Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Siege of 1812

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Sep 2012 closes Jul 2012 No 93)

Siege of 1812

Only once did the American forts come under attack at what became the Fort Wayne that we know today.  For nearly a quarter-of-a-century they guarded United States’ interests in the midst of Indian territory, but the attack endured at the outbreak of the War of 1812 was nearly disastrous for Fort Wayne because of the drunkenness of its commander.  In 1811, the Battle of Tippecanoe, unleashed renewed hostilities between the Indian tribes and the Americans throughout the Midwestern frontier.  Both pioneer homesteads and Indian villages alike endured raids and murders.

The Americans suffered an early defeat in 1812 when William Wells’ expedition to relieve the garrison of Fort Dearborn on the Chicago River was destroyed by the Potawatomi.  General William Hull then meekly surrendered the U.S. forces to the British at Fort Detroit, and this gave the signal to Indian forces throughout the frontier to rise up against the other American forts.

Fort Wayne was one of the first forts the Indians determined to take, and late that summer about five hundred Potawatomi and Ottawa warriors began to gather in the forests around the fort.  Metea, a friendly Potawatomi chief, warned the French trader Antoine Bondie of the plans for attack, and Bondie with another French trader, Charles Peltier, took this information to the Indian Agent in the fort, Benjamin Stickney, and the post commandant, Captain James Rhea. At first the two leaders of the fort did not believe the French traders, thinking them to be unreliable and prone to lying. But Stickney soon became suspicious and sent messages to General William Henry Harrison in Cincinnati. Captain Rhea, too, worried about the large number of Indians gathering near the fort. It was then that Rhea began to drink to excess, becoming incapable of handling his duties.

Stephen Johnston, the Piqua Indian Agent’s son, tried to escape the fort and get to his wife in Ohio. Johnston’s scalped and tomahawked body was delivered the next day to the front gates. The fort garrison made ready for a siege.

The Indians burned the cabins, outbuildings and crops surrounding the fort. Attempts by Lieutenants Curtis and Ostrander to attack the Indians were rebuked by their drunken superior who clearly feared the fight. Then one morning a large party of warriors approached the fort under a white flag asking to speak with Indian Agent Stickney and Captain Rhea. Stickney suspected a trick and only admitted a few of the Indians in the party. Captain Rhea was too drunk to attend. In the midst of the meeting Chief Winamac attempted to use his knife hidden in this robe, but quick action and the instant appearance of several soldiers ended the plot against Stickney.

Several days later, the Indians again used the flag of truce to get into the fort, this time to meet alone with Captain Rhea. The commandant shared his liquor with the chiefs and promised his support if the chiefs would save him. Five Indians who had come into the fort and had hidden behind one of the buildings shot two soldiers dead. After this Captain Rhea lost control of the garrison, and Lieutenant Ostrander and Lieutenant Curtis took command of the fort.

In the meantime, the constant exchange of gunfire rattled the garrison every day, and the commanding officer continued to drink and talk of surrender.  Finally, General Harrison with twenty-five hundred men marched on Fort Wayne. The Indians tried to attack Harrison’s troops in the swamps to the east along the Wayne Trace, setting fires in the woods hoping to draw the garrison out, but to no avail.

On September 12, the siege was at last lifted when Harrison’s men arrived at the gates of Fort Wayne. Captain Rhea was relieved of his command and Lieutenant Ostrander was placed in command o the fort. Harrison’s force left Fort Wayne a week later to pursue the British and the Indians to Detroit and eventually to the climatic battle in Ontario at the River Thames in 1813.

This story of the Siege of Fort Wayne in 1812 comes from the book, On the Heritage Trail and includes other stories of the people and times from the Fort Wayne region’s past.

