Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Electrifying Christmas

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” –Dec 2012, closes Oct. 1, 2012, No. 96)

How many electric light bulbs does it take to light up the Christmas spirit? For some of us it takes just one. Maybe that’s the reason 24,717 colorful lights can get an entire community up and running headlong into the Christmas spirit when the Wolf and Dessauer’s Santa and Reindeer display is energized on the PNC Bank building wall casting a glow over old “Transfer Corner.”
The story has been told of how some wonderful people including G. Irving Latz, of Wolf & Dessauer department store and Frank Dunigan, of the Brinkman Corporation first hatched the idea; how Isabel Wilkerson Parker sketched out the concept; how Leslie Pope transferred it to its actual size; and how the employees at Brinkman produced the unique Christmas display. We’ve heard too the story of how the display was stored away and forgotten gradually falling into a state of disrepair; how the IBEW 305 with the Iron Workers Local 147 combined their time and talents with the resources of Northeastern Indiana Electrical Contractors Association and the Chamber of Commerce along with untold numbers of interested businesses and citizens refurbished the display making it the reality we can enjoy in our day.

Main Street looking East from Calhoun, 1889

The intersection of Main and Calhoun streets, where holiday crowds gather to watch the lighting of the Santa display, is at a site that has long attracted people. For many years it was known as “Turntable Corner” and later “Transfer Corner” because a rotating track had been placed in the street to direct departing trolleys onto assigned outbound routes.  Between the 1890s and the 1960s, this corner was where all the trolleys and later buses converged from a network of routes. As horse-drawn street trolleys rolling on rails gave way to the electrified trolley buses in 1892, it has remained an energized place. During 1890s, Marmaduke Marcellus Slattery, an inventor working for Jenney Electric Company was experimenting with battery powered trolleys. Although a forward-thinking fellow tinkering with a technology whose time was yet to come, his experience was a little like Noah’s last dove sent from the Ark that full of energy never came back from somewhere in the “out there.” However, when Slattery sent his trial trolley out on a test run full of hope and vim, the battery drained of energy and the car failed to return.
True, many towns and cities have established favorite customs such as parades, festive window displays, church pageants, school plays, orchestral performances and the like, but Fort Wayne has a long-treasured tradition that extends back to the days of the Wolf and Dessauer Department Store when window displays drew holiday seekers and shoppers from miles around.  Those nostalgic days for the older generation may be gone, however, they have been replaced by a symbol of the season that can light up the legacy of those exciting November and December animated store windows.  Another of the remaining artifacts is the gigantic wreath, also festooned with lights just like Santa Clause, in November placed nearby on the north side of Fort Wayne’s signature high-rise building. But, it’s Santa Clause that gets the nod with his twinkling, blinking blue eye announcing to the thousands that energizes the crowd in the streets below officially opening Christmas Season in the Three River’s region.

Wolf & Dessauer building with electric Christmas displays

Best of all it is very nice watching the eyes of children of all ages sparkle.  Once Santa and his reindeer cast their radiance over the town, it sparks a tour of a veritable festival of Christmas trees, Gingerbread houses, model holiday villages, and with music in the air all over town.

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.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Fort Wayne Flag at 100

My name is Michael Rice. I am a senior at Indiana University studying Anthropology and Folklore. This is my second summer working at the Fort Wayne History Center. I also work at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University. I have always loved culture and history, and museums are a great mix of the two. During my internship at the History Center I will be the 200@200 intern.
The 200@200 project is celebrating Indiana’s bicentennial with 200 objects of Fort Wayne’s history since Indiana became a state. The Fort Wayne flag is being used as a motif for the Bicentennial project. The flag was first created 100 years ago and I will be discussing its history and what the symbols represent.

A contest was sponsored by the Journal Gazette to celebrate Indiana’s centennial in 1916, and chose Guy Drewett’s rendition of the Fort Wayne city flag; however, the flag originally had just two white stars. It was redesigned by Drewett in 1934 when he added a Miami Native American head silhouette, a fleur-de-lis, and an English Lion. Guy traveled around Fort Wayne selling the flag to citizens anticipating the centennial with the slogan that he was the “Guy That Drew It,” using his name as a play on words. He was so thrilled with his creation he even had his tombstone engraved with “Designed the flag of Fort Wayne-1916.” The Fort Wayne flag represents the history of Fort Wayne through the symbols that are shown. At the center of the flag is the historic fort bisecting the date 1794, which is when Fort Wayne was founded. The pall design or “Y” shape within the flag represents the three rivers, St. Joseph, St. Marys and Maumee Rivers that make our city great. The Miami Native American head symbolizes the Miami tribe that first settled this land. The fleur-de-lis is representing the French influence of early settlers in this area. Lastly, the lion is representing the British presence. All of these symbols make up our remarkable emblem that has been flying since June 26, 1934.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Methodists

 . (Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Nov 2012 closes Sep 2012 No 95)

As the fourth religious group to hold worship services in early Fort Wayne, the Methodists came to the community after Catholics, Baptists, and Presbyterians.  According to the renowned historian George R. Mather, their missionary policy was to appoint lay preachers and establish circuits of preaching stations, rapidly enabling the Methodist Episcopal Church in its effort to organize congregations in nearly every new settlement in the pioneer West.

