Ohio History Journal






The name "Maumee" is a variant of Miami, and comes from

the Miami Indian tribe. When the French first came into the

Northwest they found the Miami living in eastern Wisconsin.

Following LaSalle's advent in the Illinois country they moved

southward around Lake Michigan and for many years (c. 1690-

1702) one of their important towns was located in the present-

day Chicago Loop. Eventually they journeyed eastward to the

Maumee, with villages at Fort Wayne, Defiance, and other points,

and their name became permanently identified with the beautiful

river and valley they had appropriated.

In the era when wilderness was king and practically all travel

was by water, the Maumee and Wabash rivers constituted one of

the chief highways of travel between the Great Lakes and the

Mississippi River system. For this reason the Maumee Valley is

associated with the earliest activities of the French in the western

country. Over its possession red race and white, and French,

British, and American nations for generations contended. Before

the white man arrived the lovely valley, "fair as a garden of the

Gods," was the highway of uncounted war parties from the Great

Lakes journeying southward to wage against the southern tribes

the long warfare which made of Kentucky a vacant wilderness

and won for it a name which means "the dark and bloody ground."

In 1749 the French army of Celoron from distant Montreal, re-

turning from its mission of warning the English out of the Ohio

Valley, descended the Maumee from Fort Wayne to Lake Erie

and Detroit, and a memorial of this expedition still remains in

the name of Celoron Island, lying in the mouth of Detroit River.

In 1752, young Charles de Langlade led his Ottawa warriors from

Mackinac up the Maumee on his mission of vengeance against

Pickawillany, and the chief, Old Britain, for the crime of showing




friendship to the English, was "put in the kettle" and literally

boiled and eaten. In the Pontiac War and for many weary years

following the opening of the American Revolution, armies red

and white, too numerous to mention, traversed the valley. Daniel

Boone and Simon Kenton were but two of hundreds of Kentucky

and Virginia captives carried northward to Detroit. Governor

Hamilton ascended the Maumee in 1778 going to ignominious sur-

render at Vincennes, and his conqueror, George Rogers Clark, ate

out his heart in bitterness because he could never achieve the re-

turn campaign to Detroit, the goal of all his endeavors. The

Detroit armies of Captain Bird (1780) and Captain Caldwell in-

flicted grievous blows upon Kentucky, and that commonwealth

still annually solemnly mourns the destruction of her manhood by

Caldwell at the Blue Licks in 1782. British redcoats garrisoned

Fort Miamis, above Toledo, from 1794 to 1796, and President

Washington sent three armies in succession (1790-95) northward

from Cincinnati with the Maumee as their objective; General

Wayne built and named Fort Defiance and defeated the red man

at Fallen Timbers; and when the British yielded the northwestern

forts to the United States in 1796, it was a detachment of soldiers

from the Maumee that first raised the Stars and Stripes over


The War of 1812 opened in the Northwest, and the Maumee

again resounded to the tramp of contending armies. General Hull

pressed northward to disgrace and a coward's doom at Detroit.

General Winchester led his Kentuckians to another mournful de-

feat at the River Raisin. General Harrison built, and British

General Procter twice besieged Fort Meigs; and Harrison and

Perry together achieved victory and military fame at Lake Erie

and the Battle of the Thames. American rule in the Maumee

Valley was thenceforth permanent and undisputed.

But peace has her achievements no less notable than those of

arms. In 1816, the British and American governments entered

upon that policy of border disarmament and peaceful diplomacy

which, despite many strains, has endured for a century and a

quarter. Michigan lost her Toledo Strip to Ohio, but losing,




gained instead the Upper Peninsula. The canal connecting Lake

Erie with the Ohio, whose abandoned ruins add much of present

charm to the Maumee Valley, represents a great peacetime achieve-

ment whose solid glory was early obscured by the advent of the

"iron horse." In 1837, the Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad was put

in operation between Toledo and Adrian. It was the first railroad

in the Northwest, built when Toledo was still Port Lawrence, and

the entire population of Michigan was less than that of Grand

Rapids in 1940. Today, fur trade and canal, red men and massa-

cres are but dim memories; at either end of the Maumee are busy,

prosperous cities, whose manufactures are distributed throughout

the earth to make possible an easier and better way of life. Still,

as of old, winter snows and summer sunlight refresh the beautiful

valley; still the noble forests offer their restful shade to the way-

farer; still the dancing waters press onward toward their goal in

the bosom of the Atlantic.