The History Center in Fort Wayne

I visited the Jean Baptiste de Richardville house, which is overseen by the History Center. It seemed only fitting that I visit the actual History Center, which resides in a former City Hall that was built in 1893.

As I wandered through the History Center, I was struck by the fact that the revered early settlers were what I would think of as scoundrels. Of course, history is usually written by the victors. (An exception would be the history of the Mongols who established the Yuan Dynasty in northern China.) I have a decidedly different feeling about these revered early settlers. They are portrayed as the bedrock of early (white) civilization in the US, but when I read about their lives, I see mostly exploitation of other people and the environment.

With no sense of irony, early settlers who made names for themselves (= amassed wealth) are invariably called land speculators. In my eyes, land speculators = someone who benefited from the robbery of Native American lands and the misery inflicted on the Native Americans through their removal of their traditional lands.

I read about Chief Turtle, the War Chief of the Miami tribe who led the Miami to victory over the Americans in 1780, 1790, and 1791. But then he signed the Treaty of Greenville.

Chief Turtle was followed by Chief Richardville, the Peace Chief of the Miami from 1816 to 1841. He signed six treaties with the US government, which by 1840 gave more than 950,000 acres to the US. His wealth, the History Center explained, came from farms, control of a portage, and land sales (= selling out his brethren for profit, though I suppose what else could you do in the face of sure defeat by the US government?).

The Center next discusss Allen Hamilton. In my blog post about Chief Richardville’s house, I mentioned that Chief Richardville had the equivalent of $23 million when he died but that his descendants were quickly destitute. The reason given on the tour of his house was that they made bad business deals. You want to know why they made bad business deals? Thank Allen Hamilton.

Hamilton, who lived from 1798 to 1864, was a land speculator (of course!). He founded two banks (hmmm…early banks were shady and in Indiana went under due to corruption). He was also the personal legal and financial advisor to Chief Richardville—and the executor of Richardville’s estate. According to the History Center, Hamilton depleted the wealth that Richardville had amassed, leaving Richardville’s heirs destitute. So it was not so much that the heirs made bad business deals as they made a bad choice about whom to trust with the inheritance.

And then there is Sam Hanna, another one of those white men presented as the movers and shakers, a respected icon in the community who is anything but respectable. Hanna lived from 1767 to 1866 and was a land speculator. He was also involved in milling, the Wabash Erie Canal (which almost bankrupt the state), banking (corrupt in its early days), and railroads (which ironically were behind the demise of the canal).

The History Center also contains a lot of displays about German immigrants and the heritage that they brought. Interestingly, I learned that the powers that be in Allen County intentionally targeted certain immigrants. Not just any immigrant would do. They needed skilled German workers who had a strong work ethic.

Down in the basement, you can visit the old jail. This area includes an interesting exhibit about the history of the police force in Fort Wayne. Although originally only volunteers filled the ranks of the police, in 1863 an official force was established. As a transportation hub, Fort Wayne saw its share of crime. In 1875, the Chicago Tribune called Fort Wayne “the most lawless town in Indiana”. (Given Chicago’s reputation as a corrupt city, this is kind of the pot calling the kettle black.) In 1913, women joined the police force.

The History Center was a welcome taste of the culture and background of Fort Wayne and Allen County. I had the place nearly to myself on the sole Saturday that it was open for the month. (Normally, it is only open Monday through Friday.) If you find yourself in downtown Fort Wayne, check out the Center, the exhibits, and the drunk tank in the jail. And then cross the street for a visit to The Hoppy Gnome.

Crown Hill Cemetery: Civil War tour

Not really a war buff, I felt a bit out of place with the other people who showed up for the tour. Hats and t-shirts attested to their passion for the war. As we waited for the tour to start, they shared their own war stories about visits to different battlefields.

I was here to enjoy a docent-led tour of Crown Hill Cemetery during a July morning. After a slow start, the tour guide took off like a shot. And never stopped going. The tour lasted only an hour and half but we covered a lot of ground and viewed a lot of gravesites. The guide peppered us with lots of information, and I attempted to inject with questions.

Crown Hill Cemetery opened in 1863. A section was reserved as a national cemetery. Interestingly, although blacks and whites were segregated in Crown Hill, on the federal lands, USCT (United Stated Colored Troops) were buried among white troops.

In 1866, Union soldiers were moved from Greenlawn city cemetery to Crown Hill. (Greenlawn is no more; it is the current site of Lucas Oil stadium.) In 1930, the Confederate soldiers were moved to Crown Hill.

