Friday, May 27, 2016

Encapsulating Time

            The first United Methodist church on Wayne Street was founded in 1871 under the name Wayne Street Methodist Episcopal Church. The first Methodist church in Fort Wayne was built in 1840 under the name, Berry Street Chapel. This chapel’s congregation grew so large that in 1849, all members living west of Harrison Street had to form a new congregation. This congregation decided to make it’s home in the chapel of the Fort Wayne Female College and in 1850 built a church of its own. This church proved too small and another, bigger church was erected in 1871, this being the Wayne Street Methodist Episcopal Church.
            Like many churches and religious groups, this was a community. Members cared about each other and liked to be involved in their lives. As a result of this, members of the congregation felt the need to commemorate their fellowship with the time capsule shown here. It was buried at the cornerstone of the church when it was built. It was dug up after only 8 years due to the church moving to yet another location, now the current First United Methodist Church on Wayne Street. The contents of this particular time capsule had documents of Fort Wayne including newspapers, directories, Christian pamphlets and a Bible.
            Mixed in with all the newspapers, pamphlets and directories was a copy of Our Methodist Paper. This specific local church newspaper  features a picture of the Wayne Street Methodist Episcopal Church in 1896. Also found were newspapers showing prices and job listings. Here is a picture of a job listing. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be too keen on a $30 a week salary!

            This time capsule will be on exhibit as a part of the Fort Wayne Bicentennial, 200 @ 200. It will be unveiled June 1st. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Electrifying Christmas

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” –Dec 2012, closes Oct. 1, 2012, No. 96)

How many electric light bulbs does it take to light up the Christmas spirit? For some of us it takes just one. Maybe that’s the reason 24,717 colorful lights can get an entire community up and running headlong into the Christmas spirit when the Wolf and Dessauer’s Santa and Reindeer display is energized on the PNC Bank building wall casting a glow over old “Transfer Corner.”
The story has been told of how some wonderful people including G. Irving Latz, of Wolf & Dessauer department store and Frank Dunigan, of the Brinkman Corporation first hatched the idea; how Isabel Wilkerson Parker sketched out the concept; how Leslie Pope transferred it to its actual size; and how the employees at Brinkman produced the unique Christmas display. We’ve heard too the story of how the display was stored away and forgotten gradually falling into a state of disrepair; how the IBEW 305 with the Iron Workers Local 147 combined their time and talents with the resources of Northeastern Indiana Electrical Contractors Association and the Chamber of Commerce along with untold numbers of interested businesses and citizens refurbished the display making it the reality we can enjoy in our day.

Main Street looking East from Calhoun, 1889

The intersection of Main and Calhoun streets, where holiday crowds gather to watch the lighting of the Santa display, is at a site that has long attracted people. For many years it was known as “Turntable Corner” and later “Transfer Corner” because a rotating track had been placed in the street to direct departing trolleys onto assigned outbound routes.  Between the 1890s and the 1960s, this corner was where all the trolleys and later buses converged from a network of routes. As horse-drawn street trolleys rolling on rails gave way to the electrified trolley buses in 1892, it has remained an energized place. During 1890s, Marmaduke Marcellus Slattery, an inventor working for Jenney Electric Company was experimenting with battery powered trolleys. Although a forward-thinking fellow tinkering with a technology whose time was yet to come, his experience was a little like Noah’s last dove sent from the Ark that full of energy never came back from somewhere in the “out there.” However, when Slattery sent his trial trolley out on a test run full of hope and vim, the battery drained of energy and the car failed to return.
True, many towns and cities have established favorite customs such as parades, festive window displays, church pageants, school plays, orchestral performances and the like, but Fort Wayne has a long-treasured tradition that extends back to the days of the Wolf and Dessauer Department Store when window displays drew holiday seekers and shoppers from miles around.  Those nostalgic days for the older generation may be gone, however, they have been replaced by a symbol of the season that can light up the legacy of those exciting November and December animated store windows.  Another of the remaining artifacts is the gigantic wreath, also festooned with lights just like Santa Clause, in November placed nearby on the north side of Fort Wayne’s signature high-rise building. But, it’s Santa Clause that gets the nod with his twinkling, blinking blue eye announcing to the thousands that energizes the crowd in the streets below officially opening Christmas Season in the Three River’s region.

Wolf & Dessauer building with electric Christmas displays

Best of all it is very nice watching the eyes of children of all ages sparkle.  Once Santa and his reindeer cast their radiance over the town, it sparks a tour of a veritable festival of Christmas trees, Gingerbread houses, model holiday villages, and with music in the air all over town.

