Lessons From A Falling Creek
Updated: Jan 24, 2020
PENDLETON, INDIANA - I've grown up around Fall Creek my entire life. My neighborhood entrance was off of Fall Creek Road, my sister went to Fall Creek Valley Middle School, and now I can see Fall Creek from my bedroom window, I even take Fall Creek Parkway to get to work.
I knew Fall Creek eventually emptied into the White River, but I had no idea where it started. One day, just out of pure curiosity, I just followed the water up north until I ended up in Pendleton, Indiana at a place called Falls Park. I explored Falls Park and found some of my favorite things, Indiana Historical Markers! They began to tell some interesting stories.
Water holds all of the world's secrets and all of her stories. It's the water in Indiana that allows me to reveal some of the stories that flow within my boundaries and beyond. The thing about water is, it tends to take the path of least resistance.
Old Map of Fall Creek, The White River and surrounding counties. Map includes the Native American name and meaning of all of these places.
Before white settlers arrived in Indiana, the land was occupied completely by Native Americans. Indiana literally means "land of the Indians", and I always try to show respect to those that were in this state before anyone else was.
The Delaware Indians (hence the name Delaware County) were alone in the region until 1818 when John Rogers pulled up.
Town of Pendleton - Pendleton, Indiana’s recorded history begins in December 1818 when John Rogers, the first non-native settler to the area, built his home near the falls on Fall Creek. As time passed, more people made their way to the region, always settling near the falls—the community source of water and power.In 1821, Thomas Pendleton laid out the original town plat and gave it his name. The town’s name never changed (although it was occasionally misspelled as “Pendelton”).
Just six years later, one of the darkest moments in Indiana history occurred as multiple Native Americans were massacred by the white settlers that had moved into town. Tensions had been growing between the two groups, and on March 22, 1824 nine lives were lost.
Here's an account of what caused the massacre to occur that day:
IndianaPublicMeida.org - On March 22, 1824, two families of Indians were camped between Fall Creek and Deer Lick Creek in Madison County. Their hunt for valuable animal pelts proved so successful that a group of six white settlers hatched a plot to steal the pelts, and in the execution of their plan. brutally murdered all of the Indians, including two men, three women, and four children under the age of ten.
At the time, many whites didn't think that the murder of a Native American was a crime, however by the summer of the next year, they would be proven wrong.
Not all of the murderers were captured, but four of them were and they went on trial. One of the four was nineteen at the time and was pardoned by Indiana's governor, the other three were found guilty and sentenced to death. Three white men were hanged for killing Native Americans.
Indiana Governor James Brown Ray riding in to pardon the teenager just moments before his execution
On June 3rd, 1825, the execution took place. Whites and Native Americans both gathered to witness the hangings.
THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME IN UNITED STATES HISTORY THAT WHITE MEN HAD BEEN SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR THE MURDER OF ANY NATIVE AMERICAN!!
In 1843, Frederick Douglass and a group of abolitionists were on tour and made a stop in Pendleton, Indiana. Although Indiana has always been known as free land, there was and still is some racial tension in the Hoosier state. Frederick Douglass found this out real quick.
For those that aren't familiar with Frederick Douglass, here's a quick wiki-bio to get you up to speed:
Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey; c. February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. In his time, he was described by abolitionists as a living counter-example to slaveholders' arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been a slave.
Frederick Douglass was just 25 years old when he made his way to Indiana for the first time. By the time he was ready to take the platform to deliver his speech, many in the crowd were ready to deliver an ass-beating.
Protesters (racists) began throwing rocks and other hard objects at Douglass. Many of the white abolitionists were mobbed as well, and Douglass had to be rushed out of the area to a family farm nearby.
Douglass made it out alive and would continue speaking against slavery and inequality all across the country, but what happened to him in Indiana stuck with him for the rest of his life. He wrote about the incident in his autobiography, he described how the platform on which he stood was completely destroyed.
Indiana has never chosen the path of least resistance, and although we clearly have flaws within our history, there are many people that were right there along the way to try and make things right.
When the Native Americans were wrongfully killed in Pendleton, a new precedent was set. For the first time in American history, white men were now held accountable for murdering Native Americans.
When Douglass was jumped, abolitionists refused to back down, defending Douglass and rushing him to safety.
It's not that bad and disgraceful things never happen here, it's that when they do... the people of Indiana notice it and address it. We could have easily "gone with the flow" and adopted the ways of our neighboring slave holding state to the South, but we didn't.
I think about this in my own life, even with this blog, it's unique, it's my own path. Maybe a 23 year old black kid isn't supposed to be interested in all this stuff. It might be easier if I filled my mind with the things that society is constantly telling me to. Maybe it'd be easier to try to climb up the corporate ladder or walk down a path that has already been traveled.
I like the idea of creating my own river flow, and just as Fall Creek flows downward to the heart of Indiana, hopefully my path will lead to all of the things that I truly desire within my own heart.
And then sometimes I like to sit and think, is this actually my path of least resistance?