Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Remembering Columbus in Fort Wayne

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” -  Oct 2010, No. 71)
It was a matter of time before the East and the West would meet on this big globe of ours. We all know about October 12, 1492, and the mariner adventurer Christopher Columbus. His voyage changed the world and his achievement is commemorated in many places and in many ways. You’ll find “Columbia” and “Columbus” on maps today for names of cities, towns, streets, roads and monuments everywhere.  Even the fraternal organization known as the Knights of Columbus reminds us of the great Italian navigator.

Here in Fort Wayne we have Columbia Street, Columbia Bridge and Avenue as candidates but for the popular thought that they are the namesake of innkeeper Dana Columbia when Fort Wayne was platted in 1824 and later an admired canal boat captain.  Along the Heritage Trail, however, there are at least two sites worthy of mention. Still standing on the northwest corner of Barr and Washington streets is the colonial revival styled office building erected by Oscar Foellinger in 1925. It was the home of the Fort Wayne News Sentinel until 1958. Later the building served as headquarters for United Way along with other community organizations such as its major current occupant Community Action of Northeast Indiana.  Inside the Washington Street entrance is an outstanding mural recalling Columbus’s achievement. A map of the first Voyage of Discovery’s landing is enhanced with Christopher Columbus’ coat of arms over the motto scroll, “Landing of Columbus 1492.” This painting recalls the name of the hero of many European immigrants to this country and the strength of the convictions of Christopher Columbus.

During the first decades of the 20th century one immigrant group that struggled to adapt to its new nation home were those of Italian extraction. Aided by the public schools’ intent on turning them into “Americans” in those early days, neither Italy nor anything Italian was mentioned, according to historian Nancy C. Carnevale, anything that is except for Christopher Columbus. These were the immigrants coming to America who faced unexpected prejudices. They came not knowing if they would survive the sea voyage; not speaking the language; not having an education, and without money. All they wanted was to be given a chance just as their hero Columbus had when he requested ships for his first voyage.  As important a hero-figure as he represents for Italian Americans, Columbus serves as an inspiration for peoples throughout the world, personifying the determination to pursue a dream.

Along Fort Wayne’s Heritage Trail at Wayne and Harrison streets once stood the Community Center a structure with large meeting rooms that has long been raised and now the site of the Metro Building.  On June 12, 1927, a charter was granted forming the Order Sons of Italy Colombo Lodge No. 1446 a name later changed to “Columbus” its more familiar Americanized version. In the Italian language figli found in the name L’Ordine Figli d’Italia or The Order of Sons of Italy, may mean both children and sons, hence the organization embraced entire families.  

  It was a Lodge that for several decades was filled with activity and compassion for fellow immigrants. For example, at the close of WW II a number of U.S. servicemen returned to Fort Wayne with women they had met and married in Europe. The local lodge members showed exemplary hospitality as they reached out to the newcomer assisting them with language difficulties, finding living quarters and in general helping the new arrivals get adjusted to life in an American city.  Order Sons of Italy Lodge celebrated its fiftieth anniversary on October 15, 1977.  It had become so popular that an auxiliary organization had been created in 1962 under the patronage of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini.   However, as the 1990s approached, interest waned, and the Columbus lodge No 1446 along with the auxiliary group became inactive.

Remembered as Columbus Day, October 12 is one of the oldest of America’s holidays first celebrated in 1792 during the 300th anniversary of the 1492 discovery.  Established by President Benjamin Harrison, it hails Columbus as the symbol of America’s achievements and progress.  A champion of so many immigrants and their children, Christopher Columbus is not forgotten Along the Heritage Trail.

Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi© is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail” which is broadcast Mondays on 89.1 fm WBOI; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 fm.  Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at historycenterfw.blogspot.com.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Megan's Mystery Monday - Jessie Hamilton Print

Hello again history lovers! I’m back with another Monday Mystery for your reading pleasure.
Let me introduce you to this hidden beauty, artifact 2015.0.2.

I stumbled upon this small print while cataloguing a filing cabinet filled with similarly sized paintings, prints, and miscellaneous baubles that had been used as canvases for portraits and the like. Initially, this lovely little piece was trapped within a very dingy old frame, and when I say trapped, I literally mean trapped. Over the course of this print’s life in our hands, someone had scotch-taped the edges of the frame, the back of the piece, and even the glass covering to the frame itself. Every spare inch of wood was covered in destructive, nasty tape and believe me, it was a challenge to get it all off without damaging the print or the frame. I wish I had a picture of the bundle of tape that came off this thing because it was equal parts horrifying and impressive.

Let this be the first of many preservation tips to you all: never use scotch tape on an artifact. It’s a great tool for wrapping presents or fixing a tear in your homework, but the stuff is not meant to be used for object preservation. Materials that degrade, release chemicals, or are harmful as they age are avoided like the plague in modern museum preservation. From the age of this tape, this was probably done back in the 60s or 70s, back when museums weren’t as concerned with the type of materials they used to fix an old frame or patch a ripped fabric. Thankfully over time we’ve learned safer and smarter ways of maintaining objects for the future. So, everybody reading this, repeat after me!

