The Washington Times-Herald

October 22, 2013

The Mississinewa River - Part 1

The Washington Times-Herald

---- — In a past column I featured one of the several larger rivers in northeastern Indiana. This was the Salamonie, a very scenic and historic river. There is a sister-like river, the Mississinewa, south of the Salamonie that has many of the same characteristics.

The name Mississinewa is the Miami Indian name for “falling water” or “it slopes or slants,” as this swift flowing stream does have a number of rapids along its often rocky bed.

Among the characteristics shared by both rivers are dams that create large flood control lakes, both start near or in Ohio, and the region they pass through was once part of a natural gas boom

The dam on the Mississinewa, as with the Salamonie, is close to the Wabash River, southeast of the city of Peru. This dam is 8,000 feet in length with a height of 140 feet. The lake formed by this dam has a summer pool of 3,180 acres, but has a capacity of 12,830 acres when needed for flood control. The Mississinewa Project has a total of 15,072 acres and offers both fishing and hunting in season, as well as a number of recreational activities.

This was Miami Indian territory and has many Native American heritage sites near or along the Mississinewa. One of these is the Godfrey Cemetery, a Miami heritage site, where only Indians and their white spouses have been allowed to be placed in its hallowed ground.

Among the Indians in the cemetery is Francis Godfrey, the last Miami war chief. The son of a French trader and a Miami mother, Godfrey, after the War of 1812 in which he fought against the whites, became a merchant and was the second wealthiest Indian at the time of his death.

Down river from the Mississinewa Dam are the Seven Pillars of the Mississinewa, another Miami heritage site now part of a nature preserve. The Seven Pillars, formed by the erosive action of the river’s waters, is a noted geological site. A series of 60-foot limestone pillars extend for some distance along the Mississinewa and are best viewed from a county road across the river from the pillar.

The Miami believed the Seven Pillars symbolized the Great Father and was used for many tribal rituals and meetings. It was at the Seven Pillars that young men were educated in spiritual matters that were a passage from childhood into manhood.

A Miami legend about the Seven Pillars has to do with the “little Indians” that were said to live in the caves that have been carved in the Liston limestone that form the geological site. These “little Indians” were believed to be fairy-like little people that helped guide lost Miami boys home safely to their home villages. They not only lived and played in the caves, but also could be found in the waters of the Mississinewa that flow past this most unusual and interesting site.

To add to the legend of the “little people,” the Indians believed only old women could see these dwellers of the Seven Pillars of the Mississinewa.

An early French trading post was also reported to have used one of the caves to obtain furs taken by the Miami in exchange for trade goods.

The Seven Pillars can be seen from CR 200S, which is across the river, while 300E runs along the top of the rocks that contain the caves. It is hard to see the pillars from the road.

Across the Wabash from where the Mississinewa enters this river is Peru, the circus city which hosts the Circus City Festival each July. The young people of Peru put on a circus that is the equal of most professional circuses and is a must if you have never been to one of its high quality shows.

Anne and I have been to Peru many times as our daughter Jackie and her husband Mike lived there for several years before returning home to Cumback. It is indeed a fun place to spend a few days.

Well, I have a lot more on the Mississinewa River area but have run out of space so will have to feature more on this part of Hoosierland in a future column.