1858: Chief Okemos Dies

December 5, 2018 all-day

Chief Okemos

On December 5, 1858, Chief Okemos died near Portland.  The Michigan Legislature honored his memory by renaming Hamilton, Michigan in his honor.  Later on a Michigan historical marker was also dedicated to him and the early history of Okemos.

Although details on his life are spotty, Chief John Okemos was the nephew and a scout for Chief Pontiac, who attempted to drive the British out of Michigan by laying siege to Detroit early in Michigan’s history. Either at the Battle of Sandusky or the siege of Fort Miegs, he was severely wounded fighting on the side of the British against the Americans and bore saber scars for the rest of his life.

Later on Chief Okemos made his peace with the Americans at Fort Wayne in Detroit in 1814 and later signed the Treaty of Saginaw with Lewis Cass, the first territorial Governor of Michigan in 1819.  A grave marker survives where he was buried in Ionia County, near Portland.

 History of Chief Okemos

Sources :

Michigan Every Day.

Chief Okemos in Life and Death

Chief Okemos, 1775-1858

Chief Johnny Okemos with pictures. (Find-a Grave)

Michigan History Magazine, volume 6

The Sebewa Recollector, June 1994, Volume 29, Number 6; “Danby Township – Grand River Heritage” from the Grand River Heritage Water Trails Assn.; The Portland, Michigan Centennial Book

Bill Castanier, “The surprise return of Chief Okemos“, Lansing City Pulse, August 28, 2009.

Marion Turner Reasoner, “When I Was a Young Girl (Chief Okemos Story)“,
Lansing State Republican, November 30, 1899.  Abigail C. Rogers sister remembers Chief Okemos.

John Robinson, “The Grave Site of Chief Okemos”, 99.1 WFMK Facebook, May 28, 2020.

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