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 Radio106.3 fm. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at

Monday, May 23, 2016

Fort Wayne Flag at 100

My name is Michael Rice. I am a senior at Indiana University studying Anthropology and Folklore. This is my second summer working at the Fort Wayne History Center. I also work at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University. I have always loved culture and history, and museums are a great mix of the two. During my internship at the History Center I will be the 200@200 intern.
The 200@200 project is celebrating Indiana’s bicentennial with 200 objects of Fort Wayne’s history since Indiana became a state. The Fort Wayne flag is being used as a motif for the Bicentennial project. The flag was first created 100 years ago and I will be discussing its history and what the symbols represent.

A contest was sponsored by the Journal Gazette to celebrate Indiana’s centennial in 1916, and chose Guy Drewett’s rendition of the Fort Wayne city flag; however, the flag originally had just two white stars. It was redesigned by Drewett in 1934 when he added a Miami Native American head silhouette, a fleur-de-lis, and an English Lion. Guy traveled around Fort Wayne selling the flag to citizens anticipating the centennial with the slogan that he was the “Guy That Drew It,” using his name as a play on words. He was so thrilled with his creation he even had his tombstone engraved with “Designed the flag of Fort Wayne-1916.” The Fort Wayne flag represents the history of Fort Wayne through the symbols that are shown. At the center of the flag is the historic fort bisecting the date 1794, which is when Fort Wayne was founded. The pall design or “Y” shape within the flag represents the three rivers, St. Joseph, St. Marys and Maumee Rivers that make our city great. The Miami Native American head symbolizes the Miami tribe that first settled this land. The fleur-de-lis is representing the French influence of early settlers in this area. Lastly, the lion is representing the British presence. All of these symbols make up our remarkable emblem that has been flying since June 26, 1934.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Methodists

 . (Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Nov 2012 closes Sep 2012 No 95)

As the fourth religious group to hold worship services in early Fort Wayne, the Methodists came to the community after Catholics, Baptists, and Presbyterians.  According to the renowned historian George R. Mather, their missionary policy was to appoint lay preachers and establish circuits of preaching stations, rapidly enabling the Methodist Episcopal Church in its effort to organize congregations in nearly every new settlement in the pioneer West.

Unschooled and itinerant leadership did not at first bode well and although preachers occasionally did visit Fort Wayne during the 1820s, no church was organized.  In 1830, the Illinois Conference established the Fort Wayne Mission and appointed the Reverend Nehemiah B. Griffith in charge of the undertaking. Although the seed of Methodism in Fort Wayne was planted early it was slow in reaching its full potential.  Whenever the circuit-riding minister came to town, services were held in a variety of places, including a Masonic Hall, schoolhouse, courthouse, carpenter shop, and private homes.

By 1835, the congregation attempted to build a meeting house near the corner of Ewing and Main streets, but it abandoned the effort after the financial panic of 1837.  In 1840, a new property was secured on the northeast corner of Berry and Harrison streets and a frame church was built.  

In 1849, the North Indiana Conference, which was organized five years before in Fort Wayne, divided the town into two parishes with Harrison Street being the separating line.  The new congregation first worshipped in the chapel of the Methodist College.  In early 1850, under the leadership of the Reverend Samuel Brenton, it secured lots on the southwest corner of Wayne and Broadway streets and erected a frame meeting house.

Methodist College

The Berry Street congregation built a Gothic brick church on the same site in 1864 then moved it in 1903 to a new facility on the southwest corner of East Wayne and Lafayette streets and changed its name to the First Methodist Episcopal Church.  The Wayne Street Methodist Episcopal “reunited” with its parent congregation in 1968 and dedicated the present building in 1973.  Mather added that, after years of steady growth it became more fully rooted growing and becoming one of the prominent denominations in the community, distinguished for its evangelical zeal and social conscience.

The idea of the Methodist College first had emerged during the 1840s. Historian Mather recalled that it was not known who first proposed it, however, in 1846 the Methodists were completing plans for the Fort Wayne Female College, which soon after was renamed the Fort Wayne Collegiate Institute. During the next year, the Methodist North Indiana Conference assumed formal sponsorship of the school.  By June the structure’s cornerstone was laid and when the school opened in the fall of 1847 nearly 100 girls were enrolled.  In 1852, a separate Fort Wayne Collegiate Institute was organized for young men.  Not long after the two schools were combined and became known as the “Methodist College”.

One of the male students was Samuel Morris known as Prince Kaboo from the African tribe of Kru and was a Methodist convert.  He came to the United States and entered the Fort Wayne Methodist College in 1892 to study to become a missionary.  He was known to have a charming personality and a zealous religious vocation that endeared him to his classmates quickly making him one of the best-liked students at the college.  However, Samuel Morris became ill in 1893 and died. Prince Kaboo was so loved and respected that his touching story of conversion, his enthusiasm for education and his untimely death was widely told and attracted many new students who enrolled in the college.

