By: Donald E. Clare, Jr., Rabbit Hash Historical Society
Originally published: January, 2007 in the Boone County Recorder
Chances are, if you live in Boone County, you've heard of Dinsmore Homestead. Hopefully, you've been there to visit and share in all its Boone County history and heritage. Patriarch James Dinsmore was quite a prominent figure in our history. The Dinsmore family has ties to many notable Americans, including U.S. Presidents, and all this information is readily available to anyone who tours the historic Dinsmore Home and grounds. It is truly a local treasure chest full of Boone County history, interrelated and reflecting our national heritage.
But how much do you know about Uncle Silas? Silas Dinsmoor (Dinsmore) was born in Windham, New Hampshire in 1766 and died in Belleview Bottoms, here in Boone County, in 1847. Like several of his male relatives, he attended Dartmouth College, graduating in 1791. Failing to land a secure position in the teaching profession, he was commissioned a lieutenant in the newly established Army Corps of Engineers and Artillery in May, 1793. This career lasted only 20 days due to his appointment by President George Washington and Secretary of War General Henry Knox as a new Indian agent to return to Tennessee with a group of Cherokee chiefs. Thus began his career as one of the most fair and trusted Indian agents this country employed. He stayed with the Cherokee from 1794 through 1799.
In 1797, Silas had the pleasure of meeting the future King of France, Louis-Philippe (1830-1848) during his 4-year visit as an exiled French-nobility duke. Silas is mentioned in his Diary of Travels, published in 1977. Silas is also mentioned in President Washington's diary as having dined with the newly retired President at Mount Vernon on Christmas day, 1799. It was at this time that Washington presented Silas with a sword as a token of his appreciation for his success and dedication as the first Cherokee Indian agent.
Back in Philadelphia, Silas worked briefly as principal of a girls' academy until 1800 when the opportunity arose to become the Purser on the Navy Frigate George Washington, commanded by Captain William Bainbridge. Their mission was to sail across the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and pay $25,000 to the Dey of Algiers as a pay-off for protection for American ships from the marauding Barbary Pirates. This was the beginning of the United States' conflict with the Middle East, now over 200 years long.
In April, 1801, Silas returned to the U.S. and set out for Washington City (the new national capital) to settle up the accounts of the mission. Here he met with President Thomas Jefferson, who knew of his reputation from his Cherokee Indian agent days, and asked him to serve similarly in the Mississippi territory as government agent to the Choctaw Nation. He accepted the offer and would answer directly to Secretary of War, Henry Dearborn. In 1802, Silas started out to report for duty to Governor William C. C. Claiborne, first governor of the Territory of Mississippi (1801) and future governor of the Territory of Orleans (1804-1812). He was delayed, however, by the unforeseen circumstances of a duel in which he found himself involved and the subsequent lengthy recovery from a near-mortal wound.
…to be continued…