Native Americans have long fought to eradicate their use as mascots. In Massachusetts, Native American groups are demanding the passing of a bill banning the use of Indian mascots. The Washington football team is in the midst of a name change and the Cleveland Indians retired Chief Wahoo in 2018 due to its racial insensitivity. While the Mechanicsburg Indian mascot is meant to honor the Shawnee tribes that once lived in the area, I do not believe it represents the village and should be replaced.
In 1811, the Darba provided a picturesque resting spot for General Hull and chief mechanic Captain Culver, whose expedition was on its way to fight in the War of 1812. Chief Ohito and the Shawnee were deemed “treacherous,” the soldiers fearful they were backed by the British. As the story goes, Culver fell in love with Chief Ohito’s daughter, Wawanita, though the soldier’s duty called him to war, he vowed to return. As the soldiers left, it is not hard to imagine Chief Ohito foresaw what may happen should the tribe remain, so they had moved on by the time Culver returned. The log cabin built on the site of Chief Ohito’s wigwam established the village while ensuring the Shawnee could never return. A similar, oftentimes bloodier, story could be told about many Ohio cities, where the last tribe was forced out in 1843.
While Native American history in the Darba is extensive, their place in Mechanicsburg village history is a mere prelude. Reading through the village’s history, a train of thought emerged. The railroad tracks, once the arteries and veins of our nation, on Route 29 and 4 delivered lifeblood to blossoming cities. Mechanicsburg served as a safe haven for runaway slaves heading north along the Underground Railroad, hoping to live freely. When U.S. Marshals tracked down Addison White to the village and sought to return him to his Kentucky master, villagers drew their guns and drove the marshals out of town. They eventually raised enough money to buy Mr. White his freedom, and he lived the rest of his life in Mechanicsburg, as a free man.
I propose the Mechanicsburg Conductors. Growing up in Mechanicsburg taught me to conduct myself for the betterment of others. Addison White saw the same and I believe Chief Ohito would be happy we moved on. So, grab your train whistles and keep the village’s spirit chugging along.
T.H. Kimball was raised in Mechanicsburg and spent his youth delivering the Urbana Daily Citizen. He currently resides in Los Angeles, pursuing a PhD while researching heart disease at the University of California, Los Angeles.