Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Stull #17

“End Road”

The population of Fort Bradshaw was very small. It consisted of only a few people. Colonel Jabez Stull, Captain James Parmenter and Captain Irving Houk were in charge of the other fifteen soldiers at the fort. There were also four civilians staying there:  William Rockhold, a banker from Massachusetts; Stephan Ambrose Vinn, a former senator from Delaware who was now interested in making money by expanding the country westward; Bernard K. Boicourt, a lawyer and Ethan Eldridge Bell, a former military man now attempting to start a political career. The fort was located about seven miles from the Comchau Indian Reservation and most of the men at the fort were there to talk about starting a town.

Tontzville, Frontenac and Brooklyn had been recently established and the men at Fort Bradshaw were wanting to found their own town. They had had some arguments over the location of the town. “Why can’t we just establish the town around the fort?” asked Vinn. “It makes the most sense with traffic from Columbus to Chicago.”

“It does but the government has already set its sights on closing this fort. It’s not needed anymore,” Capt. Parmenter said. “Besides, more traffic is already going through Brooklyn and Tontzville and the trail routes are not going to change much. We need to build more to the south.”

“Where all the cities already are,” Colonel Stull said. “If we build more to the northwest, we can establish another trail from Tontzville. We just have to be far enough away that our town needs its own businesses and Tontzville can’t usurp ours.”

“So you agree we should build around the fort?” Captain Houk asked.

“No,” Colonel Stull said. “I believe we should build further northwest of here.” Stull got up and walked over to a detailed map of the county and he pointed roughly in the middle of nowhere.

“There?” asked Boicourt. “But that’s practically in the middle of the Comchau Reservation. Our peace treaty with them forbids American settlement within the borders.”

“But this would be benefit both parties,” Bell began. “If we offer equal footing on the founding of the town and the businesses then they may agree and accept changes to the treaty.”

Rockhold stood up and walked over to Colonel Stull and the map. “They have dozens of square miles going unused,” he pointed to a small collection of squares and rectangles near the center of the reservation. “This is their only settlement? I would think they would be begging to have some help establishing a town,” Rockhold scoffed.

“I say we ride up there tomorrow and talk with the chief. I’m sure he would okay with the town if it had a decent Indian presence,” Colonel Stull said.

The men all agreed but Rockhold grumbled something under his breath. “Something wrong, Mr. Rockhold?” asked Captain Parmenter.

“And what if they reject us?” Rockhold asked. “What do we do then? Build around the fort? We could build more south in Union Township or in the northeast in Sarcoxie Township. But even if we build somewhere else, there will come a time when those Indians lose that reservation and someone else will build a town in it.”

“So what are you saying?” Bell asked. Vinn agreed.

“We shouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. If they refuse to let us use their—and I use that term loosely—land or amend the treaty, then we need to take it!” Rockhold shouted.

“I don’t think we will need to do that,” Colonel Stull said. “The Comchau are friendly Indians and they have been nothing but agreeable since our people first approached them.”

“You’ll see how friendly they are tomorrow when they reject your idea and laugh in your face,” Rockhold said. “I’ve dealt with many Indians and they are all backstabbers.”

The next day, Stull, Parmenter, Houk, Rockhold and Boicourt rode to the Comchau Settlement at the confluence of Comchau and Rock Creeks.

“Greetings,” Colonel Stull said. “I am Colonel Jabez Stull from Fort Bradshaw. These are my associates Captains Parmenter and Houk. Mr. Rockhold and Mr. Boicourt. We have a proposition for your Chief.”

A tall Indian stood up. The Comchaus had been surrounded by white men since the late 1700s. They were originally from the northern Michigan peninsula but were relocated first to near the Mississippi River in present-day Iowa and then again to an area in Kansas. They were moved again just a few years ago to Comchau Township in northwestern Stanton County in Ohio. They took it all in stride and the treaty signed by the Chief, Notino, created a fair balance.

Notino was a dapper man as he was a liaison for several Indian tribes to the U.S. Government. He smiled at the visitors and extended his hand to Colonel Stull who had gotten off his horse.

“Pleased to see you, Colonel,” Notino said. “This is my wife, Mary and my sons and daughter. What brings you all the way out here from the fort?”

“We have a proposition for you,” Colonel Stull began but was interrupted.

“We want to build a town in the reservation,” Rockhold interjected. “We feel that there is an area about three miles south of here that would be a perfect place to build. We also think a trail could be established from Tontzville through the town toward Chicago. We have a chance to create another New York here.”

