The Wabash River that extends across and drains a large segment of Indiana has a variety of natural and historic sites along its course. One very interesting area is located in west central Indiana, north of the town of Williamsport in Warren County.
Williamsport is said to have been named for William Henry Harrison who owned land in this area. It once had the unusual nickname of “Side Cut City.” This was given to Williamsport because while not on the main route of the Wabash and Erie Canal it wanted to part of the trade that came with this long waterway. Local merchants raised $16,000 to dig a spur from the canal to Williamsport and allow the boats to reach their out of the way settlement.
Williamsport’s main claim to fame is a 65-foot waterfall that plunges over a rock ledge and drops into a mile-long canyon. The town makes the claim that this is Indiana’s highest waterfall. I have found two other falls near Hanover that are higher than the Williamsport Falls.
Up the Wabash, north of the Williamsport area, are a number of most impressive natural sites. Among these are Big Pine Creek, a noted canoeing stream, Fall Creek with its huge potholes, gorge and waterfall, Kickapoo Creek that is bordered by sandstone cliffs and waterfalls, Little Pine Creek and its deep canyon and scenic landscape, and Black Rock, a high sandstone bluff that towers over the river like a massive sentinel. More on these interesting areas in a future column.
In the middle of this very scenic region is the hamlet of Independence. Its claim to fame is a man named Zachariah Cicot. He had a French father and a Potawatomi mother. Cicot was a trader and also served as a scout for William Henry Harrison during the Indian trouble of 1811.
While not a true Potawatomi, Cicot became a leader of this tribe. He did his best to keep it out of the ware that was about to descend upon the Indiana countryside.
Cicot was not on the side of Tecumseh and his brother the Prophet as they began to form a confederation of tribes to block the advance of the whites into their homelands. Tecumseh became angry at Cicot and banished him from all leadership with the Potawatomi who now joined in Tecumseh’s confederacy.
Learning that Cicot had been banished, Harrison asked him to scout for his army as it made its way up the Wabash to Prophetstown and the battle that was to follow.
History now became mixed with local lore. The story goes that Cicot had fallen in love with a pretty little Potawatomi girl. After he had to leave the Indians his sweetheart named Kate had to remain behind.
Kate still loved Cicot and when she learned that an ambush was planned to trap Harrison’s army in a rugged ravine-laced area, Kate risked her life to warn Cicot of the trap. Taking another route the army was able to avoid the ambush and marched on toward Prophetstown. This trap, if successful, might have indeed changed the course of history.
When the Indians learned it was Kate who had informed the whites of the ambush, it was decreed that she must pay with her life for what the Indian council called treachery. Kate was taken to a nearby body of water and drowned. So ended the life of a brave young woman who loved another more than her own life.
Cicot was devastated when he learned of Kate’s death. He later married another Potawatomi woman, Pecequat, the daughter of the Potawatomi chief Perog, and settled down and founded the village of Independence in 1832. He was given the land where the town is located for his service at the Battle of Tippecanoe and later War of 1812. Cicot died in 1850 and is buried in the village cemetery.
If the story of Kate and Cicot is true, and I believe it is, she should be remembered as a true Hoosier heroine.