The gravesites that we visited were for people somehow tied to the Civil War. They were mostly Union soldiers and supporters, but Democrats, southern sympathizers, and a Confederate soldier rounded out the mix. The stories we heard about people are too numerous to relate in detail. I’ll share a few interesting war and post-war tidbits about the people discussed in the tour.

John Coburn (1825-1908)
Early in the war, Coburn surrendered to Nathan Forest and spent time in Libby Prison before being exchanged. He fought with Benjamin Harrison. The city of Atlanta surrendered to him and his troops. Post-war: Coburn helped ensure the construction of the Soldiers and Sailors monument in Indianapolis. He and his father helped found the Indiana Historical Society.

Thomas A. Hendricks (1819-1885)
As a pro-Union Democrat during the Civil War, Hendricks kept the Democrats in the Indiana legislature from passing anti-war resolutions. In 1863, he was elected to the Senate, replacing Senator Bright. Bright had been expelled for addressing Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States in a letter where he suggested that the South should buy guns from Indiana manufacturers (!). Post-war: Hendricks served for eight months (until his death) as the 21st Vice President under President Cleveland.

Abel Streight (1828-1892)
In 1863, Streight led a raid (the Mule Brigade) on Alabama to disrupt the railroad (and Confederate supplies) from Chattanooga to Atlanta. He was caught by Nathan Forrest (the same Forrest that caught Coburn), but demanded a do-over after he learned that Forrest tricked him with only 500 men to his 1,700. (Naturally, Forrest did not agree to a do-over.) He escaped from Libby Prison, along with 102 others (of these two drowned and 50 were recaptured). Post-war: After his death, his wife buried in their front lawn. “I never knew where he was in life, but now I can find him.” (He was reburied in Crown Hill Cemetery.)

Jefferson C. Davis (1828-1879)
Davis has the unique distinction of killing a superior officer who insulted him in front of lots of witnesses but was not put on trial. Because he was a good career officer, and good career officers were in short supply, he wasn’t tried but he was barred from future promotions and pay increases. He was also known for the pontoon boat incident. After crossing a river in the south, he cut the pontoons loose, leading to hundreds of slaves who were following his troops to drown or be captured. His tombstone is covered with a concrete US flag.

Oliver Morton (1823-1877)
Morton was the 14th governor, and was devoted to Lincoln and the Union war effort. He secured men and money for the Union Cause despite a legislature filled with Copperheads (Democrats) who opposed to the war. He accomplished this by exceeding his constitutional authority, e.g., disbanding the legislature, taking out federal and private loans to run the state government. Post-war: US Senator.

Edward Canby (1817-1873)
Like Davis, Canby was a career officer. He was friends with Lew Wallace; both grew up in Crawfordsville. After Lew’s mother died, Hawkins, the mother of Canby’s future wife, took in the three Wallace boys until their father remarried. The brother of Canby’s future wife, John Parker Hawkins, led a division of African American soldiers at the Battle of Fort Blakely, which resulted in the capture of Mobile, Alabama. Post-War: Canby ended up in California negotiating a peace treaty with the Modocs, which ended in his death. Several generals, including Lew Wallace.

Samuel St. George Rogers (1832-1880)
Rogers is the sole confederate soldier buried in Crown Hill Cemetery proper (vs. the National Cemetery). Because he was buried in Crown Hill rather than on federal property, his tombstone was allowed to sport the image of a confederate flag. Post-war: Rogers was a congressman from Florida.

Richard Gatling (1818-1903)
Dr. Gatling was a medical doctor by training and an inventor by profession. He is best known for the Gatling gun, which was first used in combat by Union forces during the Civil War. His wife Jemima was the sister of David Wallace’s second wife (Zerelda). David Wallace was Lew Wallace’s father, and Zerelda was the model for the mother in Lew’s novel Ben-Hur.

David Wallace (1799-1859)
Wallace’s connection to the Civil War is through his sons Edward and Lew who both served in the Union forces. He served as state representative, lt. governor, governor, and then US Senator. He had the misfortune of being governor when the negative effects of the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act were being realized and the state almost went bankrupt. His wife Zerelda was a leader in the temperance movement and a suffragette.

Samuel Fahnestock (1804-1874)
Dr. Fahnestock has the distinction of being the third person buried in Crown Hill Cemetery (6/7/1864). He was murdered in Louisiana where he served as a volunteer physician treating freed slaves.

