Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Father of Modern Banking Hailed from Fort Wayne

Right now, if you buy a new membership to the History Center or “gift” someone with a membership, you can receive a copy of George R. Mather’s “Frontier Faith” or Susan Lee Guckenberg’s “Hugh McCulloch: Father of Modern Banking”. We’ve already profiled Mather’s book in our series on immigration (that being just one of the parts of Fort Wayne history that the book covers) and now we’re moving on to Hugh McCulloch. 

Since studying history via biography and autobiography has been one of my interests since elementary school (because I find the people far more interesting than any other aspect of history),  I concentrated on Hugh the person in writing this post, not Hugh the financial guru that he became. However, there’s one quote from McCulloch that in today’s financial climate should probably be recirculated again because he really hit the nail on the head with this one.

From Guckenberg’s book:

“In December of 1863, Hugh circulated a letter to bank officials as a guide in the management of the new national banks. He emphasized that every banker under the national system should feel that the reputation of the system depended upon the manner in which his particular institution was conducted. He urged bankers to manage their banks as a business and to let no ‘political partiality or prejudice influence your judgment or actions.’ The national currency system was intended for a nation, not for a party. He urged no speculation and attributed the failure of any national bank to ‘those in charge of its affairs’ violating the law. If they obey the law strictly the depositors would be safe.”

The letter was reproduced and circulated in 1923 by the American Exchange National Bank of New York. “It was referred to as a contribution to banking literature so plain, profound and wholesome that it could be regarded as safe a guide in 1923 as it had been sixty years earlier.”

Although trained as an attorney, McCulloch became manager and cashier of the State Bank of Indiana. He regularly traveled between Indianapolis and Fort Wayne with large sums of money. “Fort Wayne was three days away from Indianapolis and for fifteen years he made this trip alone on horseback without the slightest fear of being robbed. He stayed at taverns or cabins along the way and it was well known that he carried great sums with him and always rode unarmed.”

McCulloch was the first Comptroller of the Currency and later served as Secretary of the Treasury.
“Hugh took the work (Comptroller of the Currency) to heart. His labors were ‘severe and incessant.’ He was proud to put into operation a banking system ‘admirably adapted to our republican institutions.’ He was also satisfied about the security it gave to the bank note circulation. Hugh’s appointment as the first comptroller was an honor that his family thought he valued more than his later appointment as treasury secretary. It also ascribed to him the title, ‘Father of the National Banking System.’”

McCulloch gave a not so flattering portrait of Indiana prior to moving here and in his first years in our city.

“I can make a living in my profession in: I can do the same in Maine (he was born in Kennebunk and descendants of McCulloch still live there). But this is not enough. I shall never be satisfied with it, until I am confident that I can do no better. I have no strong desire to be rich, but I am determined not to die poor…the people in the western states are more ignorant and consequently are more inclined to litigation, and more apt to get entangled in the intricacies of the law. Professional men are more scarce, and are looked upon as persons of some considerable importance.”

His opinions of Fort Wayne weren’t much better.

“He saw Fort Wayne as being, ‘about as uninviting in every respect, except its site, as any of the towns through which I had passed.’ But it proved to be the end of his journey, ‘which had been long and solitary, but by no means lonesome and tedious.’”

In another description of Fort Wayne, he said: “the ‘morals of the place…have been low,’ but were rapidly changing for the better. There are ‘many fine families’ and ‘no lack of meetings’ which were generally held at the courthouse, alternately by the Presbyterians and Methodists.”

McCulloch and his first wife lived on the corner of Main and Barr, not far from what is now the History Center, in a two-story frame house. Eunice died at age 26 on February 29, 1836. “She was buried in the ‘old burying ground’ which was later McCulloch Park. In 1860, when Lindenwood Cemetery was started, her grave was transferred.”

He remarried Susan Maria Man. Together they would “raise four children; two others would not survive. While doing so, he would contribute to the growth of the city and become one of those, ‘professional men….who are looked upon as persons of some considerable importance.’”

McCulloch helped form the Young Men’s Literary Society in 1846 and was one of its most popular speakers. He helped select works for the public library and the library established by the Literacy Society. He was a leader in organizing the Methodist College in 1846. This institution became Taylor University. 

He was a strong supporter of education and served as one of the first trustees of the school system in 1853. The first public school building in Fort Wayne was on Lafayette between Main and Berry.

“In an address given at the graduation of St. Augustine’s Female Seminary on 22 July 1852, he described education as the business of life.”

