Ohio History Journal




THE SANDUSKY RIVER

THE SANDUSKY RIVER.

 

 

LUCY ELLIOT KEELER.

The Russian peasant's phrase "The road that runs" would

have appealed to the primitive people who in generations past

paddled upon the waters and occupied the valley of the Sandusky

River. For some eighty miles it traces a winding way through

northwestern Ohio, rising in the Palmer Spring of Richland

county, flowing through Crawford, Wyandot, Seneca and San-

dusky counties, its mouth directly north of its source and its

general course forming a capital C. For more than a quarter of

a century after the white man settled upon its banks ancient earth

and stone works were traceable along part of its shores, notably

about the marshes bordering Sandusky Bay and the high east

banks in Sandusky and Seneca counties. These works generally

took circular form, each enclosing several acres of ground with

walls of earth or stone, and openings opposite each other. As

late as 1838 some of these walls on the banks of Honey Creek

were about five feet high, but crumbling down.* The works at

the old Indian village of Muncietown, three miles below the pres-

ent city of Fremont were nearly square. Farther remains of

prehistoric fortifications were found on the Croghansville hill at

Fremont and on the Blue Banks overlooking the river at Ball-

ville.+ Where data are altogether lacking fancy may lift a tenta-

tive head. One might imagine that the old mound builders, pass-

ing southward from the Sandusky valley, commemorated the de-

vious windings of its picturesque river, their former abode, in

that wonderful serpent mound of Adams county!

Emerging from this twilight of antiquity, the student comes

upon an age of tradition, when a later race inhabited the San-

dusky region. Father Segard++ says that when the French mis-

sionaries first reached the Upper Lakes a neutral nation abode

 

* Lang's Seneca County.

+ Everett's Sandusky County.

++Jesuit Relations.     (191)



192 Ohio Arch

192       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

there. The Wyandot Indians of Revolutionary times preserved

a tradition that in the 17th century a tribe of Neutral Wyandots

built near the Lower Rapids of the River, (Lower Sandusky,

now Fremont), two cities of refuge where those who sought

safety never failed to find it. All of the Indians west of this

point were at war with those east of it. Bands from the west

might enter the western town and bands from the east the east-

ern, but all alike recognized the neutral character of the two

places.* Gen. Lewis Cass, whose knowledge of Indian charac-

ter and tradition was exceptional, affirmed: "Tradition represents

them as having separated from the parent stock during the

bloody wars between their own tribe and the Iroquois, and hav-

ing fled to the Sandusky River for safety: that they here erected

two forts within a short distance of each other and assigned one

to the Iroquois and the other to the Wyandots, where their war

parties might find security and hospitality."+  Probably one of

these ancient forts was at Muncietown, and the Neutral Wyan-

dots adapted to their use the remains of the square enclosure

left by a preceding race.

These whilom settlers of the Sandusky valley have vanished

in dim obscurity. No historic trace of them now remains. In

1701, the French effected a settlement at Detroit, which became

the center of a valuable fur trade with the Indians. The Wyan-

dots, a later race, returned to its vicinity from their half century

wanderings to escape their rapacious Iroquois kindred, drawing

to their camps the Ottawas from Upper Canada; and the two

tribes extended themselves westward to the uninhabited Sandusky

valley where they were firmly established long before any Euro-

pean exploration of the country south of Lake Erie. Meanwhile

French traders were pitching their habitations along the south

shore of Lake Erie and up the valleys of the Sandusky and the

Maumee Rivers. Homan's map of 1707 shows the word San-

douski to the bay at the mouth of the river.++ An anonymous

report in 1718 concerning the Indians of Canada says:

* Major Stickney, Indian Agent. Lecture, Toledo, February 28, 1845.

+ Lewis Cass. Address Michigan Historical Society, September 18,

1829.

++ Western Reserve Historical Society. Tract No. 3. Early Ohio

Maps.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 193

 

"A hundred leagues from Niagara, on the south side [Lake

Erie] is a river called Sandosquet, which the Indians of Detroit

and Lake Huron take when going to war with the Flatheads and

other nations toward Carolina. They ascend this river Sandos-

quet two or three days, after which they make a small portage

of about a quarter of a league. Some make canoes of elm bark

and float down a small river [Scioto] that empties into the Ohio.

Whoever would wish to reach the Mississippi easily, would need

only to take this beautiful river or the Sandosquet; he could

travel without any danger of fasting, for all who have been there

have repeatedly assured me that there is so vast a quantity of buf-

falo and of all other animals in the woods along that beautiful

river, they were often obliged to discharge their guns to clear a

passage for themselves. They say that two thousand men could

easily live there."*

Long before a white man lived upon the soil of Ohio

the Sandusky was a water route of travel from Canada to the

Mississippi, of the early French traders and Jesuit fathers. They

ascended the main stream to the mouth of the Little Sandusky,

thence up that tributary four or five miles to a portage; then

across the portage, "a fine road of about a quarter of a league"

to the Little Scioto, thence down that stream to the Scioto

proper, a tributary of the Ohio. Even before the French had

any settlements in the valley of the St. Lawrence or the Missis-

sippi; or before La Salle set foot on any portion of Ohio soil,

the northern Indians made the Sandusky and the Scioto their

route of travel in their predatory warfare upon southern tribes.

The exact derivation of the name of "the road that runs," is

uncertain. Three Wyandot terms are at our service: Sah-un-

dus-kee, clear water; or Sandoostee, at the cold water; or Sa-

undustee, water-within-water-pools. The last name is applicable

to the extensive marshes along the river, which are intersected

by open water; while the other two would naturally describe

the clear, cold water of the Sandusky basin springs, of which

Castalia is the best known example. The early French traders

called the river Sandusquet. By 1784, when Jefferson drew up

 

* King's Ohio.

Vol. XIII - 13.



194 Ohio Arch

194      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

his Ordinance for the division, nomenclature and government of

the Western Territory, the orthography was practically settled

and he wrote the word Sandusky, suggesting that the district

which this river drained be called Metropotamia! The Sandusky

is a rapid shallow stream, with two marked rapids, or "falls,"

at Upper Sandusky and at Lower Sandusky. Its principal trib-

utaries are the Broken Sword and the Sycamore upon the east;

the Little Sandusky and the Tymochtee to the west. Its mouth

forms Sandusky Bay, the "lake" of the early travellers, and the

Lake Junandat of several early maps. In Indian parlance the

whole system of rivers, creeks, valley and villages was "the San-

dusky." "Kahama's curse on the town baptizers of America,"

exclaimed an Englishman on a pedestrian jaunt along this val-

ley early in the nineteenth century; "there are five or six places

named alike, upper and lower, little and big, great and small!"*

Moreover the Wyandots changed their towns from time to time,

both in location and in name, though always clinging to the banks

of this beloved river. To the west, reaching beyond the Mau-

mee River, stretched the famous Black Swamp. South of this,

and about the headwaters of the Tymochtee, lay the Sandusky

"plains," Tymochtee itself meaning "around the plains." These

natural meadows, forty by twenty miles in their greatest length

and breadth afforded extraordinary antithesis to the dense forest

through which the river cleared its way. These undulating sa-

vannas were covered with a high coarse grass. "Birds of strange

plumage flew over them; prairie hens rose, sailed away and

dropped into the grass; sand-hill cranes blew their shrill pipes,

and the noisy bittern was heard along the streamlets. Wild geese

and an occasional bald eagle soared overhead." These plains were

always favorite hunting grounds of the Indians. Col. James

Smith, the captive, participated in a ring hunt here in 1757.

"We waited until we expected rain was near falling to extinguish

the fire, and then we kindled a large circle in the prairie. At this

time . . . a great number of deer lay concealed in the grass in the

day and moved about in the night; but as the fire burned in to-

ward the center of the circle, the deer fled before the fire, the

scattered Indians shooting them down. When we came to divide

* Ferrell's Ramble of 6,000 miles. London, 1832.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 195

 

the deer there were about ten to each hunter, which were all

killed in a few hours. The rain did not come on that night to

put out the outer circle of fire and . . . it extended through the

whole prairie."*

Except where the "plains" smiled to the sun in grass and

flowers the Sandusky country was densely wooded. Great oaks,

elms, walnuts and hickories were interspersed with beech, bass-

wood, maple and sycamore. Till almost the close of the last

century a famous sycamore still stood near the river at Upper

Sandusky, its trunk, a yard from the base, measuring thirty-seven

feet. In 1875 a single black walnut log, 16 feet long and 62

inches thick, required seven horses to pull it up Napoleon street,

Fremont, to the car tracks. Indeed, river and inland combined to

form a country which the red man and the white alike admired

and coveted. No wonder the savage died to save it.

The Wyandots were Hurons, one of the finest and ablest of

the Iroquois nation. "The Wyandots are admitted by the others

to be the leading tribe," wrote General Harrison to the Secretary

of War in 1814; "they hold the Grand Calumet which unites

them and kindles the council fire." In 1793, General Anthony

Wayne told a scout to go to Sandusky and take a prisoner for

the purpose of obtaining information. The scout replied that he

could take a prisoner but not from Sandusky, for only Wyandots

lived there and a Wyandot would not be taken alive. Other

Indians lived along the Sandusky: a band of the warlike Mun-

cies settled about three miles below Lower Sandusky; Mingoes,

to which tribe the great Logan belonged,++ (and along the San-

dusky he spent his last years) ; Delawares, Cayugas, Onondagas,

Tuscarawas. Several of these went by the name of Senecas be-

cause of the old Indian villages of that name, although early in

the nineteenth century Henry C. Brish, the sub-agent of this

band could not find a full blooded Seneca among them."+  We

may now return to the chronology of our theme.

