Since November is Native American Heritage Month, I thought we’d explore some of Hamilton County’s Native American history this week.
The Native American presence in this county dates back to prehistoric times, but for this column I’m just going to stick to Indians of the historic period. Those were mainly the Delaware — or as they called themselves, the Lenape.
The Delawares originally lived along the Delaware River in New York and New Jersey, but were pushed westward by white settlement. They arrived in Indiana during the last decades of the 18th century.
At that time, the Miami Confederacy claimed this territory, but the Miamis held the Delawares in high esteem, calling them their “Grandfathers,” and they allowed the Delawares to settle here.
Charles N. Thompson’s book “Sons of the Wilderness: John and William Conner” includes a map and descriptions of Hamilton County’s Delaware villages, all of which were located along White River.
The northernmost of these was the Indian village of Strawtown, which was situated a little over one and a half miles northeast of present-day Strawtown, on the opposite side of the river.
An 1850 Indiana gazetteer claims the name, “Strawtown,” was derived from a house thatched with straw. Most sources, however, indicate that a Chief Straw or Strawbridge once lived there.
I tend to believe the Chief Straw explanation. I trust Native American oral history more than I do a book published 30 to 40 years after the fact by people who probably never saw an Indian. (Besides, the Delawares lived in bark-covered wigwams.)
The next village, Sarah Town, was located about one mile southwest of modern Strawtown, on the east side of White River. The name came from Sarah, a Christian Indian who lived there with her husband, Isaac, and the couple’s sons.
Sarah Town was said to be one of the three largest Delaware towns on White River. (The other two were Wapicomekoke, a village near Muncie, and Anderson’s Town, present-day Anderson.)
Around seven miles south of Sarah Town, in the general vicinity of Horseshoe Prairie, was Upper Delaware Town.
There were actually three villages located within a couple of miles of each other in this area. It’s not clear if only one of these was Upper Delaware Town, or if the town was made up of all three.
In 1801 William and John Conner were licensed to trade at a village called “Petchepencues.” Since William Conner built his trading post so close to this site in 1802, it’s been speculated that Petchepencues was another name for Upper Delaware Town.
Next on the map is Connerstown, the site of William Conner’s trading post (Conner Prairie,) although according to Thompson, there were only “a few portable Indian lodges” there. It was two or three miles south of the Upper Delaware Town.
About four miles south of Conner’s trading post was another Delaware village, the name of which was not recorded. This would have been just west of White River between 116th and 106th Streets.
Lower Delaware Town, the final village on Thompson’s map, was located just north of the Marion County line.
There wasn’t much to Lower Delaware Town. At the most it seems to have consisted of land cultivated by a Delaware called “the Owl” on the east side of the river, and a French half-breed doctor on the west.
These are just the established Delaware towns on Thompson’s map and doesn’t account for all the Native Americans in the county.
Small bands of Indians were known to roam through occasionally, and then there was Charley Ketcham, who chose to live like his white neighbors and is considered one of the first settlers in the Carmel area.

Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Wednesday in The Times. Contact her at