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Grenadier Squaw

Nonhelema was the sister of Shawnee chief Cornstalk and, as the leader of a Shawnee village near the present Circleville, Ohio, a person of importance in her own right. Because of her unusual height and fine carriage the settlers identified her as the ‘‘Grenadier Squaw,’’ in reference to the grenadiers, the finest and tallest soldiers in the British service. A Christian missionary had named her Katherine, and she was called Kate or Ketty.

She adopted the European-American settlers, serving as an interpreter, and in May 1776 was living at Fort Randolph, Point Pleasant, when Indians attacked. Although the Indians were driven off, Ketty learned that they intended to attack Fort Donnally, near Lewisburg. She dressed heroic Philip Hammond and John Pryor Indianstyle, and they managed to bypass the Indians and warn Fort Donnally. The attack was beaten off until a relief force from Lewisburg, led by Col. Sam Lewis and Capt. Matthew Arbuckle, relieved the fort.

Nonhelema had a daughter, Fannie or Fawney. They were observed at the meeting between Lord Dunmore, Cornstalk, Col. Andrew Lewis and others at Camp Charlotte, riding fine horses with elegant saddles. Her 1785 petition to Congress for a grant of land near her Ohio home was never acted upon. She moved to a place near Pittsburgh. Another petition on her behalf was signed by 18 settlers but, presumably, was ignored.

Her fate and that of her daughter are unknown.

Written by Joseph Crosby Jefferds Jr.


  1. Jefferds, Joseph C. Jr. Captain Matthew Arbuckle: A Documentary Biography. Charleston: Education Foundation, 1981.

  2. Thwaites, Reuben Gold & Louise Phelps Kellogg, eds. Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio 1777-1778. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society, 1912.