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 North Manchester, Indiana

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Eel River Valley

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Source: NMHS Newsletter Aug 2002

Along the Eel

About two miles south of Columbia City route 9 crosses Eel River. Just south of the river there is an elevated piece of ground known in an early day as "the island." Many farms in the area were originally part of the island. In Indian days it was about three hundred acres. It was bounded on the north by Eel River and on the west and south by swamp land. The whole made a real island where the Indians could retreat with safety and could defend themselves easily. Many traditions relate to this island. As early as 1771 the English commander at Fort Wayne told about a visit to the Indian village at this place there he witnessed a green corn dance and other interesting events. The Indians had a tradition that whenever they saw a white man riding a


white horse across the Island, some great disaster would follow. The Miami enemies at that point were not so much the white men as the Potawatomie. It is known that from the island west, the Kenapocomoco was the dividing line between the Miamis and the Potawatomies. The Potawatomies had made their inroads into the lands of the Miamis from the northwest. They had occupied the land as far south as Eel River and as far up the river as the Island, where Blue River enters from the north and Mud Creek from the south. Here the Miamis made a determined stand. There was a great battle in which the Potawatomies were at first victorious but were later defeated when Little Turtle came down the river with help from the upper Miami village. It is said that as long as Little Turtle was active chief he kept a garrison at the island to ward off attacks from the Potawatomies.

Below "The Island" the Eel River is larger due to the addition of Blue River and Mud Creek. But due largely to the conflict between the Miamis and the Potawatomies there were few important Indian settlements below. For more than sixty miles down the river there was no permanent, important Indian village. But the early description of Eel River indicates that the river and the land through which it flowed were very important to the Indians and the early white traders.

The river itself formed an important highway between the Eel River Post and the important Indian settlements near the mouth of the river and the Wabash settlements below. Along its banks were Indian trails and when war was not on between the opposing tribes and the Indians and the French traders used both the river and its trails to go from the Post to the Kenapocomoco Village, some 75 miles down river. The Indian canoe and the French pirogue used the river regularly. The river flowed through a lush land with forests of oak, walnut, sycamore, maple hickory, ash and others. There was an abundance of wild animals.

With the coming of early European settlers, they, too, focused first on the river. In 1834 Richard Helvey was the first to make permanent settlement near North Manchester. He made his home of the site of an old Indian village. Just a bit further north was the old home of Judge Comstock a pioneer of Liberty Mills. South became an early trading center. Its early name was Springfield and in 1867 Springfield

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Academy was founded and continued for a few year. Collamer was at first called Millersburg until it was discovered that a town in Elkhart County had the first right to that name. Covered bridges were built at Liberty Mills, North Manchester, Laketon and Roann. Mills were erected on the Eel at South Whitley, Collamer, Liberty Mills, North Manchester, Stockdale, Chili and Mexico.

Logansport is well known in Indiana as a railroad center in the era of that form of transportation. But in the time of Indian history there was little of importance there except the meeting of the two great travel highways the Wabash and the Eel. Among traders it was known as the Mouth of the Eel. When the place was settled in the 1830s the question at once came up as to what it should be called. It was finally left to a committee to decide. On this committee was Gen. John Tipton. He was one of the most important of early settlers in Indiana and later made Logansport his home. He had a fondness for classical names and wanted to call it by a Greek word meaning The Mouth of the Eel. Another on the committee wanted to name it after the old Indian town up the river, Kenapecomaqua. Hugh McKeen who had recently moved from Fort Wayne proposed the name Logan after the old Shawnee chief who was friendly to the whites and had given his life in their defense in an Indian squabble along the Maumee. Col. J. B. Duret told McKeen that he would accept the name Logan if he would add the word "port" since he expected the Wabash to be made navigable to that point and that the Mouth of the Eel would some day become a great trading center. When the four could not agree on any name they did agree to "shoot it out". So they put up a mark and each one took his shot. Col. Duret hit the bull's eye and won for the new town the name of Logan's Port.