Nelson Tawataw Home
The Miami Indians in Grant County
Sometime around 1760, the Miami chief, Metocinyah, moved his tribe to the Mississinewa River area in Grant and Wabash counties (Meginness 97). As the Miami’s continued to live in the area, their population grew. A treaty in 1838 granted Metocinyah a reservation consisting of ten sections of land running for ten miles along the north side of the Mississinewa River in northern Grant and southern Wabash counties. The old chief died shortly after, and in 1840 another treaty with the United States government granted this same portion of land to the band of his son, Meshingomeshia (Winger 80). Due to the fact that Chief Meshingomeshia was granted a reservation by the government, these Miami’s was permitted to remain in Indiana. Unfortunately, beginning in the 1840s, nearly 400 other Indians were forced to move west of the Mississippi (Miami Nation of Indians of Indiana).
Until 1873, all of the Native Americans on Meshingomeshia’s reservation held the land in common. Some built cabins, others sustenance farmed, while others followed the old methods of hunting and fishing. Several members of the band, however, began to pressure their chief to divide up the land among the Indians. Eventually yielding, Meshingomeshia petitioned the government to divide the land equally among all sixty-three members of his band, including all ages and both sexes. The reservation was divided into sixty-three allotments, or farms (Winger 81).
Nelson Tawataw Family
Shepanemah and Changshinggah were two of the Native Americans who received land in 1873. This couple, also known as Nelson and Melvina Tawataw, was married on March 27, 1864 (Brant and Fuller). Nelson was the grandson of Meshingomeshia, while Melvina was the granddaughter of the legendary Frances Slocum (Winger 78). Even though Melvina was not originally part of Meshingomeshia’s band, she was given a parcel of land because she was married to Nelson (a member) when the division occurred. When the land was divided in 1873, Nelson and Melvina had four children. Each child, Emma, Frances, Ellen, and Camillus, also received a parcel of land. The family received approximately 430 acres total (Winger 82). They decided to build their home on Melvina’s 79.55-acre allotment in Section Ten of Pleasant Township (Eaton 8.1). The rest of the land may have been used for farming.
Nelson Tawataw was known to be a man of fine character. He was honest and paid back all of his debts (Winger 78). Shortly after the house was completed in 1879, a deadly tuberculosis epidemic devastated the Indian community. Nelson, his father (Awtawwawtaw), grandfather (Meshingomeshia), and several other Miamis died that year (Rafert 153). In fact, by 1890, over half of Meshingomeshia’s band had died (Rafert 158).
Melvina and her children continued to live in their farmhouse near the junction of 250 West and 600 North until her death in 1894. Camillus then purchased the family’s property for $5,320 (Eaton 8.2). Joseph Neff served as the administrator of estate for the property transfer (Deed, 1894). Sadly, Camillus would own the property for only two years. Camillus “being caught between two worlds and finding purpose in neither” (Eaton 8.2) became an alcoholic and sank into depression. He committed suicide in his father’s red brick home on November 13, 1895 (Watson).
Passage of the Land, Dispersal of the Miami
Apparently, Camillus died without a will. His sisters and only living heirs, Emma Walters and Dulcena Hansley, possessed the 210 acres containing the Tawataw house for less than three months. The property was deeded to the family’s attorney, William H. Charles, in two different transfers for a total of $1000 (Deeds; 1895, 1896). While Emma and John built a large family (Winger 82), Dulcena died in March of 1896 shortly after the transfer (Record of Deaths 1888-1903). James Hansley remarried soon thereafter to Maude, and had one child by the time of the 1900 Census (Twelfth Census of the US). It appears that Emma and Dulcena, and perhaps other family members before them, transferred or sold away all that remained of their allotment of the Indian reservation. The fate of this family is sadly similar to that of all other Miamis. The band soon dispersed into Marion, Peru, and Wabash, worked in factories and lived “very much like their white neighbors...and have all but forgotten about their Indian ancestry” (Winger 83).
