Sunday, March 20, 2005

Wabash and Erie

Some readers may have noticed that not all of the sites listed on my Blogroll are actually blogs. A few are websites that I think are particularly worthwhile and might be of interest to people who aren't totally bored by the things I write about. Lately I've been checking out my mother's family tree, also known as the 'Descendants of George Steele', and trying to make some sense of the massive amount of information it contains.

When you have a relatively large family tree, some 20,000 individual names grouped among more than a thousand different surnames, one way to make sense of it is to look at the surnames on the list with the most entries. More than 800 entries are found on my tree with the Steele surname. After Steele, the surnames that occur most frequently are Conner, Hoover, Puderbaugh and Studebaker. While I am a distant relative of both Herbert Hoover and John Studebaker, the relation is distant enough so that neither of them are among the descendants of my great great great great great grandfather, George Steele.

I had not been aware of a relation to anyone named Conner until I examined the tree in this way. And I didn't know of anyone with the name Conner who was in any way famous. But that changed abruptly when I Googled up the name Conner a few weeks ago. I found a site called Conner Prairie - History Online which is now listed on my sidebar. The site has a tremendous amount of information on the early history of Indiana and the role William Conner played in it. I have no doubt that I am related to William Conner, but I can't say how exactly on the basis of my family tree alone. One thing that is clear, though, is that without William Conner, the Hoovers wouldn't have reached Iowa where Herbert was born and John Studebaker would have had to build cars in Pennsylvania instead of Indiana.

William Conner was quite directly involved in the process of removing Indians from Ohio and Indiana to reservations farther west so that pioneers pushing west from the eastern seaboard could settle in those states and beyond. He did so by raising two families, the first by his Indian wife and the second by a white woman who he married after his first family had been removed to the reservation. The article on William Conner is a must for anyone interested in knowing how the west was really won. Other articles on that site I find fascinating are those on the building of the National Road from Wheeling, West Virginia nearly to the Mississippi and a series of articles on the other half of the Erie Canal known as the Wabash and Erie, which opened vast tracts of densely forested land to settlement along the Wabash River between Fort Wayne and Lafayette. Those were America's first great public works projects and they aren't often mentioned these days because they are so closely associated with the process of Indian removal.

Another site I've added to my sidebar is the 'wea-indian-tribe', a site put together by Brenda Lindley with amazingly detailed recollections of American history and genealogy passed down by oral tradition among the tribes that were removed from Ohio and Indiana.

I suppose what I'm offering is just a little something to think about when the news media starts to square the events at Columbine High School in Colorado a few years ago with a more recent incident on a reservation in upstate Minnesota.

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