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Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi © is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail” which is broadcast Mondays on 89.1 fm WBOI; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio106.3 fm. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at historycenterfw.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Quantrill in Fort Wayne

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” - Aug 2012, closes Jun 2012, No. 92)





Reflecting on the days of the Civil War, the names of generals such as Lee, Grant, Jackson, Hooker, and later Fort Wayne’s own Lawton are ones easily recognized.  Events such as Sherman’s march across the South and Morgan’s raid that crossed the Ohio River into southern Indiana also come to mind.  Western movie fans and followers of American history’s War Between the States –  as some remember it – may be familiar with the Confederate guerrilla fighter and leader of a pack of marauders whose name was Quantrill.  


William Clarke Quantrill was born on July 3, 1837, in Canal Dover, Ohio, (now Dover, Ohio) the son of the superintendent of the Canal Dover Union School. As a teenager William became a serious problem as a delinquent.  He was once said to have been jailed, accused of murder, and was released in 1855.  Leaving Ohio, he decided to teach school and moved about looking for work.  At one point he was accused of crimes and on another occasion he was booted out of Lawrence, Kansas.  A supporter of slavery, he joined the Confederate Army when the Civil War erupted on the American scene.
 Not one for the discipline of the military, Quantrill organized a band of guerilla fighters whose members included names such as those of Jesse James, Frank James, Cole Younger and James Younger. He won accolades among his supporters as a superb leader and tactician.  He detested Abraham Lincoln supporters or generally anyone who was not favorable to the cause of the Confederacy.   At one point in 1863, during a raid burning and looting the town of Lawrence, Kansas, the gang murdered 150 townspeople.  Quantrill was finally stopped when he was ambushed by U.S. troops who mortally wounded causing his death on June 6, 1865.


Step back nine years earlier to a time before the Civil War, and after Quantrill’s father had suffered an untimely death.  It was 1859, and as a young man William left home to find work.  An interesting letter survives reprinted in a book by William Elsey Connelley, Quantrill and the Border Wars (1956) signed, “Your son William Quantrill.”


The letter describes the weather of February 21, 1856, as snow being thirty inches deep in the woods and destined to get deeper.   A couple of weeks prior, the temperature stood at 30 degrees below zero in the early hours of the morning and the days did not warm up more than 19 degrees below zero by noon with the temperature gauge not climbing above zero for days.
Farmers were loosing sheep, pigs and calves in the freezing weather.  People had to deal with frozen extremities and many had the ague and many had died of typhoid fever.  William described the place as unhealthy, with virtually everybody living in log houses, and he suggested that no one should buy a farm in the entire state of Indiana.


On a more favorable note, Quantrill noted that his stay from where he wrote had “done me more good and I have learned more than I would in three years steady schooling.  What I have learned will be of more benefit to me that any thing I now know of.”   He thought that it might be a good idea to stick around for another year, he had good clothes to wear and had not missed a meal and he regretted leaving his widowed mother home alone to fend for herself.


Finding friends nearby seemed to be a consolation to William and knowing that his old friend George Scott lived a mere twenty miles or so from him Quantrill wrote, “he is a different boy from what he was in Dover.”   George was making money and had a place to board all winter “…and that he never done at home and never would in Dover if he had lived there ever so long.”


Otherwise sounding like that of a typical son-to-his-mother letter, it is in the first paragraph that makes the story so interesting. “My Dear Mother – I suppose you thought I was dead but not so… I hope you will forgive me then for not writing. I am now in Indiana near Fort Wayne teaching a school, and a very good one. I have from 35 to 40 scholars every day.  I have got a good neighborhood, and they say I am the best teacher they ever had. I get 20 dollars a month and boarded. I took up school for three months and my time is half out now.”


How promising the February 1856 letter sounded for a young man who may have engrossed himself in a noble career, learned tolerance but was strayed away by unfortunate circumstances.


