Chief Anderson

Chief AndersonAnderson has long been proud of its Native American heritage and of its founder, Chief William Anderson. Anderson (or Kik-tha-we-nund, his Delaware name) was born in the 1740s in Anderson's Ferry (now Marietta), Pennsylvania. His mother was a daughter of the Delaware Tribal Chief Netaawatwees and his father was a Swedish trader. Throughout his life, Anderson went by both his father's and his Indian name. Not much is known about his early life, but he was much influenced by his grandfather with whom his spent much of his time.

Tribal strife during the Revolutionary war divided the Delaware. Anderson sided with Chief White Eyes, who was pro-American. After the war, increasing white settlement in Pennsylvania drove the tribe west. The Delaware struck a bargain with the Miami to settle on some of their territory and Anderson (by then the head of the Turkey Clan of the Unami Delaware) and his tribe settled in several villages along the White River. Anderson himself settled in a small village located in what is now downtown Anderson. His personal residence (a two story log home) was probably located where the present-day city building is.

Kik-tha-we-nund was an influential leader who was able to suppress the liquor trade among the Delaware. During the uprising of Tecumseh and his brother the Prophet, he kept his tribe out of war. In 1818, he signed the Treaty of St. Mary's for the Delaware and reluctantly prepared to be relocated. The tribe left Indiana and had a troubled journey to Kansas, where the settled briefly. He spent most of the rest of his life trying to negotiate a better settlement for his people.

Chief Anderson had four known sons and one daughter. His sons became famous scouts and guides for western-bound wagon trains. His daughter, Mekinges, married William Conner, a white trader, and had six children by him. When the Indians left Indiana, Conner decided that his wife and children should go to receive their land in the West, but that he would stay. He re-married (to a white woman) before Mekinges left Indiana, but was otherwise fair to her, giving her half his money and a large group of horses. He also bought the family's Indiana lands and gave them a fair price for them.

A missionary who met Chief Anderson in 1823 described him as "a very dignified man in character and appearance, upward of six feet tall, well proportioned, a man of great benevolence and power, of excellent understanding, but not a public speaker." He was probably a shrewd businessman as well. When the Moravian missionaries living in the Anderson area left after a five year residence, the Chief charged them "one young ox, three hogs and a table made from the wood of this place" as rent before he would allow them to go.

Locally, romantic legends abound about Chief Anderson. It is told that he died here, by riding his Indian pony off a high bluff into the White River. Another story credits him with a second daughter who also married a trader and who stayed in Indiana when the tribe left. Chief Anderson is said to have returned to visit her and to have died during the visit. In the 1890's, when the Anderson Hotel was being built, a skeleton was found which many locals were convinced belonged to him. History (and the Delaware tribe) record that Anderson died in September 1831 in the tribe's new home in Missouri.

If you are interested in reading more about Chief William Anderson and his family, two good books are Kik-Tha-We-Nund, The Delaware Chief and His Descendants by Ruby Cranor and The Lenni Lenape by local historian Ray Davis. Both are available for checkout here at the Library.

Anderson made label