In 1733, Popple published a map in London, using all the

charts at the disposal of the Lords of Trade. This map reveals

 

*Narrative of Col. James Smith. Published 1799.

+ Butterfield History of Seneca County.

++ Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio.



196 Ohio Arch

196       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

slight consciousness of the rivers flowing north into Lake Erie

and I. [Lake] Sandoski. Charlevoix's map of 1744 says of the

south short of Erie "Toute cette partie du lac m'est inconnue."

As early as 1745, English traders had penetrated to the San-

dusky or "St. Dusky" and established a post on the north side of

the Bay near the portage. They were driven away by the French

in 1748 or 1749;* though Mitchell makes them say that the post

was "usurped" by the French in 1751.+ In 1749, La Jonquiere,

Governor of Canada, learned to his great indignation, that sev-

eral English traders had reached Sandusky and were exerting "a

bad influence upon the Indians of that quarter."++ It was in 1749

also that Celeron de Bienville traversed Ohio with three hundred

men, buried leaden plates with the French arms at the mouth of

the Ohio and other rivers, claiming the whole country for France.

He came north by way of our sister river, the Maumee. He told

the Indians that the English traders would ruin them and drive

them out of their country, and in this respect he told the truth!

He was made commandant at Detroit and immediately followed

up France's formal claim to the territory between Lake Erie and

the Ohio, by taking a fort and trading station erected near the

mouth of the Sandusky river. Fort Sandusky, or Fort Junandat,

was then in 1750, the only post within the present limits of Ohio,

and was doubtless merely an establishment for trade, with per-

haps a stockade for defence against the English and their Indian

allies. French garrisons probably remained at "Ft. Dusky" for

a while after the occupation of Ft. Du Quesne, 1758, by the

English; but as the contest in Canada approached its crisis, the

troops were gradually withdrawn.  When the English got posses-

sion of Lake Erie and its tributaries, in 1760, a military post was

planted here. In May, 1763, Pontiac's war began, and Fort San-

dusky was the first to fall. Ensign Paully, its commandant, fur-

nished particulars of its loss to General Amherst, commander-in-

chief of the British forces. Details as compiled by Parkman and

Bancroft are as follows:

On the 16th of May, Fort Sandusky was approached by a

 

*Western Reserve Historical Society. Tract No. 6.

+ Western Reserve Historical Society. Tract No. 13.

++ Parkman: Struggle for a Continent.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                197

 

party of Indians from the Wyandot village. Ensign Paully was

told that seven Indians waited at the gate to speak with him.

They were four Wyandots and three Ottawas, and as several were

known to him he ordered them to be admitted. Arrived at his

quarters, two of the treacherous visitors seated themselves on

each side of the commandant, while the rest were disposed about

the room. The pipes were lighted and conversation begun, when

an Indian who stood in the doorway made a signal. Upon this

the astonished officer was seized, disarmed, and tied by those near

him, while at the same moment outside the sentry and many of

his garrison were murdered. As Paully was led out he saw their

corpses, and the body of his sergeant who lay in the garden where

he was planting seed at the time of the massacre. Some traders

within the fort were also killed and their stores plundered. At

nightfall, Paully was taken to the lake, and in the darkness the

party pushed off in canoes. At that moment the fort burst into

flames. Paully was taken prisoner to Detroit, bound hand and

foot, and solaced with the expectation of being burned alive. On

landing near Pontiac's camp he was surrounded by squaws and

children, and pelted with stones and sticks and gravel and forced

to dance and sing. Happily, an old woman whose husband had

lately died chose to adopt him in his place. Paully was then

plunged in the lake that the white blood might be washed from

his veins; he was conducted to the lodge of the widow and thence-

forth was treated with all the consideration due to an Ottawa

warrior. This forced match took place May 20, and in July

came the divorce. One evening a man was seen running toward

the fort at Detroit closely pursued by Indians. On his arrival

within gunshot they gave over the chase and the fugitive came

panting within the walls. It was the commandant at Sandusky

who had seized the first opportunity to escape from the embraces

of the Ottawa widow. The tragedy at Sandusky did not remain

long unavenged. July 26, two hundred and sixty men under

Captain Dalzell arrived at Sandusky on their way to the relief

of Detroit. Thence they marched inland to the Wyandot villages

which they burned to the ground, destroying the adjacent fields

of corn.

The Wyandot village was probably in the vicinity of Castalia



198 Ohio Arch

198       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

springs. The exact site of Fort Sandusky is unknown. The

early maps vary greatly, within an area of five or six miles. In

Evans's small map of the Middle British Colonies, 1755, the San-

dusky River has Fort Sandusky on the west side of the river,

"Wyandots" on the east, with a round lake directly below it.

South of the lake, which represents Sandusky Bay, is Junandat,

"built in 1754," and another Wyandot village. As Junandat is

probably a corruption of Wyandot this repetition of places is con-

fusing. It is probable that this house, post or fort, of Fort San-

dusky, the first European settlement in Ohio, was the more ac-

curately represented by the northern fort, at the spot where the

trail came out on the bay across the neck of land from the Port-

age, or Carrying, river. This was the beaten route from Detroit

into the Ohio country and commanded the mouth of the San-

dusky river. Bradstreet's camp was here, and probably Paully's

blockhouse. The present village of Venice, three miles west of

the present city of Sandusky, is doubtless not far from the site

of this ancient Fort Sandusky. The botanist Mitchell made an

elaborate map in 1755. In it Sandusky Bay, unnamed, is at the

bottom of Lake Erie; the river is named Blanc; Junandat appears

as a town named Ayonanton, on a lake called Otsanderket! Not

until the Universal Atlas, London, 1796, do the Sandusky Bay

and River both appear with tolerable accuracy. Two other early

maps should be mentioned here. One of British possessions,

1763, shows Sandoski as the only settlement between Detroit and

Niagara. It stands on a bay, but without any sign of a river.

In Hutchin's excellent map of 1764, more accurate than any of

its predecessors, Sandusky Bay [called lake] is for the first time

in proper shape. Fort Sandusky is on the south side, and a

Wyandot town, called Junandat in the text, is just south of it.

Junqueindundeh [later Lower Sandusky, now Fremont,] twenty

miles inland upon the river, appears mapped for the first time.

It, and its sister villages up the stream, henceforth gradually grow

in importance while Fort Sandusky, burned in 1763, as hereto-

fore stated, was never rebuilt. With the exception of brief men-

tion of Bradstreet, later, Fort Sandusky now passes from this

sketch. An appendix to Hutchin's map notes a route leading

from Fort Pitt through Fort Sandusky, and through Junquein-



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 199

 

dundeh. Heckewelder's MS. map of 1796, shows a trail west

from Cuyahoga, old town, to Lower Sandusky. The old mission-

ary had reason to remember Lower Sandusky where he first saw

the peculiar Indian custom of "running the gantlet."

Before the abandonment of Fort Sandusky, however, our

chronology invites attention to the diary of Col. James Smith,

who, as a prisoner and then adopted brave, tramped the forest

from the lakes to Sandusky river. In 1757 he visited one of the

Wyandot villages near Fort Sandusky "on the little lake [San-

dusky Bay] named Sunyendeand where we diverted ourselves

several days catching rock fish in a small creek, the name of

which is also Sunyendeand which signifies 'Rockfish'." They

paddled up the river, and "when we came to the Falls of San-

dusky [the rapids at Upper Sandusky] we buried our birchbark

canoes, as usual, at a large burying place for that purpose, a

little below the falls. [This was to keep the canoes from warp-

ing.] At this place the river falls about eight feet over a rock,

but not perpendicularly. With much difficulty we pushed up our

wooden canoes; some of us went up the river, and the rest by

land with the horses until we came to the great meadows that

lie between the Sandusky and Scioto." Here follows the nar-

rative of the ring hunt given earlier in this sketch. "From the

mouth of Sandusky to the Falls is chiefly first rate land, lying

level, intermixed with large bodies of clear meadows where the

grass is exceeding rank and four feet high. From the Falls to

the prairies [up-stream] the land lies well to the sun, it is neither

too flat nor too hilly and is chiefly first rate." The summer

after this, young Smith and his old Indian brother returned

down the river, killing in the passage "four bears and a number

of turkeys."*

The game of this region was notoriously fine. George

Croghan I. records seeing bison near Lake Erie in 1772; and in

1678 M. de Vandreuil wrote "buffalo abound on the south shore

of Lake Erie."+ An early settler++ at Lower Sandusky used

frequently to see wild pigeons in a continuous flight, passing so

 

* Narrative of Col. James Smith.

+ Western Reserve Historical Socity. Tract No. 36.

++ I. M. Keeler, Fremont.



200 Ohio Arch

200      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

low that men stood with long clubs and killed thirty or forty

within a few minutes. They would darken the whole air about

their roosting places.

