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Historical Background

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

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Founders and Frontiersmen
Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings


Vigo County, on Fort Harrison Road, about 3 miles north of Terre Haute.

Gen. William Henry Harrison erected Fort Harrison in 1811 as a base for his campaign against Tecumseh's Indian confederacy at Prophet's Town, near present Lafayette. Built on a bend in the Wabash River, the fort commanded an unobstructed view of more than 1 mile in both directions. After construction, its complement consisted of more than 1,000 men. It was about 150 feet square; at each corner were 2-story, 20-foot blockhouses, built of logs. Barracks stood between the blockhouses. A large gate, protected by bastions and palisades and a trench about 4 feet deep, gave access to the fort. In the fall of 1811 the troops at the fort marched to northern Indiana, fought the Battle of Tippecanoe, and returned to the fort. Harrison then assigned a small permanent garrison under the command of Capt. Zachary Taylor, later President. Although popularly considered a victory, the Battle of Tippecanoe had been in decisive, and the Indians retaliated by increased depredations in southern Indiana. In September 1812 a small party of Indians attacked the fort, set fire to it, and then retreated. The garrison held out. The Elks' Fort Harrison Country Club is now located on the site of the fort, of which no remains are extant.

Fort Harrison
Fort Harrison, Indiana, in 1812. Gov. William Henry Harrison used this fort as a base during his campaign against the Indians in 1811 that culminated in the Battle of Tippecanoe. From a lithograph by Modesitt and Hager. Courtesy, Library of Congress.

Knox County, on a secondary road, overlooking the Wabash River, about 3 miles north of Vincennes.

About 3 miles up the Wabash River from Vincennes is the site of Fort Knox, a frontier fort during the period 1804-14. At this fort several negotiations and conferences took place between Gov. William Henry Harrison of the Indiana Territory and Tecumseh, the Shawnee leader. Harrison trained there the troops that he led into Indian country in the fall of 1811. The climax of that campaign occurred at Tippecanoe, the battleground near Lafayette, where Harrison defeated "The Prophet," Tecumseh's half-brother. This victory, however, only temporarily curtailed Indian depredations. Two future Presidents served at Fort Knox: Harrison, elected in 1840, and Zachary Taylor, elected 8 years later. It was a lost site for some years, but in 1963 the William Henry Harrison Trail Commission located and outlined its boundaries.


Allen County.

Before the coming of the white man, Fort Wayne was the most important village of the Miami Indians. The date of construction of the first fort at the site, a French fort called Miami, is unknown but may have been as early as the late 17th century. During the French and Indian War, in 1760, the British occupied the fort, but in 1763 surrendered it to Pontiac's followers. In 1790 President Washington sent a force, under Gen. Josiah Harmar, to build a post at Miami Town, as the site was then called. Little Turtle, a Miami chief, attacked and defeated Harmar's force, and the following year defeated a followup expedition, under Gen. Arthur St. Clair, in present Ohio. A third expedition, however, under Gen. Anthony Wayne, defeated Little Turtle at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, in 1794. After the battle Wayne proceeded to Miami Town and built Fort Wayne. Soon a settlement grew up around the fort. For 20 years Fort Wayne was a crude military and commercial outpost, inhabited by squatters, vagabonds, and traders. The Federal Government maintained there a garrison, an Indian agent, and a factor.

The most renowned Indian agent at Fort Wayne was William Wells, white son-in-law of Little Turtle. Serving from 1799 to 1809, he helped maintain peace between the Miamis and the white settlers. Prior to that time he had fought against the white men, but a few years after Little Turtle's defeat, in 1794, he helped Governor Harrison quell Tecumseh's followers and prevent the formation of an Indian confederacy.

About 1811 the Potawatomi Indians besieged Fort Wayne. Governor Harrison, however, arrived with an army, and the siege was lifted. The last Indian attack on the town was the massacre of Maj. Joseph Jenkinson's men late in 1813. In 1819 U.S. troops evacuated the fort. The town then prospered in the fur trade.

The old Fort Wayne site, at Clay and Berry Streets, is designated by a marker. Another marker indicates the site of Fort Miami, the French fort, on the east bank of the St. Joseph River at Delaware Avenue and St. Joseph Boulevard. The Anthony Wayne Monument, a large equestrian statue of the general, stands at the corner of Hayden Park, on Harmar Street and Maumee Avenue.

Territorial Capitol Building
Territorial Capitol Building, Indiana, a State memorial. Between 1800 and 1813, when Indiana Territory consisted of nearly five present States, this small frame building housed sessions of the Indiana Territorial Assembly.

Knox County, adjoining Grouseland, the William Henry Harrison estate, Vincennes.

For the first 13 years following the creation of Indiana Territory, in 1800, Vincennes was the capital. The Territorial Capitol Building housed sessions of the Indiana Territorial Assembly, which governed an area that now comprises Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, most of Michigan, and a part of Minnesota. About 1919 the Women's Fortnightly Club of Vincennes, which had purchased the building, donated it to the city, which moved it to Harrison Park. In 1933 the city restored it and in 1949 deeded it to the State, which relocated it adjacent to Grouseland and the following year opened it to the public as a State memorial.

The small frame building, held together by wooden pegs, has two stories. On the ground floor are the offices of the Territorial officials. Furniture includes a desk allegedly used by Governor Harrison and worn hickory chairs. Heavy hewn timbers, a large fireplace, and whitewashed walls are typical of the period. A narrow stairway along the left wall leads to the legislative hall, which can also be reached by outside stairs. The hall is furnished with plain, hard benches and candle lanterns. Adjacent to the memorial is a replica of the first newspaper office in Indiana, Elihu Stout's Western Sun, first printed in 1804 as the Indian a Gazette.

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Last Updated: 29-Aug-2005