Ohio History Journal

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Fremont in History.                 49






The Sandusky country, in aboriginal history, possesses a

peculiar charm and fascinating interest. During that period

of years which fills western annals with the story of intrigue

and bloody conflict, the plains and prairies

of the Sandusky valley were the home of the

most powerful and most generous of the sav-

age nations.

Less than a century ago, these plains,

now covered by a thriving city, presented an

interesting variety of the scenes of Indian

life-primitive agriculture, rude cabins, canoe-

building, amusements and the council fire.

Tradition goes back a century farther, and

makes the locality of this city the seat of a still more in-

teresting people; a people who, for a time, preserved ex-

istence by neutrality, while war, which raged with shocking

ferocity, effected the extinction of the neighboring tribes. Noth-

ing is known of the aboriginal occupation of Ohio previous to

1650, but, according to a tradition of the Wyandots, during the

long and bloody wars between the Eastern and Western tribes,

there lived upon the Sandusky, a neutral tribe of Wyandots,

called the Neutral Nation. They occupied two villages, which

were cities of refuge, where those who sought safety never failed

to find it. These villages stood near the lower rapids of the

Sandusky river, where Fremont now stands. This little band

preserved the integrity of their tribe and the sacred character

of peace makers. All who met upon their threshold met as

friends, for the ground upon which they stood was holy. It


Paper read before the Ursula Wolcott Chapter, Daughters of the

American Revolution, of Toledo, at Spiegel Grove, Fremont, Ohio,

June 30, 1899, by Julia M. Haynes, daughter of Col. William E. Haynes,

Fremont, O.

Vol. X-4

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was a beautiful institution; "a calm and peaceful island looking

out upon the world of waves and tempests." The Wyandot

tradition represents them as having separated from the parent

stock during the bloody wars with their own tribe and the Iro-

quois, and having fled to the Sandusky River for safety. The

tradition runs, that, at the lower rapids, two forts were erected,

one for the Iroquois or Six Nations, the other for their enemies.

These traditions, handed down along the generations for nearly

two centuries, may, perhaps, be inaccurate in detail, but the

general fact of the existence of two such towns, near the head

waters of navigation on the Sandusky River, is entitled to as

much consideration as any other fact of early Indian history.

Just when the Wyandots finally migrated to the plains of

the Sandusky, is not known. Colonel Smith, in his narrative,

claims to have visited, in 1757, a town on the "Little Lake"-

which was the name given Sandusky Bay-named Sunyendeand,

which was probably in Erie county. Although he ascended the

river, he makes no mention of a village at the lower rapids.

"When we came to the fall of Sandusky," says the narrative,

"we buried our birch bark canoes, as usual, at a large place,

for that purpose, a little below the fall; at this place the river

falls about eight feet over a rock, and it was with much difficulty

that we pushed up our wooden canoes." The Wyandots were

the guardians of the great council fire; they alone had the privi-

lege of sending their messengers with the well known creden-

tials, wampum and tobacco, to summon other tribes to meet

their uncle, the Wyandot, when an important subject required


The Wyandots were the keepers of the Grand Calumet,

and were acknowledged to be at the head of the great Indian

family. Lower Sandusky became the principal war seat of the

Wyandots, and "Tarhe, the Crane," the principal war chief,

lived here until Wayne's victory and the treaty of Greenville

in 1795. Crane led his warriors from Lower Sandusky against

General Wayne, and he, himself, carried the Grand Calumet.

The first mention of an Indian village at Lower Sandusky

is made by Colonel Bouquet, in his report of 1764, where he

speaks of the Wyandot village "Junque-in-dundeh," near the

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falls of the Sandusky, on an Indian trail leading from Fort Pitt

in a northwesterly direction. We have no satisfactory knowl-

edge of this Indian village which occupied the hill, rising to-

ward the east from the head waters of navigation, until about

1780 when the well known borderer, Samuel Brady, at the sug-

gestion of George Washington, came here as a spy, to learn,

if possible, the strength of the Indians and the geography of the

country. The name Sandusky is derived from the language

of the Wyandots. The pronunciation of the word was "Sa-un-

dus-tee." Its signification has been a matter of some question

and dispute, but, according to the best authorities, it meant

"Water within water pools," or a river or water course where

water stands in pools. The name having this peculiar signifi-

cation, in early times, was used to designate the whole country

along the Sandusky River, and the village at this point was

called Lower Sandusky.