In 1859, he was one of twelve who purchased a tract of land that was developed into Lindenwood Cemetery. Many family members’ graves were moved there and he expected to be buried there, but is interred at Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington DC along with Susan.

McCulloch was among thirty men present at a speech given by Stephen A Douglas on July 4, 1860 at the Rockhill House. These men, “the ‘Old Settlers’ of Fort Wayne who had settled in Fort Wayne on or before 1840, were each given a cane made from timber saved from the old fort.” 

See John Beatty’s article in the Old Fort News, Volume 72:2, 2009 “The Douglas Has Come! Stephen A Douglas and the Presidential Campaign of 1860 in Fort Wayne, Indiana” as well as Walter Font’s article in Volume 74:1, 2011 “News from the Past: True Tales by a Pioneer. John Fairfield Reminiscences of Early Days.”

McCulloch served in the administrations of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.

“During the politically troubled backdrop of the Johnson Administration, Hugh McCulloch stood out as one who did not adhere to party politics above his practical, sound financial principles. In the words of Henry Brooks Adams, the famous historian and great-grandson of John Adams, ‘he had been spared the gluttonous selfishness and infantile jealousy which are the commoner results of early political education.’ Therefore, he did not cave into increasing pressure to rescind the authority granted to him to enforce the policy of contraction.

“In the year 1868, Matthew Brady photographed Hugh in a standing position, in his Washington studio. The photograph served as a model for one the participants in the famous painting by Alonze Chappel entitled, ‘The Last Hours of Lincoln.’ The photograph and painting are part of the collection of the Chicago Historical Society. It is the only full-length photograph taken of Hugh McCulloch. 
The only other full-length painting of him was done in Kennebunk as a student and is located in the McCulloch house at The Landing.”

In Spring 1866, McCulloch and his wife began building a home in Washington DC after renting for a number of years.  They had a “late life” child named Mary when Susan was 48. They then moved to London in 1870 for Hugh to work in a joint banking venture.

“Mary McCulloch was three years old at the time and would play in the garden of Kensington Palace with a girl who would become Queen Mary, wife of George V. At the time she was little Princess Mary of Teck. She was also three years old having been born on 26 May 1867. Mary McCulloch later remembered her own house as large compared to their home in America. It faced a square that contained a railed-in garden. The householders around the garden were furnished with keys to open the garden gates. She distinctly recalled being locked in this garden ‘where even a small child could come to no harm.’”

“In May (1871), Hugh and Susan were invited to attend the Queens Ball on Friday, the 19th at 10:00 at Buckingham Palace. Susan attended without Hugh as he was ‘unwilling to wear stockings and knee breeches.’ Susan wore a plum colored velvet and lace dress that had a long train. She wore a headdress of braided strands of pearls. Later the train was cut off to make a short jacket. The dress and headdress are now in the possession of the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk. Even though the dress was made to fit, Susan’s ‘great annoyance’ was that she could not get a pair of shoes in England that fit. The ones she ended up wearing were ‘made for English feet.’ Standing so long that night in the Great Hall was very fatiguing with poorly fitting shoes. Some of the women were very elegantly dressed, while others wore their oldest gowns and laces, as they expected to have them all torn to pieces due to the immense crowd. Susan had a coachman and footman who were liberally fed in the servants quarters with cold roast beef, breads, cheeses, and ale. After the ball, they were loud in their praises of royalty. After being received by the Queen, Susan left the palace and happened upon former Union Generals Philip Sheridan and James Forsyth who escorted her to her carriage.”

McCulloch returned to Fort Wayne for a visit in July, 1874 and was interviewed by one of the local newspapers.

“The reporter described him as a man of commanding personal appearance. Tall, portly (weighing 224 pounds), with a large head firmly set on a pair of broad shoulders, full face, a keen piercing eye, high forehead, his head lightly silvered over with gray hair, light side whiskers, mouth and nose indicating power and firmness. He would be picked out as a man of authority in any crowd and any circumstance. Time had touched him lightly during his sixty-five years. He seemed to be in the ‘very zenith of his powers, and undoubtedly has yet a long career of usefulness and distinction before him.’”

Hugh and Susan McCulloch celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on March 21, 1888 in their Washington DC home. By then, McCulloch had retired from public service and the business world.

“The next couple of years Hugh submitted articles for various periodicals including the New York Times and Washington Post. Subjects would range from free trade, the folly of maintaining a protective tariff, restoration of the foreign marine service, and the character of George Washington. Little is known about the last four years of his life spent in solitude at Holly Hills (his country home). On Friday, 24 May 1895 at 2:40 A.M. Hugh McCulloch died at the age of 86. ….The cause of death was listed as kidney failure and lung disease.”