The next noteworthy date after the captive Smith, is 1764,

when Bouquet and Bradstreet, of the British army, were sent

on an expedition against the turbulent western Indians, and to

wrest from them the many prisoners whom they had carried

away in their incursions upon the frontier settlements. George

Croghan, the deputy superintendent of Sir William Johnson,

computed that in four months two thousand men, women and

children on the borders of Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland

had been murdered or carried across the Ohio into captivity.+

Beyond results, this paper has nothing to do with Bouquet's wise

and effective work south of the Sandusky country. Bradstreet,

however, whose course lay to the north, spared the Sandusky

villages on a pledge that their Wyandot chiefs would follow him

to Detroit to complete a treaty there. This was in August. In

September he returned and encamped near Sandusky Bay, prob-

ably the site of the old Fort Sandusky. The Newport Mercury

of November 8, 1764, contains this item: "Colonel Bradstreet

was at St. Dusky on the 28th September, waiting for the Indians

to come in according to terms. The faithless and malicious

creatures are seeking pretexts for delay." This spelling of the

place is also used in the abstract of an order book, now in the

Western Reserve Historical Rooms at Cleveland, of Captain

Degarimo, beginning at "the Camp of St. Dusky Lake, Oct. 3,

1764." A letter in the public records of Great Britain, from

General Gage to Lord Halifax, December 13, 1764, reads:

"Colonel Bradstreet not finding the troops under his command in

a condition to march to the plains of the Scioto, kept the enemy

in awe by remaining at Sandusky as long as the season would

permit, and spiriting up the Indians with whom he had lately

made peace to declare war and send out parties against them

[i. e. against the tribes who would not make peace]. He had

regulated affairs at Detroit, got a vessel into Lake Huron and re-

established the post at Missilimackinak. He broke up his camp

at Sandusky on the 18th October and had the misfortune to lose

+ King's Ohio.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 201

 

twenty-five of his boats from the violence of the surf at Lake

Erie. This accident obliged part of the troops to march along

the shore who were for a time relieved by others from the boats."*

This catastrophe occurred while the army was encamped for

the night at the mouth of Rocky River, near Cleveland, a sort

of tidal wave wrecking twenty-five of the boats and most of the

lading. Bradstreet himself reported to Bouquet, whom he was

expected to support by keeping the northern Indians quiet while

Bouquet attacked them in the heart of their settlements, that he

had passed a month about Sandusky lake, and had gone up the

river as far as navigable to Indian canoes, but that he "found it

impossible to stay longer in these parts." + Bradstreet was ap-

parently only half hearted, but at that season the river was low,

the Black Swamp malaria had got hold of his troops and the

stormy season on Lake Erie was near.

In 1765 we find representatives of our Sandusky tribes join-

ing a council of western Indians in the interior of New York

State, summoned thither by Sir William Johnson. What Brad-

street and Bouquet had inaugurated on the waters of the San-

dusky and the Muskingum, this great Indian agent consummated

by his sagacity. Through him the Indians now delivered up

large numbers of captives and agreed to grant to the traders,

who had suffered in 1763, a tract of land in compensation for

injuries done them. When the Indians returned to their homes,

George Croghan, [Johnson's deputy, noteworthy in himself but

mentioned here chiefly because he was great-uncle of that second

George Croghan, the hero of Fort Stephenson in 1813.] accom-

panied them. His object was to conclude a treaty with Pontiac

and so prevent a recurrence of the Indian war. On the Ohio

River he was captured and taken to Vincennes; but released, and

followed the now submissive Pontiac to northern Ohio. At De-

troit, our Sandusky Indians again conferred with him. It is as

coincidence that the first Croghan was pitted against Pontiac,

much as the second Croghan was against Tecumseh. In June,

1766, Pontiac told Sir William Johnson that he had taken Col.

* Copy of letter in Western Reserve Historical Rooms. See W. R.

H. So. Tract No. 13.

+ Butterfield: Bouquet's Expedition.



202 Ohio Arch

202      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

George Croghan by the hand and had never let go his hold, be-

cause he saw that the Great Spirit would have him a friend of

the English.

The first Croghan was a trader as well as Indian Agent,

and the value of the Indian trade may be computed from the fact

that in one trip he distributed goods to the value of one thousand

pistoles [$3.920] among Indians on the Ohio and Miami rivers.*

Traders on the Sandusky river came from Detroit where they

obtained a license to traffic with the Indians from the command-

ant, who required them to give bond to report at his post at

stated times. These traders sold large quantities of powder,

lead, flint, firearms, trinkets, blankets; taking in exchange the

precious furs which were packed on horses to Lower Sandusky,

and thence taken in boats down the river and along the lake shore

to Detroit.

By 1782, two English traders, Arundel and Robbins, were

seemingly settled + at the Wyandot village at the foot of the lower

rapids of the river, Lower Sandusky, which was recorded in

Hutchin's map of 1764 as Junqueindundeh. Our next knowledge

of the place comes from Samuel Brady, the scout, whom Wash-

ington had sent out for information upon the Indian movements.

He approached the village under cover of night, forded the river,

and hid himself on the island just below the present State street

bridge. The next morning he was an unsuspected witness at a

horserace. A war party had just arrived from Kentucky with

some fine horses. They were lined up along the west bank of

the river north of State street. A white mare won race after

race. Wearying of the monotony, the Indians put two riders

upon her. Still she came in victorious. A third man was added,

which load sufficed to defeat her, and seemed to delight the spec-

tators. Brady escaped that night and doubtless reported to

Washington that the Indians were engrossed with other matters

than war. On a subsequent scouting trip into the Sandusky

country, Brady was taken prisoner. The notable captive was

taken to Upper Sandusky where a throng of Indians had gath-

ered to see him tortured-among them the white renegade,

 

*Taylor's Ohio.

+ Heckwelder.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                203

 

Girty, who had been Brady's child playmate in Pennsylvania.

The captive seized an opportunity to push a favorite squaw into

the fire prepared for himself, and in the resultant excitement

ran off, was pursued one hundred miles and made his traditional

leap over the Cuyahoga river.*  A year earlier, in 1778, Daniel

Boone was led captive through Lower Sandusky; as was also

his friend, Simon Kenton, on his way to Upper Sandusky where

Kenton was condemned to be burned. Both, however, escaped.

Upper Sandusky was at that time the place for the payment of

British gifts and favors. The old neutrality theory of that earlier

race of Wyandots who lived at Lower Sandusky, at least a cen-

tury before, was indeed antiquated. Preceding and following

the Revolutionary war more Indian captives were brought to

Lower Sandusky than to any other place in Ohio. Heckewelder

himself was a prisoner here in 1782, and his name brings us to

the two darkest deeds in Ohio history,-"twin horrors which

marked the last year of the Revolution in the Northwest,"-both

of which are intimately associated with the Sandusky River.

Fort Sandusky was, as has been said, the first European settle-

ment in Ohio. The first permanent settlements, however, were

made in 1772 by the Moravians on the Upper Muskingum river,

where they established three villages, built the first church in

Ohio, befriended the Delaware Indians among whom they set-

tled and made many converts from among them. The Revolu-

tionary War, violating their principles of peace, was their un-

doing. The Wyandots of the Sandusky, having definitely de-

cided for the British, made every effort to turn the Christian

Delawares from their neutrality. When the Delawares returned

the war belt, the Wyandots were angered, and instigated by the

renegades McKee, Girty and Elliott, a band of three hundred

Indians from Upper and Lower Sandusky and Detroit marched

into the Moravian villages. This was in 1781. Under the ex-

cuse that the British must needs watch these neutrals in the con-

flict, all the able-bodied Moravians and their Indian converts

were driven off to the Sandusky river, about two miles south of

the present Upper Sandusky. Sorrowfully they left their beau-

 

*Traditions of Brady, Western Res. Hist. Society. Tract No. 29.



204 Ohio Arch

204       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

tiful villages, their cattle and hogs and ripening harvests, esti-

mated at over $12,000. What gave them most pain was the loss

of all books and writing for the instruction of their young.*

These were all burned by the savages. On the back of one of

the Indian women of the party was the infant daughter of the

missionary Heckewelder, long believed to be the first white child

born north of the Ohio river. The march to the Sandusky

river, one hundred and twenty-five miles, occupied a month.

Here the travellers "pitched upon the best spot they could find in

the dreary waste and built small huts of bark to screen them

from the cold. The savages had by degrees stolen everything

from the missionaries and the Indians on the journey."*  In Oc-

tober, De Peyster, the commandant at Detroit ordered the Mo-

ravian leaders, Zeisberger and Heckewelder and others, to ap-

pear before him. Their route lay through Lower Sandusky,

where they were lodged in the houses of the British traders

Arundel and Robbins. Late in that winter of intense suffering

for the poor Indians, a party of one hundred was sent back to the

Muskingum to gather a portion of the corn left standing in their

fields. Early in March, when they were about to return, a merci-

less crew of border Americans appeared upon the scene, took

them captive and shut them up in two houses. Details of the

hideous massacre of these ninety-six Christian Indians and of

the utter destruction of the smiling villages of Salem, Gnaden-

hutten and Schoenbrunn, fall outside the limits of this sketch.

The survivors upon the banks of the Sandusky were at once or-

dered to Detroit. They walked from Upper to Lower Sandusky

where two government vessels met them and transported them

comfortably to Detroit. The white savage, Girty, was furious

at this consideration shown them in his absence. He had in-

tended them to trudge all the way. There is no blacker deed in

Ohio's history than this Moravian chapter; although Crawford's

appalling fate follows hard upon and is, in part, its sequel.

The Americans had hoped much from the peace following

Pontiac's uprising; but just as the Indians were supposed to be

subjugated, they suddenly fell upon the frontier settlements of

*Taylor's Ohio-quoted from Bishop Loskiel's History of the

Moravians.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 205

 

Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, with savage fury and

unanimity of design. In these incursions the Ohio tribes from

the Sandusky river took the lead, receiving surreptitious aid from

the British commandant at Detroit. As stated before, Bouquet

and Bradstreet's expedition was to stop such depredations and

for a short time was effective. Washington was so exercised

that he wrote: "It is much to be regretted that the state of

the regular troops will not admit of a detachment sufficient to

undertake anything offensive against the hostile tribes."* A

voluntary force, however, of about five hundred horsemen was

recruited on the border. Col. William Crawford, who though

ten years the senior had learned surveying under Washington

and had recently, in his humble cabin on the banks of the

Youghiogheny, been visited by the commander-in-chief, was

chosen leader. The object of this expedition was to punish the

Wyandots into quietude, and not, as Heckewelder imagined and

as many later historians have been led to believe, to destroy the

remnant of the Christian Indians encamped on the Sandusky

River. In the words of General Irvine, commander at Fort Pitt,

Crawford's expedition set forth "to destroy the Indian settle-

ments at Sandusky, by which we hope to give ease and safety

to the inhabitants of this country." +  The date is May, 1782.