Lucy Ann Seaton (1831-1864)
Seaton is the first person buried in Crown Hill with her infant baby Lucy in an unmarked grave by her side. Her husband, John L Seaton, was a captain the Union Army. In recent years, Boy Scouts raised her tombstone, added bricks around the gravesite, and covered the grave with ground plants. If Seaton was the first person buried in Crown Hill and Fahnestock the third, who is the second? I haven’t solved that mystery yet.

Caleb Blood Smith (1808-1964)
Smith was given the position of Secretary of the Interior under Lincoln in return for his support of Lincoln at the 1860 Republican Convention. No one in government thought Smith had any administrative aptitude. He himself seemed to want a position the Supreme Court. He resigned, accepted a judgeship in Indiana, and died not long after. Post-war: Smith’s body is apparently AWOL. He is not buried in the Smith mausoleum. I have read conflicting accounts of him being buried in Greenlawn (whose burials were later moved to Crown Hill) or the Connersville cemetery.

Louisa Magruder (ca. 1808-1900)
Magruder is buried on the Noble family plot. Her father Tom, who was a slave in the Noble family, is nowhere to be found in the plot. Louisa’s tombstone reads “daughter of Uncle Tom”. Her father is believed to have been the inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was published in 1852. According to historian J.P. Dunn, Harriet Beecher Stowe regularly visited the Magruders—Stowe’s brother was a Presbyterian minister in Indianapolis and friend of the Nobles—and actually wrote much of her book there. Post-war: Magruder was a servant in the Noble family in Indianapolis. After the war, Noble’s granddaughter gave Magruder a small house and plot of land.

Dr. John Kitchen (died 2/8/1916)
At the beginning of the Civil War, Dr. Kitchen was in charge of the sick at Camp Morton, the largest of the eight prison camps established for Confederate noncommissioned officers and privates. His mausoleum is the only hillside mausoleum in the cemetery. Post-war: Kitchen continued to practice medicine until 1886.

Miles Fletcher (1828-1862)
Oliver Morton requested that Calvin Fletcher accompany him on a trip to talk to Indiana troops. Fletcher, a prominent resident of Indianapolis, supported USCT, let troops use his farm lands to train, provided for soldiers’ families, and purchased arms for Indiana’s regiments. Unfortunately, he could not accompany Morton and sent his son Miles in his place. Miles was killed by another train car when he poked his head out of the train’s window.

Charles Brouse (1839-1904)
On May 16, 1899, Captain Brouse was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor at the Battle of Missionary Ridge. Citation: “To encourage his men whom he had ordered to lie down while under severe fire, and who were partially protected by slight earthworks, himself refused to lie down, but walked along the top of the works until he fell severely wounded.” Post-war: Brouse died in sleep of apparent heart failure.

Cyrus Hines (1830-1901)
Hines married Maria Fletcher, the daughter of Calvin Fletcher and sister of Miles Fletcher. She died in 1860 and he enlisted in the 11th Indiana Volunteers in April 1861. In August 1863, he resigned due to an injury sustained in 1862. Post-war: He practiced law with Benjamin Harrison, and married his late wife’s sister (Lucy).

Thomas Morris (1811-1904)
Brigadier General served with Mcclellan (who presumably never gave Morris the credit he deserved). He played a vital role in what led to the creation of West Virginia. During the Western Virginia Campaign in 1861, he cleared the Confederate army from western Virginia, which fostered pro-Union sentiment. Post-war: Morris returned to the railroad industry, becoming president of the Indianapolis and St. Louis Railroad in 1868. In 1877, he oversaw the construction of the Indiana State House.

Joseph Bingham (died 12/13/1898)
Bingham was the state chairman of the Democratic Party and editor of the Indianapolis Daily State Sentinel, where he was a vocal critic of the Republican-controlled government and its policies. He was caught up in the unconstitutional treason trials in Indiana and turned government witness in the Copperhead conspiracy trial.

Eli Lilly (1838-1898)
Lilly, a pharmacist and drugstore owner, enlisted in the Army in 1861 and moved up the ranks. He ended the war as a Colonel. Post-war: Lilly lost his wife to malaria on a plantation he bought in Mississippi. Moving back to Indiana, he ultimately started a medical manufacturing company.

Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901)
In 1862, Harrison helped Governor Morton with the recruitment of troops. That same year Harrison was commissioned as a captain. He was part of Sherman’s March to the Sea. Post-War: Harrison practiced law. He represented the government in cases including the treason trials of 1864. (See Bingham.) H was a US Senator and the 23rd President of the US. (Cleveland won the popular vote, but Harrison the electoral college. Interesting tidbit: Cleveland was a two-term president—immediately before and after Harrison.)