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Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi © is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail” which is broadcast Mondays on 89.1 fm WBOI; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio106.3 fm. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at historycenterfw.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Old Trail to Chicago from Fort Wayne

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” - Jul 2012, closes May. 2012, No. 91)



Have you noticed the historical marker on North Wells Street near the Imagine School?  Even though scores of cars pass by each day, it’s not too well recognized that this sturdy aluminum cast sign ranks with others around the nation that draw attention to ancient traces and roads.  For example, some of the other markers found around the country listed with the likes of the Fort Wayne Fort Dearborn Trail are The Pony Express Trail in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, the King’s Highway, El Camino Real marker in San Antonio, Texas, Potomac Path/King’s Highway in Triangle, Virginia, the Natchez Trace with markers in Madisonville, Mississippi and in Hohenwald, Tennessee citing the 444-mile trail or the Wilderness Road through Fort Chiswell, Virginia.

Fort Dearborn Historical Marker
There are sites just as interesting and just as colorful that describe the ancient migratory pathways of grazing animals found useful by the aboriginal people who used the paths to hunt the animals as well as travel throughout their territories. Early explorers and military expeditions took advantage of these established routes as did the first settlers as they moved into new territories.  Some became the modern-day roads and highways we drive over in our cars and trucks going about our commercial and leisurely way.
Standing on the north side of Fort Wayne located along the 1915 route of the Lincoln Highway is the Fort Wayne-Fort Dearborn Trail marker that reads: “An ancient Indian trail, through Pottawatomie country, variably called the Dragoon, White Pigeon, Great Northwestern and Fort Dearborn Road. After 1795 used for mail delivery between Fort Wayne and Fort Dearborn, Captain Wells, Wayne spy, was slain along this route.”
Perhaps the William Wells’ story is the most remarkable.  Wells, the boy captured by the Miami and eventual son-in-law of Chief Little Turtle, became the first Indian Agent stationed at Fort Wayne.

William Wells
As a result of aggressive US treaty demands between 1803 and 1809, new Indian resistance developed under the leadership of the Shawnee Tecumseh and his brother, the Prophet. In 1811, William Wells was ordered to go to Fort Dearborn, present-day Chicago, and escort the small garrison back to the stronger Fort Wayne.  Painted in the tradition of Miami war paint, Wells led a small group of warriors from Fort Wayne to Fort Dearborn to the rescue.  Though sensing great danger, Wells obeyed orders and on August 15, 1812 led a small troop of soldiers accompanied by the endangered women, and children back toward Fort Wayne. After traveling only a short distance from the fort, the wagon train was attacked by a large band of Potawatomi. Defending a wagon filled with children, William Wells was cut down by musket fire. The Indians cut off his head and, as a show of honor for the great warrior, ate his heart on the spot.
As we pass a sometimes unnoticed historical marker, time is too short to digest the depth of the story related in the few words the space provides.  Here on North Wells Street stands one marker that, to comprehend all it has to share can be incomprehensible.  
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Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi © is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail” which is broadcast Mondays on 89.1 fm WBOI; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio106.3 fm. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at historycenterfw.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

LaBalme Visit to Fort Wayne

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” - Jun 2012, closes. Apr 2012, No. 90)



The small stream in southwest Allen County that empties into the Little Wabash River holds the unusual name of the Aboite River.  Thomas B. Helm wrote the term “Aboite” refers to the 1780 battle which took place between the Indians and French soldiers led by Lt. Col Augustin Mottin de LaBalme.  Further he wrote that the name “Aboite” comes from a corruption of the French word abattoir meaning “slaughter house”.  

Other historians attribute the word Aboite as developed from the French a Bouette for “river of minnows” or boit that refers to a box in which fish are kept. The two different derivations – a slaughter or a fish story – seem normal enough, however, they signal that perhaps there might be something else behind the name.  

Was this place the site of LaBalme’s “Waterloo” or a marshy area with a lot of aquatic life or both?  The venerable historian John B. Dillon described the LaBalme expedition, which started out from Kaskaskia with 20 or 30 men against British-held Detroit and came up the Wabash River from Vincennes. On the way they made what became an infamous stop at the British trading post Kekionga we now call Fort Wayne.  