A word concerning the site of the approaching action. The

Upper Sandusky of 1782 was on the west side of the river, on

its immediate bank, five miles below the site of the present Upper

Sandusky which did not become a Wyandot village till many

years later. When the war upon the frontier became serious,

the chief sachem of the Wyandots, Pomoacan, the Half King,

moved from his village on the Detroit River, to a place on the

Sandusky eight miles below the upper village, the place known to

Crawford's army. The Indians immediately gathered about him

there, leaving the upper village deserted. Meanwhile upon the

Tymochtee creek, the principal western tributary of the San-

dusky, the hostile Delawares had a village near the present Craw-

fordsville. This was nearly eleven miles from the old Sandusky

of the Wyandots; and here lived The Pipe, chief of the hostile

 

* Washington-Irvine Correspondence.

+ Crawford's Expedition by Butterfield.



206 Ohio Arch

206      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

Delawares. His village and that of the Half King were the only

Indian towns upon the waters of the Sandusky above Lower

Sandusky. The present Upper Sandusky is a later village.

News of Crawford's Expedition had speedily reached the In-

dians on the Sandusky. The villages were soon in a wild state

of excitement and runners started to Detroit to get aid from their

British allies. The commandant, De Peyster, immediately dis-

patched Butler's Rangers to support the Indians. They were all

mounted and took two cannon and a mortar. Their horses were

sent around the lake by land, while the Rangers with their arms

and cannon went by boat to Lower Sandusky, where their horses

met them.   Meanwhile the traders at Upper Sandusky were

packing their goods and fleeing to the Lower Town.

Through the dense Ohio forests, Crawford's troopers took

their march, growing terrified as they neared their destination,

and insubordinate. They passed the deserted Moravian camp -

the inhabitants it will be remembered had been sent to Detroit -

and the springs of the present Upper Sandusky; and then struck

out into the Sandusky plains. Here they were surprised by the

waiting enemy at what is still called Battle Island, three and a

half miles from the courthouse in Upper Sandusky. A brisk en-

counter ensued, and the torrid June day closed in favor of the

invaders. The following day Butler's Rangers appeared, and

with this apparition of a civilized foe, dismay filled the hearts of

the assailants. Retreat was decided upon and all the wounded

brought off. The inevitable confusion was heightened by at-

tacks from the Indians; the four lines of the force were divided

and Crawford with his surgeon, Dr. Knight, and a few others,

were captured next day on the banks of the river. Among the

spoil gathered by the Indians was a broken sword, picked up on

the banks of the creek which has ever since borne that name.

Meanwhile the British troops having accomplished their object

returned at once to Detroit, by way of river and lake, and "the

big captain" of the invading army was left to the mercy of the

Indians. Crawford, Knight and the five others were marched

up the river to Sandusky Old Town, where the Delaware chief,

Pipe, painted their faces black - ominous import - with his own

hand. As the march was continued to the Delaware village on



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                  207

 

the Tymochtee, the five unimportant prisoners were summarily

tomahawked, and their reeking scalps flung in the faces of the

officers reserved for a worse fate. At the place of rendezvous, a

short distance north of the present Crawfordsville, a crowd of

eager warriors, squaws and children, with the infamous Girty

and Elliott were waiting the victims. Doctor Knight was also

an unwilling and horrified witness. The mind shrinks from the

details which followed. Crawford was stripped of his clothes

and secured to the fire-encircled stake. His ears were cut off.

At least seventy loads of powder were shot into his body and

then faggots applied as the spectators chased him about the post,

over the fire and hot ashes.* He begged Girty to shoot him.

The monster laughed. Cut the tale short; and remember that

the hostile Delawares were inflamed beyond the ordinary by the

treatment of their Christian kindred at the hands of the whites.

It is cheering to record that Doctor Knight effected an es-

cape, as did the main part of the army. The retreat was led by

Williamson and a Colonel Rose, a foreigner, who had come into

General Irvine's favor.  After the close of the Revolution, Rose

confided to Irvine that he was really a Russian nobleman, Baron

Gustavus Rosenthal of Livonia. Because of having killed a man

in a duel he was obliged to flee from his own country, and had

sought safety in America. He entered the army as hospital

steward; but General Irvine noticed his ability and advanced him

to be his aide. He served with fidelity until the close of the

war, without having revealed his identity; and then by permis-

sion he returned to Europe, was regarded with favor by Emperor

Alexander, and became Grand Marshal of the province of Li-

vonia.+

With Crawford's Expedition, "rashly undertaken, injudi-

ciously prosecuted and terminating in almost unparalleled calam-

ity," closed the drama of the American Revolution upon the

wilderness of Ohio. The appetite of the Indians for vengeance

and plunder was, however, only whetted, and their private fury

was unchecked until the victorious Wayne dictated terms of

 

* The narrative is condensed from Butterfield's authoritative mono-

graph on Crawford's Expedition.

+ Crawford's Expedition.



208 Ohio Arch

208       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

peace. In 1785, the masterful Brandt, feted the following year

in London, assembled a council fire at Lower Sandusky, and

there formed the league which in 1791 defeated the army under

St. Clair.

A second expedition against the Sandusky villages was

planned, though never prosecuted. It is noteworthy here because

of a letter on the subject from General Irvine to Washington:

"We may lay out our accounts to have to fight the Shawa-

nese, Delawares, Wyandots, Mingoes, in all five hundred. They

are all settled in a line from Lower Sandusky to the heads of the

Miami, not over seventy-five miles. Upper Sandusky lies near

the center. If all these could be beat at once, it would nearly,

if not entirely, put an end to the Indian war in that quarter."*

The final contest over the right to occupy the northwest

took place in 1794 with General Wayne's triumph at Fallen Tim-

bers on the banks of the Maumee, sister river of the Sandusky.

The following summer eleven of the most powerful tribes of the

northwest were represented at the council fire at Greenville, when

Wayne dictated terms of the treaty.   The Indians solemnly

promised never again to make certain Ohio lands a cause of war

or injury, and were themselves received under the protection of

the United States. The effect of this treaty upon settlement was

immense. No single or combination of tribes again lifted the

tomahawk against the United States until just before the war of

1812.

By the treaty of Fort McIntosh, 1785, the Wyandot and as-

sociated tribes relinquished all claim to the Ohio valley; and the

United States reserved, of the northwestern hunting grounds,

certain sites for trading-posts. One of these was the two-mile

square tract at the lower rapids of the Sandusky. This clause

doubtless emphasized to the author of the Greenville treaty, ten

years later, the importance of this spot. In the Greenville

treaty, August 3, 1795, the Indians ceded to the United States

forever, the two-mile square tract at Lower Sandusky which the

United States, in the McIntosh treaty had rather peremptorily

"reserved" to itself. At the close of the War of 1812, the Gov-

Washington-Irvine Correspondence.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                  209

 

ernment surveyed and sold this tract, but did not survey the

surrounding land to which the Indian title was not yet extin-

guished. So here was this little dot of tentative civilization

scooped out of the wilderness. With commendable sentiment the

city of Fremont, formerly Lower Sandusky, has never altered its

official boundaries, although its population generously overflows

the two-mile square tract. The situation is at the head of navi-

gation, a beautiful inland harbor for large boats, and admitting

navigation for small boats farther south than any other stream

within the lake system. Lower Sandusky was both the military

and the commercial center of two races of men. A copy of a

petition to the government of Ohio, signed by the white inhabi-

tants of Lower Sandusky, December 21, 1813, has sixteen signa-

tures. Indian cabins dotted the beautiful hill west of the river

and council fires lighted the evening sky. Half King, the great

chief, lived at Upper Sandusky; but Tarhe, the Crane, the prin-

cipal war chief, lived at Lower Sandusky. After the treaty of

Greenville, Crane led his warriors from this place against Wayne,

he himself carrying the Grand Calumet. He was later made

custodian of the treaty of Greenville,* Harrison declaring him

"venerable, intelligent and upright."+  After the treaty of

Greenville, the office of Half King was abolished, Crane became

head of the Wyandot nation and took up residence four miles

north of the present Upper Sandusky, the old Indian town of

Sandusky. On his death, the Indians transferred their council

house to the present Upper Sandusky, calling the other place

Crane Town.++ At the new village in 1818 an immense company

gathered to pay respect to the memory of this illustrious chief.

The general council of all the tribes of Ohio, the Delawares of

Indiana and the Senecas of New York were present. Red Jacket

was there from Buffalo to make the monody. The treaty of Mc-

Intosh had the effect of congregating at Lower Sandusky rep-

resentatives of all the Ohio tribes. The Delawares came in large

numbers, and the war-like Muncies established a village three

 

*History of Fort Wayne.

+ Letter of Harrison to Secretary of War, March 22, 1814.

++ Howe's Historical Collection of Ohio.

Vol. XIII-14.



