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date: 02 March 2021


(?– November 1777)
  • John Sugden


Cornstalk (?– November 1777), Shawnee leader, had the Indian name Hokoleskwa, meaning “a blade of corn”; his original name was also rendered in the white settlers’ records as Colesqua, Keightughque, and Semachquaan. His early life is obscure. A document of 1764 identifies him with Tawnamebuck, a Shawnee who attended the council at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1748, but is probably in error. In a speech of 1775 Cornstalk seems to describe himself as the son of White Fish, but Matthew Arbuckle, who knew them both, implies otherwise in a letter of December 1776. Records of the Moravian missionaries, who knew Cornstalk well, indicate that he was the son or grandson of the noted headman Paxinosa, and there are circumstances that suggest that this was true. Cornstalk may have spent part of his youth on the Wyoming, near present-day Plymouth, Pennsylvania, where Paxinosa’s band was living from the late 1720s. Although some members of this village appear to have been Pekowi Shawnee, Cornstalk belonged to the Mekoche division, which supplied the tribal civil chief. Paxinosa was friendly to the British, enjoyed a good relationship with the Moravians, and did not aid the French when the Seven Years’ War began. Instead, he moved closer to the neutral Iroquois peoples, in 1756 to the site of present-day Athens, Pennsylvania, and then to what is now Canisteo, New York. For this reason it is difficult to credit statements made long afterward that Cornstalk led a raid upon Carr’s Creek, Virginia, in 1759....

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