Olentangy Valley News

History today

'Indian Bill' fascinated many

By

You may have enjoyed the recent television documentary about Clintonville, a feature in the Columbus Neighborhoods series, produced by WOSU Public Media. I saw several people I know featured, one of whom was Jim Thompson, who shared information about the last surviving Wyandot Indian, Bill Moose, here in central Ohio.

Bill Moose was included in the story about Clintonville because he lived at the corner of Morse Road and Indianola Avenue from 1915-30. The Pennsylvania/New York Central Railroad granted him a seven-acre easement near their tracks where he first had a tepee, then a simple shelter, and finally, a cabin. Thompson points out that "Indian Bill" had the freedom to wander the land and plant a garden.

Bill Moose was born north of Upper Sandusky in Wyandot County in 1837. His parents were Henrietta and Thomas Moose. The family moved to central Ohio in 1844, possibly living in abandoned Wyandot villages near the Olentangy and Scioto rivers or on land which is now Highbanks Metro Park. In the prior year, the United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs relocated 664 Wyandot Indians to reservations in Kansas and Oklahoma. The Moose family was among 50 Wyandots who refused to leave Ohio.

In 1853, at age 16, his parents sent Bill to Germantown, Penn., to further his education. He reported that he studied plumbing, carpentry and carving. Upon returning to Ohio, Bill worked for local farmers. For nine years, he traveled with the Sells Brothers Circus and was known as "Indian Bill" as they toured the United States, Canada and Australia.

Thompson knows Bill was fond of this area because he heard stories from members of his family about their friendships with Bill Moose. His father, Jim Thompson Sr., recalled being a young boy and climbing onto Bill's lap to hear stories.

Bill was interviewed by Leonard Insley, editor of the Worthington News, on a number of occasions. He told him he attributed his "long life to living close to nature, and observing the custom of my tribe in sleeping out of doors during the summer, and one night each month throughout the winter with only one blanket for cover." He said this when he was 90 years old, and he lived to nearly 100. In the last seven years of his life, he lived in the Franklin County Infirmary due to declining health and becoming blind.

I learned from Jim Thompson that Insley planned to write a book that did not come to fruition before Insley died. Thompson is pleased to pay tribute to him by using his interviews to pass on the legacy of Bill Moose. At Bill's funeral in 1937, Insley, who was mayor of Worthington at that time, shared these words: "During his residence on Morse Road, his little cabin became the mecca for thousands of people from far and near who came to see and hear this friendly old Indian. Bill's guests were always royally entertained. He was well-read, had an excellent memory, had traveled extensively, and could talk intelligently on most any subject under the sun."

Bill Moose is buried on Wyandot Hill, located at Lane Road and Riverside Drive.

Jim Thompson developed a profound curiosity in learning more about Bill Moose in a rather unusual way. In 2002, Thompson and several other members of Linworth United Methodist Church were compiling a history of the church and the village of Elmwood, the community that began to establish a Methodist church in 1887. (Elmwood became Linworth in1910 by very cleverly combining the last syllable of Dublin and the first syllable of Worthington.)

Wishing to pay tribute to the pioneers of the area, Thompson could not help but include Bill Moose in the history. His research led to the publication of Last of the Wyandots, which followed Remembering Our Roots, the story of Elmwood and its early beginnings. Last of the Wyandots is available in local schools, libraries, various assisted-living facilities, and Highbanks Metro Park. His passion for the subject continues a dozen years later primarily due to so much public interest.

Columbus Neighborhoods began in 2012 as part of Columbus' bicentennial celebration. The history presented on various communities in our capital city has been interesting. Worthington will be the subject of WOSU's next effort in the fall.

Carole Wilhelm is a member of the Powell-Liberty Historical Society.

Comments