From the days when the Miami Indians settled the area now known as Lakeside Park, through the settlement of this territory and its desirable location as a crossroads, Fort Wayne has embodied our nation’s spirit.
Three rivers—the St. Mary’s, St. Joseph and Maumee—define Fort Wayne’s landscape, providing access to the nearby Wabash Valley and on to the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. The French were first to come to this area to capitalize on the fur trade and the strategic advantage for growth. The Miami settled the area, calling it Kekionga, around 1712 and the Miami became astute and wealthy business people, charging others a fee to portage their supplies.
As you learn more about Fort Wayne’s history, you will become acquainted with Chief Jean Baptiste deRichardville, son of a French trader. Richardville, whose home is a National Historic Landmark located off Bluffton Road, was raised in both Miami and French cultures and at one time was the wealthiest person in this area.
French and Indian War
The French and Indian War began in 1755 and years of fighting ensued. Despite the animosity among them, the Miami and French sided with the British during the Revolutionary War. Key names of the time were Miami Chief Little Turtle, Gen. Josiah Harmar, Gen. Arthur St. Clair and William Wells.
In 1792, General Anthony Wayne was appointed by Washington to lead the armys of the United States. A series of forts were built along the Ohio River to Kekionga in 1793. The U.S. government had, in effect, drawn a line along the Three Rivers, determined to drive Native Americans northwest of that line. The Battle of Fallen Timbers was a decisive conflict of that time, taking place on August 20, 1794. On September 17, Wayne and his forces arrived in Kekionga and began building Fort Wayne. The fort was completed on October 22. Wayne left shortly afterwards, never to return.
The Treaty of Greenville was signed on August 10, 1795, when twelve Native American tribes ceded the Territory of Ohio to the U.S. Chief Little Turtle wanted to have joint control over the land that he called “that glorious gate” but was not granted his wish. It was the beginning of the end of Miami domination.
Today, Fort Wayne is the county seat of Allen County, established by the Indiana General Assembly in 1824 and named for John Allen, a soldier who defended Fort Wayne and was killed in a battle in Detroit.
The 1830s saw the construction of the Wabash and Erie Canal and garnered Fort Wayne the nickname “Summit City” because it was the highest point above sea level on the canal’s route. Fort Wayne’s population grew and the city became a key spot on the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Fort Wayne became home to a number of industries including multiple breweries, magnet wire, International Harvester, General Electric and many more. The Chicago Times labeled Fort Wayne in the 1870s as “the most lawless town in Indiana.” When the new city hall was built in 1893, the basement housed the city’s jail. The structure, designed by Wing and Mahurin, was dubbed “The Hapsburg Horror” by local residents. Today, this building houses our History Center.
Today, Fort Wayne is a thriving Midwest city that honors its past, appreciates its present, and looks forward to its future. When it comes to history, there’s something for everyone in Fort Wayne. Historical markers and statues abound and can be a part of your city tour. We invite you to explore and learn more when you visit.