According to Rafert, by 1903 only one percent of the original reserve (about fifty-five acres) was owned by Miamis. All of the rest ended up in the hands of poor whites who married Indian women for their farms, and creditors who were local attorneys and merchants (158). William H. Charles, of the St. John and Charles law firm, may very possibly have been a typical creditor. William Charles and his wife, Maggie, had two children and lived at 910 South Adams Street in Marion, Indiana (Twelfth Census of the US). Mr. Charles had represented the family for several years, at least since 1888 (Abstract of Title 9). In 1899, Charles sold a total of 240 acres in section 10 of Pleasant Township, containing the Tawataw house, for $12,000 (Deed 1899). He seems to have made a significant profit on the sale of this property. Mr. Charles’ son, Philip, who owned quite a bit of farm land, continued to live at 910 South Adams Street until the late 1970s (Whonsettler).
On September 6, 1899, Daniel Stuber (who moved his family to Indiana from Henry County, Ohio) purchased the Tawataw house from Mr. Charles. The 1900 census reveals that Daniel and his wife of five years, Amanda, were both born in Ohio of parents who were immigrants from Germany. Their eight children had all been born in Ohio as well. The three oldest children, Della, Lydia Caroline, and Roy were Daniel’s children from a previous marriage (Twelfth Census of US). The couple would go on to have three more children while they lived in the Tawataw house. Interestingly enough, the Stubers sold gas and oil drilling rights to the Ohio Oil Company in June of 1901 (Abstract of Title 61). This time period corresponds with the gas boom that occurred in Grant County. The discovery of gas did much to increase the population of the area and improve the economy.
Daniel died on April 10, 1943 (Abstract of Title 25). After his estate was settled in 1949, the farm was split up and sold to three of the Stuber children. Lydia Caroline and her husband, Clarence Lobdell, bought Changshingga’s original 79.55-acre allotment (on which the Tawataw house stood) for $15,100 (Deed 1949). The property remained in the Lobdell/Stuber family until 1969, when Clarence sold it to Robert H. Carson for “$1 and other valuable considerations” (Deed 1969). The Stuber family still owns property in section 10 of Pleasant Township. Larry Stuber is the owner of the tract of land directly west of the Tawataw house. In 1998, he returned the old Miami Indian School (which had been used as a corncrib on his property) to the Miami Indians of Indiana. The school has been renovated and is now located at the site of the Indian Cemetery northwest of the 250 West and 600 North intersection (Waters).
Robert and Claudia Carson never chose to live in the Nelson Tawataw house that they purchased on June 30, 1969. Instead, they rented out the property. The Bob Sirk family lived in the house for approximately ten years (Helt). The Carson’s have owned Peerless Machine and Tool Corporation in Marion for many years (Geier). After Robert Carson’s death, Claudia transferred the Tawataw home to her son and daughter-in-law, Bill and Linda Carson (Carson).
Finally, in 1993, the Nelson Tawataw house was purchased by its current owners. On July 20, 1993, the 79.55-acre property was transferred from the Carson family to the Diedrich family (Transfer Card 2001). In 2001, the Diedrich’s decided to split their acreage. The Nelson Tawataw house now sits on a 4.55-acre plot. Dr. Daniel Diedrich and his wife continue raising their children in the large, brick farmhouse, located at 5838 North County-Road 250 West.
Description of the House
A three-portal barn (see photo 2) accompanies the Italianate-style home on the Diedrich’s property (Grant County Interim Report 21). The Italianate architectural style of the mid to late 1800s was based on Italian, medieval, and early renaissance designs (Indiana Historical Society 118). This style of architecture was beautifully demonstrated in the Tawataw house by its low-pitched roof, projecting eaves supported by ornate brackets, and tall, narrow windows (see Photo 1).
The original two-story house was L-shaped with two front and two rear rooms and a front corner entrance. Limestone quarried from the Mississinewa River paves the basement. A covered brick porch was added to the house in 1919, and a one-story frame kitchen was built onto the side of the house around 1948 (see photo 3). The brackets and slate were removed from the house in 1969, most likely because they had begun to deteriorate (Eaton 7.1). The Carson family added central heating in the early 1970s (Carson). The Diedrich family has done an admirable job of preserving the Italianate style of the home throughout their extensive remodeling efforts. (See photos 4-6.) Among other things, the Diedrichs removed the one-story white frame kitchen wing, which was not consistent with the style of the rest of the home (Diedrich).