Affairs at Lower Sandusky during this long period of border

war, extending from the opening of the Revolution to the cele-

brated victory of General Wayne, possesses a peculiar interest.

This was an important military center, and every narrative re-

lating to the place is a glimpse into the enemy's camp. The

Wyandots had corn fields all along the river bottom, which were

cultivated by the squaws and boys, each family having a small

field with no fences between them. The plains now covered

by the lower part of the city of Fremont were cleared land when

first seen by white men and, except the tract used for the village,

the councils, the racing and gaming, bore corn season after sea-

son. The northwestern part of Ohio being almost an impene-

trable swamp, the Sandusky river became the common thor-

oughfare of all the Ohio tribes. War parties usually came to

this point on foot, or on horses captured in the white settle-

ments, and, when captives were to be taken further, as most of

them were, canoes were used for transportation. Probably more

captives were brought to Lower Sandusky than to any other

place in Ohio. This place was a retreat where prisoners were

brought and disposed of, many being sent to Detroit and Canada.

So far as is known, not a prisoner was tortured here at the stake,

and in most cases captives who had passed the gauntlet safely

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and bravely, were kindly treated. A certain class of writers,

who depend upon a vivid imagination to supply deficiencies of

information, have made the Indian gauntlet an institution of the

most shocking cruelty. It is true, severe tortures were often

inflicted upon prisoners, the degree depending much upon their

fortitude and presence of mind, for no people admired bravery

as the Indians did. But the gauntlet was rather a place of

amusement than punishment, unless the offence had been one

worthy of particular revenge. The gauntlet track of the Wyan-

dots, here at Lower Sandusky, has been almost positively located,

on what is now North Front street in this city. According to

the description, the lines of the savages extended from the corner

of Front and Croghan streets, to the old Kessler House corner,

and the council was probably held on the site of the business

blocks on the west side of Front street. The fact that Daniel

Boone was brought through Lower Sandusky, while in captivity,

is worthy of mention, because of the celebrity of that unequalled

hero of border annals.

About the year 1780, a party of negroes was captured by

the Indians, in Virginia, and brought to the Sandusky River,

where they were held as slaves. They were placed in charge

of a peninsular tract of land, about six miles down the river,

which they cultivated for the Indians, no doubt to the great

satisfaction of the squaws, upon whom devolved all the menial

labor. The peninsula became known as "Negro Point," or in

common parlance "Nigger Bend," a name which is familiar to

us all, and which it has retained ever since-a period of a century

or more.

It should be remembered, that, in their treaties and con-

veyances of the Great West to Great Britain, the Indians did

not part with their title to the land. They simply placed them-

selves under the protection of Great Britain and their lands

were to be held in trust for them and their heirs. Hence, the

Indians were justified in contending for the possession of their

inheritance. True it is, they had no title papers, signed by man

or by any human authority, but they believed that the Great

Spirit had given them their happy hunting grounds, and when

they saw the "pale faces" settling and building on their domains,

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and killing the game which was given them to live upon, they

were roused to resistance. They had no court to try their titles,

but that court of last resort, the court of force, a trial by wager

of battle and their arguments were not made by attorneys, but

by the rifle, the tomahawk and the scalping knife. The recital

of their cruelties curdles the blood with horror,-the burning

of Colonel Crawford in 1782, the destruction of St. Clair's army

in 1791, the butchery of Harmar's men, were attended by scenes

and incidents of indescribable cruelty. The final contest over

the right to occupy the Northwest took place on the banks of

the Maumee River in 1794, in the battle of Fallen Timbers, and

had a powerful influence in settling the title to the lands in San-

dusky county. By the treaty of Greenville, the Indians ceded

to the United States, among other parcels of land, "Two miles

square at the lower rapids of the Sandusky River,"-which was

the first land in Sandusky county ceded by the Indians to the

United States. The tract was afterwards surveyed by the United

States, and the lines of that survey are now the boundary lines

of the city of Fremont. It is a fact worthy of note, and one of

which we may well be proud, that the title to every foot of

Ohio soil was honorably acquired from the Indians.