McCulloch was buried in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington on Thursday, May 30. His grave is marked:

“Hugh McCulloch Dec. 7 1808-May 24, 1895
Comptroller of the Currency 1863
Secretary of the Treasury 1865 to 1869, and in 1884
‘Justice and Judgment are the habitation of Thy Throne.
Mercy and Truth shall go before Thy face.’”

“On the day he was buried, the Treasury Department neglected to lower the flag. It did not go unnoticed by Kate Field, ‘The Treasury flag hung high yesterday morning when I looked out my window. It is difficult to believe one’s own eyes in these days of topsy turvy, and I rubbed mine to remove the night’s cobwebs before relying on them. There was no doubt about it. Though Hugh McCulloch was to be buried at 11 o’clock the Treasury Department had forgotten the fact. The mistake was rectified later in the day and the old rag that answers for an American flag flew at half-mast.’”

Susan lived until July 25, 1898, devoting her remaining years to writing her autobiography “The Recollections of Susan Man McCulloch”. In 1981, they were presented to the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society.

Not long before she died, she described Hugh as “a husband second to none in nobleness of aim and unselfishness of nature. Ready at all times to help and comfort those who were in need or sorrow, and who never closed his ears to any word save the breath of slander.”

Monday, July 23, 2012

Too Good a Prisoner

One of the perks of working at the History Center is getting “behind-the-scenes” and “first” looks at artifacts. A perfect example is a newly acquired artifact that we were given on July 3 by Donna J. Vorndran, daughter of former Sheriff Herman C. Holle.

Mrs. Vorndran brought us a “soap gun”….a .38 automatic fashioned out of soap that prisoner John Dee Smith made in an attempt to break out of jail. Smith, then 22, was awaiting trial for the murder of Arlie Foster in 1935 according to a news item published on December 17, 1937. Not only did Mrs. Vorndran bring us the gun….she also gave us a scrapbook that her family kept about crimes in Allen County.

Smith admitted, upon being “found out”, that he was mimicking the notorious John Dillinger, who had used the same technique to escape a jail in Crown Point several years earlier. According to Adele Mackanos, writing in "Dillinger Escape: 50th Anniversary." in the Crown Point Register, March 8, 1989:

“On January 30, 1934, the notorious John Dillinger was captured in Tucson, Arizona.  Due to a bank robbery in Chicago, which resulted in a murdered police officer, Lake County gained priority to Dillinger.   Held in the Lake County Jail in Crown Point, Indiana, Dillinger planned his fantastic escape.

“While incarcerated in the Lake County Jail, Dillinger carved a gun from a wooden washboard or a bar of soap (local legend varies), and stained the fake gun with black shoe polish. The escape occurred during the early hours of March 3, 1934.  The prop was soon replaced by an automatic gun which Dillinger took from a guard. Soon after, hostages were taken but later released in the get-away to nearby Illinois. On July 23rd of that same year, Dillinger was shot and killed by FBI agents outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago.”

On December 17, 1937, Kenneth B. Keller, writing in one of the local newspapers, described the Smith gun as “a bar of laundry soap to which had been fitted a ‘breach’ of tobacco tin and the top of a tooth powder can for a barrel.’

“Smith admitted to Sheriff Herman C. Holle that he had made the gun with a pair of barber shears and had intended to use it if he had an opportunity.”

Holle described Smith as “too good a prisoner” and so the jail staff had him under constant surveillance once he was incarcerated in Fort Wayne after he was apprehended in Los Angeles, where he had fled and lived for two years.

“A week ago last Friday,” wrote Keller, “Sheriff Holle and his deputies discovered that something was amiss in the cell block when a pair of barber shears was returned with a sprung hinge after it had been used on the locks of prisoners.

“After that incident, Deputies Charles Coulardot, Clarence Kroener, Walter Adams, Fred Schoppman and Malcolm Rapp were assigned to an investigation of happenings in the cell block which ended at 3:45 o’clock yesterday afternoon when the make-believe .38 automatic was found tucked under a mattress in a cell Smith shares nights with three other prisoners.

“Thursday the officials obtained information leading them to believe that Smith had made a gun of some sort. But the inventor kept it hidden that afternoon while Sheriff Holle entered the cell block to quiet a disturbance involving two other prisoners. Outside of Smith’s vision, deputies stood, prepared for an escape attempt.

