1000 TO 1900

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Millennium milestones in Fort Wayne

1000 to 1799

Allen County Courthouse
News-Sentinel photo by file photo

Allen County Courthouse
The cornerstone was laid in 1897 for Allen County's fifth, and present, courthouse.
1000: The Woodland Era. Native Americans live in small villages, garden, hunt with the bow and arrow, fish and gather wild berries and nuts for food.

1050: The Mississippian Era. Native Americans live in mound-building cultures, an example of which flourished at Angel Mounds near Evansville, and at Cahokia near present-day St. Louis on the Mississippi. Local Woodland Indians adopt some of the Mississippian ways, but maintain their own culture.

1600s: Europeans bring diseases that kill an estimated 80 percent of Native Americans throughout New England and many in this area.

1648-49: The Iroquois nearly annihilate the Huron Indians, who have already been decimated by disease, as the two groups fight over fur supplies and trade relations with the French. Both tribes had pushed the Miamis out of northeastern Indiana.

1747: Little Turtle is born to Turtle, a Miami war chief, and his Mohican wife at a site in Whitley County called Devil's Lake.

1754-1763: The Miamis align with the French in the French and Indian War, known in Europe as the Seven Years' War.

1776: The American Revolutionary War against Britain begins, with the Miami allied with the British.

1777: Hyacinth Laselle, son of British Indian agent Jacques Laselle, becomes the first white child born at what is now Fort Wayne.

Nov. 5, 1780: Fraudulently claiming to act under orders from Congress, Augustus Martine de LaBalme's and his troops plunder and destroy Miami Town, an early name for the Fort Wayne area. Little Turtle's forces, encouraged by the French, retaliate by attacking his camp at night, annihilating their enemies.

October 1790: Little Turtle and Miami warriors of other Native American bands in Allen County turn back an American army led by Gen. Josiah Harmar, ambushing one unit led by Col. John Hardin and then fighting off the main force at Kekionga, also an early name for Fort Wayne.

Nov. 4, 1791: Little Turtle leads Miamis, Potawatomis, Chippewas, Shawnees and others in the most decisive defeat of American forces to this day. They organize at Kekionga and meet Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair's forces near what is now Fort Recovery, Ohio. The dawn attack completely surprises St. Clair's poorly equipped army, which retreats after three hours.

1794: Little Turtle advises his allies to seek peace with Gen. Anthony Wayne, whose well-trained army is on its way. He is replaced as war chief. The Native Americans are defeated at Fallen Timbers, near Toledo, Ohio. To consolidate his victory, Wayne marches his army to Kekionga and builds Fort Wayne, dedicated Oct. 22, 1794.

1795: Little Turtle and other chiefs sign the Treaty of Greeneville, ending their control of the Fort Wayne area. Full-scale settlement begins.


1806: A group of Quakers arrive in Fort Wayne to help Little Turtle and his son-in-law, William Wells, in a project to teach the Miami to become farmers. Wells, an American, had been Anthony Wayne's military scout and interpreter. The project did little to reverse damage to Miami people that resulted from liquor, disease and loss of their land.

1809: Indiana Gov. William Henry Harrison arrives in Fort Wayne to negotiate the final treaty with the Miami. His official reports say he refused to give liquor to the Indians, but other reports say he got the Indians drunk and tricked them into signing over nearly 3 million acres of Indian lands. Tecumseh gathers 1,000 warriors to protest Harrison's treachery.


1812: The loss of Fort Dearborn in a fierce battle and the fall of Fort Detroit to the British in the War of 1812 leave Fort Wayne vulnerable to attack by the British and their Native American allies. Fort Wayne is besieged by Indian forces until rescued by the American army under Brig. Gen. William Henry Harrison.

Little Turtle dies in Fort Wayne. William Wells, his son-in-law, is killed while escorting a group of women and children to safety from Fort Dearborn.

1814: Col. John Allen, a Kentuckian who fought in defense of Fort Wayne and the Maumee River area after the siege, is killed during the battle of the River Raisin near today's Monroe, Mich. Allen County would later be named in his memory.

Miami Chief Jean Baptiste de Richardville, having inherited the right to collect tolls on the portage route from his mother, Tacumwah, Little Turtle's sister, becomes the richest Native American in the west, with a treasury estimated at $200,000. He kept it in the first iron safe seen in this area, now on display at the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society Museum.

