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Mike Volpe

Delaware Town, Mo

DELAWARE TOWN –  fifteen miles southwest of Springfield, Missouri.

The Lenape-Delaware Presence in Southwest Missouri ca.1820-ca.1830.

From 1820 to 1830, when the first white settlers came into the region that now comprises Christian County, the only settlement of any consequence in the entire area that is now southwest Missouri was Delaware Town. 
It consisted of the James Fork Trading Post (named so because it was situated on the James Fork of the White River), several homes, a warehouse, a building where cheese was made (all these structures were made of logs), several hen houses and corn cribs, the many lodges of the Delaware Indians who resided in the village of the principal chief of the tribe, Captain William Anderson, and a large horse-racing track where the Delawares raced their mounts and wagered on the outcome.


This was all situated on the main trail through the area at the time, the Delaware Trail, which later became known as the White River Trace. The trail forded the James River upriver from the present-day Highway 14 bridge, one of the   first two bridges in the county was installed at the site in the late 1880s. That wooden structure was replaced by a metal truss bridge in 1904, but6 has since been removed entirely. No access to the river is now available at the site, but a nearby graveyard is named the Delaware Cemetery. 

…by 1818, the advancing tide of settlers forced them to sign another treaty which would locate them on new lands in what is now Christian County. 
In return the US government agreed to pay the tribe an annual annuity in silver totaling $4000, give them 120 horses, and provide them with   a government-employed blacksmith. 
Thirteen hundred and forty-six Delawares and their fourteen hundred horses were ferried across the Mississippi River in the summer of 1820 to take up residence on the new lands, which had been chosen for them by General William Clark of Lewis & Clark fame.

Other villages strung out along the banks of the James River were those of Captain Ketchum (Whose Lenape name was Tah-whee-lalen), Capt. Pipe (who was of the wolf clan), Capt. Patterson (Meshe Kowhay), Capt. Beaver (who was of the turkey clan), Natcoming and Suwaunock (Chief Anderson’s son).

The whites in the Delaware Town area at this time were William Gilliss (who owned the trading post and also had one on the banks of Swan Creek near what is now Forsyth), Joseph Philibert (who worked for Gilliss a the James Fork Trading Post), William Myres (who clerked for Gilliss at the Swan Creek Trading Post), James and  Phoebe Pool (he was the government-paid blacksmith for the Delawares), Richard Graham (Indian Agent), John Campbell (Indian sub-agent), William Marshall (a competing trader who also built a crude mill on the Finley River near its mouth), James Wilson (competing trader who was located on the banks of the creek that would come to bear his name) and Solomon Yokum )who was ordered off the reservation by Campbell for selling whiskey to the Delawares).

There were also several slaves belonging to Gilliss who served as cooks and cheese makers. In addition, Baptiste Peoria, who was part Indian and part African, served as an interpreter and guide for Gilliss.

William Gilliss, the most successful of the traders, lived in a double-pen, dog-trot log house at Delaware town. Twice a year he’d dispatch Philibert and a helper to drive two wagons to the town of Ste. Genevieve on the Mississippi River to pick up supplies. It would take them 15 days to get there and much longer to return loaded down with trade goods. 

The Delawares used their annual annuity from the government, paid in silver (one theory has it that Solomon Yokum, after being kicked off the reservation, melted down this silver specie to form his own Yokum dollars in order to hide the fact that he was still selling whiskey to the Indians) to purchase trade goods. 
By the time they had come to Delaware Town, they had adopted many of the European ways of living, In addition to breechcloths, they wore white men’s clothing, used metal tools an d hunted with rifles. While some lived in the traditional rounded lodges made from tree limbs, brush, cedar boughs and animal hides, others resided in log cabins, with a dirt floor and a hole in the of to allow smoke from the cook-fire to escape.

William Gilliss followed the Delawares to Kansas after they signed the 1829 James Fork Treaty that removed them even further west. Their new lands were situated near the Missouri River, Gilliss became a wealthy man and was one of the founders of Kansas City. 
By the end of 1830, the Delawares had left southwest Missouri. Looking at a map drawn by surveyor John C. Sullivan in 1824, it appears that the Delaware lands (stretching 70 miles east to west and e44 miles north to south) covered most of Christian County, as well as Stone and a portion of Taney, Barry, and Lawrence counties. During its heyday, the Delaware Town settlement was the place of importance in the Missouri Ozarks…