“The Miami Nation,” was presented to the Fort Wayne Quest Club on October 29, 1993 by William R. Clark, Jr: The Miami villages extended from the junction of the three rivers northeasterly along the St. Joseph River. The village on the eastern bank, current day Lakeside, was headed by Chief LaGris and that on the west bank by Chief Pecan. Pecan’s sister, Tecumwah, was married to Frenchman Joseph Richardville. She and her husband collected tolls for use of the St. Mary’s-Wabash portages. Her son Jean B. Richardville was later to inherit the portage concession and the civil chieftainship of the Miami Nation.
There were two canoe portages at Fort Wayne and the trip from Lake Erie to Fort Wayne was upstream on the Maumee River until they portaged at Fort Wayne and then it was downstream all the way to New Orleans. The first portage coming up-stream from the east (Lake Erie) was at Sweeney Park. They hand carried, their freight canoes and cargo about 5 miles west on the high ground at the edge of the great-swamp along what is now Hwy 24. The canoes were put-in again at a creek east of Aboite that flowed into the Little River then downstream to the forks of the Wabash (west of Huntington), to the Ohio River and finally to the Mississippi River and New Orleans. Depending on river conditions they sometimes continued up-stream on the St. Mary’s River past the Sweeney Park portage to what is now the Fairfield end of Foster Park near the intersection of Lower Huntington and Tillman Roads. On the second portage they carried their canoes west on what is now Lower Huntington Road about 5 miles to Smith and Yohne Roads. Sometimes the guides would break a big beaver dam and the canoes would ride the rush of water downstream towards the Little River on to the Forks of the Wabash River, to the Ohio River, to the Mississippi River and New Orleans. Their return trip from New Orleans however, was up stream all the way to Fort Wayne where they once again made a portage that began their downstream trip east on the St. Mary’s river to the Maumee River to Lake Erie. These hearty souls paddled from first to last light and then before calling it a day collected and boiled pine-tar to patch any newly acquired leaks in their birch bark canoes.
War-Chief Little Turtle, whose village was near present-day Churubusco, once again displayed superior skills as a military thinker, strategist and leader by repelling three of General Harmar’s armies in a four-year period. After Little Turtle defeated Harmar’s armies it prompted George Washington to send a much larger force the following year. Washington sent General St. Clair’s army of approximately 1,600 men with eight artillery pieces towards Kekionga to establish a military presence at Fort Wayne. St. Claire’s army was closely monitored by Little Turtle’s scouts while he trained 1,400 confederate warriors on open fields in what is now South Fort Wayne. Chief Turtle launched a surprise dawn attack against St. Claire’s encamped forces at the site of current-day Fort Recovery, Ohio. William Wells (Turtles son-in-law) was placed in charge of a cadre of Indian sharp-shooters whose mission it was to selectively take out the artillery men operating the artillery pieces and to kill as many officers as was possible. St. Clair’s second in command General Richard Butler is purported to be the first American General ever to be scalped. The Ft. Recovery battle lasted about three hours and it was a complete rout. 680 American Army soldiers were killed along with 40 officers while fewer than 100 Native American warriors were lost. To be continued…
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