Indian

Logstown1: You Don’t Know Logstown

Jeremy Turner, a member of the Shawnee, center, is among those who help walk us through what Logstown really was. 

Do you know Logstown?

Probably not.

If you heard of it,  it’s been in romanticized terms. It’s usually said to be an important Indian village downriver from Pittsburgh, in the waning days of the noble red man’s preeminence here.

Come with me. We’ll see what it really was.

WASHINGTON made in wax

 

CHARLES DICKENS

Joining us will be George Washington, Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis&Clark) and Charles Dickens. George, not yet President, will even sort through and expose “fake news.”

A knowledgeable Shawnee of our time will tell us what he knows of the place.

You’ll see the first U.S. basic training camp rise from the abandoned Indian site. Its main purpose? To train Pittsburghers how to kill Indians in an organized fashion.

A renowned religious sect then takes over the land. Its followers expect Jesus to show up there. They wait 80 years. He doesn’t, and he hasn’t yet. So, we have time to explore.

It appears Logstown could be viewed less as a quaint Indian village and more as a company town, the first in a series to sprout and whither over two centuries in that part of the Ohio River Valley.

As we look back, the first thing we have to do is dismiss some sage advice about forests. They say you may miss a forest if you’re looking at the trees. No matter. We intend to look at them.

The first one is a doozy.

We find it mentioned in a diary of a Jesuit priest, Father Joseph-Pierre de Bonnecamps. The length of French names are a bother, so we’ll call him Father Joe. He accompanied soldiers from New France (Canada) to Logstown. We’re talking 1749.

“We dined in a hollow cotton wood tree, in which 29 men could be ranged side by side.”

Sounds like something from “The Hobbit” or “Harry Potter.”

It is understood to mean Father Joe’s dinner mates sat in a circle, shoulder to shoulder. Average male width today is 18 inches. If it was similar then, the inside circumference of the tree was at least 43.5 feet, making the diameter inside about 14 feet.

Add several additional feet if you want elbow room, and a few more if left-handed people are seated at the table.

 

This painting by Robert Griffing is inspired by Father Joe’s report of an outsized hollow tree at Logstown. The big birchbark canoes in foreground were floated and carried down from Canada. Such big sheets of bark, light and flexible, were not available in Pennsylvania. Indians here tended to stash their heavy dugout canoes rather than try to carry them. With few navigable streams going east and west, they did a lot of walking.

 

Do you think Father Joe may have had hallucinogenic mushrooms at dinner?

(more…)