Living on an Indian Burial Ground
When I was eight we moved into a new house outside Kokomo, Indiana. The land was reputed as being an old Indian burial ground. Or so I was told.
When we came across the house, the property was carved from a farmer's field which was being developed over time into a small subdivision.
In Indiana, it seemed to be a statement of almost pride to claim you lived on an Indian burial ground. I don’t believe the speaker meant disrespect against the dead. I certainly don't. More likely the statement was intended to conjure fear that can play so easily on a young child’s imagination. As a child the idea I lived on a burial haunted me. (Did they ever rise from their graves?) My imagination ran with it, and conjured things outside my bedroom window that peered in at me: Things that weren’t there except for in my mind’s eye. It didn’t help that people around me fertilized those ideas. The stories were bigger than life, but they were stories woven into everyday life, and everyone seemed to accept them. If anything weird or supernatural happened around the house? Blame it on the inhabitants below.
It wasn’t a stretch of imagination to consider burial grounds throughout my childhood habitat. Two prominent nations had lived in my area: The Miami Nation and the Delaware Nation. Whether there was a graveyard under my house were musings and wishful thinking on someone’s part. I have found no evidence.They did exist, and sometimes in unexpected places. They were found on construction sites nearby or by happenstance as someone passed by an exposed grave.
However, fact or fantasy, it matters not if I lived over one. The idea of a burial ground formed my imagination and developed into the stories that would become the Jamie Poole series and stories I wrote before it.
I was born in Kokomo, Indiana, a town named for a chief. That much is fact. Who Chief Kokomo is has fallen into question. He is buried in Kokomo in the Pioneer Cemetery. He is thought to be the last of the Fighting Miamis.More is known of the legend of Chief Kokomo than the historical facts. And even the legends contradict each other.
One version states: So numerous were Chief Kokomo's acts of kindness that our first settlers insisted the young town be named in his honor. The Howard County Atlas of 1877 has one historian saying simply, "The town derived its name from an old Indian Chief."
Another version states: He was nothing but a "coon-hunting, root-digging old redskin" who was shiftless, atrociously lazy, and given to beating up his squaw every time he over-indulged in strong drink, which was often. According to this story, so despicable was the Indian named Kokomo that the Miami Nation would not claim him as a tribal member.
That legend continues with the explanation that the land the city was built on was so marshy and unpleasant that the city’s founder, David Foster, added tarnish to Chief Kokomo's name. You would think a town-founder would have put a lot of thought into the name he picked for a town he’s founded. But when asked why he named the town Kokomo, Foster is recorded as saying, "It was the orneriest town on earth, so I named it for the orneriest man I knew.”
That, of course, is one man’s perspective and others hold a different opinion. His own men considered him out-spoken and fearless.
Of the Delaware Nation, I have spoken previously of Chief William Anderson, also known as Kikthawenund. I have never heard any stories about him that would be comparable to Chief Kokomo.
In two Jamie Poole stories: Beasts, Bones, and Bylines and Who is Brett Poole? recount real events in and around the Anderson and Alexandria area. For perspective, Kokomo is located about an hour from Anderson and Alexandria.
It is fair to say that there are most certainly First Nation burials, single and multiple, in area I grew up. It is true that you can easily find evidence such as arrowheads throughout the region. There are the mounds in Anderson. There is even a battleground from the Battle of Tippicanoe in Battle Ground, Indiana. about an hour from where I grew up.
Stories and legends swirl around if you listen closely. The legends are probably better known than historical facts. Every year reenactors recreate the Battle of Tippicanoe and try to interpret history for visitors. Of course the battleground is said to be haunted. Looking back, I wonder what areas of Indiana aren’t haunted or said to be haunted by someone or something?
It certainly provided more fodder for imagination as the Jamie Poole stories began to evolve. I invite you to continue following the stories as more truths and legends emerge from a region that, on the surface, might appear uninteresting. There is a lot that lurks in the forests and fields of Indiana, even if it’s all in your imagination!