Indians In Mahoning County

By Charles Carr

Mill Creek Park was populated with Indians and especially the roving bands seen by the early settlers, on their way from the Ohio River valley to the Great Lakes reservations at Cleveland and Detroit. When Chieftains met at Council Rock in what is now Lincoln Park above Dry Run, the various tribes assembled in summer camp on the flat just over the cliff from Idora Park.

While the summer camp was established with little or no labor, it required a vast amount of energy for red skins to install a winter den. A hole about eight feet deep and 18 feet in diameter was dig and walled with cobble stones; brush was piled on the top to keep out the rain and snow. A wood fire was always kept burning in the center. The Indians would lie or sit around the blazing tembers snug and warm from the wintery blasts.

When Col. Foster first commenced to plow up the field where the den was located, some years after the Indians left this section, he was bothered by the heaps of cobble stones that seemed to rise up from the earth each spring when the frost had left the ground. He investigated finally and found that the den walls had fallen in. Down beneath the piles of rocks was burnt charcoal. William Smith, an early settler who knew something of Indian manners and habits, said that the hole in the ground was a winter lodging place for the red skin tribes.

Col. Foster related a story of a duel between Sunset, an Indian Chief, and Lewis Wetzel, a hunter and trapper. It took place near where the old Lanterman mill now stands. The tale was told to him by the first white settlers in these parts.

Wetzler rsided in the Ohio River valley. A wandering band of Indians invaded his home killing his aged parients while he was out on a hunt. Upon returning, Wetzel learned the awful story. He was told that the red skins had poceeded up the Little Beaver River valley toward Moravia and the Salt Spring trail that led along the Mahoning River.

Knowing every foot of the country,Wetzel started in pursuit. He caught up with the band at the fork of the Beaver and Shenango rivers, now New Castle Junction. Keeping the band in sight, Wetzel followed on all night and part of the following day to the camping ground in the Mill Creek valley.

Unable to put up a fight single-handed against six or more savages, the white hunter awaited his opportunity. Following an Indian custom, two or three of the red skins commenced to gather wood for the wigwam fire, haul water and make other arrangements for the stay in the beautiful valley, while the chief went out to hunt for game for the evening meal.

Wetzel followed the chief, Sunset, up to where the mill was afterwards built, walking at the top of the east bank while the red skin followed the creek bottom. The white hunter and the Indian observed each other at about the same time. The savage instinct of the latter seemed to warn him that Wetzel meant trouble. Stationed about sixty feet apart, both ran behind trees for shelter and began a preliminary skirmish in a duel that meant death for one or the other. The men kept up a vigil for several hours. Watzel was a dead shot and the red skin knew it and made no attempt to run.

Lanterman Mill Falls - It was just below this waterfall that the gun battle took place.

Finally, the white man’s wits conquered. Placing his hat on the barrel odf the trusty rifle he held, Wetzel, by jiggeling it, led the Indian to believe, about dusk, that he was moving around the tree. This use led the Indian to use up his round of ammunition. Then the white hunter followed up this partial victory with a rapid charge, felling the savage chief in his tracks.

Wetzel did not take any more chances but proceeded eastward with all of the haste at his command. The Indians later found their dead chief and were puzzled as to how he came to his death. They did not wait to investigate, but left the Mill Creek valley for the Salt Spring trail on their journey to the west.

Col. Foster’s father, Jonas Foster, who came to Youngstown in 1825 from New York state, could remember when Peter Lanterman, father of German Lanterman hired Indians to work and do chores on his farm. In 1825, there were about six houses in Youngstown proper. Judge Rayen had a double house near Spring Common where the settlers found lodging and shelter until they could set up cabins of their own. There was also the houses of Dr. Dutton, who cleared out a piece of forest land in what is now Dutton’s Alley, and the Caleb Baldwin, Henry Wick and Agustus Hine residences. Down at Gibson’s fording, below South Avenue was the old Gibson homestead of stone. James Hillman, the famous Indian trader, lived in a shack along the cliff where Renner’s brewery now stands; Daniel Shehy was located in Edgewood Street, then the “Old Road”; out Lanterman Falls way were located Joshiah Robbins, Amos A. Stroddard, W. R. Kurtz, John Baldwin, Judiah Fitch, Isaac Eaton, William Smith, Jonah Foster and others.

In those days there were no stores in Youngstown and the settlers had to go to Cornersburg and Poland to do their shopping. Lowellville was a village that grew in prominence after the Cleveland and Pittsburg canal had been completed. Youngstown came to the ftront, as everyone knows when the iron mills and furnaces and iron ore mining industry opened.

Source: The Youngstown Vindicator - May 8, 1910