Dead Line

Incidents in the Early History of St. Joseph, Michigan
D. A. Winslow

During the war of 1812, and in that year, John B. Chandonia was in the service of the United States, and was engaged in carrying dispatches from Detroit to Chicago. On one of his trips from Chicago, in company with the elder Robert Forsythe, he stopped near the mouth of St. Joseph River, and camped near the upper end of the Burnett orchard. His uncle, of the same name, then stationed at Mackinaw, that place being in the possession of the British, was sent by the commandant of that post, with a force of some thirty Indians in canoes, to intercept John B. with the dispatches, and to take him prisoner to Mackinaw. This force arrived in the night, and early in the morning his uncle called on John B., and made known his business. John B. has a double-barrel gun in his hands, and told his uncle he should not go with him or be taken prisoner. He then drew a line on the ground, and told his uncle he must not cross it; but the uncle, determined on his victim, drew his sword and advanced. As he stept over the line, he was shot dead by the nephew.

The report of the gun aroused the Indians, who went to John's camp. He met them as he did his uncle, and speaking their language, pointed to his uncle's dead body and to the dead line; said he had shot his uncle to save his own life; that he was sorry he had to do it, but if taken prisoner, he himself would be killed; that he would not be taken alive, and the first one that attempted to cross the line was a dead Indian. The Indians held a council, and terms were agreed upon. The Indians were to have ten gallons of whiskey the next morning, - were to help John B. bury his uncle immediately, - he and his traveling companion were to be allowed to depart in peace. Arrangements were made with Mr. Burnett, by which the Indians were to have the whiskey as agreed upon. John B. buried his uncle on the hill back of his camp, and, after raising a cross over his grave, he and Mr. Forsythe immediately departed for Detroit. The next morning, Mr. Burnett gave the Indians the ten gallons of whiskey, and they started for Mackinaw.


Chicago Antiquities by Henry H. Hurlbut
Printed for the author, Chicago, 1880