210 Ohio Arch

210       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

miles below at a place where a creek enters the river. The trad-

ers dubbed the settlement Muncieville. It was destroyed in the

war of 1812.*

A different sort of settlement was effected about 1780 when

the Indians brought from Virginia a group of captive negroes

whom they placed in charge of the little peninsula ever since

known as Negro Point, or in enduring parlance, Nigger Bend.+

The first permanent white settlers on the Sandusky, antedating

Wayne's Victory, were the Whittakers whose name still lingers

upon Whittaker sand-bar three miles below Fremont.

Their story is most romantic. About the year 1780, two

Whittaker brothers and a third young man left Fort Pitt to

hunt game for the garrison. They were attacked by Indians,

one was killed, one escaped, and James Whittaker was captured.

He was taken to Ohio and compelled to run the gantlet, escap-

ing unhurt from that ordeal. Not pleased with his success, the

Indians decided that he should run it again, when an old squaw

came forward, threw her blanket over him and claimed him as

her son. He was thenceforth counted as one of their own people.

About two years afterward, a girl of eleven, Elizabeth Fulks,

was captured by the Indians during a raid into Pennsylvania,

and carried into the wilds of the northwest. Whittaker became

acquainted with her and the two were married at Detroit. The

friendly Wyandots gave them twelve hundred acres of choice

farming land on the Sandusky River, the tract since known as

the Whittaker farm, three miles below Fremont. He established

a trading store there, another at Upper Sandusky and a third not

far distant on the Tymochtee. He was a successful merchant

and grew rich. One day after drinking a glass of wine with his

partner in Upper Sandusky he fell down dead. He was buried

on his own farm and his tombstone was for many years moved

about, saved from entire destruction by superstitious hands. It

was at last taken from a corner of a rail fence and deposited in

Birchard Library, Fremont. It records his death, "in the 48th

year of his age, December 17, 1804" and affords strong evidence

that Whittaker was the first white settler in Ohio.

 

* Abbott's Ohio.

+Everett's Sandusky County.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 211

 

This James Whittaker may be regarded as the first educator

of this region. About 1800 at a large expense, he hired a teacher

from the east to instruct his older children. He then sent his

eldest daughter to Pittsburgh where she was well educated and

coming home was qualified to teach her many younger brothers

and sisters. Whittaker's thorough adoption into the Wyandot

tribe is shown by the fact that he joined their war parties. He

was present at St. Clair's defeat and at the battle of Fallen

Timbers.*

Hon. Isaac Knapp, a prominent merchant and a former

mayor of Lower Sandusky, knew in Kentucky early in the nine-

teenth century, three brothers and two sisters named Davidson

who in childhood had been captured by the Indians and brought

to Lower Sandusky. They described to Mr. Knapp minutely

the lay of the land here, the bends of the river, the high banks on

the east, so that there was no doubt of the locality they recalled.

The oldest brother was made to run the gantlet and his success

so enraged a squaw that she incontinently tomahawked him.

According to their story the gantlet ground extended south from

the present Wheeling station along the river bank. This was

somewhere prior to 1794.

Frequent mention has been made of the Indians forcing their

captives to run the gantlet. Our first authoritative description

of it is from Heckewelder, who observed it in Lower Sandusky

in 1782. "As soon as the prisoners had crossed the river they

were told to run as hard as they could to a painted post which

was shown them. The youngest of the three immediately started

without a moment's hesitation and reached the post without a

single blow. The second hesitated for a moment, but recollect-

ing himself he also ran as fast as he could and reached the post

unhurt; but the third, frightened at seeing so many men, women

and children with weapons in their hands ready to strike him,

kept begging the captain to spare his life, saying he was a mason

and would build a large stone house for him or do any other

work he should choose. 'Run for your life,' cried the chief 'and

don't talk now of building houses!' Our mason now began to

run, but received many a hard blow one of which nearly brought

*McClung's Sketches of Western Adventure.



212 Ohio Arch

212       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

him to the ground and which, if he had fallen, would have de-

cided his fate. He however reached the goal sadly bruised and

besides he was bitterly scoffed at and reproached as a vile coward,

while the others were hailed as brave men and received tokens of

universal approbation."

So faithfully did the Indians keep their promises made at

Greenville that for the next ten or twelve years peace obtained

upon the Sandusky. After the Revolution, the British upon a

pretext of obligations toward the loyalists not being observed

by the Americans, withheld the posts at Detroit and at Ft. Miami

on the Maumee; and from these vantage points kept control of

the Indian federation and of all the lake shore from Mackinac

to Niagara. The final surrender of these posts in July 1795

marked the last important event of the eighteenth century in the

Sandusky valley. Thus for the first time, northwestern Ohio

came under the American flag. The county of Wayne was estab-

lished, embracing Michigan and all northwestern Ohio, including

the Sandusky country. In 1803, Ohio became a State; and on

St. Valentine's Day, 1812, the capital was voted to be moved

farther up the Scioto river, to Columbus. Thus the Sandusky

river acquired a fresh significance as a strategic point, the por-

tage between the two rivers being short, easy and universally

employed.

Meanwhile the war-inciting voice of the Prophet was heard

in the land, and his twin brother Tecumseh was travelling from

Florida to upper Canada to unite the Indian tribes. One after-

noon Mrs. George Williams, who lived on the Williams Reser-

vation on Negro Point, walked through Muncieville.   By a

light in a wigwam she saw Tecumseh in consultation with an

Ottawa chief and overheard part of the conversation. Being her-

self an Ottawa she understood Tecumseh to say that "next year

when the corn was knee high a war would begin by killing all

white people on Indian territory, and the British would join

them."* "In 1812, Jacob B. Varnum, jr., Indian Agent at Lower

Sandusky came to my father's house+ in Bloomingville, Erie

 

* Homer Everett in conversation with the Williams family.

+ Recollections of Judge Israel Harrington, Lower Sandusky Whig,

April, 1840.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                   213

 

County, to be sworn in as postmaster at Lower Sandusky,-

my father being the nearest officer authorized to administer such

oaths. Mr. Varnum's father, then a senator from Connecticut,

had written his son that war would certainly be declared against

Great Britain very soon, and that a fortification would be built

at Lower Sandusky. My father concluded to remove to that

point for safety."*  In June 1812, the United States declared

war against Great Britain and the west became the theatre of

conflict. July 1 of this year, John Campbell and a company of

regulars were ordered to Lower Sandusky where stores were

being collected for General Hull, head of the western army. The

company embarked from Cleveland in two large batteaux, with

decks, and arrived at Lower Sandusky on the 14th. These were

doubtless the largest craft hitherto seen on the river. Campbell's

men now fell to work to erect a stockade. On the 21st, they

were ordered to Detroit and went off in their batteaux, leaving

their sick. The order to Campbell as given by Governor Meigs,

signifies that there was already a government post at Lower San-

dusky. It reads: "you will purchase provisions and ammunition

for twenty days. You will take with you the necessary tools for

building two blockhouses and piquet them so as to protect the

United States trading-house and store at that place. You will

treat all friendly Indians well. Tell the Crane you come from

me. "+

Early in December, 1812, a detachment of Perkin's Brigade

arrived at Lower Sandusky and repaired Campbell's stockade,

"to protect an Indian store formerly established at that place by

the Government.":++ Soon after, the whole of the brigade ar-

rived. By the 20th, Gen. William Henry Harrison, who had suc-

ceeded the incompetent Hull as commander-in-chief, reached

Upper Sandusky, and there made his headquarters. He had an

effective force of about 1,500 men, artillery and large supplies,

* The Sandusky County Pioneer and Historical Society was in 1874

presented with a letter from Postmaster General Meigs, appointing Mor-

ris A. Newman first postmaster at Lower Sandusky. It is dated July

2d, 1814. Varnum's prior holding of the place was rather by exigency

than by governmental recognition.

tWest. Res. Hist. So, Tract No. 51.

++ McAfee History of the Late War. Published 1816.



214 Ohio Arch

214       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

and the appearance of the camp showed that active preparations

were near. A hint of his energy comes in report of a ride he

made from Upper to Lower Sandusky about this time, doing the

forty miles in seven and a half hours. Information had come

too late, however, and though he gathered up all the Lower San-

dusky force and started westward, he could not prevent the aw-

ful massacre of Americans on the River Raisin in Michigan.

In February, 1813, a company arrived at Lower Sandusky, to

help build the fort. One of the members who was in the August

engagement and lived to a great age, said that their oxen be-

came so poor from want of sufficient and proper food that it was

almost impossible to get them to pull the pickets from the woods

[near Stony Prairie] to the Fort. Many of the oxen died. Large

packs of wolves were almost constantly howling on their tracks,

waiting for the opportunity to devour the starved carcasses.*

"In May, 1813," continues this narrator, "farmers to the

number of three hundred came from southern Ohio, after corn

planting, to see if the American flag still floated on the fort.

They picketed their horses on the bottom lands between the fort

and Ballville which was then a beautiful meadow. At the foot of

the hill between the fort and State Street was a French town of

log cabins. The French burying ground was at the foot of the

hill between what are now Birchard Avenue and Ewing street."

In May, 1813, a general order from Lower Sandusky shows that

Colonel Stephenson was in command and the fort and site has

ever since borne his name. The first known instance of its au-

thentic use on a letter head is May 22, 1813, in an adjutant's

letter to Governor Meigs.+ This same month reinforcements

marched to the relief of Fort Meigs on the Maumee, Return Jon-

athan Meigs, Governor of Ohio, at their head. News that the

British had retreated reached him May 12, at Lower Sandusky,

where Harrison joined him on his return from Fort Meigs. The

volunteer troops were therefore disbanded at Lower Sandusky,

"receiving the thanks of the commander-in-chief, and were justly

applauded for the alacrity and ardor with which they had repaired

to the standard of their country."++

* Mr. Figley of Defiance County, in conversation with J. P. Moore.