“’Had the gun been shown then, I would have known it to be a phoney,’ the sheriff commented, ‘for no opportunity is given to carry weapons to prisoners and as a further precaution each cell is thoroughly examined after visiting hours every day.’

“While Smith was discussing his impending trial yesterday with Defense Counsel Byron Novitsky in the jail consultation room, deputies made a search of his cell and found the soap imitation.

“The barber shears were used by Smith to roughly shape the cake of soap and cut up the metal parts which made the gun appear formidable at a distance of but a few feet. The handle was secured to the barrel by a safety pin, and the tell-tale soap coated with shoe blackening.”

Smith went on trial on February 14, 1938. Quoting local news reports:

“Visibly nervous for the first time since his incarceration, John Dee Smith, 22-year-old former Michigan convict was moved to the county jail at Columbia City yesterday afternoon, in preparation for his trial beginning today in Whitley circuit court on a charge of first degree murder for the alleged shooting of Arlie Foster, Fort Wayne restaurant proprietor.

“Smith was ‘just a little nervous’ when the hour came for him to leave the Allen county jail, said Deputy Sheriff Charles Coulardot who was accompanied on the trip to Columbia City by Deputies Clarence Kroener and Malcolm Rapp. An hour later, the defendant was placed in the custody of Whitely County Sheriff Eli Sauer.

“Today will break Smith’s concord of 13. For Smith, who shot Foster August 13, 1935, was captured in Los Angeles, Cal. on the 13th day of a summer month two years later. Before Defense Counsel Byron Novitsky asked a change of venue, his trial had been set for last December 13 in Allen circuit court.

“Yesterday was another 13-day, and Smith’s last in the county bastille from which he planned an escape several months ago with a gun of soap.”

According to the web site, John Smith was executed on June 1, 1938. 

Sheriff Holle's badge and the badge of his spouse, who was jail matron.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Some Final Thoughts on Little Turtle

Kathryn Troxel, in the Old Fort News, Volume 6, Issue 2, published in 1941, translated the work of Constantin Francois Chasseboeuf, Comte de Volney and a member of the States General and the Constituent Assembly, from the French into English, giving us a glimpse of this traveler’s view of Little Turtle. Chasseboeuf sailed from Havre in 1795 and spent three years in the United States studying climate, customs and people. In 1798, he was suspected of being a secret agent of the French government trying to deliver Louisiana to the French Directory. He left the country never to return, even though he had intended to stay longer. In 1803 he published a book about his trip, “View of the Climate and Soil of the United States of America”. In it are a series of interviews with Chief Little Turtle.

Here we present some of the material from the original article.

“During this time I was making my observations of the Little Turtle, who, not understanding English (note: William Wells was serving as interpreter), took no part in the conversation. He walked about, plucking out the hairs of his beard, and even of his eyebrows. His dress was in the American fashion, a blue suit, with pantaloons, and a round hat. I desired Mr. Wells to ask him how he felt in garments so different from his own. ‘At first,’ said he, ‘they seemed to confine my limbs; then I got used to them; and they are a defense against the heat and the cold, I now like them.” He had tucked up his sleeves, and I was struck with the whiteness of his skin between the wrist and the elbow. I compared it with my own, and found no difference. The sun had tanned the back of my hands as much as that of his, and each of use (sic) appeared to have on a pair of gloves. I found his skin very soft to the touch, and in all respects like that of a Parisian. We had then a long conversation respecting the color of the savages; that which is called a copper color, asserted to be innate like the black of the Africans and held to constitute the natives of America a distinct race.

“The facts resulting from this discussion were: that the savages distinguish themselves by the name of red men; that they prize their own color, with reason, above white; that however they are born as white as we, and in their infancy continue so, till their skin is changed by the sun, and by the greases and juices of herbs, with which they besmear it. In short, it is fundamentally false, that this copper color, as it is called, is innate, or the same in all the natives of North America; on the contrary it varies in different nations, and is one of their means of distinguishing each other.”

Chasseboeuf also commented that William Wells had the complexion “of a ham, smoke dried, cleaned, and shining…”.

Chassebouef told Little Turtle of the theory that the Indians had come to this continent by way of the Bering Strait from Asia. “When I explained to him the means of communication by Bering’s Strait and the Aleutian Isles; ‘Why,’ said he, ‘should not these Tatars who resemble us, have come from America? Are there any proofs to the contrary? Or rather, why should we not both have been born in our own country?’ ‘I can see no objection,’ answered I, ‘but our black gowns (missionaries) will not allow it. There is also the difficulty of conceiving how any particular race originated.’ ‘It seems to me,’ replied he, ‘that this is as difficult to the black gowns as to ourselves.’