WAR OF 1812.


About seventeen years after the treaty of Greenville, the

war commonly called the War of 1812, between the United States

and Great Britain, was declared.

We, of Fremont, are fortunate in having here, in our midst,

preserved nearly in its original form and appearance, by the

thoughtfulness which set it apart and adorned it as a park, the

place of one of those picturesque events of war, which from

the first, fastened the public attention. It was not necessary

to dig it out of oblivion, and there was no danger that any one

should say that local pride had magnified a thing, which the

world had forgotten. In every history of our country it has

been caught up by the historian, as a brilliant picture with which

to enliven his pages. Fort Stephenson was from the first an

historic place, and Major Croghan's defence of it, was recognized

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as an heroic act, worthy of being described in the noblest words

thai history can use.

In 1813 there was no city of Fremont. Even Lower San-

dusky, as the spot was called, had not yet become a civilized

town, and only marked the place, where a village of Wyandot

Indians had long been known. Fort Stephenson covered the

pretty knoll now occupied by the City Hall, Birchard Library

and the Monument. But what was it? A feeble earthwork,

surrounded by a ditch and stockade, with a little block house at

the southwest corner, which served as a sort of a bastion to

sweep the ditch. Its garrison was a mere handful of men; its

only artillery a single six-pound gun. No legalized white set-

tlement had, at this time, been made on the lake shore in Ohio,

west of the new village of Cleveland, as the tide of civilized

migration had only lately crossed the Ohio. The whole north-

western quarter of the state, therefore, was Indian territory, and

its tribes, confederated by the genius of Tecumseh, a man of

no ordinary power, were banded with the red nations of Indiana

and the great West, to resist the further advance of the whites.

The forts were only isolated outposts, in the midst of the hostile

territory, built to protect the communications of the army, with

the more distant posts at Chicago and Detroit. For this pur-

pose Fort Stephenson was built, here at Lower Sandusky, on

the hostile side of the river, so that a crossing might always

be in the power of our troops. Here was the promise of a

frontier place of importance, both for trade with the Indians, in

times of peace, and a depot of supplies for interior settlements,

as they might be formed. The name Stephenson was probably

given to the fort, owing to the fact that Colonel Stephenson

at one time commanded the post, and it is supposed to have been

built under his direction in 1812. The walls of the fort were

made of logs, some round and some flat on one side, averaging

about eighteen inches thick and ten feet high, set perpendicu-

larly in the earth, each picket crowded closely against the other,

and sharpened at the top. The walls inclosed about one acre

of ground, on a bluff formed by the hills, bounding the valley

of the river on the east, and a ravine, running in a northeasterly

direction, cutting through the bluff north of the fort. After

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Major Croghan arrived at Fort Stephenson he labored day and

night to place it in a state of defence. He had a ditch six feet

deep and nine feet wide dug around it outside, throwing the

earth against the foot of the pickets, and grading it sharply

down to the bottom of the ditch. Later in the year an addi-

tional area, equal to the area of the original fort, was added

to the enclosure. In order to prevent the enemy from scaling

the walls, should they succeed in leaping the ditch, Major

Croghan had large logs placed on the top of the fort, and so

adjusted that the least weight would cause them to fall from

their position, and crush all who might be below. Fort Steph-

enson was wisely located to give protection to our growing set-

tlements, and to become the nucleus of a vigorous colony. It

is only when we remember all this that we fully appreciate its

military importance, and the necessity of holding it with a firm

and determined grasp.

About this time, the English, taking advantage of the dis-

satisfaction of the Indians, as they supposed they had the right

to do, made alliance with them, and gave Tecumseh the rank

of a general in their army. Out of this alliance, grew the great

peril of the frontier. Only a little while before, the fort where

Chicago now stands had surrendered, upon a promise of pro-

tection to the lives of the garrison, by the English, but the sav-

ages had disregarded the agreement which the English troops

were not strong enough to enforce, and the prisoners had been

massacred. A still more fearful and hopeless peril lurked about

the cabin door of every white settler of the West. Even death

by the tomahawk and scalping knife seemed mercy itself com-

pared to the atrocious tortures which all the tribes, but the Wy-

andots, were in the habit of inflicting upon their captives, and

of which we have so fearful a picture in the blood-curdling story

of the capture and death of Colonel Crawford, a little earlier in

our history. It may well have been, that the expectation of such

a fate, if they surrendered, nerved the hearts and arms of Major

Croghan and his little garrison, to dare any fate but that, and

to resolve to die, if need be, but never to be taken.