Prince Kaboo

When Fort Wayne Methodist College closed in 1894 and moved to Upland, Indiana, to begin a new life as Taylor University, one of its first two buildings was named Samuel Morris Hall, in recognition of the spirit of Prince Kaboo.  Nearly a century later in 1992, Taylor University returned to Fort Wayne and re-established its presence in Fort Wayne by acquiring Summit Christian College.

In his book Frontier Faith, George Mather quotes Charles H. Titus’ 1843 impression of Fort Wayne’s Methodist, “The congregation appeared very intelligent, displayed a better taste in their dress than is usually seen in his country, and were also very genteel. I felt as though I had got back to New England.”  Considering the flock’s difficulty in 1835 to erect a church building, and before boarding a packet canal boat for Toledo, Titus also wrote, “Sunday morning went to a neat little M. church for worship…This was the first pewed church I had seen among the Methodists, west of the Alleghenies. It was beautifully and neatly finished.”

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 Radio106.3 fm. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Henry W. Lawton

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” - Oct 2012, closes. Aug 2012, No. 94)

Henry W. Lawton was born on March 17, 1843, near Toledo, in the town of Manhattan, Ohio. His father George, a millwright, came to Fort Wayne to build mills in Allen County accompanied by his brothers Daniel and Charles. George moved his young family into a home south of the Main Street Bridge on the bank of the Saint Mary’s River. While yet a child, Henry’s mother died and Mrs. E.D. Moore took charge of the infant’s wellbeing spending several years in Ohio before returning with his father to Fort Wayne in 1858.

Back in Fort Wayne, young Henry attended the Fort Wayne Methodist College and eventually grew to the height of six feet three inches earning him the name “Long Hank.”  He joined the first Indiana regiment in 1861 when the Civil War erupted soon to find himself in the state’s first skirmishes against the Confederacy.  A volunteer entering the service as a private, he rose to the rank of captain fighting at Shiloh, Corinth, Chickamauga and Iuka, confrontations that have gone down in American history.  It was, however, during the William Tecumseh Sherman-led Atlanta campaign that Lawton earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, the first for anyone from Fort Wayne to achieve that citation.  By 1865 when the war was over, Lawton at the age of twenty-two years had reached the rank of colonel.

Henry W. Lawton and his whip. Learn more about Lawton in 200@200 - Iconic Fort Wayne

Military life appealed to Henry. After the Civil War he joined the regular army to fight in the Indian Wars then being staged on the western plains and southwest deserts.  During 1876, the year Custer made his unfortunate stand, Lawton was battling the Sioux and in 1879 it was the Utes he encountered. Few U.S. Army officers were trusted by the Indians and Henry Lawton was one of only two or three who enjoyed the honor. He was given the respectable title of the “Tall White Man” and a Cheyenne chief said, “he was a good man, always kind to the Indians” referring to Lawton’s concern that there was always enough meat, bread, coffee for those among whom he was assigned. Most impressive was his willingness to stand up to his superiors when he felt promises were being broken or ignored.

Back in Fort Wayne on December 12, 1881, Captain Lawton married Mary Craig the daughter of Alexander and Annie Craig of Louisville, Kentucky. Later, she was to accompany Henry to Manila in the Philippines.

Lawton was a man who stuck to his soldiery duty.  During the years 1886 and 1887 his men engaged the Apache band led by Geronimo. Across Arizona and into Mexico they followed the Apaches, and it was one of Lawton’s officers who convinced the great Apache chief to surrender.

A decade later in the year 1898, the now General Lawton was in Cuba with Teddy Roosevelt during the Spanish American War. The next year he was placed in charge of the American forces during the Philippine Insurrection. He reported to General Arthur MacArthur whose son with the same name later commanded the United States forces in the Pacific during World War II.  

On December 19, 1899, the campaign advanced into the Marikina Valley east of Manila in the Luzon mountains and in country concealing snipers armed with high-powered Mauser rifles. Here a sharpshooter might easily have found Lawton an easy target wearing his American white helmet and yellow slicker.  One in the American party was Lieutenant Breckinridge who was hit and while lying wounded on the ground urged his general to divest himself of his slicker because, “It makes a regular target of you.”  With bullets flying nearby, Lawton assessed the situation and moved toward better cover. Even so, he turned his field glasses on the enemy to study their positions. Suddenly Lawton grasped his breast and told Captain King that he had been shot through the lungs. Aides caught their leader and gently lowered him to the ground. However, the bullet proved deadly cutting the artery leading to his heart. Shortly, General Lawton was pronounced dead.

Historian Bert Griswold published a letter Lawton addressed to a Fort Wayne friend dated August 8, 1898, five months before the General died. In part the letter read, “I have never wavered in my allegiance to the state of Indiana and have never for a moment contemplated a change of residence – Fort Wayne, Ind., is the only place where I could legally cast a vote or where I could have voted since I attained my majority.  I have heard of the death of many of the old comrades, and feel often that the time is close at hand when I, too, must join the great majority as they go marching along.”