+ Everett's Sandusky County.

++ McAfee's History of the Late War.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                215

 

On the 3d of July a mounted regiment under Col. Richard

M. Johnson of Kentucky, "the man who killed Tecumseh" and

the future Vice President, marched from Fort Meigs to Lower

Sandusky, to recruit their horses there. "The Fourth was cele-

brated by the garrison and mounted men together, in great har-

mony and enthusiasm. Colonel Johnson delivered an appropri-

ate address; and a number of toasts, breathing sentiments of the

republican soldier were drunk, cheered by the shouts of the men

and the firing of small arms and the discharge of a six-pounder

from the fort." This is the first mention of the cannon "Old

Betsy," and it also records the first public celebration of the

Fourth of July in Lower Sandusky. McAfee's narrative contin-

ues: "Considerable exertion was now making to finish the works

of Fort Stephenson which had been planned and commenced in

April by Colonel Wood. They were soon afterward completed

so as to contain a larger garrison and make some formidable

resistance.  On the 6th Colonel Johnson's regiment left for

Huron." Prior to the 16th of July, Major George Croghan ar-

rived with part of the 17th regiment and took command of the

fort. Here Harrison, on his way from Cleveland stopped, and

with Croghan and several other officers examined the heights

which surround Fort Stephenson. It was concluded that as the

fort held nothing but two hundred barrels of flour and could

not be defended against heavy artillery, that if the British should

approach by water, causing the presumption that they had

brought heavy artillery, Fort Stephenson should be burned, pro-

vided a retreat could be effected with safety.

Harrison then proceeded to Seneca town, nine miles up the

river, where he constructed a fortified camp, henceforth known

as Fort Seneca. Here he was reinforced by Colonel Ball's squad-

ron of a hundred and fifty dragoons, and Generals Cass and Mc-

Arthur, making his force about six hundred. The site was ad-

mirably chosen, on the west bluff about forty feet above the river

just where it makes a sharp turn, and close to the old army road.

Here he erected a stockade with a blockhouse at the southwest

corner. The pickets enclosed a fine spring of water. The place

was accessible either to Upper Sandusky, where the stores were

concentrated; or to Fort Meigs on the Maumee, if the safety of



216 Ohio Arch

216       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

that place required the commander's presence. These two camps

were the objects to be defended. Fort Stephenson at Lower

Sandusky was comparatively unimportant. The same month,

Colonel Ball with a detachment of men moved farther up the

river, where Rocky River enters the Sandusky on the left, and

there built a stockade near the old army road, opposite the pres-

ent city of Tiffin, with which the subsequent village was after-

ward merged. It was called Fort Ball, and was built as a place

of security in case of disaster at the north and as a magazine for

supplies. After the battle of Tippecanoe, Harrison, then at Fort

Seneca, sent a detachment up the river to strengthen this camp.

It was occasionally occupied during the remainder of the war.*

Still further south, at Upper Sandusky, Harrison built Fort

Ferree, on the high bluff of the river. A mile below Fort Ferree

was "the grand encampment" where Governor Meigs rested in

August, 1813, with several thousand Ohio militia on his way to

the relief of Fort Meigs.+

Throughout the spring and early summer of 1813, Harrison

passed back and forth along the line of his camps, Upper and

Lower Sandusky, Fort Seneca, Fort Meigs on the Maumee, to

Cleveland where the fleet was building, and into the interior to

consult with Governor Meigs. Meanwhile scouts were watching

Lake Erie for the approach of the enemy, at either Cleveland

or Lower Sandusky. On the evening of July 31st, the enemy's

fleet was discovered ascending the Sandusky river, - it had suf-

fered delay through mistaking the mouth of Mud Creek for the

main channel;-and only a few hours after the news was reported

to Croghan at Fort Stephenson, the assailants appeared. Five

hundred British regulars, veteran troops from the War of the

Peninsula in Spain, landed on the west bank of the river, oppo-

site the head of Brady Island, and the Indians numbering from

one to two or even three thousand and led by Tecumseh himself,

swarmed in the woods between Fort Meigs and Fort Stephenson.

It was quite too late to retreat in safety, and Major Croghan, a

handsome, well-born, spirited Kentucky lad, made rapid prepara-

tions for battle. His force consisted of but one hundred and

* Butterfield's Seneca County.

+ Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 217

 

sixty men. On the first of August the British opened fire upon

Fort Stephenson in earnest, from a point of woods two hundred

and fifty yards to the northwest. Croghan replied with his one

gun, "Old Betsy," a six pounder, shifted from place to place to

convey the impression that he had several pieces. Late in the

afternoon of the 2d, the enemy made a united assault. Colonel

Short at the head of the principal column, followed by his men,

leaped into the ditch surrounding the fort. At that moment, the

masked porthole in Croghan's blockhouse was opened and "Old

Betsy" at a distance of thiry feet poured forth such destruction

that few who had entered the ditch escaped. Meanwhile the

other assaulting columns had been routed, and a precipitous re-

treat began into the woods. Colonel Short and one hundred and

fifty British regulars and Indians were left dead, and twenty-six

captured. Croghan had one killed and seven slightly wounded.

In the night the whole British and Indian force retreated. So

great was their haste that they left a sailboat containing clothing

and military stores. Wellington medals of the War of the Pen-

insula were long afterward ploughed up near the river bank.

"It will not be the least of General Proctor's mortifications,"

wrote General Harrison, in his official report of the affair, "that

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

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

Gen. George R. Clarke."

The battle of Fort Stephenson, though not in itself a great

battle was the first really brilliant effort of the war of 1812.

The youth of the hero, the disparity in numbers on the opposing

sides, and the decisive triumph, aroused a burst of enthusiasm

throughout the country. This famous repulse of August 2, 1813,

marks the last invasion of Ohio soil by the British and Indians.*

It was the turning point in the war that ended in sweeping the

haughty British navy from our seas and hurling his army from

our borders.+

On August 9, "a British boat was discovered coming up the

river with a flag. When it landed below Fort Stephenson, Cap-

tain Hunter was sent to meet the commander, who proved to be

 

* King's Ohio.

+ Gen. Wm. H. Gibson, speech at Fort Stephenson, Aug. 2, 1886.



218 Ohio Arch

218       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

Lieut. Le Breton, accompanied by Doctor Banner, with a letter

from General Proctor to the commandant at Lower Sandusky,

their object being to ascertain the situation of the British

wounded and afford them surgical aid. Captain Hunter invited

them to the fort. Le Breton seemed to hesitate as if he expected

first to be blindfolded, as usual in such cases; but Hunter told

him to come on, that there was nothing in the fort to conceal;

and when he introduced him to Major Croghan as the comman-

dant of the fort he appeared to be astonished at the youthful

appearance of the hero who had defeated the combined forces of

his master.

"As the letter of General Proctor also contained a proposi-

tion for the paroling of those prisoners who might be in a condi-

tion to be removed, the flag was sent by Major Croghan to head-

quarters at Seneca. General Harrison replied to the letter of

Proctor that Major Croghan, conformably to those principles

which are held sacred in the American army, had caused all pos-

sible care to be taken of the wounded prisoners that his situation

would admit - that every aid which surgical skill could give was

afforded; and that he had already referred the disposal of his

prisoners to his government and must await their determination.

Doctor Banner in the meantime had examined the situation of

the wounded and was highly gratified with the humane treatment

they had received."*

Two days before Croghan's victory at Fort Stephenson a

little encounter took place along the river a half mile south of

what is now Ballville, two miles above Fremont. Lieut. Col.

James V. Ball, with his squadron of Kentucky troopers was car-

rying dispatches from Harrison to Croghan when they were sud-

denly fired upon by Indians in ambush. Ball had instructed his

men always to charge with sharpened sabres directly at the smoke

or sound of a discharged musket in order to close the enemy

before they could reload the old flint lock muskets which required

priming. The Colonel himself struck the first blow, and a hand

to hand skirmish ensued. Within the memory of many still liv-

ing, an oak stood on the site of this action with seventeen hacks

* McAfee's History of the Late War.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                  219

in it, to indicate the number of Indians killed.* Colonel Ball

lost not a man. Among his troopers was a young private, James

Webb, grandfather of Lucy Webb Hayes, and his old flint lock

rifle and hunting horn are among the treasures of Spiegel Grove

at Fremont. This week, also, Harrison narrowly escaped assas-

sination by a Shawanese Indian at Seneca. The chief of this

tribe so repudiated the attempted murder that he himself kept

guard at the General's door every night thereafter until the

troops left. The morning after the battle of Fort Stephenson,

Harrison arrived from Fort Seneca, to congratulate and consult

with Croghan, but returned almost immediately. All the military

energies of the State had been roused by this victory, troops from

all quarters hurried to the Sandusky river, and both sides made

vigorous preparation for the inevitable naval battle which should

decide the command of Lake Erie and its shores. Ship carpenters

were busily at work, and nine American vessels were ready for

service, carrying fifty-four guns and six hundred marines. The

fleet anchored just off Sandusky Bay, on Lake Erie, and the re-

sultant battle falls slightly without the territory of this sketch.

The exhilarating news of Perry's Victory set Fort Stephen-

son and Fort Seneca in an uproar of tumultuous joy. Governor

Shelby of Kentucky, with fifteen hundred Kentucky volunteers

marching to Harrison's camp, received the news at Fort Ball

[Tiffin],+ and hastened joyfully on by river and the old army

road along part of its banks. Harrison immediately proceeded

to Lower Sandusky and issued orders for the movements of the

collected troops and the transportation of provisions and military

stores to the margin of the lake, preparatory to embarkation.

