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Curious Cbus: What Was The Wyandot Club?

LeatherlipsWOSUWyandot.png
Michael De Bonis
/
WOSU
The Wyandot Club commissioned a monument to Chief Leatherlips in 1889.

In the late 1800s, gentlemen’s clubs were quite popular among wealthy Americans. One such group was known as the Wyandot Club. Native to Franklin County, this club was an exclusive group of 17 wealthy men who had an affinity for history and social gatherings.

Tom Holton of Dublin wrote to Curious Cbus to ask “What is the history of the Wyandot Club? It had a building on the Scioto River that burned in 1974. Any ties to the Wyandot people?”

The club was formed in 1881 and purchased a plot of land on the Scioto River in 1891.

The 40-acre plot was known as the Wyandot Grove. It had been home to Chief Tarhe "The Crane," a well-known Wyandot chief who resided in the grove before the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This is the reason for the name of the land and the club.

The Wyandot Club built its clubhouse there in 1894. Attached to the back of the house was a dock to allow for the coming and going of members by way of the Scioto River.

Wyandot Grove photo
Art Work of Columbus
Photo of Wyandot Grove on the Scioto River taken in 1897.

According to historian Ed Lentz, the club had no steadfast bylaws or constitution. Their one annual tradition was hosting a large party to celebrate the club and various prominent members of their society.

“This event called forth over a hundred people, always dutifully sharing the wonder and spotlight of the party with Chief Tarhe,” Lentz said. “They honored his memory by giving him his due share of talk during these gatherings.”

The only way to be admitted to this group was when one of the members left or died. So there were never more or less than 17 members during the life of the club. This limitation made it difficult for the group to maintain membership, and it eventually died out in 1924 when one of the members, Emil G. Buchsieb, bought the land.

The one lasting mark of the club’s existence is its memorial for another Wyandot chief.

“The main thing the club did in its history was it came together to put a tombstone on the grave of the Native American chief Leatherlips,” Lentz said.

The reason the club wanted to honor Chief Leatherlips was that he was known as a friend to early white settlers in the area. This put him at odds with Chief Tecumseh of the Shawnee people.

In the years leading up to the War of 1812, Tecumseh was gathering Native American support for the British, and Leatherlips refused to join him. Tecumseh then persuaded the other leaders of the Wyandot tribe to execute him after a predetermined trial that officially condemned Chief Leatherlips for use of witchcraft.

Leatherlips was executed in 1810.

To memorialize the chief, the Wyandot Club funded the tombstone that would mark his final resting place and serve as a standing relic of the legend. When they met to finalize plans for the tombstone, they recorded that this monument should serve to perpetuate the memory of this chief and his sacrifice.

The inscription on the memorial reads, "LEATHERLIPS, A CHIEF OF THE WYDANOT TRIBE OF INDIANS WAS EXECUTED ON THIS SPOT JUNE 1, 1810. ERECTED BY THE WYANDOT CLUB OF COLUMBUS, OHIO 1889."

After the club disbanded, the river was directed to flow along a different path. The dock became superfluous, and later the clubhouse burnt to the ground in August 1974.

A residential neighborhood has since been built in the old Wyandot Grove, and Leatherlips Cemetery with its lone grave can be seen at the crossroads of Stratford Avenue and Riverside Drive in Powell.

The ties between the Wyandot Club and the Wyandot tribe were in name, land and honorary memorials only.

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