by Tom CastaldiUnited States Senator, Battle of Tippecanoe hero and Indian Agent, General John Tipton once described Miami Indian Civil Chief Jean Baptiste Richardville as, “the ablest diplomat of whom I have any knowledge. If he had been born in France he would have been the equal of Tallyrand.” However, Richardville was born at Kekionga, site of present-day Fort Wayne, in 1761 to Antoine Joseph Drouet de Richardville, a fur trader who was descended from French nobility. Richardville’s mother, Tacumwah, was the sister of Miami Civil Chief Pecanne.
|The Chief Richardville House became a National Historic Landmark in 2012.|
|Descendants of the Chief gathered for the ceremonies for the National Historic Landmark designation.|
In recognition of his role as principal chief of the Miami people, the U.S. government awarded Richardville $600 to build a house on his traditional home site along the St. Mary’s River. Today the house still stands at 5705 Bluffton Road. To reach the house, follow the drive leading from First Source Bank on the east side of Bluffton Road, slightly north of the stoplight at Old Trail Road. Back in 1827, Richardville added to the $600 and built the house for $2,200. Constructed of brick, it was a grand and spacious home with crystal chandeliers in two first-floor parlors. Each parlor and the two upstairs bedrooms featured fireplaces. It may have had an inside kitchen in the basement, and outside a barn, a corral and pens for livestock. In later years additions were made to the house, but the central core has remained for generations that followed to enjoy. It was probably the finest place in all of Northern Indiana, and anyone who was invited there for dinner by the Chief was the envy of all.
|A portrait of the Chief later in life.|
Today the History Center serves as the steward for the Richardville House. Celebrations at the old place continue and Richardville’s benevolent legacy continues. One event is the annual Buffalo Tro fest that centers around a stack of hard wood that for five or six hours has been burning until nothing remains but white hot embers.
|This year's Buffalo Tro is September 26 at "The House".|
Thick Buffalo steaks are tossed directly onto the embers, searing in delicious flavors. It’s very early American cooking at its very best. The Buffalo Tro name comes from the idea of “throwing” the meat on the fire and has become an annual fund raising event for all to enjoy with revenue dedicated to making possible student visits to the History Center Museum and its facilities that interpret our heritage. Support of the Buffalo Tro enables students to experience our region’s heritage that in turn creates a sense of place, something in which to take pride and that is what builds community.
For you, a visit to the old Chief’s house is an opportunity to visit a unique landmark while celebrating our region's rich history.
|Miami Indian Heritage Days features a variety of programs on Miami culture. Medicine Woman drum kicked off the summer season this year.|
Originally published in Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi”
Sept. 2008 No. 46Allen 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 centerfw.blogspot.com.