Thursday, May 8, 2014

Fort Wayne’s First Park

by Tom Castaldi

In 1863, at the height of the Civil War, Fort Wayne created its first public park on the site occupied by the last two American forts.  This small lot - about one-fifth of an acre - was sold to the city by Harry Seymour for $800. An iron fence and flagpole were quickly donated by Henry M. Williams, a Civil War veteran who, with his wife Mary Hamilton, later donated to the city Williams Park on the south side of Fort Wayne.

The present-day monument of a well and “well-sweep” recall the remnants of the old U.S. military garrisons as they appeared in 1838, giving only a pale reflection of the earlier days of the Indian wars.  In 1838, the Wabash and Erie Canal had cut through the northwest half of Major John Whistler’s 1815 fort, leaving only the well, a broken flagpole and the remnants of the officers’ quarters. The last building of the fort was finally taken down in 1852.

The Old Fort Park continued throughout the nineteenth century to serve as a revered monument to all military veterans.  In 1888, the Maumee Valley Monumental Association held its annual gathering in the park; in 1900 the Spanish-American War cannon, located in Swinney Park since 1956, was dedicated in Old Fort Park.

Originally published in Fort Wayne Magazine, “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” May 2005 No.12, p. 32

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