“I see what you mean,” Notino nodded in Rockhold’s direction. “But,” he turned back to Colonel Stull “the Comchau Treaty specifically states that no white settlements can be established within the reservation’s borders.”

“Yes, we know. But we were thinking that the town could have equal representation of Indians and Caucasians,” Colonel Stull said.

Notino thought a moment, stroking his chin then he crossed his arms and spoke. “I think that would be a good move. I like that idea. We would have to amend the treaty and I would want the treaty to specifically say that the reservation borders stay the same and that the city limits would be equally governed by Indians and Caucasians. Any instance the representation is not equal then the old treaty becomes effective again and the entirety of the city reverts to Comchau control,” Notino said.

“Hell, no,” Rockhold immediately said.

“William,” Colonel Stull hushed. “I don’t know if we could do that last part…”

“So basically, what you are saying,” Rockhold stormed up to Notino and looked him right in the eye “is that if there was one more business run by white people than Indians then you can take over the town and kick us out?”

“That is not what I am saying. I mean in the government and in general. We want equal say in what goes on.”

“And if any of you feel that we are not being equal then you can take over the town and kick us out?” Rockhold reiterated.

“That is not what Notino means,” Colonel Stull proclaimed loudly.

“I do agree that if the wording isn’t perfectly explicit in this manner, then any time the Comchaus felt like they were not being treated fairly they could renege on the new treaty at any point,” Boicourt said.

“See? Even a lawyer agrees!” Rockhold barked.

“I am sorry you feel that way, Mr. Rockhold. I didn’t mean to offend but I have to look out for my people. We inhabited this land long before you and your ancestors came here and it was you and your ancestors that took my people’s land and made us move to unoccupied lands west of the river. My people were docile through it all and we asked for was this little bit of land here in Stanton County. You are coming in here and demanding our land that we do not have to give you. Forgive me if it seems like I don’t trust you but as I, my family and the people you came with can clearly tell, you do not trust us either,” Notino said.

“Mr. Notino, I do apologize,” Colonel Stull said. “I would like to look into further with you at a future date.”

“Of course, Colonel Stull. Maybe next time without Mr. Rockhold,” Notino glared at Rockhold, who glared back.

All mounted their horses again and rode off back to the fort. Rockhold halted and spoke “I’m going to go back and apologize. You guys go on, I’ll be along shortly.” Rockhold rode back to where they had left Notino. He leapt off his horse and stormed back up to the Indian. “Listen, Redskin, this is a good idea for all involved and if you don’t want to be a part of it, then we will go ahead with it without you.”

“By law, you have no right to any portion of the reservation,” Notino said. “And as long as I’m alive, you never will.”

Rockhold smiled. “You won’t live forever…”

“Is that a threat?”

“You’ll find out,” Rockhold said and mounted his horse again and rode off.

The next day, Rockhold approached Ethan Bell. “Ethan, I spoke with Notino yesterday and he is willing to negotiate but he wants to speak to only me. I was wondering if you would go with me.”

“But they want to speak with you,” Bell said.

“But I need another person there to confirm what Notino says.”

“Sure, let’s go,” Bell stood up and they went to the stables and began riding their horses into the reservation and toward the Comchau settlement.

They were a little over halfway there when Rockhold came to a stop. He pointed off toward the east, “What’s that?” he asked.

Bell turned his head and followed Rockhold’s finger. “What?”

Rockhold drew a gun from the pocket of his coat, aimed at Bell and shot him in the back of the head. Bell slumped then slid off his horse face first and collided hard with the ground. Rockhold then shot Bell’s horse and shot the rest of his bullets in random directions. He then galloped back to Fort Bradshaw as fast as he could.

“They shot Bell!” Rockhold shouted as he burst into the cafeteria where Colonel Stull, Captains Parmenter and Houk were seated.

“What?” asked Houk.

“Ethan and I rode to speak with Notino. I had apologized yesterday and he invited me back so we could talk about the city. We came to another impasse and they attacked. We ran away but they chased after us. They shot Bell in the head and shot his horse. They threatened to burn the fort down.”

“What?” Colonel Stull stood up and approached Rockhold. “Why would they do that? They are a peaceful tribe.”

“Well, they are not peaceful anymore. We need to strike them back and we need to strike them hard. The treaty says that any aggression toward anyone nullifies the treaty and the reservation,” Rockhold said. “We need to attack back. What they did is an act of war.”

“I don’t think we need to do that…” Colonel Stull began.

