Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Old Council House

by Tom Castaldi

Near the location of the present-day Museum of Art, the troops of the United States garrison of Fort Wayne built in 1804 a large two-story log building that came to be known as “The Council House.” Miami Indians of the area, under the leadership of Chief Little Turtle and the Indian Agent William Wells, requested that the Council House be built “for hosting the Native leaders.” A two-story log storehouse also was built nearby, however, both structures were destroyed by Indians besieging Fort Wayne in 1812.

In 1817, the commandant for Fort Wayne, Major Josiah N. Vose, ordered a new Council House to be built. This structure served as a school established through the efforts of the Reverend and Mrs. Isaac McCoy, the first Protestant missionaries to the Indians. Originating in the Terre Haute area, the McCoy party was attacked by Indians on the way to Fort Wayne. Rescued by James Godfrey, the travelers were safely escorted to the Three Rivers region by Chief Richardville. Missionary McCoy wrote in his History of Baptist Indian Missions, “The nearest settlements of white people were in the state of Ohio, and nearly one hundred miles distant. On the 29th of May (1820) our school was opened; I was teacher myself. We commenced with ten English scholars, six French, eight Indians and one Negro."

Discipline was tough, intended to crush overly spirited students, including the embarrassment of sitting on a high stool in front of the class wearing a dunce cap. Mrs. Lucien P. Ferry remembered one particular room as having cupboards full of tobacco into which unruly boys would be shut inside, “until they were almost suffocated.” Although he grew enrollment to over 40 pupils, McCoy discontinued the school when he was offered a mission school position in Michigan.

Louis T. Bourie, Fort Wayne’s first fire chief, was born in this building in 1828, which was then owned by Captain John B. Bourie, the son of Miami Chief LeGros. Later, “Squire” John B. DuBois, well known and for many years active in community affairs serving as justice of the peace for Wayne Township, once lived in the historic building. Having served its purpose for nearly forty years, the old Council House was torn down in 1856.

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

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