The Nelson Tawataw home embodies many of the historical and social transformations that occurred in Grant County over the last century and a half. The house began as a new hope for the Nelson Tawataw family. At first, it seemed as though they possessed the resources necessary to become a successful and self-sufficient part of the white-man’s new world. Instead, the farm ended up in the hands of a family attorney, who obtained it purely, as it seems, to gain a significant profit. The farm then became a home for a large first generation immigrant family who built a successful farming operation. This family was the result of the mass immigration of Europeans who came to America looking for a new start, and they, like so many others, prospered in their new country. The history of the Nelson Tawataw home poignantly reflects the history of rural Grant County life—from an original Miami Indian farm home to a modern and elegant family dwelling.
- Abstract of Title, 1873.
- Brant and Fuller. Biographical History for Mrs. Melvina Tawataw. 2000. County History Preservation Society. Ronald Branson. 26 Dec. 2003. <http://www.countyhistory.com/doc.grant/387.htm>.
- Carson, Barbara. Personal Interview. 31 Dec. 2003.
- “Charles, William H.” Marion City Directory. 1897. 48.
- “Charles, William H.” Twelfth Census of the United States. Indiana, Grant County, Marion City, *Center Township. 12 June 1900. 143B.
- Deed. 31 Dec. 1873. Book 21 Page 311-13. Grant County Recorders Office. 24 Dec. 2003.
- Deed. 4 Sept. 1894. Book 66 Page 363. Grant County Recorders Office. 24 Dec. 2003.
- Deed. 24 Dec. 1895. Book 74 Page 534-535. Grant County Recorders Office. 24 Dec. 2003.
- Deed. 4 Feb. 1896. Book 74 Page 535-536. Grant County Recorders Office. 24 Dec. 2003.
- Deed. 6 Sept. 1899. Book 87 Page 60. Grant County Recorders Office. 24 Dec. 2003.
- Deed. 8 Feb. 1949. Book 198 Page 234. Grant County Recorders Office. 24 Dec. 2003.
- Deed. 30 June 1969. Micro 69 Page 1224. Grant County Recorders Office. 24 Dec. 2003.
- Diedrich, Sevgi. Personal Interview. 3 Jan. 2004.
- Eaton, Helen L. United States Department of the Interior National Park Service. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form - Nelson Awtawwawtaw House. 20 Mar. 1993.
- Geier, Kris. Personal Interview. 26 Dec. 2003.
- Grant County Interim Report. Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. Mar. 1993.
- “Hansley, Della.” Record of Deaths. Indiana, Grant Co. 1888-1903. Book 2, Reel 1, Page 14.
- “Hansley, James.” Twelfth Census of the United States. Indiana, Grant County, Marion City, Pleasant Township. 21 June 1900. 188B.
- Helt, Sandy. Personal Interview. 31 Dec. 2003.
- Indiana Historical Society. Indiana Houses of the Nineteenth Century. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1962.
- Meginness, John F. Biography of Frances Slocum, the Lost Sister of Wyoming. Jersey Shore, PA: Zebrowski Historical Services and Publishing Co., 1991.
- Miami Nation of Indians of Indiana. 2000. Miami Indians of Indiana. 26 Dec. 2003 <http://www.miamiindians.org/index.html>.
- Rafert, Stewart. The Miami Indians of Indiana: A Persistent People 1654-1994. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1996.
- “Stuber, Daniel.” Twelfth Census of the United States. Indiana, Grant County, Marion City, Pleasant Township. 7 June 1900. 182A.
- Transfer Card for Parcel No.: 03-10-100-003-03 20 July 2001. Grant County Assessors Office. 24 Dec. 2003.
- “Walters, John E.” Twelfth Census of the United States. Indiana, Grant County, Marion City, Pleasant Township. 11 June 1900. 196A.
- Waters, Avon. “Miami schoolhouse restoration taking shape.” The Grant County Chronicle Tribune. 11 Dec. 1998.
- Watson, Sheila. Indian Cemetery. 22 Dec. 2003. Grant County Indiana Genealogy Homepage. 26 Dec. 2003 <http://www.rootsweb.com/~ingrant/indian.htm>.
- Whonsettler, Dale. Personal Interview. 3 Jan. 2004.
- Winger, Otho. The Frances Slocum Trail. North Manchester, IN: News-Journal, 1933.
Mary H. Geier submitted this paper on January 6, 2004 for Mr. Munn's AP US History class at Marion, High School.