Tuesday, March 11, 2014

In Celebration of Women's History Month: Fort Wayne Women

by Nancy McCammon-Hansen

This blog post is adapted from Clifford Richards’ article in the Old Fort News Vol. 45, No. 3, 1982, entitled “Fort Wayne Women”.

In this Women’s History Month, we liked to give you some information about notable Fort Wayne women of yesteryear and their contributions to our area.

Angeline Chapeteau
At the age of 17, Angeline Chapeteau arrived in Fort Wayne by pirogue (a boat hollowed out of a poplar log) with her grandparents. The year was 1804. Native Americans called her “Gold Hair” and made her a member of their tribe, appreciating her heroism. She was once attacked by an intoxicated brave, but managed to overpower him, binding him with a rope and then flogging him. He remained tied up until the next morning when he was released. Later that day, Angeline looked out of her cabin only to see it surrounded by Native Americans, one of whom was the man whom she had beaten. Thinking the worst, she ventured forth only to find that the Native Americans had come to honor her “bravery and skill in meeting an adversary”.

Angeline married James Peltier at age 19 and had three children: James II, Louis and Salvador. All would go on to live long lives. During the Seige of Fort Wayne in 1812, she refused to leave the town with her children and stayed behind with her husband. Their log home was outside the fort but within the outer stockade (likely where Three Rivers Apartments are now located). James and Angeline worked for peace between the army and the Natives, exchanging salt for venison. However, they were eventually ordered to move within the fort and the outer stockade buildings were burned. The siege ended when detachments from Harrison’s army arrived on the scene.

Angeline died at age 86 in 1876.

Laura Taylor

Born in Boston, MA in 1795, Laura Taylor was taken captive by the British when she and her father, Israel, were on a trip to Mackinac. Upon being paroled to Detroit, Laura met and eloped with William Suttenfield and moved with her husband to Piqua, OH. William was transferred to Fort Wayne in 1814.

The family lived in the fort for a time and their first child, Jane, was born there. In 1823 the couple built one of the first log houses in the village of Fort Wayne on an original plat of land at the corner of Columbia and Barr Streets. The made a living for many years there with their tavern.

William carried mail to Chicago, one time making the entire trip on foot. He also served on the first grand jury. He was sued for trespassing in 1824 and paid the hefty fine of 25 cents. He was also one of the “signers of the subscription for the $250.00 annual salary for the pastor of the Presbyterian Church”.

Laura died in 1886 at the age of 91 and was known for her interest in recording the history of early Fort Wayne.  (Ed note: this article originally incorrectly put Laura's age as 72 upon her death.)

Eliza Taylor

Eliza Taylor moved to Fort Wayne from Buffalo, NY by sleigh in 1821. The sister of the aforementioned Laura Taylor Suttenfield, Eliza was marooned for a time in Fort Wayne, unable to leave because of the severe cold. However, the winter weather proved to be a blessing in disguise as she met Sam Hanna and married him in March, 1822. Hanna had recently arrived in Fort Wayne after failing at business in Piqua, OH. Eliza and Sam built a two-story log house across the street from her sister and brother-in-law. Sam went to work for his brother-in-law James Barnett, opening a trading post. The trading post was home to Fort Wayne’s first post office with Sam as postmaster. He also served as an associate judge of Allen County’s Circuit Court and became one of the city’s leading citizens.

Eliza bore 13 children, several of whom died in infancy. Richards refers to her as “in many respects…an idea representative of the pioneer woman. Her home became a hospitable stopping place for many notable people traveling through the wilderness to Vincennes, Indianapolis, Detroit or Chicago.”

Eliza’s daughter, also Eliza, was interviewed about her mother by Bessie Kiernan Roberts in 1929. The younger Eliza “paid tribute to her courageous mother with the understatement that ‘The women were not usually mentioned in the histories of the great builders of the community.’”

Eliza Taylor Hanna died at the age of 85.

Susan Man

Susan Man and her friend Alida Hubbell learned of the need for teachers in the West in 1836. Upon graduating from Hartford (CT) Female Seminary, they ventured forth to Fort Wayne, accompanied by Sam Hanna. Alida’s brother Woolsey was employed at the time at the State Bank of Fort Wayne.

The two women established a school in the basement of the first Allen County courthouse eventually moving to the basement of the newly constructed Presbyterian Church, located on East Berry Street. They were joined by Jesse Hoover, a Lutheran pastor, and for ten months the three taught about 100 students five times a week. Susan made a whopping $250 for her work.

Pastor Hoover died unexpectedly and Alida’s parents insisted that she return home to upstate New York. By that time, Susan had accepted a marriage proposal from Hugh McCulloch. Alexander McJunkin took over the school in 1837.

Susan and Hugh’s home still stands on West Superior Street. They raised three of their six children in this home and Susan trained German immigrants as servants in this location. When Hugh was named Secretary of the Treasury by Abraham Lincoln, she reluctantly moved to Washington, D.C., where she lived out her life as well as frequently traveling to Europe.

You can learn more about Hugh McCulloch and see a picture of Susan at http://historycenterfw.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-father-of-modern-banking-hailed.html.

Emerine Jane Holman

Emerine Jane Holman was born in the Indiana Territory, the daughter of one of the first members of Indiana’s Supreme Court. She married Allen Hamilton when she was 17 and they moved to Fort Wayne where Allen became Allen County’s first sheriff. Emerine had 11 children and two of her granddaughters would become famous for their work (you can learn more about Edith and Alice Hamilton in other blog posts on this site such as http://historycenterfw.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-extraordinary-hamilton-family.html).

According to Richards’ article, “She was a tiny person, quick and wiry, and her mind was as quick as her body. She loved reading passionately and could be remembered as crouched over the fireplace with the soft coal fire gone out without her knowing it….

“She was an ardent advocate of temperance and through it of women’s suffrage. Frances Willard and Susan B. Anthony were her personal friends and they used to stay at the ‘Old House’ (the Hamilton home that stood where Central High School was later built) when their travels brought them to Fort Wayne. It took courage to come out for such causes in those days.”

Fort Wayne did not have tax supported schools until 1853 even though there were more than 1,000 children of school age in the city. There was also no public library and so Emerline opened Fort Wayne’s Free Reading Room in 1889. It later was renamed the Emerine J. Hamilton Library and served the city for nine years. As the public library eventually came into being, the need for the reading room diminished and Emerline made the Hamilton barn the home of the Fort Wayne Art School and her new project.

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