Gen. Wm. Henry Harrison, a wise and brave man, who,

both before and afterward, signalized his courage and his skill,

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was in command of the department at this time, with headquar-

ters at Fort Seneca, or Seneca Town, as it was sometimes called,

about nine miles south of Fort Stephenson. Several days be-

fore the British had invested Fort Meigs, General Harrison,

with Major Croghan and some other officers, had examined the

heights which surround Fort Stephenson and, as the hill on the

opposite side of the river was found to be the most commanding

eminence, the General had some thought of removing the fort

to that place, and Major Croghan declared his readiness to un-

dertake the work. But the General did not authorize him to do

it, as he believed that, if the enemy intended to invade our ter-

ritory again, they would do it before the removal could be com-

pleted. It was then finally concluded that the fort, which was

calculated for a garrison of only 200 men, could not be defended

against the heavy artillery of the enemy; and that, if the British

should approach it by water, which would cause a presumption

that they had brought their heavy artillery, the fort must be

abandoned and burned, provided a retreat could be effected with


In the orders left with Major Croghan, it was stated,

"Should the British troops approach you in force, with cannon,

and you discover them in time to effect a retreat, you will do so

immediately, destroying all the public stores. You must be

aware that an attempt to retreat in the face of an Indian force

would be vain. Against such an enemy your garrison would

be safe, however great the number."

General Harrison had been for a short time at Upper San-

dusky, several miles further south, hastening the assembling

of a little army with which he hoped to take the aggressive, and

was sorely disappointed by the slow rate at which his reinforce-

ments could thread the paths of the new country. Three or

four hundred dragoons were all he had when the news of Proc-

tor's expedition reached him. A regiment from Kentucky was

on its way but had not yet arrived. On the evening of the 29th

of July General Harrison received word from General Clay,

that the enemy had abandoned the siege of Fort Meigs and, as

the Indians on that day had swarmed in the woods around his

camp, he entertained no doubt but that an immediate attack

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was intended, either on Fort Stephenson or Fort Seneca. He

therefore called a council of war, consisting of Generals Mac-

Arthur, Cass, Ball and others, who were unanimously of the

opinion that Fort Stephenson was untenable against heavy ar-

tillery and that, as the enemy could bring, with facility, any

quantity of battering cannon against it, by which it must ine-

vitably fall, and as the post contained nothing the loss of which

would be felt, that the garrison should not be reinforced but with

drawn and the place destroyed. In pursuance of this decision

the General immediately despatched the order to Major Croghan,

directing him to abandon Fort Stephenson at once, set it on

fire and repair with his command to headquarters. This order

was sent by a Mr. Conner and two Indians, who lost their way

in the dark and did not reach Fort Stephenson until 11 o'clock

the next day. When Major Croghan received it he was of the

opinion that he could not then retreat with safety, as the Indians

were hovering around the fort in considerable force. He called

a council of his officers, a majority of whom coincided with him

in the opinion that a retreat would be unsafe, and that the post

could be maintained against the enemy, at least until further

instructions could be received from headquarters.

Such a command as Major Croghan had received, probably

seemed to a young officer, to imply a suspicion of his valor or

his capacity, and, stung perhaps, by this view of it Major Croghan

sent back a reply which well nigh cost him his commission.

He said: "Sir, I have just received yours of yesterday, 10

o'clock p. m., ordering me to destroy this place and make good

my retreat, which was received too late to be carried into execu-

tion. We have determined to maintain this place, and by

heavens we can." Major Croghan was at once relieved of the

command and ordered to General Harrison's headquarters in

arrest, but when the General saw the man, and knew that his

confidence was that of true courage and no mere vaporing,

he easily accepted the explanation that the terms of Croghan's

reply had been worded with the expectation that the dispatch

might fall into the enemy's hands, and that in that case he wished

to impress them with the danger of an assault; and he sent

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the young hero back to resume his command just as the British

entered the river.

