley and was the founder of the Ohio Company for importing English cattle, which introduced the purebred English shorthorn into the state. He was an educated man who enjoyed leading a gentleman farmer’s life at his home, High Rock Farm in Ross County. Renick had a profound interest in history and served as the president of the Logan Historical Society, a group founded at Westfall on July 28, 1841…. This society was named for Logan, the Mingo chief, who had shown particular friendship to the Americans until several members of his family were killed in 1773. The Society’s monthly publication, The American Pioneer, which was compiled in Chillicothe but printed in Cincinnati, was rather short lived. Its first edition appeared in January 1842 and its last in October 1843.” (Smith, The Mapping of Ohio, p. 66)
Renick was a “regular contributor” to the journal (Smith) and had prepared this map and accompanying text for publication therein, but “that publication having been suspended, the author was advised, by some of his friends, to have it engraved, and offered to the Public.”
This broadside is best understood in the context of Renick’s writings for The American Pioneer, which among other things reveal the evolution of his views toward the native peoples of the American frontier. These views were presumably shaped by his experiences in Ohio at a time when the Shawnee and other tribes experienced little but violence, dispossession and exile.
“In my youth I was ready to sanction almost every thing done to them [i.e., the Indians] by the whites; but a mature age, with much reflection on the subject, has convinced me of my former error; and now, taking an impartial view of the past, I fear we have a great debt on this score that must at some point and in some fearful way be cancelled, unless we make them proper amends. (The American Pioneer, Vol. II No. 1 (Jan. 1843), p. 41)
Lord Dunmores War
The primary purpose of the broadside is to argue for the “perfidy” of Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia (1771-1776). In 1774, in response to escalating violence between the Shawnee and settlers in the Ohio Valley, Dunmore had led a two-prong offensive against Shawnee lands on the far side of the Ohio River. One force, under a Colonel Lewis, encountered the Shawnee in a bloody battle at Point Pleasant in what is now West Virginia. Though suffering larger losses, Lewis’ force drove them back and was advancing against their villages on the Scioto, when at the last minute and with great difficulty it was restrained by Dunmore. Against the wishes of the settlers, who preferred either to exterminate or at least dispossess the Shawnee, the Governor had arranged the Treaty of Camp Charlotte, in which the Shawnee abandoned their claims south and east of the Ohio. Indeed, Renick argues in the broadside that the Treaty “…was all a farce—merely intended to cover up the perfidy of Dunmore, in not forming a junction with Lewis [i.e., before the Battle of Point Pleasant]. This he had ample time to do, and it would have saved many valuable lives and the waste of much blood.”
With the outbreak of the Revolution, the native peoples sided with the British and resumed their raids, and hostilities on the Ohio frontier did not end until the 1790s. Indeed, Renick alludes to the belief, held by many on the frontier, that the Battle of Point Pleasant was the “first blood of the Revolutionary War,” occasioned by Americans taking matters into their own hands when faced with the failure of the British Empire to protect them.
The broadside features a large map depicting the country of the Shawnee, including part of the Scioto River and its tributary Scippo and Congo Creeks, flanked by the open, fertile Pickaway Plain and surrounding woodlands. Three Shawnee villages are shown—Old Chillicothe, Cornstalks Town, and Grenadier Squaws Town—the latter including tiny symbols indicating the location of the council house, gauntlet and stake (the latter two for torturing and executing prisoners). Settlers’ homes are indicated, including that of Renick’s brother William, as are the encampments of Governor Dunmore and Col. Lewis during Dunmore’s War. An “Indian Trail” runs from Old Chillicothe south in the direction of the Ohio River, while the Chillicothe and Circleville Road runs north toward “ancient works, on which Circleville now stands.”
Below the map are three long columns of Renick’s “Remarks.” The first two are devoted to a description of the Shawnee, an explanation of features on the map, and a brief discussion of Lord Dunmores War and the Governor’s “perfidy” The text displays Renick’s relatively nuanced view of native culture, combining deep respect for their courage and nobility and horror at their capacity for cruelty.
“Antiquity has thrown its halo around the brave of ancient times, but braver men have never lived than those who fell upon the soil we occupy and call our own, in defence of the graves of their fathers and their native land….
“Among the circumstances which invest this region with extraordinary interest, is the fact that to those towns were brought so many of the truly unfortunate prisoners who were abducted from the neighboring States. Here they were immolated on the altar of the red man’s vengeance, and made to suffer, to the death, all the tortures that savage ingenuity could invent, as a sort of expiation for the aggressions of their race.”
The captivity of John Slover
The latter part of the “Remarks” is dedicated to the saga of John Slover, a scout on Colonel William Crawford’s ill-fated 1782 expedition against the Indians along the Sandusky River. Slover was captured by the Shawnee and brought back Grenadier Squaws Town on the Scioto, destined to be tortured and burned. Renick relates how a fluke of the weather helped Slover narrowly avoid an excruciating death:
“The day was appointed for the consummation of the horrid deed, and its morning dawned without any unpropitious appearances to mark the anticipated enjoyments of the natives collected from the neighboring towns to witness the scene. At the appointed time, Slover was led forth, stripped naked, tied to the fatal stake and the fire kindled around him. Just as his tormentors were about to commence the torture, it seemed that the Great Spirit looked down, and said, “No! this horrid deed shall not be done !” Immediately the heavens were overcast; the forked lightnings in all directions, flew; in mighty peals, the thunder rolled, and seemed to shake the earth to its centre; the rain, in copious torrents, fell, and quenched the threatening flames, before they had done the victim injury–continuing to a late hour. The natives stood dumb-founded–somewhat fearing that the Great Spirit was not pleased with what they were about to do.”
Renick continues the story of Slover’s escape from Grenadier Squaws Town, ending with:
“Slover then had to travel on foot, with all possible speed; and, between musquitoes, nettles, brush, briars, thorns, &c., by the time he got home, he had more the appearance of a mass of raw flesh than an animate being.”
Slover’s own account of his captivity first appeared in 1783, in Narrative of a Late Expedition Against the Indians: with an Account of the Barbarous Execution of Col. William Crawford: and the Wonderful Escape of Dr. Knight an John Slover from Captivity (Philadelphia: Francis Bailey, 1783). This seems to have been reprinted in part in Frederick Drimmer’s Captured By the Indians: 15 Firsthand Accounts, 1750-1870, which may be read here.
In all, a little-known rarity of a turbulent period on the Ohio frontier, with much of interest on pre-Revolutionary conflict in the region and one settler’s unusually sympathetic account of its native peoples.
Rarity and references
The broadside is of the greatest rarity. I find institutional holdings only at the Library of Congress and Wisconsin Historical Society, with no record of another example having appeared on the antiquarian market.
OCLC 858556728 (Wisconsin Historical Society only, assigning an 1846 date) and 7618119 (photostat at Cincinnati Historical Library). Phillips, Maps of America, p. 712 (giving 1846 date). Thomas H. Smith, The Mapping of Ohio, pp. 66-9, plate IV (giving 1844 date).
Toned, wash color faded, some scattered soiling and spotting. Original rollers absent, selvage largely perished.