Thursday, October 16, 2014

William Fleming Helped Open the Way for Fort Wayne

by Tom Castaldi

When 1874 came around, the Wabash & Erie Canal did not reopen on schedule with many of its mechanical structures in dire need of repair. In the previous year it was no longer possible to travel the entire length of the line and a court decree that year ordered that the canal to be sold beginning February 12, 1876. Twelve days later an auction took place and on March 29, 1876, Trustee Thomas Dowling sold the entire canal. A deed was conveyed to William Fleming of Fort Wayne for the bed of the old waterway from the western edge of Lafayette, Indiana to the Indiana-Ohio line for which $85,000 was paid.

William Fleming photo from History Center archives

William Fleming was born in 1828 in Wicklow, Ireland, entered national school and by age fourteen was sent to finish his academic work in Dublin. In 1848, William came to America via Quebec with his parents Luke and Sarah Holt Fleming. After they reached Canada, his father and four of his siblings became ill, perhaps of typhus or the cholera epidemic, and died during the quarantine time while tied up in the harbor at Quebec.

Sarah Holt Fleming brought William and his three surviving brothers to Fort Wayne. After his arrival, William taught school and worked as a stonecutter along with other employment until he took a position as deputy sheriff under Richard McMullen. When Sheriff McMullen died, Fleming assumed the position. He became interested in politics and Fleming served twice in that office as a Democrat.

He married Ann McLaughlin in January 1850, but in 1854 Ann died. His second marriage on July 7, 1859 was to Helen F. Mayer whose father George operated Fort Wayne’s Mayer House hotel. Fleming and his wife moved to a home that stood on the southwest corner of Rockhill and Berry streets. A three-story structure, it is believed to originally have been built by William Rockhill in 1857.

A man of many accomplishments, Fleming was the founder of the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, which became the Nickel Plate Railroad. Later he helped bring it to Fort Wayne and served on its board of directors until the railroad was sold to the Vanderbilt people. He served as Treasurer of the Indiana School Book Company; President of the Salamonie Mining and Gas Company; Vice President and Acting President of the First National Bank of Fort Wayne; President of the Hartford City Paper Company, as well as a stockholder and director of several other businesses.

Publishing was another interest. In 1873, W.H. Dills and I.W. Campbell had merged the Fort Wayne Daily Sentinel with Campbell’s Fort Wayne The Times forming the Times and Sentinel. On January 15, 1866, they sold the paper to E. Zimmerman and Eli Brown who changed the name to The Democrat. Several others directed The Democrat, and in 1873, R.D. Dumm and William Fleming took control and restored the name to its former The Sentinel that S.V.B. Noel and Thomas Tiger had given it when they first started the paper on July 6, 1833. Six men underwrote the business risk: Henry Rudisill, Lewis G. Thompson, Joseph Holman, E. Ewing, Allen Hamilton and Frances Comparet. In 1874, The Sentinel Publishing Company was organized to manage the business. William Fleming purchased The Sentinel in 1877 and became its sole owner until April 16, 1879, when he sold to William Rockhill Nelson and Samuel E. Morss. In 2009 the News-Sentinel, a direct descendant of The Sentinel, continues to publish a daily newspaper. (note that this post was originally published in 2009)

Elected City Clerk, Fleming served for eight years until 1878 when he became Indiana State Treasurer. However, he lost his bid for reelection in 1880 when the balance of the ticket went down in defeat. Fleming regularly counseled his party and was often a delegate to the Democrat National Convention.

William Fleming died on January 13, 1890. Remembered as having been industrious, enterprising, and one of the wealthy men of the state, he was also known to have been a true and faithful member of his church, rendering it faithful service and substantial financial support. Throughout his life he made friends easily with a warm and genial nature. He possessed many estimable qualities of character and left his impression on his adopted city, state and country. William Fleming is to be remembered as the man who bought the canal and opened the path for the improved technology of steam railroading.

Originally published in Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi”
 September 2009 No. 58

Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast at 6:35 a.m., 8:35 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Mondays on WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on WLYV-1450 AM and WRRO 89.9 FM. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog, “Our Stories,” at history

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Where Do We Come From--Our Holy Space

Second in a series about the history of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Fort Wayne by Sandra Maze.

