The Chippewanuck Metal
By Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian

Around 1872 a silver metal bearing the likeness of George III of England was found on the banks of Chippewanuck Creek, probably near the site of the Haimbaugh round barn in Newcastle Township, Fulton County, Indiana. Apparently it was part of the burial goods of an Indian chief, probably a Chippewa or Potawatomi.

The obverse side of the metal has a youthful bust of King George III in armor and wearing the sash of the garter, his hair in a single curl over the ear. Seven rivets are showing in the front of the breastplate, six above the sash and one below. The inscription in Latin, “Georgius III Dei Gratia” translates into “George III by the grace of God.”

On the reverse side are the heraldic lion and unicorn supporting a shield which is divided into four quarters. The top left quarter has the three leopards of England; top right, lilies of France; bottom left, harp of Ireland; and bottom right, the electorate shield of Hanover, Germany. Around the shield is the motto of the Order of the Garter (Knights): “honi soit qui mal y pense.” which means “Evil be to he who evil thinks.” Below the shield on the ribbon is the Royal motto, “Dieu et mon droit” or “God and my right.” To the left of the motto is the rose (England) and to the right a thistle (Ireland).

Front ViewBack View

The metal is in good condition and still has the original delicate attachment for suspending it. It now belongs to Jane Smith Foellinger Miller, being given to her by her grandfather, the late Omer B Smith, former president of the First National Bank and Rochester’s first mayor in 1910. (Jane has passed away so probably her children possess the medal now.)

It is not known how this metal came into the possession of Smith, but a letter from James Scull, Rochester College professor, dated 1910 states that “the metal was first in the possession of William Ferguson. It was found on the edge of the spring on the banks of the Chippewanuck which is said means the Chippewa Burial Ground from an overwhelming defeat of the Chippewas at the hands of the Potawatomi, after three days of desperate fighting back and forth across that then beautiful stream.

“The Chippewas coveted the fine hunting grounds of the Potawatomies and coming down from the north, tried to drive them out but like the fellow that went out for wool, came back shorn. It is always seemed strange to me that no account of this battle, fought sometime near 1800, has ever got into any history in Indiana,” Scull lamented.

Apparently the metal was taken from a dead Chippewa chief at this battle and became the possession of a Potawatomi Indian. The metal was probably buried with the Potawatomi some years later or perhaps hidden there by the Indians when they left Fulton County in 1838 to go to a reservation in Kansas. The Indian chieftain in whose grave the metal was found must been a very important personage or his descendant.

The Rochester Union Spy, May 30, 1872, states that M. T. Osgood had a silver metal three inches in diameter, found on the banks of Chippewanuck Creek. “It had probably been given to an Indian brave by an officer of the crown for some deed of treachery and blood rendered in the face of an invading and tyrannical foreign foe or it may have been ransomed for some poor trembling Red Coat who had become a prisoner at the hands of the dusky North Americans. It has no doubt traveled extensively in passing from hand-to-hand in the excited and trying days of the Revolution, it was at last, like the case of the British, lost, and after the lapse of many years, it comes to us a mute reminder of the scenes of Lexington, Bunker Hill, and all the series of struggles that resulted in our independence as a nation.”

Beginning with 1714 the British government presented metals to the North American Indian chiefs as tokens of friendship, to mark the conclusion of treaties, in order to win their allegiance, or as rewards for services against enemies. During the reign of George III several treaties with the Chippewa were concluded: 1786, 1790, 1796, 1798, 1800, 1815, and 1818. This metal was struck before 1801 because in that year the Royal arms were changed, dropping the lilies of France. As a result of the Peace of Amiens with Napoleonic France, the British sovereign finally dropped the title King of France, held since the Middle Ages. Possibly the metal was struck early in the reign of George III (which began in 1760), judging from the relatively youthful portrait.

While many Indian chief metals were made, they are very rare today and only two or three exist in Indiana, none of which is exactly like this one. Fulton County can be justly proud that one was found within its borders, a hint of the pre-white-man past, the complete story which will never be known.

We are indebted to Bruce Hess, RR 3, Rochester, and Dr. Franklin Wright, Southwestern University of Memphis, Tennessee, for research, and to Richard Bair photography for the life-size photos of the metal. Both Wright and Bair are related to the Haimbaughs on whose farm the metal probably was found.

(Published in 1976 in Rochester Sentinel and in 1981 in Fulton County Folks vol. 2, by Shirley Willard.)

A pewter replica is in the Fulton County Museum.

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This page updated Jan 16, 2017.