Three White Men Hanged For Killing Indians
Pendleton, Indiana is a town of less than 5,000 people. Near its center is a large pleasant park. Inside the park is a simple rectangular concrete marker, popping up through the grass with a simple message:
"Three White Men Were Hung Here In 1825 For Killing Indians"
There's nothing else around it, just the marker. It's an odd image, one that lends itself to photographs and interpretation.
It turns out that this was a big deal in 1825. In those days, many whites did not consider the killing of Indians a crime. In fact, William Henry Harrison, our 9th President (or 17th President) made his reputation by killing a lot of Indians not too far from here, at the Battle of Tippecanoe, near what is now Battle Ground, IN in 1811.
But in this case, the murder was so egregious -- a group of whites descended on two Seneca Indian families, stealing their pelts and killing everyone, including four children -- that a fierce debate was sparked. A more standard historical marker stands at the site of the massacre, some 7 miles away.
So it came to pass that for the first time, whites were formally charged with murder for killing Indians. Four were tried and found guilty. A 19 year old was pardoned, but on June 3rd, 1825, the others were hanged in front of a large crowd, "including many Indians." The Indians didn't stay. According to the 2000 census, Pendleton is 98.5% white, and 0.1% Native America. What did stay was the sense of justice. Pendleton is home to two adult and one juvenile correction facilities.
And breakthrough though it was, Pendleton residents were not immune to backsliding. Another, more subtle marker on the other side of the park notes that in 1843, abolitionist Frederick Douglas was attacked by a mob while attempting to deliver a lecture. According to Douglas, the "well armed" mob of 60 knocked him unconscious and broke his hand.