Robert Foster (1834-1903)
Foster enlisted as a private but quickly rose through the ranks. He was promoted to captain in Lew Wallace’s 11th Indiana Infantry Regiment. He played a prominent role in the siege of Petersburg and the Appomattox Campaign, and saw action in the Battle of Rich Mountain in western Virginia. Most unusual, he never lost a battle. Post-war: Foster served as a member of the commission that tried the Lincoln conspirators, as did Lew Wallace.

George McGinnis (1826-1910)
McGinnis volunteered for three months of service in the 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment that Lew Wallace raised. He rose through the ranks along with Wallace. Post-war: He ran a fiduciary business and served in local political offices. His daughter Mary Ella died in 1875; the family plot includes a statue made in her likeness.

Edward Black (1853-1872)
Black was the youngest soldier in the Civil War. He started out as a drummer boy in the 21st Indiana Volunteer Infantry at eight years of age and then enlisted as a regular soldier with his father. His drum is on display in the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

Sarah More (1815-1898)
More was a stage actress in New York in the mid-1800s. Her link to the Civil War? She starred in a production of Money with John Wilkes Booth.

Wabash and Erie Canal

Canals in Indiana? Hmmm….Another one of those early over engineering mistakes made to the Indiana landscape (like straightening the Kankakee River, which destroyed the Grand Kankakee Marsh area)? Maybe.

When I hear Erie Canal, I think of New York and that song from my childhood (“I’ve got a mule, her name is Sal. Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal…”). So what’s a canal named Wabash and Erie Canal doing in Indiana?

Back in the early 1800s, it seemed like a good idea to have canals in Indiana linking the Great Lakes to the Mississippi. Construction started in Fort Wayne in 1832 and spread out in both directions: north to Toledo, OH and south to Evansville, IN. The portion of the canal to Toledo was finished in 1843 and to Evansville in 1854—creating a 468-mile canal.

In Indiana alone, the Wabash and Erie Canal had 73 locks and 18 aqueducts. However, the use of the canal was ultimately short-lived. Railroads came to Indiana in the late 1830s. Decades of work on the canal quickly came to naught.

Finished in 1843, determined to not be economically viable ten years later, canal traffic ceased operation in 1874. All that work and money produced canals that were mosquito-prone and in constant need of dredging due to collapsing banks. Maybe not the best engineering endeavor. (I’m sensing a pattern here, re: damage done to the Kankakee River).

Ultimately, the financing of the canal led to the state of Indiana declaring bankruptcy. In 1851, the Indiana state constitution was changed to restrict the accumulation of debt—and, I muse, contributed to the modern-day dislike of Hoosiers to invest in infrastructure and its citizens if it means not staying in the black.

I recently visited the bit of the canal constructed in Delphi, IN, which was completed in 1840. Historically an eyesore for this small Indiana town, the canal had been cleaned up in recent decades. In 1986, a park and interpretive center were opened to celebrate the canal. Historic buildings from the 1800s have been gathered into a pioneer village of sorts. Only one of the buildings is open for a tour—the Reed Case house.

Reed Case managed the creation of the canal in Delphi. He was a businessman who dabbled in many different areas. A quick tour of his house led by a docent left me with two takeaways.

The man was a cheapskate—or as the docent preferred to see it, sensible and frugal with his money. His house was constructed to look as though it used expensive materials but didn’t. The marble-look alike foyer was meant to impress but was, um, fake. The wood and materials used to build the house were cheap but finished to look as though they were more expensive materials.

I was also struck by paintings by George Winter hanging in the house. None of the paintings impressed me as being high quality and if I hadn’t been told that they were by George Winter, I would never have known. (George Winter was an important painter who made the Wabash area his home. He is included in a special exhibit of 19 influential Hoosier artists at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.)

The park also includes an interpretive center that is very informative and well done. The center walks you through the history of Indiana and the canal, explaining the whys and the hows and showing how life would have been in the camps of workers digging the canal.

The third draw to the park is a ride on a small replica of a canal boat. The boat is run by volunteers. The volunteers offer the riders tidbits of information as they float down one small section of the canal.

Trails also exist along the canal that go by markers of important sites such as where the worker’s camp was or where the lock keeper’s house stood. Most of the canal along this trail is more of a ditch than a canal, long filled in by sediment and downed trees and fallen branches.

The park is good to visit for learning about a slice of Indiana history. Despite what the signs say at the ticket booth, $10 (not $12) will get you a ticket to all three attractions: the Reed Case house, the interpretive center, a canal boat ride. Ultimately, I was left with the feeling that the canal was yet another Hoosier folly.