Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Signs of the "history" times

by Nancy McCammon-Hansen

As you drive around Fort Wayne, you sometimes come across a sign that denotes an historic happening or place from our city’s history. There are a variety of  these signs in existence and so we set out to find a few with the idea that parents of elementary age and older students, as well as anyone interested in Allen County history, could turn the discovery of these signs into a great day’s in-county road trip.

There are about six types of markers that you will most often see. The first are from the Indiana Historical Society and are typically gold lettering on a blue background. A couple of examples near downtown Fort Wayne are the Wabash and Erie Canal Groundbreaking sign just to the west of the Paula’s on Main parking lot and the Fort Miamis sign by the river on Van Buren, near Guldlin Park. That particular sign was erected by the Indiana Historical Bureau and the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Indiana.

A listing of state historical markers in Allen County can be found at: http://www.in.gov/history/markers/3819.htm#allen

When you see a white marker, it is most often from either the Allen County Fort Wayne Historical Society or the Mary Penrose Wayne Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. 
Sign on Wayne Street just west of Lafayette in front of Methodist Church

Sign at the corner of Fulton and West Berry

A listing of DAR markers can be found at DAR markers: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~inmpwcd/markers.htm. DAR markers can also be blue and white or bronze. 

Near the River on Van Buren

The above two signs are in front of Imagine School on North Wells

In the entry way to the History Center

Markers that have a cement base and a rectangular top have been placed in some locations by ARCH.

This marker is at Guldlin Park

If a site has multiple historic significance, you may find more than one sign at that location. This is apparent at Guldlin Park, where the DAR once had a bronze plaque on a rock plus the two signs already shown above. The bronze marker was stolen but a white DAR marker remains along with an ARCH marker and one from the state level for Fort Miamis. For more on Guldlin Park, see the News Sentinel story from Saturday, April 6, “Park’s namesake was local women’s activist” by Kevin Leininger.

In June, 1963, the Historical Society published “Monuments, Plaques, Markers in City Parks” by Bernard J. Revl with photos by Harry Grabner. Grabner was the assistant superintendent in the Department of Recreation and Reul was the captain of the Park Police. At that time the Historic Sites and Markers Committee was comprised of Louis W. Bonsib, Helene Foellinger, J. Calvin Hill, Carl G. Lundell and William T. White, chair. All of the photos in this booklet were taken in Fort Wayne City Parks.

 A listing of parks can be found at:

There is also a booklet available on line that tells you a little about our parks’ history:

Another booklet that was published by the Historical Society was “X Marks the Spot” in 1964. The Sites and Markers Committee, 1961-1964, lists in addition to those members above Albert F. Disernens.

“Illustrated in this booklet are the plaque and markers placed in the city and county by the Society from 1959 through 1963, and made possible by generous gifts from individuals and funds from the County and the Society.

“The Committee sincerely thanks the NEWS-SENTINEL and the JOURNAL GAZETTE, their photographers and reporters, and especially the many residents in the county who helped with research and arranged for the placing of the markers in their communities.”

Sites listed in this book include:

  • ·         Maumee-Wabash Portage “Glorious Gate” Rockhill Park/published in JG June 14, 1959

  • ·        First Church Site—334 East Berry, the building housed First Presbyterian Church from 1837-47, published in NS, June 28, 1961

  • ·        Pirogue Landing, “the point where Indians, fur trappers, soldiers, explorers, settlers and adventurers landed at Fort Wayne in the late 18th and early 19th centuries” on the bridge near Hall’s Gas House, published in NS, Sept. 18, 1961

  • ·        Wabash and Erie Canal—Rockhill Park north of the shelter, published in JG August 6, 1962
    Marker in Rockhill Park, Jefferson between Freeman and Catalpa

  • ·        Fort Wayne—in Swinney Park, Indian Village Park, Reservoir Park, Memorial Park, Municipal Beach Park and Lawton Park, published in JG June 2 1963

  • ·        The Wabash and Erie Canal, on Broadway in New Haven, published in JG July 21, 1963

  • ·        Harmar’s Ford—East Berry and Francis Streets, published September 6, 1963

  • ·        Huntertown—Huntertown School Grounds, State Highway 3, published in NS, September 19, 1963

There were also markers placed in Hoagland, Monroeville, Woodburn, Grabill and Harlan.

The Fort Wayne Civil War Roundtable erected this sign across the street from the History Center, then the City Hall.

The Fraternal Order of Police posted this sign outside the Allen County Court House.

These markers are outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Calhoun Street.

Chief Richardville is buried in the Catholic Cemetery on Lake

There are also a number of statues in Fort Wayne (see the blog post on Who Put That There?) and markers to go with them.
Anthony Wayne Statue in Freimann Square

A marker in Freimann Square denoting the Heritage Trail. Maps for the trail can be obtained at the History Center.

While the markers are important, let’s not forget that the Chief Richardville House and the Allen County Courthouse are National Historic Landmarks. This designation does not come without massive amounts of work on the part of a community. 

In addition, you can find a listing of the entities in our county who are on the National Register of Historic Places at: http://www.nps.gov/nr/

Is there a marker near where you live, work or play? Take a photo and send it to me at nancy.mccammon-hansen@fwhistorycenter.com and we’ll post it on Facebook. Here's another resource you may find of interest: http://www.acgsi.org/genweb/markers.asp.

Post Script: This message came a few hours after posting this entry.

From Aimee Rose Formo, Website Manager & History Education Specialist

Indiana Historical Bureau:

"I did want to note, though, that the Indiana State Historical Markers are an Indiana Historical Bureau endeavor, rather than a Historical Society program—it’s a very common misperception that our state agency and the Indiana Historical Society are one in the same.  At one point very long ago, we did share work but IHS now has a distinct location and identity, using museum theatre, a press, and an archive to reach the public.  By contrast, our most visible outreach is the State Historical Marker program."

Thank you Aimee for this correction! 


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