Thorntown Indian Heritage
This county was once the abode and hunting ground of the Eel River tribe of the Miami Indians; here were their wigwams, their fields, and the graves of their fathers and their brave warriors. In 1819, Thorntown (Kawiakiungi) had a population of 400 Indians and a few French traders, and the large reserve, approximately 64,000 acres, at this place was not finally purchased until 1828, nor did they remove entirely until about 1835. A historical marker on the north side S.R. 47 about a half mile east of town marks the burial grounds of the Eal River Tribe of the Miami Indians.
The Eel River Indians were named for a tributary of the Wabash River in Indiana. They, along with the Wea and Piankashaw, were an Algonquian people and a subgroup of the Miami. No longer an identifiable tribe, their descendants may presently be among the Miami Nation of Oklahoma.
First reported in 1765, the village of the Eel River Indians was located six miles above the confluence of the Eel and Wabash rivers in present Cass County, Indiana. They subsequently moved to the Eel's mouth, where Kentucky militiamen attacked them in 1791. Their settlement destroyed, the tribe relocated along present Sugar Creek in Boone County, Indiana. Hostilities between them and the United States continued until the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794.
The United States recognized the Eel River Indians in the treaty of Greenville, Ohio, in 1795. Other important agreements were negotiated in 1818 and 1828. The former provided the tribe with a ten-square-mile reservation along Sugar Creek near Thorntown, Indiana. The latter exchanged their Sugar Creek land for acreage in present Miami County, Indiana.
The federal government had designated the Miami, Eel River, and Wea "the Miami Nation of Indians" in 1814. The Eel River, however, were granted a separate status in 1847. That decision allowed them to remain in Indiana after the Miami were removed west in 1846-47. Never numerous, the Eel River population was nineteen and mostly female in 1851. Sixteen resided in Indiana, and three lived with the Miami in Kansas. The Kansas trio and/or their offspring accompanied the Miami to Indian Territory present Oklahoma) in 1873 and enrolled as Miami in 1889.