Chief Hokoleskwa Cornstalk 1
- Born: 1720, Wynepuechisika Village, Western Pennsylvania, USA
- Marriage (1): Helizikinopo about 1739
- Died: 10 Nov 1777, Fort Randolph, Point Pleasant, , West Virginia, USA at age 57
- Buried: Point Pleasant, , West Virginia
Other names for Hokoleskwa were Keigh-tugh-qua,1 Wynepuechsika 1 and Colesqua Cornstalk.1
Cornstalk was a prominent leader of the Shawnee nation just prior to the American Revolution. His name, Hokoleskwa, translates loosely into "stalk of corn" in English, and is spelled Colesqua in some accounts. Wikipedia
Born: 1720, Pennsylvania
Died: November 10, 1777, Fort Randolph, Point Pleasant, WV
Parents: Moytoy II Pigeon of Tellico (of Tainesi (Cherokee)) (1687-1760), Hawwaythi
Other name: Keigh-tugh-qua and Wynepuechsika
Children: Aracoma Cornstalk, Elinipsico Cornstalk
Historians believe he may have been born in present-day Pennsylvania, and with his sister, Nonhelema, moved to the Ohio Country, near present-day Chillicothe, when the Shawnee fell back before expanding white settlement. Stories tell of Cornstalk's participation in the French and Indian War (1754'961763), though these are probably apocryphal. His alleged participation in Pontiac's Rebellion (1763'961766) is also unverified, though he did take part in the peace negotiations.
Cornstalk monument located at Logan Elm State Memorial in Pickaway County, Ohio.
Cornstalk played a central role in Dunmore's War of 1774. After the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix, settlers and land speculators moved into the lands south of the Ohio River in present-day Kentucky. Although the Iroquois had agreed to cede the land, the Shawnee and others had not been present at the Fort Stanwix negotiations. They still claimed Kentucky as their hunting grounds. Clashes soon took place over this. Cornstalk tried unsuccessfully to prevent escalation of the hostilities.
Attempting to block a Virginian invasion of the Ohio country, Cornstalk led a force of Shawnee and Mingo warriors at the Battle of Point Pleasant. His attack, although ferociously made, was beaten back by the Virginians. Cornstalk retreated and would reluctantly accept the Ohio River as the boundary of Shawnee lands in the Treaty of Camp Charlotte.
Cornstalk's commanding presence often impressed American colonials. A Virginia officer, Col. Benjamin Wilson, wrote of Cornstalk's speech to Lord Dunmore at Camp Charlotte in 1774: "I have heard the first orators in Virginia, Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee, but never have I heard one whose powers of delivery surpassed those of Cornstalk on that occasion."
With the American Revolution begun, Cornstalk worked to keep his people neutral. He represented the Shawnee at treaty councils at Fort Pitt in 1775 and 1776, the first Indian treaties ever negotiated by the United States. Many Shawnees nevertheless hoped to use British aid to reclaim their lands lost to the settlers. By the winter of 1776, the Shawnee were effectively divided into a neutral faction led by Cornstalk, and militant bands led by men such as Blue Jacket.
A replica of Fort Randolph, where Cornstalk was murdered.
In the fall of 1777, Cornstalk made a diplomatic visit to Fort Randolph, an American fort at present-day Point Pleasant, seeking as always to maintain his faction's neutrality. Cornstalk was detained by the fort commander, who had decided on his own initiative to take hostage any Shawnees who fell into his hands. When, on November 10, an American militiaman from the fort was killed nearby by unknown Indians, angry soldiers brutally executed Cornstalk, his son Elinipsico, and two other Shawnees. Private Jacob McNeil was one of the soldiers who participated in the capture of the Shawnee Chief Cornstalk, and tried to prevent his murder at Fort Randolph (West Virginia). McNeil testified: "That he was one of the guards over the celebrated Indian chief Corn Stalk [sic: Cornstalk or Hokoleskwa] '96 that when he was murdered [10 Nov 1777] he this affiant did all he could to prevent it '96 but that it was all in vain the American (soldier)'s exasperated at the depredations of the Indians."
American political and military leaders were alarmed by the murder of Cornstalk; they believed he was their only hope of securing Shawnee neutrality. At the insistence of Patrick Henry, then governor of Virginia, Cornstalk's killers '97 whom Henry called "vile assassins" '97 were eventually brought to trial, but since their fellow soldiers would not testify against them, all were acquitted.
Cornstalk was originally buried at Fort Randolph.
In 1840 Cornstalk's grave was rediscovered and his remains were moved to the Mason County Courthouse grounds. In 1954 the courthouse was torn down and he was reburied in Point Pleasant. A local legend claims that he took his revenge in the 1960s by sending the mysterious Mothman to terrorize Point Pleasant. Legends arose about his dying "curse" being the cause of misfortunes in the area (later supplanted by local "mothman" stories), though no contemporary historical source mentions any such utterance by Cornstalk.
The story of Cornstalk's seizure and murder is one of the dark spots in American history.
Born about 1735 in what is now Ohio, the future chieftain was named "Hokoleskwa," meaning "maize plant"hence the English name "Cornstalk." He was also known as Keigh-tugh-qua and Wynepuechsika.
He may have had at least 8 wives and possibly as many as 30 children.
Little is known of his early life, but by 1763 he had become a Shawnee tribal chieftain and led war parties against several white settlements. He was described as being over 6 ft 6 in. tall with flowing white hair. He was spoke English well and was known for eloquent speeches before colonists.
In 1764, soldiers raided his tribal town and took him captive. He was carried to Fort Pitt as a hostage, but escaped the following year. In the following years, he became Sachem of all Shawnee tribes and finally king of the northern confederacy of Indian tribes, composed of the Shawnees, Delawares, Mingoes, Wyandottes and Cayugas.
On Oct. 10, 1774, he led 1,100 of his braves against an equal number of Colonial troops at Pt. Pleasant and after a violent battle, was defeated. Following his defeat, Cornstalk pursued a peace policy and forbade his braves to molest whites.
But in 1777, with the American Revolution at its height, he returned to Pt. Pleasant with two companions to warn settlers that the British were trying to incite his tribesmen to attack them. Fearing an attack, Colonial soldiers seized Cornstalk and his companions and imprisoned them in Fort Randolph as hostages.
A month later, Cornstalk's son, Ellinipsico, came to the fort to see his father. During his visit, a soldier walking near the fort was killed by an Indian, and other soldiers rushed to Cornstalk's quarters to kill him in revenge.
During the American Revolution the British tried to build a coalition of Indians to fight against the colonists. Chief Cornstalk alone refused to join, although many members of his tribe opposed him. Chief Cornstalk, however, had come to believe that his people's survival depended on their friendly relations with the Virginians. In the spring of 1777, he visited the garrison at Point Pleasant with a small contingent of Indians, and he informed the colonials of the coalition that was forming. While the Virginians waited for reinforcements, the Indians were held as hostages. Following the killing of a white man outside the fort by other Indians, Chief Cornstalk and his men (including his son, Elinipsico) were murdered by the soldiers.
Chief Cornstalk was admired, even by his enemies, as a fine orator and courageous warrior.
Cornstalk, who is described by historians as a handsome, intelligent, and highly honorable man, stood calmly in the doorway to his room and faced his slayers. He was felled by nearly a dozen rifle shots. The soldiers then entered the room and killed Cornstalk's son and two companions. The murder of their chieftain turned the Shawnees from a neutral people into the most implacable warriors, who raided Virginia settlements for 20 years after the incident.
Hokoleskwa married Helizikinopo about 1739. (Helizikinopo was born in 1715 and died in 1810.)