The portrait of Colonel Croghan, which, through the kind-

ness of General Hayes, was placed in Birchard Library, and with

which we, of Fremont, are so familiar, well bespeaks the char-

acter of young Croghan, and his singular beauty of person.

Only twenty-one years of age, full of the hardy courage of the

frontier, an experienced woodsman, you can not look upon that

face without feeling that it represents one of nature's noblemen;

full of intellect and feeling, as well as of soldierly courage and

hardihood. It was a happy conjuncture for his country when

the time and the man thus came together.

A reconnoitering party, which had been sent from head-

quarters to the shore of the lake, about twenty miles from Fort

Stephenson, discovered the approach of the enemy, by water,

on the evening of the 31st of July. They returned, by the fort

after 12 o'clock the next day, and had passed it but a few hours

when the enemy made their appearance. The Indians showed

themselves first on the hill, across the river, and were saluted

by a six-pounder, the only piece of artillery in the fort, which

soon caused them to retire. In about half an hour the British

gunboats came in sight, and the Indian forces displayed them-

selves in every direction, with a view to intercept the garrison,

should a retreat be attempted. The six-pounder was fired a few

times at the gunboat, and the fire was returned by the artillery

of the enemy. A landing of their troops, with a five and a half-

inch howitzer, was effected about a mile below the fort and

Major Chambers, accompanied by Dickson, was dispatched to-

wards the fort with a flag, and was met, on the part of Major

Croghan, by Ensign Shipp of the Sixteenth Regiment. After

the usual ceremonies, Major Chambers observed that he was in-

structed by General Proctor to demand the surrender of the

fort, as he was anxious to spare the effusion of human blood,

which he could not do should he be under the necessity of re-

ducing it, by the powerful force of artillery, regulars and In-

dians at his command. Ensign Shipp replied that the com-

mandant of the fort and its garrison were determined to defend

it to the last extremity, and that no force, however great, could

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induce them to surrender, as they were resolved to maintain

their post or to bury themselves in its ruins.

Dickson then said that their immense body of Indians

could not be restrained from murdering the whole garrison,

in case of success, and urged them to surrender and prevent

the dreadful massacre that would be caused by their resist-

ance. Mr. Shipp replied that when the fort was taken there

would be none to massacre, as it would not be given up while

a man was able to resist. The enemy now opened their fire

from their six-pounders in the gunboats and the howitzer on

shore, which they continued through the night with but little

intermission and very little effect. The forces of the enemy

consisted of 500 regulars and about 800 Indians, commanded

by Dickson, the whole being commanded by General Proctor in

person. Tecumseh was stationed on the road to Fort Meigs,

with a body of 2000 Indians, expecting to intercept a reinforce-

ment on that route. Major Croghan, through the evening, occa-

sionally fired his six-pounder; at the same time changing its

place often to induce a belief that he had more than one piece.

As it produced very little effect on the enemy, and he was desi-

rous of saving his ammunition, he soon discontinued firing,

The enemy had directed their fire against the northwest angle

of the fort, which induced the commander to believe that an

attempt to storm the works would be made at that point. In

the night Captain Hunter was directed to secretly remove the

six-pounder to a block house, from which it would rake that

angle. The embrasure was masked and the piece loaded with

a double charge of slugs and grape shot.

Early in the morning of August 2 the enemy opened fire

from their howitzer and their six-pounders, which they had

landed in the night and planted in a point of woods about 250

yards from the fort, which convinced Major Croghan that they

would endeavor to make a breach and storm the works at that

point. He therefore strengthened that place as much as possi-

ble, with bags of flour and sand, which was so effectual that the

picketings in that place sustained no material injury. Late in

the evening, when the smoke of the firing had completely en-

veloped the fort, the enemy proceeded to make the assault.

