Last Two American Forts

Audio: “Last Two American Forts” featuring Tom Castaldi. Courtesy of WBNI-Fort Wayne.

On Sept. 18, 1794, General Anthony Wayne and his army arrived at the head of the Maumee River. Within a month, a fort was completed and named Fort Wayne. Colonel Hamtramck was given command of the garrison while the main part of the army headed home from Greenville, Ohio, for the winter. This first U.S Fort Wayne was built of round logs and located at the northwest corner of the present-day intersection of Berry and Clay streets. Fort Wayne became headquarters for the group of Americans post in the west and Hamtramck went on to Detroit to receive the last British post on U.S territory in March of 1796. Major Thomas Pasteur succeeded Colonel Hamtramck as commander of Fort Wayne. Major Thomas Pasteur served two years and was followed by Colonel Thomas Hunt. A new fort was built to replace Wayne’s original construction during Hunt’s three years of service. This new fort was built at what is now the northwest corner of the intersection of east Main and Clay Streets, also known as Old Fort Park. This fort was to provide protection for the garrison and pioneer inhabitants during the Tecumseh uprising and the siege of the 1812 War. Harrison returned to Vincennes and took steps for a campaign against Prophets Town on the Tippecanoe River; the result of which was the Battle of Tippecanoe. The adopted son of Little Turtle, William Wells who later became an Native American agent at Fort Wayne, was killed by Native Americans in his attempt to help evacuate the Fort Dearborn garrison in the war with the British and the Native Americans. The Native Americans were determined to capture the Fort Wayne and Fort Harrison (Terre Haute). Unfortunately, Captain James Rhea was in command of Fort
Wayne at the time and he neglected his responsibilities of command due to his frequent consumption of alcohol.

Those in the fortification were relieved to hear that an army of Kentuckians under William Henry Harrison was on its way to lift the siege. Evacuated safely to Piqua, Ohio, were 25 women and children; however, when Stephen Johnson snuck out of the fort to see his wife in Piqua, he was shot and scalped on what is now east Lewis Street. Major John Whistler was in command of Fort Wayne in 1814. Whistler had previously helped Wayne build the original fort and he had helped build and served as commandant of the Dearborn fort. During the period of 1814-1816 another and the last of the U.S. forts was built. This fort was the most substantial of all the forts built at Fort Wayne and is the model the Old Fort Committee of the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society used for its reconstruction.

The fort was built on the same location as the Hunt fort. In 1819, all troops were transferred to other posts, leaving Fort Wayne abandoned. Major Stuckney, the Native American agent, was in care of the fort; he leased some of the rooms to families or individuals who needed them. At one point Reverend Isaac McCoy, a Baptist missionary, held a school in some of the rooms of the fort. As the years went on, logs from the fort were removed by people for building purposes and in the 1830s the fort grounds were disturbed by the digging of the Wabash and Erie Canal bed which passed through the garrison. The fort remained at its location until it rotted down and in 1852 the last building was torn down; souvenir canes were made from some of its timbers.

Major John Whistler (Bert J. Griswold, The Pictorial History of Fort Wayne, I, 1917, p.233)

Major John Whistler (Bert J. Griswold, The Pictorial History of Fort Wayne, I, 1917, p.233)

General William Henry Harrison

General William Henry Harrison

Photos courtesy of Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society and Google.com

Resources:

  • John Ankenbruck, 20th Century History of Fort Wayne (1975), p.50.

  • The Bicentennial Heritage Trail Group, ARCH Inc., Essex Group, Inc., On The Heritage Trial, Fort Wayne, Indiana: A Walking Guide Book (1994) pp. 39-41.

  • David A. Simmons, The Forts of Anthony Wayne.