Eyewitnesses told Charles B. Lasselle about the incident and gave a much more graphic report which can be read in a 1964 History Center Old Fort News article. LaBalme, a Frenchmen, came with Lafayette in 1779 and landed in Kaskaskia with the assignment of raising an expedition to raid Kekionga and extend his operations against Detroit.  While in Vincennes, he added a few volunteers and by the fall of 1780 LaBalme could count 50 to 60 men in his party. Coming up the Wabash and across the marsh portage, the expedition surprised Kekionga causing the inhabitants to flee the scene. Lasselle was quoted as saying, “After remaining a short time and plundering the goods of some of the French traders and Indians, he retreated to a place near the Aboite River and encamped.”
Colonel Augustin Mottin de LaBalme.
Read more about the LaBalme's defeat in 200@200 - Contention for th Confluence.

Jean Baptiste Bruno, a French trader, experienced the raid saying that the troops took the place without resistance and then, “About noon the enemy marched into the village. They numbered about sixty men, mostly Frenchmen and half-breeds, a dirty set of ragamuffins. Only a few had guns; the others were armed with knives and tomahawks.  They ordered the British officer to take down the British flag. The order was promptly obeyed.  They broke into the trading house of Antoine Beaubien…Here they found some whisky, of which they drank freely. …a large number of them had become drunk and quarrelsome…The commander, who was himself badly intoxicated, did not try to control his men.”
The invaders spent the night assaulting the community keeping “the village in a great uproar by their orgies and committing some infamous outrages upon the women of the place.”  When the liquor ran out the raiders demanded whisky from Bruno who “never dealt in it. But of course they did not believe me.” Bruno told the raiders that he would give his keys to LaBalme, “…while the priest and I stood guard at the entrance...Soon he returned and reported that there was no liquor of any kind in the house.”

Bruno said that he spoke with LaBalme who claimed he had arrived from France two years prior and that he held a commission in the French army.  Further that he had been authorized by the United States government. “This I subsequently learned was not true. He did not even have the sanction of Colonel Clark; he was an irresponsible adventurer.’

Finally, LaBalme and his raiders departed and Bruno wrote, “Reaching the Aboite River some twelve miles away, the marauders encamped for the night.”  Exhausted, and while the invaders fell into deep sleep, they were attacked by Miami War Chief Little Turtle’s warriors, traders, and others whose families had been maltreated by them.  As Bruno’s story concluded in his April 7, 1892 Indianapolis News report, “LaBalme and his entire command were put to death just where they had lain down to sleep.”
Items found at the site of LaBalme's Defeat.

These eyewitnesses and prominent historians such as Wallace Brice and Thomas B. Helm place the massacre along the Aboite River in western Allen County. However, it should be noted that there also is a tradition that places the event on the Eel River in Union Township, in Whitley County where weapons and human remains have been found. Wherever the bloody event occurred we know the LaBalme party got their comeuppance, and we in Allen County got our Aboite.

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Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi © is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail” which is broadcast Mondays on 89.1 fm WBOI; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio106.3 fm. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at historycenterfw.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Colonel John Allen

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – closes Mar 2012 for May 2012, No. 89)