Those of our congregation that came to us after 2000 only know our Meetinghouse as it is now.  However there are also those who know it as it was.
 In “Projects ARCHITECTURAL FORUM”, was an article titled “Hyperbolic Church for Unitarians”.  “For the Unitarian Society of Fort Wayne Indiana, Humbrecht Associates have designed twin hyperbolic paraboloids—one to serve as an auditorium for about 200, the other as a religious education area.”
The congregation entered the building into what is now the Langhinrichs Gallery. Where the library is now was the minister’s office and the cloak room was the secretary’s office.  The reception hall housed the RE area and the choir also practiced there.
This all began in the late 1950s.  The Unitarian Society of Fort Wayne still met in that house on Fairfield Avenue.  They were beginning to have growing pains.   In April of 1957, The Congregation voted in favor of a committee to study the acquisition of a site for and the building of a new meeting place for the Society.  This committee was chaired by Larry Burke.  The committee recommended Humbrecht Associates be retained as Architects to build the Unitarian Meetinghouse.  This recommendation was approved by the Board of Trustees.
 In 1958, the task of raising the money for the new space began.  The building campaign was launched on May 13, 1957 and formally ended on June 7, 1957.  On July 17th Humbrecht Associates became our architects.  At a potluck supper on November 22nd, a model of the proposed building constructed by Kenneth Cole was the centerpiece of the feast and the discussion.
On Friday, December13th, the congregation voted to approve the preliminary plans and also the site of the plot between old Mill Road and Foster Park Road in the Woodhurst neighborhood development.  Peggy Seigel wrote in her “Brief History of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation” that the land itself is rich in history, for it was part of a parcel given (given back) by the federal government to Miami Chief jean Baptiste Richardville in 1825.  It is located next to the new home of Achduth Vesholom Congregation, the same congregation that shared its home with the Universalists a hundred years earlier.
 It was reported in the 1959 Profile, Analysis and Proposal for a new building, that there was a membership of 175, of which 140 were resident.  They had a mailing list of 250 and a Church School of 50.  The room that was used for worship seated only 56 and at times there was an attendance was about 60.  The new membership decreased from 40 new members the first year of the minister’s incumbency and had declined to about 12 during the current year.  It was determined that there was a “dramatic need for the new building which would no doubt accelerate the growth pattern as it has typically done elsewhere.”
 In June of 1959, The Unitarian Society of Fort Wayne, entered into an agreement with Allied Fund Raising Counselors of Chicago Illinois to receive professional direction for the canvass.

The Unitarian Congregation of Fort Wayne dedicated their new building on January 29, 1960.  The Opening Sentences were delivered by The Reverend Robert S Hoagland, our first minister of the congregation.
The following words appeared in the dedication program:

Open to us the gates that shall never be closed to any man, whatsoever his race, his class or his creed.  We would enter into them; we would give forth our thanks.
Enter into these gates with thanksgiving, and into these courts with praise. Sir, the Unitarian Congregation of Fort Wayne now enters upon the use of this building.  On behalf of the Congregation I gratefully acknowledge the fidelity with which your committee has fulfilled its duties.
Let us now proceed to the dedication of this church.

To be continued....

Thursday, October 9, 2014

First Fort of the Fort

by Tom Castaldi

Fort Wayne’s first fort was built as a dream of the French, and especially the renowned 17th century explorer Robert Sieur de La Salle, to create a wilderness empire that arced through the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River valley from Quebec to New Orleans. This empire would be firmly anchored on military and trading strongholds and Indian alliances. Because the Maumee-Wabash portage was the most direct link between New France in the upper Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, the Three Rivers region was particularly important. An outpost at the confluence of the rivers would become a key stronghold in a string of forts cutting through the heart of the wilderness from the area of Detroit to St. Louis. In what is now called Indiana, other key French strongholds were located in present day Lafayette and Vincennes.

The French lived among the Miami at the Three Rivers as early as 1697 when Jean Baptiste Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes (who died in 1719), and Francois Marie Bissot de Vincennes, the son of Jean Baptiste (who died in 1736), served as royal agents to the Miamis. The elder Vincennes may have built a trading post at the Three Rivers as early as 1706, but the first fort was built in 1722 on this site by Captain Dubuisson upon the orders of the French governor in Quebec. The fortification was called Fort St. Philippe or Fort Miamis, was garrisoned by as many as thirty men, and commanded the portage between the St. Mary's and Wabash rivers.

In the 1740s, tensions between France and England increased greatly over competing trading rights in the Midwestern frontier. In response to English expansion into the wilderness north of the Ohio River, the French sent several military expeditions to push out the English. Although some English traders were expelled, superior trade goods and other promises offered by the British merchant adventures lured the region's Indian peoples to new English trading centers. In 1747, the Wyandot chief Sanosket, known also as Old Britain or La Damoiselle, encouraged by the British, attacked and burned Fort St. Philippe, partially destroying it. He and his people, along with many of the area Miamis, moved to the new British trading post at Picawillany, near modern Piqua, Ohio. Chief Cold Foot, a firm supporter of the French, remained at the Three Rivers, and the area around the first French fort came to be known as "Cold Foot's Village." A smallpox epidemic struck in 1751 and killed many of the Miamis, including Cold Foot and his son.

A new French commandant, Captain Charles DeRaimond, repaired the fort in 1747 and used it for three years. When a senior French officer, Pierre Joseph Celoron, Sieur de Bienville, led his strong expedition through the region in 1749 to counter British influence, he stopped at the dilapidated old Fort St. Philippe. Accompanying him was the priest and scientist, Reverend Pierre Joseph de Bonnecamps, who described the place at the time as being "in very bad condition" with "eight miserable huts, which only the desire of making money could render endurable." There were 22 French present and everyone "had the fever," including the commandant. The palisades were in ruins. A new fort was built the next year two and a half miles by way of the Saint Mary’s and on up the St. Joseph River.

A century and a half later on May 20, 1911, the same ground that served a fortress was dedicated as Fort Wayne’s first public playground and designed as a safe place for children to enjoy its swings, see-says, wading pools and sand boxes. You can still visit the place where the first French fort stood on the south side of the Saint Mary’s River in the vicinity of a pleasant grassy open space near Van Buren Street Bridge. What began as a stronghold to secure a route for a wilderness empire became a playground park.

Originally published in Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – May 2009 No. 54
Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast at 6:35 a.m., 8:35 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Mondays on WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on WLYV-1450 AM and WRRO 89.9 FM. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog, “Our Stories,” at history