1816: Indiana becomes a state on April 29. All of northern Indiana is included in Knox County, with Vincennes as the county seat. Talk immediately begins about building the Wabash-Erie Canal through Fort Wayne.

The state constitution forbids slavery, but slavery continues until the Civil War.

1819: Abandoned as an army post, Fort Wayne is a part of Randolph County. The county seat is Winchester.


1820: Sent by the Baptists, the Rev. Isaac and Mrs. McCoy arrive at Fort Wayne, the first Protestant missionaries to the Native Americans and founders of the first school here.

The town's first fraternal society, Wayne Lodge No. 25, Free and Accepted Masons, is organized.

John T. Barr, of Baltimore, and John McCorkle, of Piqua, Ohio, buy federal land they will later plat as the original part of Fort Wayne. It stretches from what now is Barr Street to Calhoun Street and from Water (now Superior Street) to Wayne Street.

The state of Indiana organizes Allen County. It includes all of what is now Wells, Adams, DeKalb and Steuben counties and parts of Noble, LaGrange, Huntington and Whitley counties.

The city's first taverns open on opposite corners at Barr and Columbia streets: Alexander Ewing's Washington Hall and William Suttenfield's tavern. The first meetings of the county commissioners and circuit courts are in those taverns.

1824: Methodist preacher the Rev. James Holman arrives in Fort Wayne, and by 1830 a Methodist mission post is established here. By 1840 a church had been built at Harrison and Berry streets.

1827: Sam Hanna and James Barnett open the town's first grist mill, ending the days when grain and flour had to be transported back and forth to the nearest mills in Ohio. The canal route is surveyed while debate about building the canal continued.

1829: The village of Fort Wayne is incorporated after a Sept. 7 vote in favor of the proposal.

On Oct. 10, a group of whites and blacks pass through town, said to be the first passage through the Fort Wayne leg of the Underground Railroad.

The Presbyterians send the Rev. Charles E. Fuhrman to Fort Wayne to preach, leading to the organization of First Presbyterian Church in 1831.


1830: The Rev. Stephen Theodore Badin, the first priest ordained in the United States, visits the Catholics settled here and offers Mass at the home of Francis Comparet. He returned the next year to buy the land where the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception now stands for the town's first Catholic church, St. Augustine's.

1832: County commissioners authorize building the first courthouse, which is used for just 10 years. Construction begins on the canal on Feb. 22. This project is credited with bringing many Irish immigrants to town as canal workers.

July 6, 1833: S.V.B. Noel and Thomas Tigar move here from Indianapolis and publish the first edition of The Sentinel, the town's first newspaper, making The News-Sentinel the longest continually operating company in Allen County.

1835: The canal opens with a glorious celebration on the Fourth of July, though it does not yet stretch from Lafayette to Toledo, Ohio, as planned.

1839: Trinity Episcopal Church has its beginnings with a visit by the Rev. Benjamin Hutchins, a missionary.


1840: The village of Fort Wayne is incorporated as a city. The first mayor is George W. Wood.

1841: Chief Richardville, a participant in the victories and final defeat that led to the loss of Native American control of the area, dies and is buried in downtown Fort Wayne. A monument marks his resting place.

John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed, dies.

1842: Commissioners authorize construction of the county's second courthouse, a brick structure.

1846: The Miami tribe, which is scattered across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, is forcibly divided into two groups. About 600 are shipped by boat to a reservation in Kansas, and eventually on to Oklahoma. The other group is allowed to remain in north-central Indiana.

Fort Wayne Female College is founded with the support of the Methodists. In 1852 a separate school was added for young men. Today the two have become Taylor University, headquartered in Upland.

A Lutheran academy for men is established; it is moved to St. Louis in 1860, and Concordia College is transferred from St. Louis to Fort Wayne.

The state of Indiana goes bankrupt over the canal. It was abandoned by 1874 and its right of way sold to the Nickel Plate Railroad in 1881.

1849-1854: More than 600 people die of cholera.


1850: Fort Wayne's first dentist, Dr. Von Bonhurst, arrives.

1851: Fort Wayne's businessmen, who had already brought many German immigrants to the area, petition the state for help in encouraging more immigration. Local voters vote to exclude blacks from moving into Indiana as part of their vote on the new state constitution.

