Monday, April 29, 2013

The Anthony Wayne Statue

Statue as it is today in Freimann Square
by Nancy McCammon-Hansen

We’re working on the next edition of the Old Fort News and the lead story by our editor and the History Center’s curator, Walter Font, is about the Anthony Wayne statue in Freimann Square. As you’re probably aware, Mayor Tom Henry has suggested that the statue be moved from the square to the Courthouse Green and he’s met with some opposition to that thought. See:

Walter offers a wonderful history of the statue from its inception to its current location—a story that is really quite interesting because it also reflects the mood of our city in times past. 

One facet of the statue is missing these days, though, and that is the original base upon which Wayne and his horse were mounted. The plaques on that base now reside in the Genealogy Department at the downtown Allen County Public Library. The artistry of these plaques is really quite beautiful and so, to whet your appetite for the magazine coming out in the next month, we offer you these photos.

Little Turtle

Center plaque showing an aerial view of the fort.

The wording on the accompanying graphics for these panels gives us a little more history.

“These three bronze plaques, executed by George Ganiere, were originally part of the municipal equestrian statue of Major General Anthony Wayne, erected at Hayden Park (now renamed John Nuckols Park) in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1917.”

From left to right, the panels depict Little Turtle, an aerial view of the fort and a portrait of Tecumseh.
The statue was moved in 1973 to Freimann Square but the granite base upon which the statue was located was not moved. Timothy E. Doyle, who was a local artist and stone carver, rescued the bronzes in 1985 when the granite base was scrapped. Julie R. Waterfield purchased the bronze plaques and donated them to the ACPL.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Battle of Kekionga

by Tom Castaldi

The Battle of Kekionga in October 1790 was the first battle fought by the United States Army after the War for Independence. The campaign had been ordered by President Washington against the Miami settlement of Kekionga, the center of Indian resistance to U.S. migration across the Ohio River.

The U.S. campaign against Kekionga began in early October when General Josiah Harmar, a veteran of the Revolutionary Way, led his main force of 1,453 regular and militia soldiers up the Great Miami River valley north of Fort Washington (later, Cincinnati). A diversionary force under Major John Hamtramck had marched on the Vincennes area to draw the main concentration of Miami Indians and their allies, the Delawares and Shawnees, away from Kekionga, but the maneuver failed.

On October 15, the vanguard of the U.S. forces reached Kekionga and found that the Miami had burned and abandoned their town. On October 17, Harmar’s main force reached the Indian town, but patrols failed to discover the Miami warriors. Two days later, on hearing reports of a gathering of Indian forces, Harmar sent about three hundred men under Colonel John Hardin (of the Kentucky militia) north of Kekionga to the Eel River region to search for the Indian warriors. On October 19, Hardin’s forces suffered a stinging defeat near present-day Heller’s Corners in an ambush led by the Miami war chief Meshekinnoquah (Little Turtle). Nearly all the U.S. Army regular soldiers were killed and the Kentucky militia fled. One regular officer, Captain John Armstrong, managed to survive by hiding all night in a swamp, listening to the Miami victory celebrations nearby. General Harmar completed the destruction of the area villages on October 20 and retreated from Kekionga on the 21st to a camp located nine miles to the south, near present-day Hessen Cassel.

Learning that the Miami warriors had returned to Kekionga, General Harmar sent an attacking force back to the Indian town on the morning of October 22. Two companies of U.S. forces, under the command of Colonel John Hardin, took position along the west bank of the St. Joseph river. Three companies, under the overall command of regular army major John Wyllys, advanced across the ford of the Maumee River, hoping to entrap the Indians in Kekionga itself. The Miami warriors challenged the crossing, killing several men as they waded the ankle-deep Maumee River. In the corn fields and flood plain outside Kekionga, the main United States forces were destroyed and Major Wyllys and the cavalry commander, Major Fontaine, were killed by Little Turtle’s warriors who held the high ground to the north. By the end of the battle at midday, 183 United States soldiers had been killed, and about the same number of Indians had been slain. The Miami Confederacy had held its town, and General Harmar’s main force retreated to Fort Washington.

Originally published in Fort Wayne Magazine, 
 “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi”
September October 2004, No 7, p. 70)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Jane Alice Peters aka Carole Lombard

by Tom Castaldi

Jane Alice Peters became one of America’s favorite movie stars in the 1930s as Carole Lombard.  She was born in Fort Wayne in 1908 and spent the first six years of her life in the shingle-style house on Rockhill Street (built in ca. 1905).  Her grandfather was John Clouse Peters, one of the founders of the Horton Washing Machine Company, and her mother, “Bess” Knight, was a vivacious and strong actress descended from “Gentleman Jim” Chaney, an associate of the notorious robber baron of the 1880s, Jay Gould.
Jane Alice fondly remembered her young days in Fort Wayne, attending the Washington Elementary School a few blocks to the south and playing rough games with her brothers, “Fritz” and “Tootie.” She remembered most vividly, however, the great Flood of 1913 when, under the direction of her mother, Bess, her house became a rescue center for flood victims, among other reasons, because the family had one of the only telephones in the area. Jane Alice remembered helping her mother collect supplies, run errands, and help care for those displaced by the rising waters.

Jane Alice and her mother left Fort Wayne in 1914, eventually settling in Hollywood.  At age 12, she made her film debut and by 1924 was a glamorous actress for Fox Studios.   

She changed her name to Carole Lombard, in recollection of an old family friend, Harry Lombard, a one-legged relative from Fort Wayne living in California.  Her dynamic Hollywood career was highlighted by roles in Mack Sennett films, steamy romances, marriage to William Powell, exotic parties, outstanding comedy roles in major movies opposite the best actors in the business, and, finally, marriage to Clark Gable.
Carole Lombard died in a plane crash on January 16, 1942, while promoting a war bond drive soon after the beginning of World War II.

Side Bar--Older Historical Marker Text:


In this house on October 6, 1908 was born Jane Alice Peters, daughter of Fredrick C. and Elizabeth Knight Peters. She took the professional name of Carole Lombard and became one of the most important figures in the motion picture industry.

Erected by the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana, under the direction of Mayor Harry W. Baals, January 1, 1938 on the occasion of her appearance in David O. Selznick’s Technicolor production, “Nothing Sacred.”

From Fort Wayne Magazine, “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – May June 2004 No. 6, p. 80