(“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Feb. 2014, No. 110)
At the age of 16, Miss Angeline Chapeteau, daughter of Louis and Catherine Meloche Chapoton arrived in Fort Wayne, during the year 1804. With her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Jean Baptiste Maloche as traveling companions, they came from Detroit in a dugout canoe called a pirogue. Her family of three first lived in a log house outside the fort, but within the outer stockade at a point near present-day East Superior Street and the Spy Run Bridge. It was during a time when the Three Rivers area was a French trading post and Angeline, or Emeline as she was sometimes known, became the wife of Louis Peltier an interpreter and trader. Later she married Edward Griswold, a contractor.
When first arriving in Fort Wayne Angeline, who had hair of such a strikingly red color, became known to the Indians as “Golden Hair.” She was a bright young girl and at once became a favorite with the Miami. During her young womanhood she became the heroine of many an episode with the Indian people who so admired her that they made her a member of the Miami family. With her husband Louis Peltier, she made many trips to and from Chicago then known as Fort Dearborn. Angeline and Louis became close friends with the various tribes including the Miami and Potawatomi.
In the files of the History Center, there is an unnamed and undated newspaper clipping that recalls the “golden-haired” woman who saved, “the lives of an emigrant party consisting of twenty-three people, who had been ambushed and would have been massacred by the hostile” Indians, were it not for the bravery of Angeline. With James Jr. her infant son in her arms she, “pleaded in the Miami language for the lives and freedom of the prisoners and succeeded in having her request granted.” The soldiers at Fort Wayne having heard of the plight of the emigrants were gearing up to rescue the victims when a scout arrived at the gates. Angeline had sent a friendly scout to arrange a meeting for her with an Indian chief whom she had once befriended. Using his influence a release was brought about for the entire party.
During the 1812 siege of Fort Wayne, Mrs. Peltier, who had declined to take refuge in Ohio with the other women of the post, remained by her husband’s side. After the siege was in full force Angeline continued to remain in her house. From there she served as a friend of both the garrison and the besiegers using her good offices to bring about peace. During the milieu the Indian people time brought venison within reach of the house to exchange it for salt which Mrs. Peltier had received from the fort. So the garrison was kept in food and the tribes provided with salt.
Groups of Indians would oftentimes stop at her house even when she was alone. She would feed them a meal and permit them to spend the night before her fire. However, when morning came she ordered them out to protect them from the fort’s soldiers.
On one occasion an intoxicated Indian actually attacked her. Angeline managed to overpower him and bring him to such a degree of subjection that she could tie him securely with a rope and give him a severe beating. In this condition, he had no choice but to remain until following morning when he was finally released. Soon a group of excited natives surrounded the house and demanded to see her. As she peered from the doorway, she saw the fellow who had attacked her the night before. She hesitated, but it was only for a moment for to her surprise she found that the Indians had come to pay homage to a woman of bravery and skill in facing such an opponent. The guilty brave had organized the party which came to pay their respects and obtained her forgiveness.
Angeline Chapeteau, Peltier, Griswold lived a full life in Fort Wayne becoming a part of the fabric of the region’s legacy. This remarkable woman, who helped form our community, died in 1877 and is buried in Fort Wayne’s Catholic Cemetery.
Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi and retired Essex Vice President, is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; a contributing writer for Fort Wayne Monthly magazine; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast Mondays on Northeast Indiana Public Radio WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM Fort Wayne and 95.7FM South Bend.