Colonel Lewis portrait

Colonel Lewis was from the Shawnee tribe, who became a chief by accidental identification, according to legend.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is Part 7 in a 9-part series on Ohio's great American Indian chiefs released by the Ohio Historical Society on Nov. 3, 1967. Richland Source has entered into a collaborative agreement with the Ohio History Connection to share content across our sites.

Colonel Lewis, or Quatawapea (The man on the water who sinks and rises again), was a Shawnee from the tall grass country of the Pickaway Plains.

He seems to have been more distinguished for his handsome appearance, elegant dress and graceful deportment than for more chiefly qualities.

He was a mighty hunter, but was not notable in battle or around the council fires. He eventually settled near Wapakoneta, acquiring land which he farmed.

He even became a chief by accident: Colonel Lewis was one of a delegation to visit the secretary of war at Dearborn, Michigan. He was so impressive in looks and manner that the secretary, supposing him to be the chief, presented him with a medal bearing the likeness of President Thomas Jefferson.

Since Colonel Lewis was so honored above his tribesmen, they afterward concurred in the official's error. Colonel Lewis emigrated west of the Mississippi, where he died in 1826.

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