Tacumwah & the “Old Apple Tree”
Audio: “Tacumwah – Old Apple Tree” featuring Tom Castaldi. Courtesy of 89.1 WBOI.
Tacumwah was most prominent woman among the Miami people during the years of the war between the Native Americans and the United States. Tacumwah was a successful businesswoman and ran a successful trading post west of Kekionga, in which she did business in the sale of supplies, horses, and carts to those who were crossing the portage.
Tacumah, also known as Maria Louisa, married Antoine Joseph Druet de Richardville, a lesser French nobleman. The son of Antoine-Joseph Druet de Richardville and Tacumah was Jean Baptiste Richardville, known also by his Indian name, Pechewa or Pinsiwa (“Wildcat”).
He was born in a cabin under an old apple tree in the Miami village located at the foot of the Columbia Street Bridge in the present day Lakeside district. This site was later respected by members of the tribe and recognized as historically significant by the early settlers. According to a story recounted in the mid-19th century, an Indian warrior climbed the ancient apple tree every day for several days to harass the soldiers in the fort, but, finally, a gunman in the battalion killed the taunting warrior with an astonishing musket shot at “a distance of many hundred yards.” Therefore, because of this local folklore, Tacumwah and the “Old Apple Tree” have since been intertwined and associated together.
Tacumwah passed her wealth over to her son. Pechewa would become the chief of the Miami from 1813, which happened to be the year his mother passed away, until his death in 1841.
The Bicentennial Heritage Trail Group, ARCH Inc., Essex Group, Inc., On The Heritage Trial, Fort Wayne, Indiana: A Walking Guide Book (1994) pp.246-247.