Unschooled and itinerant leadership did not at first bode well and although preachers occasionally did visit Fort Wayne during the 1820s, no church was organized.  In 1830, the Illinois Conference established the Fort Wayne Mission and appointed the Reverend Nehemiah B. Griffith in charge of the undertaking. Although the seed of Methodism in Fort Wayne was planted early it was slow in reaching its full potential.  Whenever the circuit-riding minister came to town, services were held in a variety of places, including a Masonic Hall, schoolhouse, courthouse, carpenter shop, and private homes.

By 1835, the congregation attempted to build a meeting house near the corner of Ewing and Main streets, but it abandoned the effort after the financial panic of 1837.  In 1840, a new property was secured on the northeast corner of Berry and Harrison streets and a frame church was built.  

In 1849, the North Indiana Conference, which was organized five years before in Fort Wayne, divided the town into two parishes with Harrison Street being the separating line.  The new congregation first worshipped in the chapel of the Methodist College.  In early 1850, under the leadership of the Reverend Samuel Brenton, it secured lots on the southwest corner of Wayne and Broadway streets and erected a frame meeting house.

Methodist College

The Berry Street congregation built a Gothic brick church on the same site in 1864 then moved it in 1903 to a new facility on the southwest corner of East Wayne and Lafayette streets and changed its name to the First Methodist Episcopal Church.  The Wayne Street Methodist Episcopal “reunited” with its parent congregation in 1968 and dedicated the present building in 1973.  Mather added that, after years of steady growth it became more fully rooted growing and becoming one of the prominent denominations in the community, distinguished for its evangelical zeal and social conscience.

The idea of the Methodist College first had emerged during the 1840s. Historian Mather recalled that it was not known who first proposed it, however, in 1846 the Methodists were completing plans for the Fort Wayne Female College, which soon after was renamed the Fort Wayne Collegiate Institute. During the next year, the Methodist North Indiana Conference assumed formal sponsorship of the school.  By June the structure’s cornerstone was laid and when the school opened in the fall of 1847 nearly 100 girls were enrolled.  In 1852, a separate Fort Wayne Collegiate Institute was organized for young men.  Not long after the two schools were combined and became known as the “Methodist College”.

One of the male students was Samuel Morris known as Prince Kaboo from the African tribe of Kru and was a Methodist convert.  He came to the United States and entered the Fort Wayne Methodist College in 1892 to study to become a missionary.  He was known to have a charming personality and a zealous religious vocation that endeared him to his classmates quickly making him one of the best-liked students at the college.  However, Samuel Morris became ill in 1893 and died. Prince Kaboo was so loved and respected that his touching story of conversion, his enthusiasm for education and his untimely death was widely told and attracted many new students who enrolled in the college.

Prince Kaboo

When Fort Wayne Methodist College closed in 1894 and moved to Upland, Indiana, to begin a new life as Taylor University, one of its first two buildings was named Samuel Morris Hall, in recognition of the spirit of Prince Kaboo.  Nearly a century later in 1992, Taylor University returned to Fort Wayne and re-established its presence in Fort Wayne by acquiring Summit Christian College.

In his book Frontier Faith, George Mather quotes Charles H. Titus’ 1843 impression of Fort Wayne’s Methodist, “The congregation appeared very intelligent, displayed a better taste in their dress than is usually seen in his country, and were also very genteel. I felt as though I had got back to New England.”  Considering the flock’s difficulty in 1835 to erect a church building, and before boarding a packet canal boat for Toledo, Titus also wrote, “Sunday morning went to a neat little M. church for worship…This was the first pewed church I had seen among the Methodists, west of the Alleghenies. It was beautifully and neatly finished.”

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, May 10, 2016

Henry W. Lawton

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” - Oct 2012, closes. Aug 2012, No. 94)

Henry W. Lawton was born on March 17, 1843, near Toledo, in the town of Manhattan, Ohio. His father George, a millwright, came to Fort Wayne to build mills in Allen County accompanied by his brothers Daniel and Charles. George moved his young family into a home south of the Main Street Bridge on the bank of the Saint Mary’s River. While yet a child, Henry’s mother died and Mrs. E.D. Moore took charge of the infant’s wellbeing spending several years in Ohio before returning with his father to Fort Wayne in 1858.

