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Eel River Valley

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“Chester Township”, in Weesner, History of Wabash County, 367-8:

The land in the vicinity of Eel River is undulating, gradually developing into gently sloping hillocks to the northward. Between the rolling ground on either side of the river stretches a broad band of rich alluvial soil, specially adapted to corn raising. Toward the central portion of the township and extending well into the southern part is an area of gently rolling land diversified by patches of low prairie, while still further south the level lowlands are more pronounced. In fact, a large tract in that section of the township was returned by the early surveyors as “swamp land” and for many years was avoided by home seekers as undesirable. That tract was designated by pioneers as the Bear Swamp, and was afterward transformed into a beautiful and fertile region mostly by settlers of German blood and habits.

Source: NMHS Newsletter May 2002

Introduction to the Eel River

Those of us with pale faces are relatively recent settlers along the Eel or the Kenapocomoco River. Long before our time the most important Native American center in the great Northwest Territory was Kekionga where Ft. Wayne now stands. Rivers were vital for trade and transportation then and here was a commanding location where the St Joseph and the St. Marys united to form the Maumee a variation of the name Miami. Many of the tribes met at Kekionga but the dominant tribe for generations was the Miami.

For more than a century before there were permanent white settlements, French and British traders were carrying on an extensive trade with the Native Americans and the Eel was one of the important highways for that trade. As the struggle for the possession of the land became intense the Eel was still one central focus. At least four major battles were fought on its banks and Eel River villages and the Eel River Indians supplied many of the personnel. That included the great chief Meshekinnoquah, the Little Turtle.

At a point where the river was no longer navigable for canoes and small pirogues either the French or the British helped build a trading post where the trappers and hunters could bring their furs. Kekionga was only about fourteen miles from that point. And by the same portage the traders could move into the interior. Chief Little Turtle no doubt spent a lot of time there. His sister, Tacumwah had another trading post on the north side of the river and some distance away. After the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 the U. S. government built Little Turtle a house at this Eel River post and he spent most of his last years there. It was a large double log house and he lived in comfort attended by black servants. He went to the home of his son in law


Capt. William Wells in Ft. Wayne where he died in 1812.

About two miles south of Columbia City route 9 crosses Eel River,, Just south of the river is an elevated piece of ground known in early days as "The Island." Then it was about 300 acres of land bounded on the north by the Eel and on the West, South and East by very swampy land . There the Indians could retreat and defend themselves from enemies. Sometimes their primary enemies were the Potawatomis and sometimes the whites.

Below "The Island" Eel River becomes larger with the addition of the waters of Mud Creek and Blue River. For about sixty miles there were no major villages because of the conflict between the tribes but many boats were on the river and important trails followed the river. It was a land of abundance. Lots of nuts, berries, maple syrup for the making , and an abundance of wild animals and fish in the river. There were other villages of note: Chief Pierish on what is now the Manchester College sports field, one mile below Roann, at Stockfale a village called Niconza, or Squirrels village, a Potawatomi chief. Opposite the present town of Chili was a Miami village with Chief Captain Flowers

One of the most important villages in all of Indiana was about seven miles from the mouth of the Eel not far from the town of Adamsboro where for a century or more the Miami town of Kenapecomaqua was a threat to all white settlement. The early settlers came to know it as one of the most dangerous which sent out bands of raiders to descend on frontier settlers. It was captured after a battle led by General Wilkinson in 1791 and the head of the village, known as the Soldier signed the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. This village later became known as Old Town on the Eel.

Below Old Town, near Logansport, the adventuresome Eel flows into the Wabash, to continue its journey on to the sea.