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Captain Pipe

Captain Pipe
Statue of Hopocan (Captain Pipe) in Barberton, Ohio
Tribe Lenape, Wolf Clan
Born c. 1725? or 1740
Died c. 1818?
Predecessor Custaloga
Native name Hopocan, Konieschquanoheel
Children Son, Captain Pipe, and other children
Relatives Uncle, Custaloga

Captain Pipe (b. c.1725? – d. c. 1818?) (Lenape), called Konieschquanoheel and also known as Hopocan, was an 18th-century chief of the Algonquian-speaking Lenape (Delaware) and a member of the Wolf Clan. He was a warrior and by 1773 succeeded his maternal uncle Custaloga as chief, part of a group that had moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio around the time of the French and Indian War.

Although Hopocan tried to stay neutral during the American Revolutionary War, after many of his family and people were killed in American raids, he allied with the British. After the war, he moved his people fully into Ohio Country. He made treaties with the Continental Congress to try to protect Lenape land. American settlers continued to encroach on his people and territory. In 1812 he moved with his people westward into present-day Indiana, where some accounts say he died. By 1821, most of the Lenape removed to Kansas, which was considered part of Indian Territory. They were under pressure from the United States to remove from all areas east of the Mississippi River.


Early life and education

In Lenape culture, people did not share their real names, because it could give spiritual power to enemies. In addition, individuals were often given new names, or nicknames, at different periods of their lives, particularly to mark life passages, such as reaching manhood. Konieschquanoheel (meaning "Maker of Daylight") was born about 1725 or 1740; this was his real name. His "public" name was Hopocan (meaning tobacco pipe). Because of the translated meaning and his status as a chief, the British called him Captain Pipe. This name was documented in the colonial historical records.[1]

Hopocan was born into the Wolf Clan of his mother, for the Lenape have a matrilineal kinship system of descent and inheritance. In this system, his mother's eldest brother was more important in her children's lives in the clan than their biological father, from another clan. The uncle served especially as a male mentor to boys, bringing them into tribal male society. Little is known of Hopocan's early years. He was probably born near the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. His maternal uncle was Chief Custaloga, whom he later succeeded as hereditary chief, according to the matrilineal kinship rules. Captain Pipe likely spent his early years either at Custaloga's Town, along French Creek in Mercer County. He may also have lived at his uncle's other main village, Cussewago, at the present site of Meadville in Crawford County.[1]


He received the public name or nickname of Hopocan (meaning tobacco pipe). Captain Pipe, as the colonists called him, is first noted in historical records in 1759 among the warriors at a conference held at Fort Pitt, July 1759. Hugh Mercer, agent of Sir William Johnson, the chief British Indian agent in the Northeast, noted Captain Pipe among the attendees. Mercer had brought together the Six Nations of the Iroquois, as well as the Lenape and Shawnee, trying to secure their alliance with Great Britain during its Seven Years' War with the French (known on the North American front as the French and Indian War).

Custaloga was known to have moved his band from French Creek into what is now Ohio. There is some evidence that he may have moved back to Pennsylvania to the Kuskuskies Towns, on the Shenango River near present-day New Castle. These four villages had earlier been inhabited by the Seneca of the Iroquois, but by 1756 they were settled by Lenape displaced from further east during the French and Indian War.[2]

In 1762, when the Lenape gave the Moravian missionary Fredrick Christian Post permission to build a cabin on the Tuscarawas River at present Bolivar, Ohio, Hopocan was given the job of marking out the land to be given to Post. In 1765 the warrior was recorded at another conference at Fort Pitt, which about 600 chiefs and warriors attended; numerous women and children accompanied them. In 1768 he again met in a conference at Fort Pitt, held by George Croghan, a sub-agent of Sir William Johnson. This meeting gathered more than 1,000 Iroquois, Lenape, Shawnee, Wyandot and Mohegan together following the British victory over the French in the Seven Years' War. Britain proposed an Indian state to be reserved to Native Americans west of the Appalachians. It was unable to enforce restrictions against Anglo-American settlers in this area, who were determined to go where they wanted. By 1773, Captain Pipe succeeded Custaloga as chief of the Lenape Wolf Clan.[1]

Revolutionary War

During the American Revolution, Captain Pipe tried to remain neutral; he refused to take up arms against the rebels even after General Edward Hand killed his mother, brother, and a few of his children during a military campaign in 1778.[1] Failing to distinguish among the Native American groups, Hand had attacked the neutral Lenape while trying to reduce the Indian threat to settlers in the Ohio Country, because other tribes, such as the Shawnee, had allied with the British.

