William Wells (soldier)


William Wells (soldier)

William Wells (c. 1770 – 15 August 1812), also known as Apekonit ("Carrottop"), was the son-in-law of Chief Little Turtle of the Miamis.

Apekonit of the Miami

Wells was born at Jacob's Creek, Pennsylvania, the youngest son of Captain Samuel Wells. The family moved to Kentucky when William was a small child, and his mother died shortly thereafter. The elder Wells was killed in an Indian raid near Louisville, and the young orphan was sent to live with a family friend. Three years later, he was taken captive by Miamis while on a hunting trip. Wells was 12 years old at the time.

Wells was adopted by a chief named Gaviahate ("Porcupine"), and raised in the village of Kenapakomoko, on the Eel River. His Miami name was Apekonit (carrot), perhaps in reference to his red hair. [Carter, pg 84.] He seems to have adapted to Miami life quite well, and accompanied war parties- sometimes as the decoy.

William was located and visited by his brothers around 1788 or 1789. He visited Louisville but remained with the Miami, perhaps because he had married a Wea woman and had a child. They were later captured in a raid by General James Wilkinson in 1791, and presumed dead. [Carter, pg 102] William was drawn to the successful war chief Little Turtle, and eventually married Little Turtle's daughter Wanagapeth ("Sweet Breeze"), with whom he had four children. He served the tribe as a scout during his new father-in-law's wars with the United States.

Later, with Little Turtle's permission, he became an Army officer, serving as a captain in the Legion of the United States, acting as a scout and interpreter for General "Mad Anthony" Wayne. He was wounded in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, [Allison, 120] and went on to act as an interpreter in treaty negotiations [William Wells is listed on the [http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsp&fileName=007/llsp007.db&Page=582 report] for the Treaty of Greenville as the interpreter for the Miamies, Eel Rivers, Weeas, Piankshaws, Kickapoos, and Kaskaskias Indians.] and state visits by Indian chiefs.

William Wells, U.S. Indian Agent

Following the Treaty of Greenville, Chief Little Turtle asked that Wells be appointed as an Indian Agent to the Miami. The U.S. built an agent's house in the newly renamed Fort Wayne, and William and Sweet Breeze, with their children, moved from Kentucky to resettle with the Miami. At the suggestion of General Wayne, Little Turtle and Wells travelled to Philadelphia to visit with President George Washington. [Allison, 119] They were warmly received. Washington gifted Little Turtle with a ceremonial sword, and Wells was given a pension of $20 a month for his wounds at Fallen Timbers. [Allison, 120] The two would travel east again in 1797 to visit the new president, John Adams. [Allison, 120]

When Thomas Jefferson became the United States' third president, Wells requested that he establish a trading post at Fort Wayne to encourage friendly relations with the area natives. Jefferson did establish the post, but appointed John Johnston as manager. Johnston and Wells did not work well together, and each quickly came to resent the other. Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison at first favored Wells, and appointed him a Justice of the Peace. [Allison, 121] Wells was also charged with establishing a mail route between Fort Wayne and Fort Dearborn. Well's good standing with Harrison would soon sour, however, when he sided with his father-in-law, Little Turtle, in opposition to the Treaty of Vincennes, which gave large amounts of land to the Americans for settlement. [Allison, 121] Harrison responded by accusing Wells of opposing the Quaker Agriculture missions to the Miami. Wells appealed to General James Wilkinson, but Wilkinson sided with Harrison and Johnston.

In 1805, Sweet Breeze died. William sent his daughters to live with his brother, Samuel, in Kentucky. He and Little Turtle travelled to Vincennes, and signed Harrison's Treaty of Grouseland. In 1808, however, Wells led a group Indian chiefs from different tribes, including Miami Chiefs Little Turtle and Richardville, to Washington, D.C. to meet directly with President Jefferson. This infuriated Secretary of War Henry Dearborn, who fired Wells and replaced him with his rival, John Johnston. [Allison, 123]

In 1809, William married his third wife, Mary Geiger, daughter of Colonel Frederick Geiger. [Carter, 205] They and Wells' four children returned to Fort Wayne, where he received a discharge from the new U.S. Indian agent John Johnston. Wells had the support of the Miami chiefs and of Kentucky Senator John Pope and went to Washington, D.C. to challenge Johnston's decision. Ultimately, Well's position was left in the hands of territorial Governor William Henry Harrison who, though distrustful of Wells, sided with the Miami out of fear that they could join Tecumseh if provoked, [Carter, 207] William Wells continued to act as United States Indian Agent in Fort Wayne, and was able to keep the Miami out of Tecumseh's confederacy. His brother, Samuel Wells, and his father-in-law, Frederick Geiger, were both at the Battle of Tippecanoe; Geiger was wounded in the initial attack. [Carter, 216]

William Wells also established a farm in Fort Wayne. He petitioned Congress for a convert|1280|acre|km2|sing=on tract of land at the confluence of the St. Joseph and St. Mary Rivers in 1807, which was granted and signed by President Jefferson. ["Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, 1789-1873." See the bill reported on [http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field(DOCID+@lit(sj004201)): 26 November 1807] . It was reported signed by the President of the United States on [http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field(DOCID+@lit(sj004285)): 18 March 1808] ] Little Turtle died in his home in 1812, and was buried nearby.

In 1812, Wells led a group of Miami to come to the aid of Fort Dearborn. Among the Americans under siege was Rebekah Wells: William's niece, and the wife of Nathan Heald. They were ordered to evacuate, but were attacked in the Fort Dearborn Massacre. Nathan and Rebekah Heald were both wounded, but managed to escape and surrender to the British. Wells was shot and killed by Potowatamis. He was himself dressed in Indian fashion, and his face was painted black in anticipation of death. [Birzer, Bradley J. " [http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/825.html Miamis] ." Encyclopedia of Chicago.] His opponents, although considering him a traitor to their cause, nonetheless reportedly ate his heart to gain some of his courage.

Legacy

The following are named for William Wells:
*Wells Street in Chicago, Illinois
*Wells County, Indiana

References

Sources

*

*

* [http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org Encyclopedia of Chicago] . © 2005 Chicago Historical Society.

* [http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=403 William Wells] at ohiohistorycentral.org

*The U.S. Library of Congress has a 10 May 1801 [http://memory.loc.gov/master/mss/mtj/mtj1/023/0700/0779.jpgletter written by William Wells] to Meriwether Lewis- then secretary to President Thomas Jefferson, requesting a meeting between Little Turtle and President Jefferson.


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