Do not use scotch tape on artifacts. 

Save it for your gift wrapping, not the museum preserver tasked with undoing all of your hard work, because I assure you they will not appreciate it nearly as much. 

Anyway, back to the story. Normally when I find an object in need of cataloging, I look for the accession number. This number, like 2015.0.2, is almost always located on the object itself or on the material housing it. There was no sign of a number on this print or on the frame, before or after the tape took off part of the finish. This presented a problem for me. With no number, I had no idea where this print came from, how old it was, if the frame was original to the print, or anything that could give me an idea of the life of this piece. The only hint I had was a tiny pencil signature on the print itself that read “Jessie Hamilton.” 

Any Fort Wayne native who frequents the parks here in town should recognize the name Hamilton. The Hamilton Sisters, famous for their work with the Hull House, countless civic works projects, and humanitarian efforts have statues in Headwaters Park. Jessie Hamilton was a cousin of the famous sisters and was known for her art, which was what I had apparently found. You can imagine how excited I was to find this. 

Though I was unable to find more information on how this piece wound up in our collection, I was able to give the piece its own number, a new protective covering free of any scotch tape, and its own shelf in the filing cabinet. Object 2015.0.2 has a small database entry with the information I was able to provide, but beyond that, it remains largely an unknown piece. Some mysteries may never be solved, but at least we can make sure they’re preserved for any future detectives to try their hand.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fort Wayne and America’s 2nd War for Independence

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail” – September 2010 No. 70)

The year 2012 will mark the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.  An important event in the history of our newly formed nation the frontier community of Fort Wayne found itself a player in the events that led to this Second War with Britain. One hundred miles to the east near the Maumee River Anthony Wayne faced the forces of the Miami Confederation at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. Another confederation of Indian tribes in 1811 confronted William Henry Harrison at the Battle of Tippecanoe some 100 miles to the West on the Wabash. Midway, Fort Wayne stood on the passageway connecting the two.

Historian Harvey Lewis Carter’s account of these times helps trace the story. In 1805, the Shawnee brothers Tecumseh and Tenskwtana , later known as The Prophet, called a meeting of all the tribes but excluded the pro-American Miami and Delaware people.  The meeting was held near Wapakoneta, Ohio, and Fort Wayne-based Indian Agent William Wells became aware of the meeting while noticing the many Indians passing through Fort Wayne.  Although Chief Black Hoof of the Shawnee nor The Crane, a principal Wyandot chief, did not support Tecumseh and The Prophet, the brothers’ message to reclaim Indian lands appealed to a great many natives.

Under the Jefferson administration, Indiana Territory Governor William Henry Harrison had accumulated nearly 30-million acres of public lands for the United States through treaties with the Indian peoples.  The two Shawnee brothers became alarmed at the loss of such extensive land masses.  The Shawnee, having originated in Florida and Georgia, were essentially a landless tribe that depended on roaming over vast spaces moving north to Pennsylvania then forced by settlers into the present states of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

The Prophet declaring that he experienced a mystical encounter claimed that the Great Spirit had created the Indian, French, English and Spanish but not the “evil” Americans.  He preached returning to the traditional lifestyle of their forefathers, and abstaining from alcohol. Conversely, he did not advocate refraining from using deadly reprisal against an enemy that took away their land.

At Fort Wayne in 1806 and 1807 William Wells urged the estimated 1,500 Indians passing through town not to continue on their travels and not to listen to The Prophet at Greenville. So preoccupied were the native peoples with The Prophet’s influence that for two years they failed to conduct their annual hunting expeditions or planting their fields as was their custom.  To avoid starvation among his charges, Agent Wells found himself having to issue great amounts of food stuffs. Conditions in Greenville found food supplies were meager there as well. Desperate, The Prophet decided in 1808 to establish a new village on Potawatomi land near the mouth of the Tippecanoe River on the Wabash southwest of Fort Wayne, today celebrated as Prophetstown State Park.

All this was taking place in the west while back east Americans were agitated with news in 1807 of the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair the name given to the incident when a British naval vessel impressed seamen from an American naval ship into British service. War was deemed eminent and Britain could do no better than attract the American Indians’ confederation to their cause.

By 1809, William Wells the Indian Agent believed he was best suited for both the Indian people and the American citizens, but due to good ole fashioned politics was removed from his position and replaced by John Johnson. However, Wells was approved by Harrison to serve as an official government interpreter. In late Spring, The Prophet came to Fort Wayne to meet with Johnson. This and other meetings caused the Governor to begin building his militia forces that inadvertently served to enhance the Tecumseh/Prophet movement. Even the great Miami Chief Little Turtle said that the U.S. had no particular need to take the land at the time.