“’We can distinguish every nation,’ said Little Turtle to me, ‘at first sight; the face, the complexion, the shape, the knees, the legs, the feet, are to us certain marks of distinction. By the print of the foot we can distinguish not only men, women, and children, but also tribes. You whites are conspicuous by turning out your toes; we carry them straight before us, that they may encounter fewer obstacles among the bushes. Some people turn them in a little inward, have the foot broader, or shorter, tread more on the heel or on the toe.’”

Little Turtle, at this time, had been offered a permanent residence in Philadelphia by some Quakers living there but had declined to remain, in part because he did not know the language, and in part because he saw himself growing older and learning a new way of life was not practical to his way of thinking. “’Old age comes on. If I were to remain with the whites, I should be a piece of furniture useless to my own nation, useless to the whites, and useless to myself. What is to be done with a useless piece of furniture? I must return to my own country.’”

In closing his interview, Chasseboeuf sought to learn what surprised Little Turtle the most about Philadelphia. In a section entitled “Little Turtle Philosophizes on White Men vs Red Men”, he is quoted as saying:

“’In observing all these people,’ replied he, (it was a market day), ‘two things astonish me: the extreme difference of countenances, and the numerous population of the whites. We red men do not resemble one another, each has a particular face, but still there is family likeness. Here I perceive a confusion that puzzles me. There are ten shades between black and white; and the features, the forehead, nose, mouth, chin, black, brown, light, hair; blue, gray, and chestnut eyes; exhibit such a diversity as I cannot explain.’”

Little Turtle found the increase of population by the “white man” as “inconceivable”. But he also recognized that the way of life for the “white man” was easier than for the Indian.

“’You whites have found means of collecting at hand and in a small space a certain and abundant supply of food; from a piece of ground fifteen or twenty times as big as this room a man gathers enough to feed him all the year. If to this he add another plot sown with grass, he produces animals that supply him with meat and clothing; and all the rest of the time he may do what he pleases. We, on the contrary, require a vast extent of ground to live upon; for to each deer we kill, (and one will serve us but a couple of days), a considerable extent of ground is necessary to find nourishment and attain is full growth. If we eat or kill two or three hundred in year, it is the same thing as if we ate the wood and grass of all the ground on which they lived, and they require a great deal. In such a state of things, it is no wonder the whites have driven us year after year from the borders of the sea to the banks of the Mississippi. They spread like oil upon a blanket; we dissolve like the snow before the vernal sun. If we do not change our course, it is impossible for the race of red men to subsist.’”

Chasseboeuf closed with this observation:

“This reply convinced me, as no doubt it will every reader, that this man had not without reason acquired in his own nation and in the United States the reputation of a person superior in understanding to most of the savages.”

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Man Little Turtle

In the Old Fort News, Volume 21, Issue 3, published in 1958, Rex Potterf offered an article about Chief Little Turtle. As we head toward the anniversary of Little Turtle’s death, here are offered some words from that article. (Words in parentheses are for clarity for the reader.)

“General Washington saw him (Little Turtle) as a very good friend; he presented him with a sword…..General Washington also presented Little Turtle with a medallion; its obverse bore a picture of General Washington and its reverse a likeness of Little Turtle.

“During the weeks which Little Turtle spent in Philadelphia (1796-97 as a house guest of Washington), he saw everything that could possibly interest him. He became familiar with urban merchandising and craftsmanship, which caused him to have an increasing respect for the white man. His observation of these skills and procedures, however, caused him to feel that the white man’s civilization was not for the Indians.”

Potterf describes Little Turtle as having the “mentality of a genius” but no formal schooling and thus knowledge acquired by the experience of living the life of an Indian. He also “manifested many strange inconsistencies in his convictions and his conduct.”

Little Turtle did not believe individual Indians or tribes could cede land to the American government and that any treaty made with the United States by a tribe was not binding on other tribes. But he did sign the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 and said he would never break it.

“He also believed that whenever Indians took up white man’s ways they weakened and enervated themselves; he felt that the manners and customs of the whites which the Indians had adopted and accepted were responsible for their downfall….” But in his later years Little Turtle "rapidly assimilated the elegant manners of civilization. His manner of eating was that of the white man, as were likewise his carriage, his garments, and his food.”

