Founded in 1794 by Gen. Anthony Wayne, the original place name of Fort Green Ville, used as a supply depot, was bestowed by Wayne in honor of his late friend Gen. Nathaniel Greene, a Revolutionary War comrade. Following the American victory in 1795, Wayne ordered all tribes to attend a council and agree to the treaty to put an end to the war and settle "controversies." The U.S. government wished to "restore harmony and friendly intercourse."
On August 3, 1795, an agreement was concluded that established a boundary line between the land belonging to the American Indians and the land belonging to the United States. The Native Americans agreed not to make war on the United States or any of the people on the American or eastern side of the boundary. Though most of this land was in the Territory of Ohio and later would become the state of Ohio, some of it extended into what became the territory of Indiana, leaving that area to come into some dispute in the very first decade of the 19th century. The Native inhabitants were to allow whites to freely travel through their country along a chain of posts established in another article of the treaty.
The various Native groups agreed to give up or cede land covering some 16 different areas, including Fort Wayne, Detroit, Michilimackinac, and Chicago. These sites had become or were about to become U.S. military garrisons for the purpose of policing and preventing whites from settling on land nearby. Other exceptions of land included the sites of Fort Knox, near Vincennes on the Wabash River; Fort Massac, on the Ohio; and Clarksville, also on the Ohio. During the years following the first Greenville treaty, the U.S. Army came to be known as the Peace Establishment Army because it was to maintain peace on the frontier and in Indian country and to prevent the intrusion of whites onto land belonging exclusively to Native Americans. Through the agreement, the U.S. government would relinquish land north of the Ohio River and west of the agreed-upon boundary line. This treaty brought about 15 years of uneasy peace—uneasy due to the administration of President Thomas Jefferson in 1801.
In February 1803, President Jefferson commissioned Indiana Territory's governor, William Henry Harrison, to treat for the U.S. government. Harrison was given the power to work out land cession treaties with all tribes in the Old Northwest territory, beginning in April 1803 at Fort Wayne. Jefferson revealed his intentions and interests in a secretive letter that spelled out how the United States was to encourage the leaders of tribes to run up debts to the U.S. government and then use the land cessions as a way to pay off such debt. In addition, the plan was to eventually move all Native Americans to land west of the Mississippi. At the time, Jefferson was working under the threat of Napoleon's possible reestablishment of the French in the Louisiana Territory. The treaties that followed in 1803, 1805, and particularly in 1809, contributed to increasing tension along the Greenville treaty line and beyond.
As the name of Fort Greene Ville gave way to Greenville, white settlers poured into western Ohio lands. Just before 1804, two Shawnee brothers—Tecumseh, a political leader, and Tenskwatawa, the Prophet—decided to establish a village alongside Greenville that is often referred to as the first Prophetstown. As the brothers spread their political and spiritual gospel, Native Americans as well as whites felt hostilities brewing. As the brothers' influence increased, so did their village; followers flocked to make Greenville their home. Voicing their concerns about the treaties of Harrison's manufacture and seeing the influx of settlers, the brothers felt exposed to their enemies by living so close to the whites. So in 1808, they moved to Indiana Territory, along the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers, to establish the second Prophetstown.
As the War of 1812 extended into 1814, the government directed Harrison, now a general, and Lewis Cass, governor of Michigan Territory, to treat once again—this time with the tribes that had followed the Shawnee brothers but now were interested in settling in favor of peace. Meeting at Greenville on July 22, 1814, the United States offered peace and asked the tribes to help the United States end the war with Great Britain and the tribes that remained hostile to the United States. In return for the Natives' cooperation and aid, the United States agreed to keep land boundaries as they had been prior to the outbreak of the war. But this treaty was not the end of land boundary protection. With the war ending the following January, this Treaty of Greenville heralded a more pressing and demanding era of land cession treaties.
Sally Colford Bennett
Edmunds, R. David. The Shawnee Prophet. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983; Esarey, Logan, ed. Governors' Messages and Letters. Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison. 2 vols. Indiana Historical Collections VII and IX. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Commission, 1922; Hornbeck, Helen Tanner, ed. Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987; Sugden, John. Tecumseh, a Life. New York: Henry Holt, 1997.