Walking in Leatherlips’ final steps

DUBLIN, Ohio – Wyandot Chief Shateyaronyah was known as a friend to the white settlers who lived in what is today Central Ohio. So strong was his word, according to legend, he gained the nickname Leatherlips.

But in 1810, his desire to cooperate with white settlers – and perhaps his refusal to relocate to northern Ohio with other members of his tribe – seemingly led to his demise.

Years earlier, in 1795, Leatherlips – whose native name meant “Long Gray Hair” – signed the Treaty of Greenville and over the years advocated for a closer relationship with white settlers. In fact, he sold native land to William Henry Harrison, a future president of the United States.

His position drew the ire of some Wyandots who wanted to take the fight to the United States. But, Leatherlips refused to take up arms.

By 1810, Roundhead, Leatherlips’ brother and fellow Wyandot chief, ordered his execution, according to various accounts. On June 1, 1810, “six Wyandots, equipped in the most warlike maker,” arrived in Columbus to find Leatherlips, Edward Eggleston and Lillie Eggleston Seelye wrote in the 1878 book “Tecumseh and the Shawnee prophet.” Other accounts indicate there were four Wyandots.

Leatherlips was tried – and ultimately convicted – on what most accounts indicate was a trumped up charge of witchcraft. After his conviction, Leatherlips ate a last meal of jerked venison, dressed in his finest wares and headed to the site of his execution.

Kneeling near a hole that was to be his grave, the chief sang his death song. White settlers tried to intervene and save Leatherlips’ life, but they did not succeed, and the chief was executed and buried, according to accounts of that day.

The exact location of Leatherlips’ execution is open to debate, but a monument said to mark the location was erected in 1889 at what is today the intersection of Riverside Drive (Ohio Route 257) and Stratford Avenue. Another source places the execution at the entrance to the nearby Olentangy Indian Caverns.

The caverns, located in nearby Delaware, are worthy of a visit in their own right. According to the caverns’ webpage, Wyandots used the caverns over the years as a place of refuge from both their enemies and the weather.

A newer monument in Dublin, located on Riverside Drive, was commissioned by the Dublin Arts Council and dedicated on July 1, 1990. Located in Scioto Park and designed by Boston artist Ralph Helmick, the 12-foot-tall rock sculpture made from stacked limestone depicts the chief’s face and gives visitors the chance to walk atop Leatherlips’ head for a photo.

As a postscript, a curse of Leatherlips has been blamed over the years for rain delays during the Memorial Tournament at the Jack Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village Golf Club. According to various sources, the golf club is built on top of an old Indian burial ground, a claim that is disputed.

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About Todd DeFeo 1651 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is the owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and Railfanning.org.