Potterf described Little Turtle as a Chief of the Miami in this manner:

“The Miami Indians had two kinds of chiefs—civil chiefs, who were often hereditary, and war chiefs, who were selected by popular vote. These latter leaders were always selected on the basis of their merit. Little Turtle became the leading war chief of the Miamis. Not only was he the leading war chief of the Miamis, but the surrounding tribes, such as the Piankeshaws and Weas, looked to him for military guidance, leadership, and counsel.”

Little Turtle achieved a number of victories over American forces led by Harmar and St. Clair and raiders led by LaBalme. Little Turtle had definite skill in strategy as is evidenced by these words:

“With rather great confidence in the outcome, Little Turtle approached his problem. He first assembled the Indians,  (“having personally visited many neighboring tribes and sent emissaries into Wisconsin and Illinois”) who had come from different quarters, on a plateau along the St. Mary’s River some ten miles southeast of present-day Fort Wayne. He divided his men into several different groups or messes. He designated one fourth of these messes to hunt for game or vegetables; they were to assemble the food in the late afternoon, when the Indians were to be fed these provisions. He thus employed a very practical method of living off the country…..”

Little Turtle’s defeat of St. Clair’s forces “was unparalleled in the past, and never at any time since has the American army suffered so relatively serious a defeat. The nearest comparable defeat was the destruction of the American fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1941….”

One might say the battle appears to have changed Little Turtle as a man and a warrior.

“…..The terrible slaughter sickened him. When he realized that the whites could not possibly retrieve their defeat, he ordered his men to cease fighting and stop pursuit of the Americans. Historians have often wondered why he did not follow up his defeat and utterly destroy the American forces…..Little Turtle saw all the bloodshed on that day he ever wanted to see….Almost fifteen hundred American soldiers who survived that day owed their lives to the fact that Little Turtle ordered his men to stop the slaughter.”

Potterf says that Little Turtle “was far ahead of his time in his attitude toward war….About 1791, when he was still only forty-three or forty-four years of age, as we have seen, he came to the conclusion that war was not the way to settle difficulties. He thought wars were unproductive and should be avoided at all costs….”

But Little Turtle also knew that the Indians were no match for Gen. Anthony Wayne’s forces. “He foresaw that Indian victories over the Americans were at an end and that in the future the Indians had little hope of defeating them. Little Turtle now became an appeaser and an advocate for peace….This policy of cultivating the Americans was very distasteful to Little Turtle’s friends and neighbors. They soon regarded him as a traitor or worse….”

Little Turtle’s stance in relation to fighting Wayne was not popular, to say the least, and led to his fellow warriors turning against him.

“Little Turtle had been the chief war leader of the Miamis for fourteen years; he had led them since that night when he slew LaBalme and his eighty soldiers down on the Aboite River. His tribesmen now repudiated him; they stripped him of all military authority. Now he was only one more Indian warrior. Little Turtle’s courage had been impugned—the worse humiliation a warrior can suffer. He resolved to go into battle the next day and fight with every ounce of his strength. Always an able warrior, he fought like a tiger on that fatal day, but the Indians were defeated. Wayne vindicated Little Turtle’s judgment.”

Monday, July 9, 2012

Follow the Pipes!

As we prepare the room that will house our new exhibit, “Allen County Innovation”, we’re taking photos of the construction process and some close ups of the artifacts on display. Since Follow the Pipes is next week, we thought you’d like to see the organ that has been in the soon to be remodeled room and the craftsmanship that went into it.

The Fort Wayne Organ Company manufactured organs here from 1872 through 1906. The company changed its name to the Packard Company in 1895. Interest in organs waned over time but not in pianos, so the company continued to make pianos until 1930 when they went out of business. These pianos also included player pianos, one of which is upstairs at the museum in our Orientation Room.

This Bond Piano was named after the Packard Company president, Albert S. Bond. Player pianos had their heyday from 1910-25 with 1916 being the peak year of production. But the rise in popularity of Victrolas and the radio spelled their demise.

But back to organs.

As you can see from the photos, the detailed woodwork is impressive but even more surprising to this writer are the needlepointed pedals. The top three photos show the wood carving, photo number four shows the needlepoint pedals (pretty worn, aren't they?) and the bottom photo shows the inside of the organ.

