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 Green Doled Out His Brand of Justice

 
 

Captain John Green was a significant person in Madison County's rich and colorful history.  History does not record where he came from or where he went after he lived here.  However, during his brief stay here he made a name for himself.

Those who met him described how he spoke the English language readily and his own with great fluency.  He was of genteel manners and easy address, always wearing his war emblems, characteristically displayed, as a mark of consequence and distinction.  He was tall and well-proportioned, weighing about 240 pounds with a dark and swarthy complexion.  Although he was of French extraction, his Indian characteristics strongly distinguished him.  One account related "of hearing of an Indian, whose English name was Green, say he had killed enough white people for himself and pony to swim in their blood."

The Delaware selected sites for their villages along waterways.  While most Delaware villages in central Indiana were located on White River there was one in Madison County located on a tributary of the river.  Green's village, called Greentown by the early traders, was located on a stream of water later known as Green's Branch.  A government survey conducted here in 1821, which located the Indian villages, does not mention the village.  However, an advertisement for a Sale of Lots in Andersontown in the Indianapolis Gazette, August 16, 1825, stated that Andersontown was surrounded by several villages and among them was Greentown. 

Our county histories mention it as well.  It was located in what is today, Mays Park on Tenth Street between John Street and Madison Avenue.  Green's Branch once flowed diagonally through this area.  It was along this stream that Captain John Green established his village sometime between 1806 and 1821.

Idol Devotion

When the first settlers came to Madison County, they could discern near Green's wigwam traces of the pathway where prisoners, brought before him for trial, were made to run the gauntlet.  There is a fairly well authenticated account to the effect that Captain Green was an idolater.  He had a large slab of wood fashioned to represent a human face, which was elevated to a height of some 12 or 15 feet above the ground upon a tree, and to this image he paid his devotions.

In later  years, Judge John Davis managed to secure possession of this idol and for a time kept it in one of the rooms of the old courthouse.  Later it disappeared and its fate is not known.  Some speculate it was destroyed by fire among other relics kept in the old courthouse on December 10, 1880.

If one followed the northwest course of Green's Branch for approximately 5/8 of a mile from Green's village, it would bring you to the only known site of a torture or burning stake located in Madison County.  The site was just back of a gravel pit once owned by Peter Blivens, and the pit was immediately north of the site of what was later the famous "One Mile House," a log cabin built in 1839.  That house, located on the north side of the Strawtown Road(West Eighth Street) and a mile west of the courthouse, was erected for the purpose of serving as a tavern and was a stopping place on the Strawtown Road for travelers going west.

Green's Branch ran north along the east side of the property as it made its way to White River.  Today, the site of the famous tavern is the northwest corner of Eighth and Sycamore Streets, and the stake was a short distance north of that intersection.

Torture Post

The earliest settlers of the county remember with a shudder the blackened stake that stood just back of the Peter Blivens gravel pit.  The stake was used by the Indians as a post to which prisoners were tortured and burned.  An early settler recalled hearing of a French trader who killed an Indian squaw, had been captured, and burned alive at this stake.  The ground around it had been tramped and beaten until it looked like a circus ring.  When some of the oldest Indians would get sufficient fire water in them to loosen their tongues, they told that many captives, both white and red, had been burned at this stake.

One description I found of a torture post describes it as oak wood, 10 feet in height, with a rough outline of a human face on both sides.  Three rings of wood surrounded the post.  The outer ring was lit first and after it burned out, the other two rings were burned in similar fashion.  The whole process would take approximately 24 hours and was intended to prolong the suffering of the victim.

There is no accounts of the use of a torture stake by Chief Anderson or the other Delaware chiefs who lived near here.  The only other one in the area was near Muncie in the Delaware village called Wapekommekoke.  It has been well documented and the stake's location is marked today on the Old Town Hill property.

Captain John Green is a mystery and probably will remain so.  His ruthlessness may have some connection to his ancestral past as the Delaware Indians at the time of the French and Indian War(1755-1763) were notorious for their brutal acts along the Pennsylvania frontier against the settlers who were encroaching upon their land.

His actions here seem out-of-place when compare with the relative peaceful nature of the other Delaware Indians who lived here.  However, there is much we don't know about their existence here, and that leave the door open to many possibilities.

By Stephen T. Jackson, Madison County Historian   

Madison County Historical Society|15 West 11th Street, P. O. Box 696, Anderson, Indiana 46015-0696|(765) 683-0052|madisonchs@sbcglobal.net

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