Allen County was created on April 1, 1824, by an act of the Indiana General Assembly, which had passed the enabling act on December 17, 1823. The newly created county was named for Colonel John Allen.  Who was John Allen whose name now graces the largest geographical area of any of Indiana’s ninety-two counties?  Some of what we know is that Allen was a member of the Kentucky militia who had helped relieve the siege of Fort Wayne in 1812 and who was killed in 1813 at the River Raisin massacre near the present-day Monroe, Michigan.
Born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, on December 30, 1772, his father James Allen immigrated to Kentucky with his family in 1780, eventually settling near Bardstown near Louisville.  John enjoyed the benefit of attending private school before studying law at Staunton, Virginia. He then returned in 1795 to practice law in Shelbyville, Kentucky where he rose to great prominence as a lawyer. Among his celebrated cases was as an associate of Henry Clay in the defense of Aaron Burr. When he ran for governor of Kentucky against General Charles Scott, he lost the election by one vote. He did, however, win several elections that gained him a seat as a state senator. John Allen was described by his fellow Kentuckians as a tall, handsome soldier who enthusiastically led his valiant troops to the place of rendezvous and to his own death.
Jane, Colonel Allen’s wife was a daughter of General Benjamin Logan. Logan’s adopted son Spemica Lawba, a Shawnee nephew and of Tecumseh also has Fort Wayne connections. Known as “Captain Johnny Logan” he became endeared to the American defenders as the man who escorted the women and children safely to Piqua during the siege of Fort Wayne, and for whom the Indiana city of Logansport received its name.
During the War of 1812, the occupants departing Fort Dearborn on August 15, 1812, were attacked by the native Indians and the garrison lost.  The fall of Fort Dearborn embolden the native warriors to join the British side planning the siege of Fort Wayne.
As the war progressed, Kentuckians were encouraged to organize and a volunteer force of over 2,000 men came forward led by Colonel John Allen along with John M. Scott and William Lewis. Allen was charged with a rifle regiment reporting to General William Henry Harrison who had been given command of all the troops of the Indiana and Illinois Territories.
On September 3, 1812, Colonel Allen’s regiment with two companies was ordered to make a forced march for the relief of the siege of Fort Wayne. The corps that arrived were composed of volunteers of all ages including many who held important offices in their native state.  Allen’s regiment formed the right column. During the night the enemy spies caused some alarm as they moved around learning that Harrison’s army was certain to arrive the next day.  The Indians left the field and people who had taken refuge in Fort Wayne expressed great relief and joy.
Pursuing this war with Britain, Colonel Allen was ordered to march with 110 soldiers to follow Colonel Lewis’ 550 troops to the River Raisin early on January 17, 1813.  When the outnumbered Americans began battle on January 22, Allen pressed the enemy, however, overwhelmed in numbers the Americans were pushed back themselves. A surrender was negotiated, with the British Colonel Proctor who failed in honoring his promise to refrain his native forces from indiscriminate revenge killing of the wounded.   
Although wounded in his thigh, John Allen urged his troops to make all their actions count as they made their escape. Exhausted after he had worked his way some two miles, Allen sat down on a log resolved to meet his fate. Robert McAfee, in History of the Late War in the Western Country in 1816 wrote of Allen’s last moments that, an Indian chief attempted to take him prisoner but was persuaded otherwise by Allen. According to McAfee, “Another (Indian) having at the same time advanced with a hostile appearance, Colonel Allen, by one stroke with his sword, laid him dead at his feet. At third Indian, who was near him, had then the honor of shooting (Allen) one of the first and greatest citizens of Kentucky.” The disastrous affairs of the River Raisin aroused the American resolve.
The War of 1812 eventually concluded on December 24, 1814, with the signing of the peace treaty between the U.S. and Great Britain at Ghent, Belgium. Because of the state of communications in those days future U.S. president Andrew Jackson, unaware of the peace treaty, was victorious at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, and the British withdrew.  
Historian Bert Griswold described the Colonel as a brilliant Kentucky statesman and brave soldier who, “was among the first of the Kentuckians to offer his services for his country when the perilous situation of Fort Wayne in 1812 was made known.  His undaunted courage during the trying period after the siege of Fort Wayne up to the time of his tragic death at the battle of the River Raisin, has given him a fame throughout the middle west which will not pass from the memory of his countrymen.” Indiana’s large geographical county is inexorably tied to that war because of Colonel John Allen.