A saddened Fort Wayne witnessed the funeral train carrying the body of Henry Lawton when it arrived in town on February 5, 1900. A memorial tribute was held at the county courthouse before the structure was completed, and before the train departed for Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, overlooking the Potomac River and Washington, DC.   William McKinley, the President of the United States gave tribute to the General who had brought a great sense of pride to the American military during the last days of the nineteenth century.

Entering service in 1861 as a private, the soldier from Fort Wayne rose to the level of second in command of the army of the United States when he was killed in battle in the Philippines. Back in his hometown in Fort Wayne in 1899, the old North Side Park was renamed Lawton Park in honor of General Henry Lawton who had fallen in action. Over the years admiration remained high for Henry Lawton and on October 22, 1921, the city erected a heroic bronze statue dedicated to the memory of General Lawton and placed it in Lakeside Park.  


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 Radio106.3 fm. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Siege of 1812

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Sep 2012 closes Jul 2012 No 93)

Siege of 1812

Only once did the American forts come under attack at what became the Fort Wayne that we know today.  For nearly a quarter-of-a-century they guarded United States’ interests in the midst of Indian territory, but the attack endured at the outbreak of the War of 1812 was nearly disastrous for Fort Wayne because of the drunkenness of its commander.  In 1811, the Battle of Tippecanoe, unleashed renewed hostilities between the Indian tribes and the Americans throughout the Midwestern frontier.  Both pioneer homesteads and Indian villages alike endured raids and murders.

The Americans suffered an early defeat in 1812 when William Wells’ expedition to relieve the garrison of Fort Dearborn on the Chicago River was destroyed by the Potawatomi.  General William Hull then meekly surrendered the U.S. forces to the British at Fort Detroit, and this gave the signal to Indian forces throughout the frontier to rise up against the other American forts.

Fort Wayne was one of the first forts the Indians determined to take, and late that summer about five hundred Potawatomi and Ottawa warriors began to gather in the forests around the fort.  Metea, a friendly Potawatomi chief, warned the French trader Antoine Bondie of the plans for attack, and Bondie with another French trader, Charles Peltier, took this information to the Indian Agent in the fort, Benjamin Stickney, and the post commandant, Captain James Rhea. At first the two leaders of the fort did not believe the French traders, thinking them to be unreliable and prone to lying. But Stickney soon became suspicious and sent messages to General William Henry Harrison in Cincinnati. Captain Rhea, too, worried about the large number of Indians gathering near the fort. It was then that Rhea began to drink to excess, becoming incapable of handling his duties.

Stephen Johnston, the Piqua Indian Agent’s son, tried to escape the fort and get to his wife in Ohio. Johnston’s scalped and tomahawked body was delivered the next day to the front gates. The fort garrison made ready for a siege.

The Indians burned the cabins, outbuildings and crops surrounding the fort. Attempts by Lieutenants Curtis and Ostrander to attack the Indians were rebuked by their drunken superior who clearly feared the fight. Then one morning a large party of warriors approached the fort under a white flag asking to speak with Indian Agent Stickney and Captain Rhea. Stickney suspected a trick and only admitted a few of the Indians in the party. Captain Rhea was too drunk to attend. In the midst of the meeting Chief Winamac attempted to use his knife hidden in this robe, but quick action and the instant appearance of several soldiers ended the plot against Stickney.

Several days later, the Indians again used the flag of truce to get into the fort, this time to meet alone with Captain Rhea. The commandant shared his liquor with the chiefs and promised his support if the chiefs would save him. Five Indians who had come into the fort and had hidden behind one of the buildings shot two soldiers dead. After this Captain Rhea lost control of the garrison, and Lieutenant Ostrander and Lieutenant Curtis took command of the fort.

In the meantime, the constant exchange of gunfire rattled the garrison every day, and the commanding officer continued to drink and talk of surrender.  Finally, General Harrison with twenty-five hundred men marched on Fort Wayne. The Indians tried to attack Harrison’s troops in the swamps to the east along the Wayne Trace, setting fires in the woods hoping to draw the garrison out, but to no avail.

On September 12, the siege was at last lifted when Harrison’s men arrived at the gates of Fort Wayne. Captain Rhea was relieved of his command and Lieutenant Ostrander was placed in command o the fort. Harrison’s force left Fort Wayne a week later to pursue the British and the Indians to Detroit and eventually to the climatic battle in Ontario at the River Thames in 1813.

This story of the Siege of Fort Wayne in 1812 comes from the book, On the Heritage Trail and includes other stories of the people and times from the Fort Wayne region’s past.


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 Radio106.3 fm. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at