Thursday, October 31, 2013

Answer: Who was Major Truman?

Frances Henshaw's map of Ohio (1832)
From Rumsey map collection (see below).

Who WAS Major Truman? 

Without much to go on, I didn't think that searching for 

     [ Major Truman killed ] 

would give me much.  (The words are pretty common.)  So I did a quick search on Google Maps to verify that this part of the US near Lake Erie IS in fact in Ohio.  Once I looked at the map, I realized that this IS a map of Ohio--just labeled with things I hadn't heard about before.  ("Army Lands"?  In Ohio?)  I hadn't heard of Ft. St. Clair before, and I wasn't sure if "Cincinata" was the same as "Cincinnati" or not.  But once I saw the map, it was clear.  

And that led to my first search: 

     [ Major Truman killed Ohio ] 

Like many of our Regular Readers, I found the article on Slate (the online magazine) telling the story of Frances Henshaw, a young girl at the Middlebury Female Academy.  In April 1823, she put together a "Book of Penmanship" to demonstrate her skills at penmanship and cartography.  (This marvelous book can be found at the David Rumsey Map Collection:  Frances Henshaw.  It's worth looking at the entire book.)  

Somewhat to my surprise, the Slate article had a link to the Google Books scan of the  Congressional Serial Set #433 (1844) which has the story of Major Truman.  His company left to make peace with the local Indian groups. But the negotiations didn't go well, and Truman (and his group) were killed.

This Congressional action was a record of the law Congress passed to extend support to the families of Truman (and his compatriot, Colonel John Hardin, who suffered the same goal... and fate).   In the Serial Set it says that: 

"...the widow and child of Major Truman three hundred dollars per year for a like time [ 7 years ] ... " 

Or, $2100.  But then Congress acted to extend $100 / year to the children of Truman and Hardin until they became 21.  We know how much the Hardin children received, but it wasn't known how much Truman's child received.

There are many fascinating details here.  For instance, why is Congress doing this? Answer: there wasn't a Veteran's Affairs department yet... that was set up in 1930, still a long time in the future.  While hospitals and domiciliaries had been set up, Congress was still managing these cases on a one-at-a-time basis.  (See the list of statutes passed by Congress in 1793, including the one for Truman and Hardin's families.)  

While you're looking at that list of statutes passed, note that Truman is ALSO spelled "Trueman."  You have to remember (when doing archival searches) that variant name spellings were common in the 18th century.  (Sidebar note:  I know this is true in English--was it also true in other languages of the period??  Anyone happen to know?) 
While looking for background information, I was trying to understand what Truman (Trueman) and Hardin's (aka "Harding") mission was all about.  

By searching for 

     [ Major Alexander Truman Washington ] 

I was pointed to the Wikipedia entry about the Northwest Indian War (a topic about which I admit to knowing nothing), a war that is also known as the "Old Northwest Indian War", the "Ohio War", the "Ohio Indian War", and the "War for the Ohio River Boundary." In U.S. Army records, it is known as the "Miami Campaign." (See footnote 1 below.)  So even the simplest searches quickly get complicated.  

That same search led me to the FindAGrave site for Truman, which tells us that he was killed near the town of Ottawa, Putnam County, Ohio.  That's certainly consistent with everything else we've learned, so I suspect his last stand was somewhere there.  

This search also led me to the RootsWebAncestry site for Alexander Truman.  But by following up a note I saw there ("... See American State papers, Indian affairs, volume 1, page 243.")  I was able to locate the original story of the ill-fated mission.  (A link to the high-quality TIFF image of that page from the LOC American State Papers. The site link is here.)  It's a sad story.  He was killed, then scalped.  His scalp was then later recognized by a passenger on a boat going upriver (and confirmed by the man with the scalps he held "...on a small stick...").  

From American State Papers: Indian Affairs, Volume 1, p 243.
Highlighting by Dan.

Remember that our questions were: 

1.  Who was Major Truman? Can you find out where (closest current city name) he was killed?  And why was he killed here?   
2.  How much money was paid by Congress to the surviving members of Major Truman's family?   (Approximately...)  

We figured out much of this already:  He was sent out by President Washington to offer a peace treaty to the Indians in that part of Ohio (the Miami tribe).  He was apparently killed near Ottawa, in central Ohio, while conducting negotiations.  

His family was paid at least $2100 ($300/year for seven years) PLUS $100 / year until his daughter turned 21 years of age.  


A.  Fred found a fascinating ref.  When he did a Book search for: 

     [ "major alexander truman" ] 

he found this page in The Papers of Alexander Hamilton gives the expense for supporting Truman's children at $300 / year.  "That can be interpreted that he had 3 children not one being paid $100 per year."   

