Source: NMHS Newsletter, November 1992

Five Flags Over This Land
By Dr. L.Z. Bunker

The mound builders reach to the most remote antiquity as inhabitants of this area. They were represented by the Woodland and Hopewell groups who gardened, made pottery and baskets, and had a moderate organization of their affairs. They were supplanted supposedly after the year 1,000 A.D. by savage groups of red Indians, Mongolians who came from Asia via the Siberian Islands. A greater land mass than at present may have facilitated this.

The Indians took over and continued to use many artifacts of the mound builders, so some “Indian relics” extend into remote antiquity. The bow and arrow replaced the atlatl, etc. The Indians did not have flags as we know them but had lances and standards with waving feathers and animal tails attached.

The Spaniards. Columbus, when he landed at Santo Domingo, claimed everything westward for the Crown of Spain. Spanish explorers traveled in the Midwest in 1500 plus, but no colonization occurred.

The French.  [French flag had been three gold fleurs-de-lis on a blue field.] A 1632 French map shows mid-America in some detail. French trappers early traversed the area: Jesuit missionaries were here by 1670. Active in French expansion were Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle, and Louis de Baude, Comte de Frontenac. La Salle was the explorer, Frontenac the governor of Canada who helped promote and finance the explorations. La Salle was in the Wabash Maumee area in 1679 and traded with the Indians in South Bend in 1681, meeting them under a great oak tree which is still standing in the Highland Cemetery. La Salle made endless journeys as far south as lower Texas and the Mississippi delta. He sought to unite the western Indians against the eastern Iroquois. He made several trips to France and constantly sought to expand French power in America. Frontenac, a man of great courage and vision, hoped to see France control the great axis of mid-America, the waterways from Quebec to New Orleans with all their contiguous territories. The fur trade was the basis of French power and in part was controlled by the Jesuits who were also missionaries to the Indians.

French military forces were in the Miami-Fort Wayne area in the 1680s. They built a trading post there in 1712 and a fort in 1722, the first one on what is now West Superior Street. The French ranged through the country as traders and trappers. Some French families came in very early. French names found in the Fort Wayne phone book include Rousseau, Pequignot, Voirol, Vachon and others. There are two graves near the U.S. Gypsum Company in Wabash said to be French graves and the oldest in Indiana. Who shall say who they were?

The country was wet, had great areas of water passageways that have since been drained so traverse was not difficult and portages short. As late as 1836, the Eel River at North Manchester was 131 feet wide.

The English. [Early colonial English flag was the cross of Saint George.] The English in mid-America made constant incursions on trade with the Indians, sending the famous George Croghan, among others, to stir them up. Croghan is known to have been in the South Whitley area on such missions. The Indians changed their allegiance from side to side, and one Indian confederation to another, to their detriment.

The French-Indian War, the War of the Austrian Succession carried into America, lasted from 1752 to 1760 and at its end concluded French power in mid-America. Braddock’s defeat in Pennsylvania and the defeat of Montcalm by General Wolfe on the Planes of Abraham at Quebec were salient points in this war. After Wolfe’s victory Britain gained control of this area.

The British bases of operation were western Pennsylvania and Detroit. Due to this fact Detroit remained a controlling influence over this area until the Civil War. After the Revolutionary War the Treaty of 1783 secured the Americans’ claim to the Northwest Territory which included Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and part of Minnesota. The Americans, greatly extended, had only a loose hold on this vast area and the Indians felt that it belonged to them. The great Treaty of Greenville (Ohio) on August 3, 1795, ended Indian claims to lands held by French or British claimants and opened up the eastern part of the Midwest for settlement.

The Treaty of  Brownstown (Michigan) in 1870 marked the secession of all the Indian lands in lower Michigan. The Indians were pushed farther back into northern Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. 1803 and 1809 marked treaties in Fort Wayne, also, removing Indians from the Wabash Valley. Some remained, however, and were the cause of uprisings. Few settlers entered the area north of U.S. 40 across the state. Thirty million acres changed hands from 1808 and following. The Indians received the most trivial payments and promises of annual bounties. Many of the Indians’ payments were consumed on the spot in whiskey, and they became increasingly impoverished and degraded.

After 1808 twin Shawnee brothers, Tecumseh and The Prophet, Lalawakesha, sought to join the Indians of middle America in a confederation to expel the whites from the area. Tecumseh traveled and exhorted many tribes to seek the return of their lands. The Prophet kept things in an uproar in Indiana and on November 7, 1811, the Indians attacked an American Army fort at Tippecanoe. The commander, General William Henry Harrison, decimated their ranks and broke the power of the Indians in Indiana. Tecumseh fled to the Fort Wayne area for the winter, then went to Canada in the spring, seeking British aid in his war with the Americans.

American warhawks in the U.S. Congress, excited by all this, brought on the War of 1812, with the objective of driving the British out of Canada. This did not occur and after much attrition, the war was concluded at the Treaty of Ghent, August 14, 1814. An incident of these times was the siege of Fort Wayne by Indians as agents of the British. The siege was relieved September 11, 1812, by William Henry Harrison after three weeks duration.

After the death of Tecumseh at the Battle of Thames near the end of the War of 1812, his brother, The Prophet, remained in Canada and the power of the Indian confederations was ended. Within eight years, may 8, 1822, a Federal land Office was opened in Fort Wayne in the old fort, land selling for $1.25 per acre.

October 16, 1826, marked the Treaty at Paradise Springs near Wabash where the Miamis and Potawatomis ceded 500,000 to 700,000 acres to the U.S. Government. John Tipton, the U.S. Indian Agent, was a firm believer in moving the Indians from Indiana, advocating this to them and the U.S. government. In 1838 he was in charge of moving the Potawatomis to Kansas. He died before this was concluded.

American. [Pine tree flag. Original of present American flag was displayed by George Washington at Cambridge, Massachusetts: 13 stripes of red and white and St. Andrew’s cross in place of stars. After the Revolution stars for the states replaced this with seven red and six white stripes.] White settlers gradually moved into this area. Samuel McClure was one of the county’s earliest settlers in 1826. With the removal of the Indians in 1838 and the building of the Wabash-Erie Canal, the country was opened for development. Land was sometimes purchased at land offices in Ohio, Greenville, Dayton, and others, or at the land offices in Fort Wayne and LaPorte, all for $1.25 per acre.

One of the early farms here is the Russell Werking homestead on Route 113 east of North Manchester. It was purchased at a land office in Ohio in 1833 by Absolom Hart. Settlers came here from middle and western Ohio, some walking, some in covered wagons, and some on the canal boats, with drovers bringing in their stock, implements, and personal effects. These people were early American stock, some originally from Connecticut and New Hampshire. The Firelands in northern Ohio had been given as indemnity to families burned out by the British in the Revolutionary War. Some held their grants and migrated after the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. Many of these later migrated into lower Michigan and northern Indiana.

The classic Greek Revival building was brought to this area by these transplanted New Englanders who were a sturdy group, well-educated for their time, and remarkable builders and mechanics.

About 1850 and following, another wave of settlers came to this area from Pennsylvania and Ohio, mostly German Baptist Brethren. Their homes were completely different, built by hand of local material, much brick burned on the premises and asymmetrical. They were hardworking people who built the country up.

By 1874 most of the pioneers were gone, sleeping on the hillside. They had tamed the wilderness, preserved the Union, and given their children a fine heritage. Five flags have waved over this land which we hold dear today.