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Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi © is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail” which is broadcast Mondays on 89.1 fm WBOI; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio106.3 fm. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at historycenterfw.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Charles W. Miner, Fort Wayne Photographer

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” - Apr 2012, closes. Feb 2012, No. 88)


Who was Charles Miner the early 1900s Fort Wayne photographer? He was known to be a diligent professional that led to his success and in turn was held in high esteem by his contemporaries.  Miner’s work was extensive with his photography found in the collections of the Allen County Fort Wayne Historical Society as well as the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis. Inside the University of Saint Francis’ “Brookside” a 4 feet wide by 3 feet high photo mural of John Bass at his desk graces a second floor hallway wall. A 1906 The Beautiful City of Fort Wayne booklet with its 30 full-page photos begins with one of the Allen County Court House carrying the imprimatur of “C.W. Miner.”  In the stacks of the Allen County Public Library copies of the 1911 Fort Wayne with Might and Main feature the work of Charles Miner that include over 200 of his photos.  
Charles became known for excellence in his work whether it be fine portraits, enlargements or color work.  His quality exterior and interior views were attractive to businesses for their catalogs and other commercial purposes be they machinery, furniture or rail cars.  Miner specialized in cameras and lenses for a variety of assignments, large or small, with the reputation for careful attention to detail and skillful execution.
Today, anyone with a cell phone is likely equipped with a digital camera feature.  Professional photography involves a sense of composition, lighting, chemistry, equipment technology among other talents. Back in the late 1800s the profession was in its early stages and took a lot of dedication not to mention physical endurance, to ply the art of photo making with its, bulky box cameras, glass plates, and explosive powders for lighting.  Now we click away, delete the undesirable, revise the reality of the shot with digital editing, and post the flattering ones online in hopes that friends will take notice. It is one of those professions in which art and science meet.  Photography was different 135 years ago. Professional photography demands are poles apart commanding a mixed discipline of artist, technician, problem solver, and people handler.  
Charles Winslow Miner was born on January 26, 1866 to Simon P. and Melissa Miner both originally from Ohio who had moved to Columbia City in the mid 1800s. At an early age, Charles became interested in photography. To learn the photographic art, young Charles served an apprenticeship under Levi Monroe “Roe” Jones whose studio was in the 200 block of East Van Buren Street in Columbia City. Roe Jones was especially known for his large size portraits.  Here Charles learned how clients were handled from waiting room to dressing room, and then schooled in the toning, developing, enlarging, printing and framing all a part of the process.
After completing his early education and by 1887, Miner moved to Fort Wayne where he secured a position with the photography studio of Felix Schanz at 112 Calhoun Street. Later, about 1902 when the “Cartesian” street building address numbering system was made sensible, the number was changed to 922.  
Charles was employed as a “photographer” for “F. Schanz” and is listed as such in the 1891-1892 Fort Wayne City Directory. Schanz at age 26 had moved from New York to Fort Wayne in 1881, and by 1886 had opened the studio on Calhoun Street. Five or so years older than Miner, Schanz who went on to an illustrious career in his own right, just as Roe Jones had done, served as an important mentor during the critical years of Miner’s formation.
Residing in a boarding house, Charles Miner lived at 62 Douglas Avenue from 1891 to 1896.  In 1897, he opened his own studio in the 700 block of Calhoun Street over the Rurode Dry Goods store.  Then in 1898, as his business increased he moved to 23 West Wayne now 121 West Wayne. The studio name was listed as “Miner & Law” photography studio according to city directories of the day.  Active in the community for several years, Miner was a member of the Fort Wayne Elks Lodge 155 as well as the local lodge of the Knights of Pythias.
It took him a while, about age 39, before he met and married Fort Wayne resident Mary S. Criswell on November 28, 1905. Dates are not certain but the couple had a daughter Sarah M. Miner who was born about 1908 followed by a second daughter Mildred born around 1912.  The 1910 and 1911 city directories shows Miner’s Studio, Charles W. Miner proprietor, was located at 121 West Wayne, which was the same location as but changed when the city’s street number system was adjusted.
Charles suffered a sever attack of asthma in November 1911 and for six months his health gradually declined.  Lying on a cot in his home, after he rose to sit upright in a chair a few moments later he expired. According to the Journal Gazette, Charles was 46 years of old when he died on May 22, 1912, at 9:00 a.m. in his 1030 East Wayne Street home.  The business was left to be managed by Mary Miner.  The next year 1913 the studio was managed by Estella Miner and during the same month one year after Charles’ death, Mary, suffering from tuberculosis, died on May 3, 1913.  
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Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi © is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail” which is broadcast Mondays on 89.1 fm WBOI; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio106.3 fm. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at historycenterfw.blogspot.com.