B.  Rosemary wisely points out that when you're in Google Books you can copy out the TEXT of the book by using the Selection widget in the top part of the book view. 

Once you've selected the tool, you can sweep out a region of the text (yes, it's an image, but there's text underneath it).

Here I've highlighted the section about Major Truman and the law passing benefits to his family.

You can now copy this as either text (in the "Selection text" region) or as an image (Books gives you a URL to the image) OR as an embeddable text widget.

Which is how I get quotes from Books like this (from the reference given above).  Note that there are small OCR errors...
"The committee has had its attention called to what Congress has heretofore done for the widows and heirs of Colonel John Hardin and Major Alexander Truman Those gentlemen were sent by General Washington then President of the United States each with a separate flag in the year 1792 to the Indian towns to invite the Indians to treat and make peace The Indians flushed with the signal victory which they had gained the year before over St Clair refused to treat of peace and put to death Hardin and Truman and all who accompanied them On the 27th of February 1793 Congress passed a law giving to the widow and children of Colonel Hardin four hundred and fifty dollars a year for seven years and to the widow and child of Major Truman three hundred dollars a year for a like time The whole sum given to the widow and children of Colonel Hardin amounted to $3,150 and that to the widow and heirs of Major Truman to $2,100.  On the 14th of May 1800 Congress again took the under consideration and gave to each of the children of Colonel Hardin one hundred dollars a year until they respectively attained the age of twenty one years and also the same sum to the daughter of Major From the information given to the committee as to the number ages of Colonel Hardin's children they received about $2,800 in addition to the $3,150 previously granted them How much was received the daughter of Major Truman under the law of 1800 could not be determined as there was no person before the committee who could state her age when the last law passed..."

Search lessons:  There are a few here.  

1.  Image search actually works on this.  As noted by a few readers, Search-by-Image actually finds the Slate article that this image came from.  (I'm impressed.  I didn't expect it to work!) 

2.  Variant spellings are a fact of life as you go further back in history.  Be aware that you might have to search for different versions of the same name.  (Truman and Trueman)  

3.  Variant NAMES are also a fact of historical record.  This incident was part of the Northwest Indian War, the Ohio War, the Miami Campaign... and so on.  Remember this because different names often also encode different points of view.  (Consider the "First Battle of Bull Run" vs. "First Manassas" -- same event, but very different perspectives.)  

4.  Remember that you can select text out of Books by using the tool.  Be sure to making checking-out-the-tools part of your daily life.  Be curious about what's out there--you never know what you'll find! 

5.  Information is often best found by pulling together pieces from multiple resources and then using THAT combined information to find yet another piece.  (Here we got information from FindAGrave, RootsWebAncestry, and Wikipedia!)  

Search on! 

(Note 1)  After the Revolutionary War, the Americans considered the region in the northwest (that is, much of present day Ohio) theirs by conquest.   Through the creation of the Northwest Territory in 1787, they began to divide the land north of the Ohio River for settlement. Native Americans living in the territory resisted and violence escalated with Native Americans forming Western Confederacy. Their goal was to keep the Ohio River as a boundary between Indian lands and the United States. Little Turtle emerged as one of the leaders of this confederacy, which included the Shawnee under Blue Jacket and the Delaware under Buckongahelas. The war which followed has become known by historians as the Northwest Indian War, but it was also once known as "Little Turtle's War." 

After several battles, Little Turtle and Blue Jacket defeated another American expedition in 1791 led by General Arthur St. Clair. It was the worst defeat the Americans would ever suffer at the hands of American Indians, with some 600 American soldiers killed in action. While Little Turtle and Blue Jacket fielded more than 1,000 warriors, they lost only 40.  

Despite this success, the confederacy was defeated at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, forcing the Western Confederacy to sign the Treaty of Greenville.


  1. wrt - Congressional Serial Set #433
    even a reputable source like the United States. Government Printing Office might get some of the facts wrong - clearly the entire parties of Hardin & Trueman were not killed… (see the LOC American State Papers you cited & the mention of interpreter William Smally) — the fog of war, the haze of time and the rhetorical excess of Congress/governmental minions… and the victors curating the history.

    as you have shown before, even contemporaneous, eyewitness accounts, the best sourced ground truths are suspect… throw in a political or economic agenda and the salt mines will never go out of business - just sayin'.

    from the Google Books scan of the Congressional Serial Set #433 (1844) :
    "The Indians flushed with the signal victory which they had gained the year before over St Clair refused to treat of peace and put to death Hardin and Truman and all who accompanied them."

    trying out the clip function in Books - had to edit the HTML code a bit to get this to work for me - good to know, thanks to you & Rosemary.

    another example of the multiple spelling instance…
    "In historic records, his name was spelled in a variety of ways, including Michikinikwa, Meshekunnoghquoh, Michikinakoua, Michikiniqua, Me-She-Kin-No, Meshecunnaquan and Mischecanocquah."