In 1778 Captain Pipe was with White Eyes and Killbuck when they signed the first treaty between the Continental Congress and Native peoples. Later that same year, General Lachlan McIntosh, the American commander at Fort Pitt, requested permission from the Lenape to march through their territory to attack Fort Detroit. Captain Pipe and other Lenape chiefs agreed, based on the Americans' building a fort to protect the Lenape from the British military and European-American settlers. In response, McIntosh had Fort Laurens built near the Delaware villages in eastern Ohio. He demanded their Ohio Country warriors assist the Americans in capturing Fort Detroit, and threatened them with extermination if they refused.[1]

Believing that the Americans could not protect them from the British and their native allies, Captain Pipe and many other Lenape bands began to reach out to the British as allies. Also in 1778, Pipe and the members of his tribe who supported war, departed from the Tuscarawas area and relocated to the Walhonding River, about fifteen miles above the present site of Coshocton, Ohio.

In 1781 Colonel Daniel Brodhead attacked and destroyed this village, ending Pipe's neutrality. Captain Pipe became the leader of Lenape who supported the British and moved his people to the Tymochtee Creek near the Sandusky River. This village became known as "Pipe's Town." Present-day Crawford in Wyandot County developed near it. Captain Pipe spent the remainder of the war resisting American expansion into the Ohio Country.[1]

In 1782, Pipe helped defeat the Crawford Expedition, headed by William Crawford. Seeking vengeance for the Gnadenhutten Massacre, in which nearly 100 Lenape were killed, the warriors marked Crawford for death by painting his face black. When they conducted ritual torture of Crawford before killing him, American witnesses say the soldier begged Simon Girty, a Loyalist interpreter, to shoot him. Girty had been taken captive and adopted by Seneca as a boy, becoming assimilated. He knew he would likely be killed if he intervened in the ritual. He was strongly criticized by American survivors for letting Crawford be tortured.[1][3]

After the Revolution

Captain Pipe continued to resist white settlement of the Ohio Country (which by then the United States called the Northwest Territory). By the 1810s and 1820s, Captain Pipe realized his people had little chance against the Americans and began to negotiate treaties with the government. The pioneer settlers violated even the new agreements, moving onto land set aside for the Lenape.[1]

In 1788 when settlers landed at what is now Marietta, Ohio, they found Captain Pipe and about seventy warriors encamped in the area. At that time General Josiah Harmar described him as a "manly old fellow, and much more of a gentleman than the generality of the frontier people."[1] By this time he was being called "Old Pipe." According to the most reliable accounts, Captain Pipe was then about forty-eight years of age (considered old in those years when life expectancy of both settlers and Indians was less than during the late twentieth century). During this time, he also resided at "Birds Run" and "Indian Camp", communities both still located on Ohio State Route 658, and "Flatridge", all about 10 miles NW of present-day Cambridge. The Lenape held many ceremonies at these sites, and their artifacts have been found in archeological excavations at those locations. Captain Pipe was believed to have last visited around 1800.[1]

Scholars think that between 1793 and 1795, Hopocan made his headquarters at Jerometown, Ohio. In his later years, he resided with his people on the upper branches of the Mohican, the head branches of the Black, the Vermillion and the Cuyahoga rivers, all in Ohio. In 1808-09 early white settlers to the area of what is now Jeromesville in Ashland County, on the Jerome Fork of the Mohican River, found Lenape people living at the old Mohican village of Johnstown. (This was about three-fourths of a mile southwest of the present-day Jeromesville). The home of Old Captain Pipe was located nearby, as reported in stories of the settlers and the Lenape, who said he lived there until 1812.[1]

In the spring of 1812, Old Captain Pipe and his people removed westward again. Some reports say they lived near present-day Orestes in Madison County, Indiana, but others refute that. The Treaty of St. Mary's in 1818 gave the tribes three years before having to be removed from Indiana to Kansas. They departed peacefully in 1821. Chief Pipe was said to have died around 1818 near Orestes and is supposedly buried there. Other reports claim that he removed to Canada and died there.[1]

Captain Pipe had a son, also named Captain Pipe, who signed many treaties and moved with the Lenape to Kansas.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Konieschquanoheel", Ohio History Central: An Online Encyclopedia of Ohio History, 1999-2011, accessed 29 January 2011
  2. ^ "Kuskuskies Towns", Historical marker, Explore Pennsylvania History website, accessed 29 January 2011
  3. ^ "Simon Girty", Ohio History Central, accessed 29 January 2011
  4. ^ David Dwiggins, "Orestes Indiana History - Captain Pipe", n.d. (circa 2000?)


  • Baughman, Abraham J. (1837-1913): "Pipe's Cliff", Ohio Archæological and Historical Society Publications: Volume 20 [1911], pp. 253–254.

Further reading

  • Barnholth, William I. Hopocan (Capt. Pipe) the Delaware Chieftain; Akron, Ohio, Summit County Historical Society, 1966. OCLC 1078414
  • Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.
  • McConnell, Michael and Robert S. Grumet ed., "Pisquetomen and Tamaqua: Mediating Peace in the Ohio Country", Northeastern Indian Lives, 1632-1816 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996): 273-94.
  • McConnell, Michael N. A Country Between: The Upper Ohio Valley and its Peoples, 1724-1774 (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1992).
Captain Pipe
Preceded by
Chiefs of the Lenape - Wolf Clan
Succeeded by
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