Jean Baptiste Richardville was a chief of the Miami people from 1815-1841. He was born in 1761 in Kekionga (near Fort Wayne), the son of French trader Joseph Drouet de Richardville and Tacumwah, the sister of Chief Little Turtle. He was the Miami representative at the Treaty of St. Mary’s in 1818, where the United States acquired most of central Indiana. His Miami name was Pechewa, or “The Wildcat.” He operated a trading post in Fort Wayne and collected tolls from people who used a portage on the Maumee River. As a result, he became the richest man in Indiana, with personal wealth of over $1,000,000.
Richardville spent most of his life in Fort Wayne, and was an avid supporter of temperance and the expansion of agriculture. His negotiations with the United States’ government in 1834 and 1838 led to the resettlement of much of his tribe to western reservations. It is said that he hoped to continue peaceful relations with the government so as to protect the heritage of the Miami Indians after the loss of their native lands. It is also said that he sold out his people, signing the treaties in return for large sections of land along the Maumee River and Wildcat Creek. His son-in-law, Chief La Fontaine, was involved in the treaty negotiations, and also received a section of land along the Wildcat Creek. La Fontaine's land was eventually purchased by David Foster and became the city of Kokomo.
When Howard County was founded, it was originally named Richardville County, and Wildcat Creek was named for him. The town of Russiaville was first named Richardville, but the spelling changed over the years due to mispronunciation of the name.
The Richardville house in Fort Wayne is a national historical landmark. Click here to learn more from the Fort Wayne History Center.
Learn more about the Miami people and the early history of Howard County.