Note: You can see a photo of Charles Miner’s studio at present day 121 W. Wayne street in the Indiana Historical Society’s digital photography collection.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hamilton the Hair Buyer

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Feb.  2012 closes Dec.. 1, 2011, No. 87)


On being named Lieutenant Governor of Detroit, Henry Hamilton arrived at his new position in November 1775 after a risky journey through American rebel lines while the city of Montreal was under siege. He was the first to hold that position as a result of the Quebec Act of 1774 which had reorganized the governance of the region.  All of Quebec, including the newly added Northwest, was under military control. Even though Detroit reported to Montreal, the outbreak of the American Revolution changed strategies. As a result, Hamilton became a very powerful personage in the old Northwest.
Hamilton has come down through American history books as a villain.  However, historian William A. Evans writing of the Lieutenant Governor in 1978 stated, “He was vigorous and authoritative, qualities generally lacking in important British commanders during the Revolution.  He actively encouraged the Indians within his area of control to pursue a policy of continual attack upon the frontier. The Indian attacks inflamed the frontier and enraged the Americans.”  Even though the Indians carried on a war no different than in previous decades, the victims needed a villain. Hamilton became the villain of the American frontiersmen becoming known as “Hamilton the Hair Buyer.”
Departing Detroit in 1778, Hamilton traveled down the Detroit River to Lake Erie and came up the Maumee to present day Fort Wayne.  Using interesting and clever means, Henry Hamilton crossed a drought-stricken portage to move his army westward to the Wabash River near present-day Huntington, Indiana. Along the route he meant to attract the native people to his cause, eventually mustering a force of 600 men of which 550 were native warriors. One record preserved on the river expedition in a journal kept by an officer in the party was a speech he gave to a gathering of chiefs from various tribes.  “Whenever the Enemy of the King entered their ground…he would com (sic) and assist them and drive the enemy out of their Country” Hamilton told them. Now the King heard that the American rebels had come and as promised, he the King, was determined to drive them out.   Hamilton could not resist demeaning the Americans saying, “the English, French and Spaniards was all Senceable (sic) – But that the long knives were fools.” Hamilton showed a great deal of military ability as well as wilderness savvy. He took the precaution of sending out his warriors ranging in front and on his flanks thereby exposing virtually all of his enemy’s scouts.  Once the British  approached Vincennes, the American commander Captain Leonard Helm was taken by surprise with no notion what was about to descend on him.
After the December 1778 attack at Vincennes the French inhabitants who had recently shifted their allegiance to the Americans now shifted back to the British. Helm had renamed the site Fort Patrick Henry but after the surrender the name became Fort Sackville under the British flag.  
Long periods of dry weather turned to drought, making Hamilton’s river sortie down the Wabash difficult.  Weather conditions then changed to rain followed by a deluge that flooded the entire region of Vincennes. At this point, Hamilton felt his position secure against an American counter attack. Sending his Indian allies home, Hamilton ordered the Detroit militia back to their base leaving the Vincennes garrison with about eighty men.
Of course, that opened the way for the famous George Rogers Clark’s surprise operation marching his less than two hundred men over two hundred miles across a frozen swamp oftentimes in waist-deep water. Eighteen days later Clark and his men retook Vincennes from Hamilton and his British troops. Once again the French inhabitants returned their allegiance to the Americans.
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Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi © is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail” which is broadcast Mondays on 89.1 fm WBOI; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio106.3 fm. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at historycenterfw.blogspot.com.