    I was going to call him the Patton of his time, but maybe he was the Omar Bradley* -

    "Little Turtle continuously advised cooperation with the U.S., refusing an alliance with the Shawnee chief Tecumseh. In 1797, he met cordially with George Washington,[9] who presented him with a ceremonial sword. On this trip he also met Comte de Volney.[9] He also met presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. He and Jefferson discussed the need to introduce American agriculture to Miami society,[10] although it was the Quaker society of Baltimore who finally sent Philip Dennis to demonstrate East Coast farming methods.
    One story says that on his way to Philadelphia to meet Washington, Little Turtle met General Tadeusz Kościuszko, who presented him with a matching pair of pistols[9] along with instructions to use them on "the first man who ever comes to subjugate you.""

    *Gen. Bradley: "Red China is not the powerful nation seeking to dominate the world. Frankly, in the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this strategy would involve us in the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy."
    The Little Turtle also ended up in the "wrong war"…

  2. On this page ( Frances Henshaw's map of Ohio is projected on several Google map versions. Zoom in on Ohio: the text “Major Trumann Killed” is near Findlay.

  3. I tried a search for [ major alexander "trueman" ] I came up with this Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements. It mentions 2 of Major Truman's children, Alex'r M. Trueman and "...Polly alias Mary Rodgers deceased, a daughter of the late Major Alexander Trueman deceased, who was killed by the Indians."
    Can anyone tell me if the word "alias" meant something intriguing back then or was it just another word for nickname?

  4. Fred this document consistently confuses the issue of whether we are talking about 'Captain Trueman' or 'Major Trueman'. As well it goes on to say Trueman went on to serve until the close of the war. Our Trueman didn't serve until the end but was murdered during the war. As for alias I can only suppose it means 'known officially as'. I think this document shows us why its very difficult to get an absolute answer. I actually think it's remarkable that we can even delve this deeply into history of 200 years ago. I hope our current records give this and more insight 200 years from now.

    1. Sorry I wasn't clear. The Alex'r M. Trueman is Alexander Magruder Trueman, Major Trueman's son. I just used the same spelling of the document. For the purpose of this challenge I just take it that Truman = Trueman. :-)

  5. Is anyone else not finding the selection widget when they use google books. It just isn't there for me. I wonder if it is because I am in Canada, and it is a US only feature. I manually changed .ca to .com in my books search, but still no widget?

    This is a useful tool, any advice on how I can get this?

    1. Tim - I am in Canada as well and I suspect it has more to do with your browser/operating system. Let's test it out. I am looking right now at "The History of Madison County, Ohio: Containing a History of the... Volume 2"
      On my Chromebook I have the clipping icon above. I know without a doubt that if I were to check on my Android tablet I would not have this icon. However if you are using Android elsewhere I was able to select the text- copy & paste. But you won't have the two other options i.e. Copy as an image or imbed to webpage. I suppose there is one other feature we won't have within this tool and that would be translating. I think that's a great feature as well. Good luck.

  6. it was a more rough & tumble time… yet less muddled… that kind of peril probably brought a type of clarity.
    seems a largely ignored period now, perhaps to our detriment… the old saw about history:
    "Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
    history is a web, the trick is to be the spider and not the fly…

    a little clarification on the murder scene - Hog Creek, aka The Ottawa River (Shawnee: Koskothiipi) - tributary to the Auglaize River. Am still confused that it appears to be the Blanchard River that flows through Ottawa and Findlay while the Ottawa actually passes through Lima…
    Blanchard v Ottawa rivers
    a bit of Shawnee
    and some other characters in the mix, including Colonel Alexander McKee (who also met with Washington)
    Simon Girty (the nuanced ties with Canada)
    Simon Girty & Colonel William Crawford/Gierty seen by William Clark (of Lewis & Clark fame)
    Col. Crawford
    Col. Crawford - enhanced torture, not waterboarding
    Crawford monument

    Dan, off subject, but couldn't help but wonder if your work with sRs was part of the calculus with this move? maybe you'll be getting a call too… flux is another word for the present -
    01111001 01100001 01101000 01101111 01101111 (purple)