The first street numbering system is established, and the Fort Wayne Times reports that young women appeared on the streets of the city wearing short dresses and bloomers. "The new style looked exceedingly well and is bound to prevail," it reported. Soon, other newspaper reports describe a near-riot that happened after another young woman appeared in public in the new style.

1852: The last remaining blockhouse of the old fort is demolished.

Construction of the city's first railroad begins.

1853: The council establishes the city's first free schools, adding to the township schools that had served unincorporated areas since county government was organized.

The Fort Wayne Gas Light Co. is granted a franchise to provide artificial gas service in the city. In 1857, the company won a contract to light city streets.

The city's first theater, Colerick Hall, opens on the north side of Columbia Street, between Clinton and Barr streets.

The nickname "Summit City" is first applied to Fort Wayne by Times editor John W. Dawson.

1854: The city celebrates the opening of the Ohio and Indiana Railroad.

The office of the Standard, the city's anti-slavery newspaper edited by D.W. Burroughs, is egged, and he is threatened by supporters of slavery.

1856: The state legislature authorizes citizens to organize as regulators to help corral the bands of criminals who terrorize northern Indiana.

1859: The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is built.

Stephen A. Douglas, running for president against Abraham Lincoln, speaks here to a crowd estimated at 60,000. The following year, Allen County residents cast 3,224 votes for Douglas and 2,552 for Lincoln, who wins the election.


1860-1865: Despite deep disagreements over slavery and the Civil War, Allen County sends 4,103 men to the Union Army, losing 489. Soldiers are mustered and trained at Camp Allen, on the northwest bank of the St. Marys River just south of Main Street.

1861: Construction begins on another brick courthouse, the county's third.

1863: The city's first police force and first labor unions are organized.

1865: The Kekiongas baseball team is organized. By 1871, it has become state champion and begun playing in the National League. City residents are said to have gone baseball crazy.

Three blocks on Columbia Street and three on Calhoun become the city's first paved streets.

1867: A disastrous spring flood inundates the city, covering the Nebraska neighborhood and going all the way north and east to Spy Run Creek.

1868-69: The city's first three hospitals, Hope, St. Joseph and Lutheran, are organized.

1869: The city's first African Methodist Episcopal Church is organized.


1871: One of the city's first women's organizations, the Allen County Women's Rights Association, is organized to support allowing women to vote. Noted suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony speaks twice in Fort Wayne by 1878.

First professional baseball game played in Fort Wayne on May 4.

1872: The city's first horse-drawn streetcars go into service.

1875: The Chicago Tribune calls Fort Wayne the most lawless city in Indiana.

1876: The city's first medical school opens, quickly followed by a rival. Six physicians and a student are arrested for robbing graves to obtain bodies to study.

1879: The city gets its first waterworks and telephone system.


1881: The beginnings of what became General Electric Co. are established by James A. Jenney in Fort Wayne. He provides a public demonstration of electric lights.

1888: The town of South Wayne is incorporated, to head off annexation of the area by Fort Wayne. By 1894, the city agreed to annex the area and assume the young town's debts.


1890: The city's first football game takes place on Thanksgiving Day, won by the Electrics over the Athletics.

1892: The city switches to electric streetcars.

1893: Old City Hall, now the home of the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society, is built.

1894: The city opens its first public library in a room at the city building.

1896: Robison Park, considered the leading pleasure park in Indiana, opens seven miles north of the city at the end of a new streetcar line.

Fort Wayne Professionals are affiliated with Cleveland Indians, becoming first minor-league farm team.

1897: The federal government ends the tribal recognition of the Indiana branch of the Miamis.

Construction begins on the county's fourth, and present, courthouse, which will not be complete until 1902.

H.W. Meyer brings the first automobile to Fort Wayne.

1899: The first rural free mail delivery begins for 800 people in the southern part of the county.

Sources: "The Woodland Indians of the Western Great Lakes," by Robert E. Ritzenthaler and Pat Ritzenthaler; "An Introduction to the Prehistory of Indiana," by James H. Kellar; "The Negro in Indiana Before 1900" by Emma Lou Thornbrough; "The Life and Times of Little Turtle: First Sagamore of the Wabash," by Harvey Lewis Carter; "Through the Centuries with Mother Earth and Father Sky: Timelines of Native American History," by Susan Hazen-Hammond; "Chronology of Native North American History: From Pre-Columbian Times to the Present," edited by Duane Champagne.; "The Pictorial History of Fort Wayne," by B.J. Griswold.

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