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Two feints were made toward the southern angle, where Captain

Hunter's lines were formed, and at the same time a column of

350 men was discovered advancing through the smoke within

twenty paces of the northwestern angle. A heavy, galling fire

was now opened upon the enemy from the fort, which threw

them into some confusion. Colonel Short, who was at the head

of the principal column, soon rallied his men and led them with

great bravery to the brink of the ditch. After a momentary

pause he leaped into the ditch, calling to his men to follow him,

and in a few moments it was full. The masked port-hole was

now opened and the six-pounder, at a distance of thirty feet,

poured such destruction among them that but few who had

entered the ditch were fortunate enough to escape. Colonel

short, while ordering his men to cut down the pickets and give

the Americans no quarter, fell, mortally wounded, and, hoisting

his white handkerchief on the end of his sword, begged for that

mercy which he had a moment before ordered to be denied to

his enemy.

A precipitate and confused retreat was the immediate con-

sequence of the encounter, although some of the officers at-

tempted to rally their men. The other column, led by Colonel

Warburton and Major Chambers, was also routed in confusion

by a destructive fire from the line commanded by Captain Hunter.

The whole of them fled into an adjoining wood, beyond the reach

of our arms. During the assault the enemy kept up an inces-

sant fire from their howitzer and five six-pounders. They left

Colonel Short and twenty-five privates dead in the ditch. The

number of prisoners taken was twenty-six, most of them badly

wounded. The total loss of the British and Indians was 150.

The loss of the garrison was one killed and seven slightly

wounded-Samuel Thurman, the one man of the garrison who

was killed, met his death through his desire to shoot a red coat.

He climbed to the top of the block house and, while peering

over, a six-pound ball from the enemy's cannon, took off his


The assault lasted only about half an hour. The dark

storm cloud that had been hovering over the West passed north-

ward; a gentle breeze from the southwest bore the smoke of

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battle far away over the forest, toward Lake Erie, and in the

lonely twilight of that memorable Sabbath evening the brave

young Croghan addressed his gallant little band with eloquent

words of praise and grateful thanksgiving. As the night and

the silence deepened, and the groans of the wounded in the ditch

fell upon his ears, his generous heart beat with sympathy. Buckets

filled with water were let down by ropes from the outside of

the pickets and, as the gates of the fort could not be opened

with safety during the night, he made a communication with the

ditch by means of a trench, through which the wounded were

borne into the little fortress and their necessities supplied.

All who were able preferred, of course, to follow their de-

feated comrades and many others were carried from the vicinity

of the fort by the Indians, particularly their own killed and

wounded. About 3 o'clock in the morning the whole British

and Indian force commenced a disorderly retreat. So great was

their precipitation that they left a sailboat containing some

clothing and a considerable quantity of military stores, and the

next day seventy stands of arms and some braces of pistols were

collected around the fort. Their hurry and confusion were

caused by the apprehension of an attack by General Harrison,

of whose position and force they had probably received an ex-

aggerated account.

It was the intention of General Harrison, should the enemy

succeed against Fort Stephenson, or should they turn his left

and fall on Upper Sandusky, to leave his camp at Fort Seneca

and fall back to the latter place. But by the firing on the even-

ing of the 1st he discovered that the enemy had nothing but

light artillery, which could make no impression on the fort,

and he knew that an attempt to storm it, without making a

breach, could be successfully repelled by the garrison. He

therefore determined to wait for the arrival of 250 mounted vol-

unteers, approaching by the way of Upper Sandusky, and then

to march against the enemy and raise the siege if possible. He

sent scouts to ascertain the situation and force, but the woods

were so infested with Indians that none of them could proceed

near enough to the fort to make the necessary discoveries. About

9 o'clock in the evening Major Croghan had ascertained, from

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their collecting about their boats, that the enemy were preparing

to embark and had immediately sent word to General Harrison,

who, determined to wait no longer for the reinforcements, im-

mediately set out with the dragoons for Fort Stephenson. The

road by which he came follows an old Indian trail, meandering

the river all the way until it approaches Fremont, where it passes

through Spiegel Grove and, winding around through the town,

turns northwestward toward Fort Meigs and the Maumee. It

was known as the "Harrison trail" and, though crooked and

sometimes almost impassable, was at least a guide through the

Black Swamp, which travelers could follow without fear of losing

their way.