Follow the Pipes occurs this year on July 17-19. In cooperation with the American Guild of Organists, this annual event during the Three Rivers Festival is a self-guided “concert tour” of area pipe organs. Find the schedule in the events section of our web site and join us for some great music!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Remembering Little Turtle

During this week of July 4, we remember the founding of our country and the people who founded our nation. But 10 days from Independence Day we will be reflecting upon an early resident of our area—Chief Little Turtle. In Volume II, Issue No. 1 of the Old Fort News, published in March1937, editor Willis Richardson and other writers took a look at this historical figure. We publish here excerpts from that article.

“Little Turtle, Traditional and Historical”

“Much of the information concerning Little Turtle is traditional to such an extent that it becomes almost mythical. The exact date of his birth cannot be definitely determined. The places he lived, the expeditions he made, the attacks he led, and many other items of that nature are indefinite because there were no written records kept. We get the best knowledge of Little Turtle and his characteristics after the establishment of the Federal government. The official reports from the campaigns of Harmar, St. Clair, and Wayne contain accounts of Little Turtle. From the historical point of view his life may be divided into the following divisions: (1) Period before 1789, (2) 1789 to the treaty of Greenville in 1795, and (3) his retired life at Ft. Wayne from 1795 to 1812.”

You may see “portraits” of Little Turtle at the History Center and in books and other publications, but the only known official portrait was painted by Gilbert Stuart at the request of President George Washington. It is believed that no copies of the painting were ever made and the original was destroyed in 1814 when the British burned Washington, D.C. John Collias painted what some call a reproduction of the Stuart portrait but this, at the time of the writing of the original article, had not been confirmed. We do know, however, that Little Turtle wore a “necklace” made of bear claws.

John A. M. Lung described Little Turtle’s appearance in “Western Adventure”, published in 1836 at Dayton, OH:

“The leader of the Indian army at the time of St. Clair’s defeat was a chief of the Missassago tribe known by the name of Little Turtle. Notwithstanding his name he was at least six feet tall. His aspect was harsh, sour and forbidding, and his person during the action was arrayed in the very extremity of Indian finery, having at least twenty dollars worth of silver descending from his nose and ears.”

Samuel C. Drake in “Aboriginal Races of North America”, published in 1838, described Little Turtle as “six feet high, of a very sour and morose countenance and apparently very crafty and subtle.”

“Me-She-Kin-No-Quah (Little Turtle)
by Otho Winger”

“Little Turtle was the greatest of all Miami chiefs. In the estimation of many writers, he was the greatest chief of all the American Indians. He was a native of the present state of Indiana. Some day we will recognize him as our first great Hoosier and an American of National Importance.

“Little Turtle was born at his father’s village on Eel River in 1751. While there has been some question as to where this village was located, the author accepts the findings of S.P. Kaler and others who made a careful study and located it on the main branch off Eel River, five miles east of Columbia City. Aquenackque, father of Little Turtle, was a chief of great renown at this village years before his more illustrious son was born.”

Little Turtle became a hero of the Miami and its acknowledged tribal leader when he and the other men of the tribe surrounded and massacred the forces of the adventurer LaBaume, who was in the area of Kekionga—now Fort Wayne—taking possession of furs that the Native Americans had acquired.

After this event, Little Turtle spent much of his time at Kekionga, alarmed that the “white man” was coming into Kentucky and territory along the Ohio. LaBaume had traveled up the Wabash from Vincennes to this area.

Seeing that the “lands of his fathers” were being taken over by the “white man”, Little Turtle led yearly expeditions against pioneer settlements along the Ohio. This was the only method he knew to hang onto what he felt to be the property of his people.

“When Washington became president, one of his greatest problems was how to protect the frontier settlements against these Indians of the North West. In 1790, he sent Gen. Hamar with an army to capture Kekionga, but Little Turtle defeated two sections of this army and made the whole expedition a failure. In 1791 President Washington sent Gen. Arthur St. Clair with the largest army ever sent to fight the Indians. Again Little Turtle, at the head of the warriors of the North West, completely routed St. Clair and massacred most of the army at what is now Ft. Recovery, Ohio.

“After this series of defeats at the hands of Little Turtle, many Americans were willing that the Indians should retain the Northwest Territory.  President Washington was not willing for he saw that if the Indians kept it, Great Britain would soon have possession and annex it to Canada. Washington had great difficulty to get congress to vote men and supplies for another army. When he secured these he appointed Gen. Anthony Wayne as leader. The result was bound to be different from previous expeditions. Little Turtle himself advised the Indians to make peace for, he said, ‘The Americans now have a general who never sleeps.’”

