Hokoleskwa or Cornstalk (c.1720 – November 10, 1777) was a prominent leader of the Shawnee people. He was born about 1720 probably in Pennsylvania. He and the rest of the Shawnee people, were pushed into Ohio in the 1730's.

His name in his own language meant "blade of corn", and was rendered in innumerable variations by contemporary chroniclers, including Colesqua and Keigh-tugh-qua.

Cornstalk and his tribesmen were a part of many battles with the english settlers of Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio. But, it is his death, at a time when he had been at peace with the White man, and was actually trying to warn the fort of impending plans of massacre by militant Natives, that perhaps defines this Native American Hero.


Early years

Historians can only speculate on Cornstalk’s early years. He may have been born in present-day Pennsylvania, and migrated to the Ohio Country, near present day Chillicothe, as the Shawnee gave ground in the face of expanding white settlement.

What is recorded in the "West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia", compiled by Hardesty, In June 1763, was that Cornstalk, led a band of about 60 of this tribesman into Greenbrier County Virginia. On June 26th, he pretended to be friendly and gained the confidence of the settlers at Muddy Creek. When their defenses were down, his warriors killed them all. Among the dead were the families of Frederick Sea, Joseph Carrol and Salty Yolkum. The next day, Cornstalk repeated his deception at the Clendenin Settlement, near the current site of Lewisburg, killing more than fifty settlers.

French and Indian War

During the French and Indian War, Cornstalk and the Shawnees sided with the French. They feared that English settlers would come rapidly into the Ohio Country if they were not stopped. Cornstalk led raiding parties into western Virginia, hoping to drive the English away from Shawnee territory. He also played an active part in Pontiac's Rebellion in 1763. Colonel Henry Bouquet defeated the Shawnee in 1764. To assure that the natives would sign a peace treaty ending the rebellion, Bouquet seized several hostages, including Cornstalk. The Shawnee agreed not to take up arms against the English again.

During the next decade, fighting did occur between the English and the Ohio natives. Cornstalk tried to peacefully ease the tensions, but the arrival of more white settlers placed him in the minority as to how to deal with the whites. By the spring of 1774, violence was constant. On May 3, 1774, a group of English colonists killed eleven Mingo Indians. At least two of them were relatives of Logan, a leader of the Mingos in the Ohio Country. Upon hearing of the murders, many Mingos and Shawnees demanded retribution. Some, like Cornstalk, urged conciliation. Cornstalk and most other Shawnee Indians promised to protect English fur traders in the Ohio Country from retaliatory attacks since the traders were innocent. Logan, however, was not easily convinced, and Shawnee and Mingo chiefs permitted him to attack the parties responsible for his family members' murders -- British colonists living south of the Ohio River.

Logan took approximately two dozen warriors to exact revenge on the colonists. He did not go into Kentucky. Rather he traveled into western Pennsylvania. There, his followers killed thirteen settlers before returning back across the Ohio River. Captain John Connolly, commander of Fort Pitt, immediately prepared to attack the Ohio Country natives. John Murray, Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, offered his colony's assistance. Dunmore hoped to prevent Pennsylvania's expansion into modern-day West Virginia and Kentucky. He believed the best way to do this was to place Virginia militiamen in these regions. He also hoped to benefit by opening these lands to white settlement.

In August 1774, Pennsylvania militia entered the Ohio Country and quickly destroyed seven Mingo villages, which the Indians had abandoned as the soldiers approached. At the same time, Lord Dunmore sent one thousand men to the Little Kanawha River in modern-day West Virginia to build a fort and attack the Shawnees. Cornstalk, who had experienced a change of heart about the white colonists as the soldiers invaded the Ohio Country, dispatched nearly one thousand Shawnee warriors to drive Dunmore's force from the region. The forces met on October 10, 1774, at what became known as the Battle of Point Pleasant. After several hours of intense fighting, the English drove Cornstalk's followers north of the Ohio River. Dunmore, with a separate force, followed the Shawnees across the river into the Ohio Country. Upon nearing the Shawnee villages on the Pickaway Plains, Dunmore stopped and asked that the Shawnees discuss a peace treaty with him. The Shawnees agreed, but while negotiations were under way, Colonel Andrew Lewis, and a detachment of Virginia militia that Dunmore had left behind at Point Pleasant, crossed the Ohio River and destroyed several Shawnee villages. Fearing that Dunmore intended to destroy them, the Shawnees immediately agreed to terms before more blood was shed.

Under this new treaty, the Shawnee Indians agreed to the terms of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768). They had to give up ownership to all lands east and south of the Ohio River. This was the first time that natives that actually lived in the Ohio Country agreed to relinquish some of their land. In addition, the Shawnees promised to return all white captives and to no longer attack English colonists traveling down the Ohio River.

American Revolution

Cornstalk abided by this treaty for the rest of his life. Most Shawnees did not. By 1777, the Shawnee Indians again planned to drive the white settlers from the region. This time they did so at the urging of British soldiers who sought assistance in defeating the colonists in the American Revolution. Cornstalk and his son, Elinipsico, went to Point Pleasant, the site of an American fort, to warn the whites of the impending attack. The Americans took the natives hostage. Shortly thereafter, news reached Point Pleasant that, the Shawnee had ambushed and killed an American soldier. Seeking vengeance, the colonists killed Cornstalk, his son, and other natives in American custody.

Cornstalk was originally buried at Fort Randolph; in 1840 his grave was found and the remains moved to the Mason County Courthouse grounds; when in 1954 the courthouse was torn down he was reburied at Tu-Endie-Wei State Park in Point Pleasant.

See also


  • Barr, Daniel P., ed. The Boundaries Between Us: Natives and Newcomers Along the Frontiers of the Old Northwest Territory, 1750-1850. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2006.
  • Barrett, Carole, Harvey Markowitz, and R. Kent Rasmussen, eds. American Indian Biographies. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2005.
  • Bond, Beverley W., Jr. The Foundations of Ohio. Columbus, OH: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1941.
  • Clark, Jerry E. Clark. The Shawnee. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1993.
  • Dixon, David. Never Come to Peace Again: Pontiac's Uprising and the Fate of the British Empire in North America. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005.
  • Dowd, Gregory Evans. War Under Heaven: Pontiac, the Indian Nations & the British Empire. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.
  • Flavell, Julie, and Stephen Conway, eds. Britain and America go to War: The Impact of War and Warfare in Anglo-America, 1754-1815. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004.
  • Fowler, William M., Jr. Empires at War: The French and Indian War and the Struggle for North America, 1754-1763. New York: Walker & Company, 2005.
  • Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.
  • Knepper, George. Ohio and Its People. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2003.
  • Nester, William R. The Great Frontier War: Britain, France, and the Imperial Struggle for North America, 1607-1755. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2000.
  • O'Donnell, James H., III. Ohio's First Peoples. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2004.
  • Ricky, Donald B., ed. Encyclopedia of Ohio Indians. St. Clair Shores, MI: Somerset Publishers, Inc., 1998.
  • Ward, Matthew C. Breaking the Backcountry: The Seven Years' War in Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1754-1765. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003.

External links

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