General Harrison reached the fort early in the morning,

having ordered Generals MacArthur and Cass to follow him,

with all the disposable infantry, at that place. Finding that

the enemy had fled entirely from the fort, so as not to be reached

by him, and learning that Tecumseh was near Fort Meigs with

2000 warriors, he sent the infantry back to Fort Seneca, lest

Tecumseh should make an attack on that place. In his official

report of this affair General Harrison observes that: "It will

not be among the least of General Proctor's mortifications that

he has been baffled by a youth who had just passed his twenty-

first year. He is, however, a hero worthy of his gallant uncle,

Gen. Geo. R. Clarke."

"Too much praise," said Major Croghan, "can not be be-

stowed on the officers and privates under my command for their

gallantry and good conduct during the siege." The brevet rank

of Lieutenant-Colonel was immediately conferred on Major Cro-

ghan by the President of the United States for his valorous con-

duct on this occasion, and his gallantry was further acknowledged

by a joint resolution of Congress, approved in February, 1835,

presenting to him a gold medal and a sword to each of the offi-

cers under his command.

Of the life of Colonel Croghan we know very little, except

that he was a native of Kentucky, having been born near Louis-

ville in 1791. His father, Major Wm. Croghan, was a native of

Ireland and a gallant soldier of the Revolution. He received a

good education, graduated at William and Mary College in Vir-

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Fremont in History.                 63


ginia, and soon afterward began the study of law. In 1811 he

volunteered as a private, was appointed aide to General Harrison

and distinguished himself in the battle of Tippecanoe. After the

declaration of war with Great Britain he was appointed Captain

in the Seventeenth Regiment of Infantry and was made Major

in 1813. He again distinguished himself at the memorable

sieges of Fort Meigs, and in July, 1813, was placed in command

of Fort Stephenson. He was made Inspector General of the

Army in 1825, and in that capacity served with General Taylor

in Mexico in 1846-7. He died in New Orleans in 1849.

The Fort Stephenson fight was typical of its period. It

was, at once, part of the struggle for independence and a type

of the desperate conflict of the frontiersman with savage hordes,

with wild beasts and with the unsubdued wilderness itself.

Immediately associated with Colonel Croghan's victory are

the frontier names of the pioneer history of the West-General

Harrison, Commodore Perry, General Cass, General MacArthur,

Governor Meigs and a long list of other men, whose names were

household words in the homes of the first settlers of this region,

were all closely identified with the military events which hinged

upon the brilliant victory which was gained here and which

decided the struggle for the vast and noble territory which is

tributary to the Great Lakes of the Northwest.

General Sherman, in speaking several years ago, of the

strategic value of the triumphant defence of Fort Stephenson,

said: "The defence of Fort Stephenson by Croghan and his gal-

lant little band was the necessary precursor to Perry's victory

on the lake, and of General Harrison's triumphant victory at the

"Battle of the Thames." These assured to our immediate an-

cestors the mastery of the Great West, and from that day to this

the West has been the bulwark of the nation.

The heroes of the Revolution have all passed away, and

very few of the War of 1812 are still living. Sergeant Wm.

Gaines, about fifteen years ago, was the only surviving mem-

ber of Croghan's brave band and now, he too, has joined the

silent majority.

We still have with us, however, the old iron gun that did

such faithful service on that bright August day, nearly eighty-six

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64       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


years ago. After the War of 1812 it was sent to the Government

Arsenal at Pittsburg, and remained there until about 1851,

when Mr. Brice J. Bartlett, then mayor of Fremont, conceived

the design of procuring the old gun as a relic, to be kept at

the place it so greatly aided to defend. He sent a soldier who

had helped use the gun in Fort Stephenson to Pittsburg, to

identify it by some peculiar mark on the breech and, by per-

sistent effort, finally succeeded in locating it and ordered it sent

to Lower Sandusky. But there were then several Sanduskys

and, by some mistake, the old gun was sent to Sandusky City,

where, I believe, there never was a battle. But the Sandusky

people wanted to keep the gun and a sharp controversy arose

in regard to it. They, however, it is said, to secure the gun

against seizure, buried it. But Mr. Bartlett, not to be foiled,

employed a detective, who, finally learning where the gun was

buried, and aided by others, went to Sandusky, uncovered the

cannon and brought it back to its old resting place. The garri-

son, it is said, named the gun "Good Bess." In 1852, on August

2, at a celebration of Croghan's splendid victory here, Mr.