Harrison, later to become America’s ninth president, arrived in Fort Wayne in 1809 where 1,400 Indians had gathered to finalize the Fort Wayne 10 o’clock Line Treaty.  In September of that year nearly three million acres, or an area equal to seventy square miles, was transferred to the United States for $10,000 or one-third of a cent per acre paid to the Miami. Although the Shawnee and Wyandot had no claim on the land, they threatened to kill any chief who might sign the treaty or murder the first white men settling on the purchased land.

Food supplies for the Indians continued to worsen and Tecumseh began assuming more of a leadership role. He preached that the land was owned by Indians in common and none could be sold without the agreement of all. Harrison retorted that if the Great Sprit looked upon the many tribes in common as a nation, he would have given them a common language instead of the scores that he heard spoken. Tecumseh called for a confederation of natives to resist the encroaching Americans and in 1810 made it clear to British officials that in one year his confederacy would be formed and ready for war.  Tecumseh visited Fort Wayne to meet with the new Indian Agent Benjamin Stickney before moving on his way to acquire ammunition from the British at Malden near Detroit.

 In the autumn of 1811, Harrison marched 700 troops into Indian Territory near Prophetstown.  November 7th an Indian attack on the camp now known as Battleground ensued. Eight months later, the Second War for Independence erupted that today we know as the War of 1812.
Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail” which is broadcast Mondays on 89.1 fm WBOI; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 fm.  Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at historycenterfw.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Camp Allen Park on the Saint Mary’s

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – August 2010 No. 69.) 

At the far west end of Berry Street at Thieme Drive, looking across the Saint Mary’s River on the western bank, is Camp Allen Drive.  It’s best accessed from West Main Street after crossing the Carole Lombard Memorial Bridge turning south on Center Street and leads to the small playground space at the southeast corner of Center and Huron.

During the dark days of the Civil War between 1861 and 1865, this was a site of a beehive of activity as thousands of eligible young men from around the region answered the call.

When President Abraham Lincoln first called for volunteers to defend the Union on April 15th 1861 after the outbreak of war with the Confederacy, many Allen County residents, like others throughout Indiana, rushed to join the army for what they believed would be a short and glorious adventure. 

At that time, however, there were no formal recruiting depots in the area, and the local companies of volunteers who signed up at the courthouse quickly went to the State Camp in Indianapolis.  From there, after almost no training, the men from Allen County, as part of the 9th Regiment of Indiana Volunteers, were sent to the theaters of war in western Virginia.  This was the first Indiana engagement with the southern Rebels.

After the first patriotic rush to war and in the wake of the horrors of the first battles, it became clear that a more organized and regular approach to recruitment would be necessary.  The establishment of a military camp was entirely a local affair.  Fort Wayne community leaders were eager to make the city an official rendezvous point for all recruits of northeastern Indiana.  A committee was formed, private funds were raised, and Camp Allen was built at a cost of $1,312.

The first commandant of Camp Allen was Colonel Hugh B. Reed.  Appointed by Governor Oliver P. Morton, Reed was an outspoken Republican and a druggist by trade who had served in the Kekionga Guards, a local militia unit.

After overseeing the creation of several regiments, Colonel Reed left Camp Allen to take command of the 44th Indiana Regiment. The chief recruiting officer at Camp Allen in its first years was City Attorney William “Popgun” Smith, an 1852 settler from Maryland.

Camp Allen was a small tent city carved out of the wooded area across the Saint Mary’s River from the Methodist College.  There were 24 tents on the western side of the camp.  The officers’ tents were located near the roughly built quartermaster’s building, and an infirmary was built of slats behind the privates’ tents.  Each company had its own table, and food was cooked either over a large log fire or on open-air stoves.

Not everyone in Fort Wayne was eager to have a military camp on the doorstep.  John Dawson, the sharp-tongued editor of the Fort Wayne Daily Times, wondered about “the difficulties, which a body of inactive, warm-blooded, promiscuous volunteers might bring about.”

The editor was quick to point out that Fort Wayne at that time – in 1861 – had many unwholesome enticements, with its more than 180 whiskey and beer shops, a score of houses of ill fame, “lewd women in the nearby woods,” and a “timid, irresponsible constabulary.” Fortunately, Dawson’s fears of riot and un-soldierly abandon were unfounded.  Only two notable incidents of disruption occurred during the entire war and the camp was generally free of scandal.

Through the duration of its war time mission as a military camp, thousands of troops assembled at Camp Allen. These soldiers eventually served in seven infantry regiments and one artillery battery and served with distinction mostly in the western campaigns.

Later in the 19th century, in 1884, old Camp Allen was the rendezvous site for more than 5,000 veterans who gathered in Fort Wayne for one of the annual reunions sponsored by the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union Army’s veteran organization.  In the years afterward, families moved into this area and in 1912 the city bought a portion, created Camp Allen Park, and renamed Bluff Street…Camp Allen Drive. 

Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail” which is broadcast Mondays on 89.1 fm WBOI; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 fm.  Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at historycenterfw.blogspot.com.