From Lower Sandusky these went principally by river to the

portage near the Bay which leads across the isthmus to the

Portage River at its junction with the lake. The pleasant penin-

sula between the mouths of the two rivers was speedily filled

with the army, and the horses turned loose to graze on the fine

grass. The army was now bound for Canada and the decisive

Battle of the Thames.

A final mention of Fort Stephenson from the military stand-

* Butterfield's Seneca County.

+ Harper's Magazine, Aug., 1863. B. J. Lossing.



220 Ohio Arch

220       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

point occurs in the spring of 1814 when Croghan, then command-

ant at Detroit, "ordered on from Lower Sandusky, a point with-

out my limits, two commands," for the expedition against Macki-

nac and the upper lakes. Croghan bitterly opposed this expedi-

tion, "because if Mackinac be taken we are not at all benefitted."

The expedition is chiefly interesting to us now from a letter

Croghan wrote to Harrison complaining of the action of the

Secretary of War in passing orders to Major Holmes over

Croghan's head. "Major Holmes has been notified by the War

Department that he is chosen to command the land troops which

are intended to co-operate with the fleet against the enemy's

forces on the upper lakes. So soon as I may be directed by you

to order Major Holmes on that command and to furnish him

with the necessary troops, I shall do so; but not till then shall

he or any other part of my force leave the sod." *  The reader

smiles at the young officer's righteous heat, and surmises that

Croghan's famous dispatch of July 30 to his chief, "We have

determined to maintain this place [Fort Stephenson] and by

heaven we can," was not entirely to delude the British into whose

hands it might fall; but was inherently characteristic of this fiery

youth.

Philander Rexford arrived with his father's family in Lower

Sandusky in 1815, he being a boy of six years. He soon visited

the fort and found guards still stationed within and sentinels

without. A mascot in the shape of a live bear was chained to a

stake near the center of the fort**.  Thomas L. Hawkins was

in 1815 put in charge of the government property at Fort Steph-

enson. After the battle of the Thames in Canada, the spoils

of the victory were brought by Harrison to Fort Stephenson.

Among them was General Proctor's carriage. Hawkins used to

hitch oxen to it and take carriage rides. Scraping away the paint

with his jack knife, he concluded that there had been at least a

dozen coats. One was a peach-blow color. The carriage was

probably very old.+ Other old settlers have recorded seeing this

carriage in the possession of Mr. Hawkins.++

* McAfee, History of the Late War.

** Letter from P. Rexford, Fremont Journal, March 28, 1879.

+ J. P. Moore in conversation with T. L. Hawkins.

++ Reports Pioneer Meeting, October 23, 1885. Journal.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 221

Frequent mention has been made of the old army road and

trail between Upper Sandusky and Lower Sandusky. It ran

along the western bank of the river, being the principal thorough-

fare for troops and supplies during the war, and was laid out

by General Bell, of Wooster, in 1812. For several years after the

close of the war, large quantities of provisions for the settle-

ments around Lower Sandusky passed along this road; and

many immigrants from Europe who had previously landed in

Canada took this course on their way south, making it a main-

traveled road before there were white settlers in the country.*

This Harrison military trail has been preserved as the main road

of Spiegel Grove, the residence of President Hayes in Fremont,

and is distinctly marked out not only by the depression but by

the elms and oaks which line it, and which have since been

named after celebrated visitors. In the celebration of 1877

President Hayes served refreshments to members of his old

regiment under five of these great oaks, which were then named

after Rosecrans, Seammon, Comly and Stanley Matthews and

their old commander, General Sheridan. Subsequently a mag-

nificent elm was named after General Sherman; while three

presidential visitors are remembered by the Garfield maple, the

Cleveland hickory and the McKinley oaks. The Harrison trail

did not follow the river its whole course and was never actually

surveyed. The present west side river road from Fremont to

Upper Sandusky, was surveyed by David Risdon and made a

State road in 1821. It ran as straight as possible, and scarcely

ever touched the old army road.+  A road along the east side of

the river led from Lower Sandusky to Delaware, and was used

first for military purposes and then for emigrants. In 1820 it

was supplanted by the Morrison State road surveyed by Isaac

Harrington in 1820. Morrison for whom it was named was a

commissioner who located the road. The surveyor Risdon,

named above, was the first appointed postmaster at the office

located at Fort Ball (Tiffin). It is said that he used occasionally

to go fishing and carry the mail matter with him in his hat.

People who were anxious to get their mail and could not wait

* Butterfield: Seneca County.

+ Lang's Seneca County.



222 Ohio Arch

222       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

for his return, would follow him up along the river. Mr. Risdon

would then take the postoffice from his head and look for letters

and papers.*   Roads and mail routes were of incalculable im-

portance in these early days. In March, 1813, Calvin Pease

wrote from Lower Sandusky to Major Tod:

"I am ordered by the postmaster-general to run the express

mail twice a week from Pittsburgh to the headquarters of the

northwestern army. For that purpose I have brought on a good

supply of horses. I wished to have seen General Harrison [who

had gone on to Cincinnati]-to get a route from this place to

headquarters that he would approve of. Whenever General Har-

rison moves his headquarters I should be glad to receive the

earliest intelligence of it, that I may send on more horses if

necessary that the mail may always go to his headquarters." +

During the war of 1812 there was attached as chaplain to

Harrison's command, the Rev. Joseph Badger, the first mission-

ary in northern Ohio. In 1801 he began work on the Western

Reserve and in the Sandusky Valley. He received a formal ap-

pointment from an eastern missionary society to Lower San-

dusky.++ Associated with him was Quintus F. Atkins, a manu-

script copy of whose diary is in the Western Reserve Historical

Rooms. There we read that in 1806 these two men "sailed up

the Sandusky River to Mrs. Whittaker's, where they unloaded

and had family prayers, having with them an Indian convert

named Barnett. This was three miles below the rapids." A

little later in returning from a successful fishing at the Rapids,

Atkins heard Crane, the Wyandot chief "expressing his pleasure

in granting permission to work their land and to get food, and

hoping they would dwell together in peace." February 10, 1807,

Atkins assisted Mr. Waterman copy a bill of articles for the

factory, buying some powder of Whittaker."  Mr. Waterman

was evidently the U. S. factor, and the factory seems to have

been in the vicinity of the Whittaker farm.

Badger crossed the Sandusky river, June 14, 1805, "swim-

 

* Lang's Seneca County.

+ West. Res. Hist. So. Tract No. 2.

++ MS. of Cornelius Feather -Ashtabula Historical Society.

West. Res. Hist. So. Tract No. 50. Diary of Q. F. Atkins.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 223

 

ming his horse by the side of a canoe." In the fall of 1809 when

war rumors were afloat, Mr. Badger made an appointment for

the Indians to meet him at Lower Sandusky and his address to

them was so convincing, and his influence for four or five years

had been so powerful for good among them,-that they re-

solved to take no part in the war if it came.* This was doubt-

less the principal reason why the Indians of this especial locality

kept faith with the Americans during the War of 1812, not join-

ing with the other Sandusky Wyandots in behalf of the British.

In 1816 John Stewart, a mulatto, began missionary work

among the Wyandots of Upper Sandusky, and was so successful

that the M. E. Church sent out Rev. James Finley who has left

his own record of the work. We read that at one time on his

way to Quarterly Meeting at Detroit: "I left my horse at Fort

Ball and hired two young Indians to take me to Portland [the

present Sandusky on the bay] in a bark canoe. We started about

noon and the Sandusky River being very full, our bark canoe

went over the rapids almost with the swiftness of a bird. But

when we got to eddy water which we reached a short distance

below Lower Sandusky, we met schools of fish called sheep-head;

and they much annoyed us by sticking fast to the bottom of our

canoe. Once in a while one of the Indians who steered for us

would take his butcher knife out of his belt and slip down his

arm into the water and stab one of them and it would almost

jump on board. But they not being good to eat, we cared not

to take any of them. We had no provisions with us and de-

pended on killing deer. My comrades fired several times but

were not so fortunate as to kill any. Night came on and we had

no place to stop till we got down into the marshes at the mouth

of the river. There was an old Frenchman that lived in this

marsh and caught muskrats. We arrived at his poor wigwam

that night and found nothing to eat but muskrats."  Next even-

ing Finley boarded Walk-in-the-Water for Detroit.++

It is extremely interesting to see that the most approved and

so-supposed modern method of dealing with the Indian on his

reservation- industrial training and lands in severalty- was in

* Rev. E. Bushnell, D. D., History of Sandusky County.

++ Finley's Life Among the Indians.



224 Ohio Arch

224       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

use by Finley almost a century ago. In 1824, Bishop Soule of

the M. E. Church visited the mission. "The location [on the

west side of the river one mile below Upper Sandusky] is de-

lightful and convenient. The mission has sixty acres of corn

growing; has reaped wheat and oats and a crop of flax, and

keeps a great variety of vegetables. It owns ten cows. Indus-

trial training is popular. Adult Indians visit the school and

imitate its methods in agriculture, building and butter-making."

Finley wrote General Cass, praying for individual allotment

of Indian lands: "Heretofore the land belonged to the Wyan-

dot nation. Its equitable division so that each Indian might

have ownership in the soil would contribute to make each fam-

ily stationary and also beget an ambition to improve their prop-

erty. Thus a new stimulus to the development of civilized life

would be secured." In this General Cass heartily concurred. In

the summer of 1825 "a surveyor was employed to lay off a cer-

tain portion into half sections, and the chiefs request you to finish

their work." General Cass formulated a plan to which the In-

dians assented, and "houses went up in all directions."