Thomas L. Hawkins, a Methodist local preacher, who was also

a poet, read a poem which was a salutation to the old six-pounder,

in which he addressed her as "Betsey Croghan," a name by which

the gun has ever since been known. In another poem on Colonel

Croghan's victory at Fort Stephenson, this poet calls the gun

"Our Bess."

Historically, the heart of the city of Fremont is Fort Steph-

enson Park, with its City Hall, its monument and its public

library, while the historic Betsey Croghan and other disused

cannon add a sterner touch to the scene.

Within the memory of many present citizens of Fremont

the place was little more than a frontier settlement, and the few

houses scarcely more than huts and shanties. The change in

the past fifty years has been striking, and even the name of

the place is not the same, for in 1850 it was changed from Lower

Sandusky to Fremont, in honor of the famous "Pathfinder."


Spiegel Grove, whose hospitality we now enjoy, is also a

storied region full of charm and legend for the student of the

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Fremont in History.               65


past. What the term means is a question often asked and sel-

dom answered. Spiegel is the German word for "Mirror" and

in the uncleared, boggy woods of fifty years ago, one could

probably see his reflection almost anywhere in the tangled swamp

land. As the mirror has long been a symbol of superstition,

so the myths and legends have always hung thick about the

old woods.

The place was purchased many years ago by Mr. Sardis

Birchard, one of our most honored citizens, the uncle and guard-

ian of our great citizen, ex-President Hayes, and was by him

named Spiegel Grove. Here Mr. Birchard passed many years

of his life, and here the young attorney, the Colonel, the General,

the Representative, the Governor and the President used to come

to visit, until, after his retirement from the presidency, General

Hayes enlarged the house and brought his family here for per-

manent residence. His delight in the place was always very great.

He was acquainted with every tree and shrub in it. He set

out choice varieties, sent him from China and Japan and the

isles of the sea, and he gathered historic plants from everywhere.

Here he would show the visitor a weeping willow with a famous

pedigree, its ancestors running back to Washington's grave at

Mount Vernon; and to Napoleon's at St. Helena; farther on,

a sapling from an acorn of the charter oak; and in another place

venerable oaks, under which an ancestor camped during the

War of 1812, or to which was tied a captive maid by the In-

dians, while a swift runner went to Detroit to obtain her re-

lease. Here also General Hayes set out the "Lucy Hayes

Chapel," in young walnut trees, and in almost every direction

are beautiful vistas through the woods and across the valley,

and the identical drive to which I have before alluded down

which General Harrison brought his troops in 1813, on his way

to Fort Stephenson.



"The opening of a free public library," says James Russell

Lowell, "is the most important event in the history of any town,"

and as this was what Mr. Sardis Birchard, the generous founder

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66        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


of our public library, wished to do for the people of this county,

he was moved in 1873 to set aside the sum of fifty thousand

dollars for the establishment of Birchard Library.

At an early day after the village of Lower Sandusky was

chartered, it was suggested that the site of the fort should be

purchased and preserved as a memorial of those who so bravely

defended it, and an act of the Legislature empowered the village

to do so, but the owner of the property being unwilling to sell

it, the project was for the time abandoned. Among those who

had been particularly desirous that the site should be purchased

by the city, was Mr. Birchard. It was his earnest wish that

the library should be located on the site of the old fort, and

that the city should own the ground for a park.

General Hayes, and a few other public spirited citizens,

interesting themselves in the matter, the whole block was pur-

chased at a cost of about thirty thousand dollars, and the Library

Association and the city are now joint owners of the square.

The citizens of this place, it seems to me, have shown com-

mendable zeal in doing themselves, without any outside assist-

ance, that for which other cities have asked appropriations from

the State.

The people of Fremont have dedicated the ground so hero-

ically defended by Major Croghan and his brave men to their

memory forever, and have further consecrated it, by erecting

upon it a stately monument which, for years to come shall tell

the unadorned tale of their sacrifices, and, ages after the stone

itself has crumbled into dust, history shall transmit the record.

Surely, the occasion is worthy a monument to the skies

and the granite soldier looking down from its summit is a proper

guardian for the site of Fort Stephenson, one of the most mem-

orable of all our historic places.

FREMONT, OHIO, June 30, 1899.