Captain William Wells (Apekonit in Miami)

Born at Jacob’s Creek, Pennsylvania, the youngest son of Samuel Wells, a captain in the Virginia militia. After the revolution, Samuel moved the family to Kentucky and tragically his mother died soon after. Wells’ father was killed in an Indian raid on Beargrass Creek at what became Louisville. Three years later in 1782, the orphan was taken captive by the Miami while on a hunting trip. Wells was 12 years old.

Wells was adopted by a chief named Porcupine, and raised on the Eel River in northern Indiana. His Miami name was “Apekonit” (carrot) due to his red hair. He seems to have adapted to Miami life quite well, and accompanied war parties even marrying a Wea woman wityh hom he had a child. His wife and daughter were later captured in a raid by General James Wilkinson in 1791, and presumed dead. Enraged, Wells organized a 300-man “suicide squad” that fought with distinction against the U.S. Army at St. Clair’s Defeat in northern Ohio, having been responsible for directly attacking and destroying the artillery squadron.

Due to his deeds he soon caught the attention of Miami war chief Little Turtle. He eventually married Little Turtle’s daughter Wanagapeth with whom he had four children. He served the tribe as a scout during his new father-in-law’s wars with the United States.

At Vincennes in 1793, Wells met with his eldest brother, Samuel, a survivor of St. Clair’s Defeat two year before. The two travelled to Fort Nelson, where they met with General Rufus Putnam. William Wells warned Putnam that the British had been inciting Native American tribes to violence against the United States and negotiated a release of prisoners as a goodwill gesture.

Eventually, with Little Turtle’s permission, Wells became a captain in the Legion of the United States, acting as a scout and interpreter for General Wayne. When Native American forces under Blue Jacket attacked the fort on 30 June 1794, Wells led a scouting mission that discovered British officers who had brought cannonballs and powder, not knowing that the United States had already recovered the buried cannons.

Wells was wounded in the Battle of Fallen Timbers fighting for the United States as an Indian ally. He went on to act as an interpreter in treaty negotiations and state visits by Indian chiefs.

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