Sunday, September 8, 2013

Jean Jacques Blanchard and Pah-ne-o-ne-pah-que, or White Thunder

Jean Jacques Blanchard
by H. H. Hardesty 1874

We select the following interesting narrative in reference to Jean Jacques Blanchard, after whom Blanchard's Fork of the Auglaze river was named, from the manuscript of the History of Hancock to be published by H. H. Hardesty, Esq., in his Combination Atlas:

There is not a character that presents itself in the history of the Northwest about whom there clings so much interest and mystery as that of Jean Jacques Blanchard. The personal history of this strange man, is vague and indefinite, but in the occasional glimpses which we get of it, through the lapse of years, we see a life of adventure, wanderings, and vicissitudes. From the best information that can be obtained, it appears that Blanchard was born in France about the year 1720. The place of his birth is and probably will be forever unknown. I appears that he received a liberal education. He was well versed in mathematics, and from an account of him given by an American officer, who met him in 1799 near the present site of the town on McArthur, the supposition is that he at one time possessed an intimate acquaintance with the Latin language. He spoke his native language fluently, with that peculiar accent called "Paris French." The theory long held in reference to Blanchard is that he was a French Canadian, who, either to escape the penalty of some crime, or for love of adventure, had wandered from some of the forts along the Northwestern frontier, and taken up his residence among the Indians.

While this story appears tenable on its face, it is not warranted by known facts and circumstances connected with his history. In the meager account of himself which Blanchard gave to Captain Forth, the officer before referred to, he says that he emigrated from France to Louisiana in the year 1760. He remained here until a few months after the cession of Louisiana to Spain in 1762. What his employments were cannot be ascertained. For the next seven years nothing whatever is known of him. The supposition in the mind of Elliot was that he had joined a band of Spanish freebooters, and with them engaged in plundering small vessels in the West India waters. - [Elliot's Algonquins, New York, 1831.]

In the Autumn of 1769, or the Spring of 1770, he made his appearance among a tribe of Shawnee Indians who resided about twenty-two miles south of the place where Dayton now stands. How or from whence he came no one knew nor did he ever explain it. It is supposed that becoming tired of being a pirate, he had returned to Louisiana and joined a party of traders, and after visiting several Indian tribes, became weary of his mercenary companions and plunged into the wilderness alone, and coming to the village of the Shawnees determined to take up his abode with them. He was kindly received, and it was not long until the Indians regarded him as one of their number. Another account of Blanchard that has long been regarded as true, states that he was a tailor. Whether this statement has any foundation in fact or not, I have not been able to discover. When he came into the Shawnee tribe he had with him an elaborate case of curiously wrought tools. These he used in making ornaments, for the Indians from the small coins and shells they furnished him. So skilled was he in manufacturing ornaments with which to adorn the persons of the savages, that his fame spread abroad among other tribes, and they came from far and near to bring him material, and out of which he wrought wonderful divices. The conclusion that arises from this circumstance is, that in addition with other acquirements, Blanchard was also a jeweler.

In 1774, Blanchard married a Shawnee woman named Pah-ne-o-ne-pah-que, or White Thunder. By her he had seven children, five sons and two daughters. At the time the tribe went West the second son was a sub-chief. In 1857, there were several Indians in the tribe who claimed to be descendants of Blanchard.

Blanchard's Fork of the Auglaize river was named after him. Previous to 1812, the stream was simply known as Blanchard's river, but on certain military surveys being made the name was changed to Blanchard's Fork of the Auglaize. About the year 1784, a party of the tribe with which Blanchard lived moved to a point near the head of the river. Here it was that they were visited by traders, and so skilled was the band in obtaining furs that the village soon became the resort of the agents of the Canadian Fur Company. It was they who gave the name to the river in honor of the old Frenchman.

There is no evidence that Blanchard ever resided in Hancock county, and the only visits he ever made within its present boundaries were hunting excursions along the river, and the salt licks in the Eastern part of the country. There was nothing striking in the personal appearance of the man. He was a little below the medium height, and was a trifle "bow legged." His features were regular and expressive of some strength of character, He was quiet in his demeanor, and at times morose. He seldom talked of his early life; in fact he never spoke of it unless pressed to, or when he heard Indians or whites boasting of things they had heard or seen. At one time Tecumseh, then a young man, boasted to Blanchard of great things he would perform when he was older, and how he would join the tribes together and exterminate the whites and make himself the greatest chief on earth. Blanchard listened contemptuously for a time, then replied; "In my country, across the big water, toward the rising sun, I have seen a chief whose wampum belt was so bright that its glitter would blind your eyes, and whose blanket was covered with metals richer than the wealth of all the tribes."

Blanchard died about the year 1802. His burial place is unknown. The Shawnees once had a tradition that after his burial four beings came and carried his body to a far off land in a canoe that floated through the air, and that some time in the future he would return and bring with him beautiful presents for the tribe. The Jeffersonian. Findlay, O., July 10, 1874

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