Wayne made great preparations for the coming battles and with militarily sound maneuvers, defeated the Indians at Fallen Timbers, OH on August 20, 1794. The next year the Indians were forced to sign the Peace of Greenville, giving much of the North West to the United States. Fort Wayne, erected in the fall of 1794, was included in this treaty.

According to a different source, Little Turtle had urged his comrades to consider a peaceable conclusion to the fighting. From “Little Turtle’s Oration Before the Battle of Fallen Timbers”:

“We have beaten the enemy twice under separate commanders. We can not expect the same good fortune always to attend us. The Americans are now led by a chief who never sleeps; the night and the day are alike to him and during all the time that he has been marching upon our village notwithstanding the watchfulness of our young men we have never been able to surprise him. Think well of it. There is something whispers to me, it would be prudent to listen to his offers of peace.”

But the council did not accept his viewpoint and Little Turtle withdrew from active command, fighting the next day as a private warrior.

It should be noted that no authentic source for this quote could be located at the time of the writing of this article on pages 7-8, Vol. II, No. 1, OFN.

Back to Winger’s narrative:

“Little Turtle reluctantly signed the Treaty of Greenville but he declared that he would never break it. He never did. He spent the last seventeen years of his life in peace with the Americans. He already had the record of defeating more American armies than any other Indian chief. He was now to acquire the greater reputation of being most interested in ways of peace and civilization.

“With Williams Wells, his son-in-law, as interpreter, he went to Philadelphia in the spring of 1797. He called on President Washington who bestowed upon him many honors fitting a great chief. He presented him with a sword, a gun, a medal of peace and had his picture painted by the noted artist Gilbert Stuart. While in Philadelphia, Little Turtle was the guest of many leading Americans and some prominent Europeans. Among the latter was the Polish general, Kosciusko, who gave him valuable presents.”

Little Turtle went on to be a pioneer in several aspects of integrating the life of the Indians with those of the Americans. President Thomas Jefferson impressed upon Little Turtle the benefits of vaccinations. Little Turtle had himself vaccinated and brought serum back to the area for his tribe.

Because hunting as a means of making a living had ceased to be practical by this time, Little Turtle accepted money from Congress to introduce his people to farming. With help from the Quakers, he hired a teacher of agriculture and began experiments in farming on the Wabash and Eel Rivers.

Realizing the harm of liquor to his people, he became an early temperance worker, working to get state legislatures and Congress to prevent the sale of whiskey and other intoxicants to the tribes.

Little Turtle spent his later years in a government built home at the Eel River post and at the home of Wells, near Spy Run in Fort Wayne. He was mistrusted by the Indians because he maintained the peace agreement of the Treaty of Greenville and accepted favors from the government. He was viewed “as too much in favor with the white man. On the other hand his insistence on rights for the Indians caused many white men to dislike him. He opposed Tecumseh and all of his plans. So long as he lived he kept the Miamis at peace with the Americans. After the death of Little Turtle, William Henry Harrison wrote that he had shown loyalty and friendship to the United States and had rendered valuable services on many occasions.”

Little Turtle died on July 14, 1812 at Wells’ home. Although military honors were paid to him by officials and residents of Fort Wayne, no monument was erected and the exact site of his grave forgotten over time. When a grave was discovered at 634 Lawton Place in 1912, while excavation work for a new home was underway, identification of implements and trinkets in the gravesite led most to assume the grave was Little Turtle’s. The artifacts now belong to the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society and many are on display in our museum. Little Turtle’s body was re-interred and properly marked and the site can now be accessed by anyone interested in this part of Fort Wayne’s history.

Otho Winger, who wrote the portion of the article quoted above, was president of Manchester College and studied Indiana Indians in general and Little Turtle in particular, leading to his being recognized as an authority on the topic. He wrote several books including “The Last of the Miamis”; “Little Turtle or Me-she-kin-no-quah” and “Frances Slocum, the Lost Sister Among the Miamis”.

You can see a number of Native American artifacts exhibited at the History Center and upon occasion at the Chief Richardville House, 5705 Blutton Road. The house is open the first Saturday of every month May-November from 1 to 4 p.m. Check our website for more information on admission charges or call 260-426-2882.

You can find many back issues of the Old Fort News on sale in our gift shop as well as books featuring Native American and area history topics. The last Saturday of July we will be part of the downtown Shopping Trolley tour and many items will be on sale for 75% off, celebrating the 75th anniversary this year of the founding of the Old Fort News.

Now’s the time to indulge your passion for history.