“I saw it with my own eyes. If you don’t want to fight with us then that’s fine. Who else is with me?” Rockhold looked at the other men.

All silently rose to their feet.

In the dead of night, they all rode toward the Comchau settlement with torches and firearms at the ready. Rockhold and Colonel Stull led the way. As they approached the settlement, Colonel Stull halted the men. “Why can’t we just come back in the morning? This seems deceitful.”

“Come back in the morning? So they are awake and alert and able to shoot at us? I don’t think we should take that chance,” Rockhold said.

Colonel Stull then gave the word and the men attacked. They began burning the huts and dragging the men out of the burning structures. Women and children cried as the men were burned or shot.

Notino and his wife came out of his hut which had not been set on fire and saw what was going on. He grabbed his weapon, a bow and arrow, and ran toward the massacre. He shot arrow after arrow as quickly as he could but was shot in the chest and neck by Captain Houk.

Mary looked around for Colonel Stull and found him off to the side looking at the destruction. She ran over to him. “What are you doing?” she cried.

“Mary…I…” he looked where Notino had fallen. “He attacked us first and according to the treaty…”

“What are you talking about?” she screamed. “We didn’t attack you!”

“But Rockhold said he and Notino had a disagreement, that they were attacked, that you shot Ethan Bell…” Colonel Stull was confused.

“How can we shoot anybody when we don’t have guns?!” Mary exclaimed.

Colonel Stull looked around and saw that the only weapons the Comchau used were bows and arrows or clubs. Even Notino just had a bow and arrow. “Jesus Christ,” Colonel Stull said. He rode toward the men and ordered them to stop. He stared directly at Rockhold, who had a sneer on his face. “You lied to us.”

Rockhold chuckled. “So?”

“We killed innocent people. We left wives abandoned, children orphans. And for what?” Colonel Stull asked. “I will see to it that you are punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

“Yeah? You’ll have to live to tell the story though,” Rockhold drew his gun on Colonel Stull and a shot rang out. Bernard Boicourt held the smoking gun. And, like Ethan, Rockhold slumped over and fell off his horse onto the ground.

“We are terribly sorry and I know nothing we say or do will…” Colonel Stull began but was interrupted by Mary.

“Na-Tay-Oo!” she spat. “You have our land now but we have your souls. This reservation is now cursed and a hallowed place. For as long as people live here, your actions belong to the Spirit of the Comchau.”

Colonel Stull hung his head as Mary walked away to her husband’s lifeless body.

The men of Fort Bradshaw helped bury the dead on The Island, a religious meeting place for the Comchau. The Comchau Reservation was placed under the control of the State of Ohio then placed under the jurisdiction of Stanton County. It was then renamed Comchau Township. Colonel Stull requested that Fort Bradshaw be shut down and told the Powers That Be what had transpired. The fort was shut down and Colonel Stull moved to Comchau Township and founded the town of Stull and used the wood from the fort to build the first building—a place to house the women and children of the Comchau.

The massacre became known as the End Road Massacre because End Road—once the main street of the Comchau settlement—dead ended at The Island. The settlement reverted back to nature and is now a pasture.

Captain James Parmenter left Ohio and continued his military career to became a heroic Colonel during the Civil War. He never spoke about the Massacre and passed away in his sleep in May of 1872.

Captain Irving Houk moved south to Ohio Township and founded the town of Irving. He left the military and became a popular Ohio State Senator. When he was assassinated in 1889, Ohio Township was renamed Houk Township in his honor.

William Rockhold was buried in an unmarked grave near Fort Bradshaw. Its whereabouts are unknown.

Stephen Ambrose Vinn went back to Delaware and attempted to run for office again. When word of his involvement in the Massacre got out, he lost the election and committed suicide in 1837.

Bernard Boicourt also went south and founded the town of Boicourt, however, it never became bigger than few dozen people.

Ethan Bell’s body was brought back to the fort and was originally buried near the fort but when Colonel Stull settled on his farm near his town of Stull, Bell was reburied in what would become the Stull Family Cemetery.

Colonel Stull would live happily with his family on his farm near Stull until 1850 when Colonel Jabez Stull suddenly passed away a few weeks before his fiftieth birthday. His son, Nathaniel Stull was born in 1834 and died in 1884 in a farming accident on his fiftieth birthday. His two sons, Adam (born 1857) and Clark (born 1861) died in 1900 and 1905 respectively. No other Stull man has lived beyond the age of 50.