MySource:Srblac/Indiana Magazine of History: A Delaware Indian's Reservation: Samuel Cassman vs. Goldsmith C. Gilbert

MySource Indiana Magazine of History: A Delaware Indian's Reservation: Samuel Cassman vs. Goldsmith C. Gilbert
Author Dolores M. Lahrman & Ross S. Johnson
Abreviation Sam Cassman Article
Place Indiana, United States|Indiana
Year range -
Surname Cassman
Publication information
Publication Indiana University Department of History in cooperation with the Indiana Historical Society,, June 1975
Dolores M. Lahrman & Ross S. Johnson. Indiana Magazine of History: A Delaware Indian's Reservation: Samuel Cassman vs. Goldsmith C. Gilbert. (Indiana University Department of History in cooperation with the Indiana Historical Society,, June 1975).
Name Scott Black and Betsy Feaster Genealogical Library
Address Fort Wayne Indiana
Call # Copy on File

June 1975, Volume LXXI, Number 2
Searchable Index

Selected Passages:

At St. Mary's, Ohio, on October 3, 1818, commissioners of the United States, Jonathan Jennings, Lewis Cass, and Benjamin Parke, concluded a treaty with the Delaware Indians. In that treaty the Delaware ceded to the United States all claim to their tribal lands in the newly formed state of Indiana in return for the promise of a "country to reside in, upon the west side of the Mississippi" and a guaran¬tee of the "peaceful possession of the same." Special provisions for several members of the tribe not expected to make the trek west were made in Article 7 of the treaty:

  • One half section of land shall be granted to each of the following persons, namely: Isaac Wobby, Samuel Cassman, Elizabeth Petchaka, and Jacob Dick; and one quarter of a section of land shall be granted to each of the following persons, namely: Solomon Tindell and Benoni Tindell; all of whom are Delawares; which tracts of land shall be located, after the country is surveyed, at the first creek above the old fort on White river, and running up the river; and shall be held by the persons herein named, respectively, and their heirs; but shall never be conveyed or transferred without the approbation of the President of the United States.

According to Delaware County historians, Samuel Cassman, one of those designated as recipient of a 320 acres, was a half breed. Some family sources call him a full blooded Indian of the Delaware tribe, but the consensus is that he had some Caucasian ancestry. Cassman family tradition indicates that about 1812 he left Montreal, Canada, with his two brothers, Jasper and Newton, who settled near Detroit, Michigan, and became prosperous farmers. Samuel chose to live in the area which later became Delaware County, Indiana, though he may have wandered about the northeastern United States for some time before settling in Indiana.

Samuel first married a French woman whose name was Elizabeth. The marriage is thought to have taken place in Canada. Six sons were born of this union: Lathrup, Phil¬ander, Ethen, Hampton, Isaac, and Oregon. Lathrup was born in 1808, some four years before Cassman came into the United States.

After Elizabeth's death, Cassman married again. His second wife was called Thirza. A Delaware County document refers to her as a "free white female." No children are known to have been born of this marriage. In the 1840 census she is recorded as being between forty and fifty years of age, while Samuel is between fifty and sixty. Lathrup Cassman, in a letter written in 1832, speaks of his father as an old man, though he could not have been more than fifty-two if the census data are accurate.

No record has been discovered explaining the grant of land to Cassman. There is no indication that he was being rewarded for a service nor that he was related to an Indian chief or scout, as is the case with grants made in some other treaties, notably with the Miami. Nothing has yet come to light about his parentage. Cassman is not listed among the signatories of the treaty at St. Mary's nor in his pleas and petitions to government officials does he ever refer to having done the tribe or the United States a service.

Though Cassman may have applied for confirmation of title to his land as early as 1820, the survey stipulated by the treaty was completed only in 1822. A patent dated September 10, 1823, granted to Samuel Cassman the north half of section twenty-two, in township twenty, of range nine, in the land district of Brookville. It differed from the usual patent by stating that in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty of St. Mary's he had "located" the land, and by repeating the treaty prohibition against transfer of the property without approval of the president. Patents regularly stated that evidence of payment for the land had been presented. Although Cassman's tract has been called the "first purchase" in Mount Pleasant Township, no mention of payment appears in his patent.

If Cassman selected this particular half section himself, he showed considerable perspicacity. This was rich and desirable land. It is described as having the "White river crossing the northwest part and Buck creek the center, in a northwesterly course, furnishing excellent water power for mill sites, which were in later years utilized. Originally a heavy growth of timber covered Mount Pleasant Township creating a rich woodland of oak, walnut, poplar, ash, hickory, maple, beech, and sycamore. It would seem that Cassman had reason to expect the possession of such land to bring him respect, comfort, and security; but it soon became a source of anguish to him, partly through his own fault, but largely because of the insatiable hunger of pioneer entrepreneurs to acquire and develop the wilderness lands. It seems that Cassman moved onto his property in 1824 or 1825, cleared land, built, and began farming. In 1832 Lathrup reported that he had been given eighty acres on which he had built a house and made improvements before his father sold the land. The Cassman name does not appear in the 1830 census of Delaware County, possibly because Cassman's land was still classified as a reservation (Reserve No. A 33) at that time and, being considered Indian, the family was not enrolled among citizens or taxpayers. The 1840 census lists three separate Cassman households headed by Samuel, Lathrup, and Philander, each of whom has agriculture as his occupation.

Cassman's ambition and industry apparently did not im¬press some of the white settlers. An assessment of Samuel Cassman, though published much later, is sweepingly denunciatory: "Such facts as are known of him do not honor him in his distinction as the first recorded land owner in this county. He had the Indian thirst for whisky, and had neither the thrift nor industry to develop his land and become a factor of civilization. Examination of documents, however, seems to reveal the more complex picture of a bewildered Indian trying to cope with official red tape, unresponsive agents, and Jacksonian policies in handling Indian affairs. Cassman was hampered by his poverty, lack of education and business acumen; by the white man's prejudice, greed, and impatience to possess the land; and especially by his own frequent intemperance. Cassman obtained whiskey at stores kept by white men who then hypocritically condemned his use of it.

Note: The article goes on to explain Samuel's struggles with selling the land to white settlers. He long strove to use the foreign system to get justly compensated for his land.

As for Samuel Cassman, after Thirza's death in probably the early 1810s, he is said to have spent some time at the Mississinewa Reservation near Peru, Indiana. According to family tradition, corroborated by Delaware County historians, he went hunting on a wintry day and failed to return. His body was later found frozen in the hollow of a tree where he must have taken refuge. This was in Madison County in 1849. Though he died tragically alone, this Indian, "a large man, about six feet tall," was brought down, one might philosophize, more fittingly perhaps by nature's severity than had he died peacefully in his bed. Though labeled a drunken Indian he had for a time sobered the established powers, themselves intoxicated by a land grabbing passion. A man of peace, he with his sons had been victorious in a skirmish on Buck Creek where the quill in the hands of the scarcely literate was proved to be mightier than the arrow had been to win the Indian his rights in Indiana.