Have you noticed that the Indiana license plates we’ve been sporting for the past three years celebrate our state’s bicentennial? That’s right, this year Indiana will be two hundred years old. In the summer of 1816 forty-three delegates came together and drew up our first state constitution, and in December that year Indiana became the nineteenth state to be admitted to the United States of America.
Not only have license plates been announcing our bicentennial, but just this week the U.S. Postal Service introduced the Indiana 1816 Forever Stamp with a beautiful Hoosier sunset photographed by Michael Matti near his childhood home in Milford, Indiana.
I’ve always been very excited about history. In fact just last year in this column I wrote about the history of Wayne Township. I am still working to find old pictures with the hopes of making a portrait gallery of former trustees to display in our office.
Recently I learned that my own office staff was able to make a contribution to the bicentennial celebration. At a meeting of the Indiana Township Association in 2013, some staff members and I heard Indiana State Archivist, Jim Corridan speak on record retention in township offices. As he was wrapping up his talk he mentioned excitedly that another one of his projects was finding the burial places of all of the delegates of the 1816 convention. He had located all but three or four of them, but with the 2016 bicentennial coming up it was important to find them all. One of those he was searching for was delegate William Polke, an early Hoosier who among other things, had as a child been captured by Indians, had been wounded at the Battle of Tippecanoe, had helped build the fort here with General Anthony Wayne, and had led the march to relocate over 1800 Potawatomi to the state of Kansas on what became known as “The Trail of Death.”
Mr. Corridan suspected that Polke, who died in the spring of 1843, might have been buried “in an early Fort Wayne cemetery” but he hadn’t been able to locate where. SuzAnne Runge was one of my staff members who heard his talk, and being into local history herself, she wanted to see if she could help find William Polke’s final resting place. “Because I was here in Fort Wayne, and Jim was in Indianapolis I think I was able to help by going personally to our local library and courthouse.”
“Besides the State Archive information available to Jim Corridan, we had here Allen County librarian John Beatty’s writings on early cemeteries in Fort Wayne and Polke’s estate papers at the Allen County Courthouse.” With that, it was determined that William Polke had been buried in the Broadway Cemetery, now McCulloch Park (next to General Electric). Some 17 years later, in 1860, the known remains buried in Broadway (except only for the grave of Governor Samuel Bigger, which is still there, marked and fenced) were removed and re-interred mostly into the then new Lindenwood Cemetery. There was, however, no record that Polke’s remains were ever moved.
So we have buried in an unmarked grave right here in Fort Wayne one of the delegates to the 1816 Constitutional Convention of the State of Indiana, an honor indeed, and an interesting story. As this new year takes off I will be thinking about Indiana history, and I want to remember as well a national hero of mine, Dr. Martin Luther King, whose birthday we will celebrate on January 18. His contributions are never far from my mind as I think about our common history.
- TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE STEVENSON ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT– Voice Of The Township - December 20, 2019
- LIVING BELOW THE POVERTY LINE – Voice Of The Township - December 6, 2019
- THE HOLIDAY SEASON IS UPON US – Voice Of The Township - November 22, 2019