Back in Fort Wayne, young Henry attended the Fort Wayne Methodist College and eventually grew to the height of six feet three inches earning him the name “Long Hank.”  He joined the first Indiana regiment in 1861 when the Civil War erupted soon to find himself in the state’s first skirmishes against the Confederacy.  A volunteer entering the service as a private, he rose to the rank of captain fighting at Shiloh, Corinth, Chickamauga and Iuka, confrontations that have gone down in American history.  It was, however, during the William Tecumseh Sherman-led Atlanta campaign that Lawton earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, the first for anyone from Fort Wayne to achieve that citation.  By 1865 when the war was over, Lawton at the age of twenty-two years had reached the rank of colonel.

Henry W. Lawton and his whip. Learn more about Lawton in 200@200 - Iconic Fort Wayne

Military life appealed to Henry. After the Civil War he joined the regular army to fight in the Indian Wars then being staged on the western plains and southwest deserts.  During 1876, the year Custer made his unfortunate stand, Lawton was battling the Sioux and in 1879 it was the Utes he encountered. Few U.S. Army officers were trusted by the Indians and Henry Lawton was one of only two or three who enjoyed the honor. He was given the respectable title of the “Tall White Man” and a Cheyenne chief said, “he was a good man, always kind to the Indians” referring to Lawton’s concern that there was always enough meat, bread, coffee for those among whom he was assigned. Most impressive was his willingness to stand up to his superiors when he felt promises were being broken or ignored.

Back in Fort Wayne on December 12, 1881, Captain Lawton married Mary Craig the daughter of Alexander and Annie Craig of Louisville, Kentucky. Later, she was to accompany Henry to Manila in the Philippines.

Lawton was a man who stuck to his soldiery duty.  During the years 1886 and 1887 his men engaged the Apache band led by Geronimo. Across Arizona and into Mexico they followed the Apaches, and it was one of Lawton’s officers who convinced the great Apache chief to surrender.

A decade later in the year 1898, the now General Lawton was in Cuba with Teddy Roosevelt during the Spanish American War. The next year he was placed in charge of the American forces during the Philippine Insurrection. He reported to General Arthur MacArthur whose son with the same name later commanded the United States forces in the Pacific during World War II.  

On December 19, 1899, the campaign advanced into the Marikina Valley east of Manila in the Luzon mountains and in country concealing snipers armed with high-powered Mauser rifles. Here a sharpshooter might easily have found Lawton an easy target wearing his American white helmet and yellow slicker.  One in the American party was Lieutenant Breckinridge who was hit and while lying wounded on the ground urged his general to divest himself of his slicker because, “It makes a regular target of you.”  With bullets flying nearby, Lawton assessed the situation and moved toward better cover. Even so, he turned his field glasses on the enemy to study their positions. Suddenly Lawton grasped his breast and told Captain King that he had been shot through the lungs. Aides caught their leader and gently lowered him to the ground. However, the bullet proved deadly cutting the artery leading to his heart. Shortly, General Lawton was pronounced dead.

Historian Bert Griswold published a letter Lawton addressed to a Fort Wayne friend dated August 8, 1898, five months before the General died. In part the letter read, “I have never wavered in my allegiance to the state of Indiana and have never for a moment contemplated a change of residence – Fort Wayne, Ind., is the only place where I could legally cast a vote or where I could have voted since I attained my majority.  I have heard of the death of many of the old comrades, and feel often that the time is close at hand when I, too, must join the great majority as they go marching along.”

A saddened Fort Wayne witnessed the funeral train carrying the body of Henry Lawton when it arrived in town on February 5, 1900. A memorial tribute was held at the county courthouse before the structure was completed, and before the train departed for Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, overlooking the Potomac River and Washington, DC.   William McKinley, the President of the United States gave tribute to the General who had brought a great sense of pride to the American military during the last days of the nineteenth century.

Entering service in 1861 as a private, the soldier from Fort Wayne rose to the level of second in command of the army of the United States when he was killed in battle in the Philippines. Back in his hometown in Fort Wayne in 1899, the old North Side Park was renamed Lawton Park in honor of General Henry Lawton who had fallen in action. Over the years admiration remained high for Henry Lawton and on October 22, 1921, the city erected a heroic bronze statue dedicated to the memory of General Lawton and placed it in Lakeside Park.  


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, 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.


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.

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.  
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.