Finley visited Washington and had an interview with Pres-

ident Monroe, described the mission work to him and through

his influence and that of John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, got

a Government appropriation of $1,333. Monroe desired that he

should build a church for the mission "of durable materials, so

that it might remain a house of worship when both of us are no

more." This work was performed and in Finley's words, "the

house was built out of lime stone, 30 x 40 feet and plainly fin-

ished. So these people have a comfortable house to worship God

in ever since. It will stand if not torn down, for a century to

come." The building gradually fell into decay, but in 1888, the

M. E. Church appropriated $2,000 to restore it. In the grave-

yard are buried John Stewart, the mulatto missionary, and the

great and good chiefs Between-the-Logs, and Summendewat.

In 1817, Generals Cass and McArthur succeeded, at the

Rapids of the Maumee, in purchasing an immense tract of ter-

ritory from the Indians -all northwestern Ohio, in fact, except

a few parcels reserved by some of the tribes. One of these was

the Seneca Reservation of forty thousand acres in Seneca and



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                  225

 

Sandusky counties. In 1831, the Senecas sold these lands to the

United States at three cents, eight mills per acre, and were re-

moved to the far west. To consummate this purchase, Gen.

Brish, Indian agent, took the Seneca chiefs on to Washington.*

Some years earlier, leaders of the tribe journeyed from the San-

dusky to the Missouri river, seeking a favorable spot for their

future home. On their return, they found the chief Comstock

dead, and his youngest brother, John, ruling in his place. The

second and third brothers at once accused Seneca John of hav-

ing caused Comstock's death by witchcraft. "Said he, in a strain

of eloquence rarely equalled, 'I loved my brother Comstock more

than I love the green earth I stand upon. I would give myself,

limb by limb, piece meal by piece meal: I would shed my blood

drop by drop to restore him.' But all his protestations of inno-

cence and affection for Comstock were of no avail."+ His two

brothers pronounced him guilty and murdered him at sunrise.

Before this time white settlements were increasing up and

down the valley. The present city of Sandusky, at the mouth of

the bay, was up to 1816 known as Ogontz's Place after the wise

chief of that name who had been baptized and educated at Que-

bec by the Jesuits. He was assigned by their ecclesiastical au-

thorities to the Ottawas. Jay Cooke, born near the site of

Ogontz's cabin commemorated the name in his magnificent es-

tate near Philadelphia.  Reuben Rice, who as a pioneer lad

passed through the place in the fall of 1811, remembered that

but one white family lived there-that of an Indian trader

named Harrison. The ground now occupied by the city was a

thicket of wild plum trees.++

In 1816 William Wildman laid out the town and called it

Portland. In 1818, Wildman and Mills platted it and renamed it

Sandusky City, the city being dropped by the Ohio act to incor-

porate cities years afterward. It is an irony of fate that the

Sandusky city best known to the outside world, was never

* Judge Lang, Tiffin, Fremont Journal Sept. 16, 1887.

+Henry C. Brish, Indian Sub-Agent at Seneca. Howe's Hist. Cols.

of Ohio.

++ Reuben Rice, of Elmore, Address before San. Co. Pion. Assn.

Journal, Sept. 10, 1875.

Vol. XIII.-15.



226 Ohio Arch

226       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

known by that name to the Indians who loved and haunted the

Sandusky valley.

A group of French families, escaping from revolution and

despotism in their native land, arrived in this country early in the

nineteenth century and settled at Monroe, Mich., moving there-

after to the Maumee valley. In January, 1813, the U. S. Gov-

ernment, fearing their disturbance during the British and Indian

hostilities, directed the removal of the French colony to the San-

dusky valley, and twenty families started. The procession con-

sisted of one horse sleighs, the runners made of boards. The snow

was very deep and the order of the train was frequently changed

that the horses might take turns in breaking a path. At the

mouth of the Muscalonge creek fresh teams were in waiting, and

the travellers reached Lower Sandusky and were lodged for the

winter in the government barracks. In the spring cabins were

arranged for them near the fort, but the hostile Indians threat-

ened their safety and again the government moved them, this

time to Upper Sandusky. On the way they heard the British

cannon storming Fort Stephenson, August 2d. After the war,

these wards of the nation came back to Lower Sandusky in gov-

ernment wagons and gradually dispersed to make individual

homes and take up their own support.* Some continued to re-

side at Lower Sandusky; De Mars and La Point made squatter

improvements down the river their names being combined in that

of the De Mars Point club house thereabouts. A group of fam-

ilies settled in Rice township on Mud Creek. The land sales of

1821 caused serious confusion among these squatters.

Up the river, Tiffin in 1821 had six cabins, while Fort Ball,

just across the stream had developed into quite a settlement.

Josiah Hedges was proprietor of the former place, Jesse Spencer

of the latter, each striving to secure the location of the county

scat.  It was awarded to Hedges who thereupon purchased

Spencer's tract and named the whole Tiffin, after Ohio's first

Governor. Many funny stories are extant about the rivalries of

the proprietors before the merger. Spencer had built a brush

dam, the first dam erected by man -beavers were at home here

- across the river. The water raised by it ran the first saw

* Everett's Sandusky County.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                  227

 

mill on the river. This dam caused numerous fist fights, and its

destruction became the cause of the first law suit in the newly es-

tablished county. *

Farther up the river, Upper Sandusky new town, was not

formally laid out until 1843. One year earlier Charles Dick-

ens and his wife passed through the place spending the night

in great discomfort at a log tavern and deriving material there-

from for "American Notes."

The last important town on the Sandusky, there but a small

stream, is Bucyrus, laid out in February 1822 by Samuel Norton

and Col. James Kilbourne, proprietors. Kilbourne's favorite his-

torical character was Cyrus the Great, and with a portion of the

prefix "beautiful," he concocted a name. Furthermore the colonel

celebrated his town in ryhme:

"I'll tell you how Bucyrus now

Just rising like the star of morn,

Surrounded stands by fertile lands

On clear Sandusky's rural bourne."

In the first years of cellar digging, the bones of mastodon

were occasionally found at Bucyrus, one perfect skeleton being

purchased by Barnum. An extensive cranberry marsh of some

two thousand acres was a feature of this locality, and was long

a source of profit; but in 1855 the marsh was drained and largely

redeemed to agriculture.

Richland county, in the western part of which the Sandusky

has its source, was a favorite resort of Johnny Appleseed, famous

throughout Ohio as early as 1811, and it is scarcely to be doubted

that some of the old apple orchards along the river were of his

planting. Going from place to place, he carried a bag of apple-

seeds on his back, cleared a little patch of land along a stream,

surrounded it with a rude enclosure and planted his seeds. He

had such little nurseries all through Ohio, Indiana and Pennsyl-

vania. This odd character regarded dog fennel as a medicinal

herb, valuable to civilization, and so of that too he carried quan-

tities of seed which he scattered along his way. We could have

spared it.

 

* Lang's Seneca County.



228 Ohio Arch

228       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

Pioneer life in these upper villages was rich in incident, but

since Lower Sandusky was the head of navigation, the tale of

the river after the war of 1812 centers largely about that place.

In 1680 La Salle in his Griffin, sailed the length of Lake Erie.

It is easy to believe that he put into Sandusky Bay, the finest

harbor on the Lakes, but we have no record to verify the sup-

position. The first steamer that we know entered the mouth of

our river and landed at Lower Sandusky was the Walk-in-the-

Water, happily named after the great Wyandot chief of that name

who, the day after Perry's victory left the British and came with

his warriors to Harrison. Harrison flatly told him that if he

wanted peace, he must abandon Tecumseh and get out of the

way of the American army; and with these terms he hastened to

comply.*  The steamer Walk-in-the-Water was built for the

Maumee river trade, a city - Orleans-of-the-North - having been

laid out just below Perrysburg. The Walk stuck on the sand-

bars, however, and that place is now Toledo harbor, the boat

thus unwittingly denoting the precise spot of the future city of

the Maumee.+   The same year saw a far more extraordinary

craft with a no less speaking name, the Pegasus, working its

way up and down the Sandusky river, from Portland, as San-

dusky was still called, to Lower Sandusky. The boat, constructed

by Elisha W. Howland and Thomas L. Hawkins, consisted of two

large canoes, side by side, separated by a platform large enough

to carry a superstructure of machinery, a large amount of freight

and several passengers. The machinery was operated by four

horses which, moving tread mill fashion, worked paddles at each

side of the boat. On one occasion a refractory horse broke his

halter, plunged head first over the rail and hung in that precari-

ous situation until cut loose. He then swam triumphantly ashore

"to the great delight of the whole crew." ++ The Pegasus aimed

to make three trips a week. The passage of forty miles consti-

tuted a good day's work under the most favorable circumstances.

She continued to run until June 29, 1824, when in a severe storm

 

* McAfee History of the late War.

+ Address Hon. Clark Waggoner before Sandusky County Pioneer

Association. Fremont Journal, Sept. 26, 1879.

++ From MMS. of Dr. Brainard and Clark Waggoner.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 229

 

she was beached on the bay shore and damaged beyond repair.

Her cargoes consisted of furs, pork and whisky on the down trip;

and on the return salt and limited amounts of merchandise

for traders in the interior. The Pegasus was not the only boat

that testified to the inventive genius of Thomas L. Hawkins. Be-

fore a bridge had been provided at Lower Sandusky, he con-

structed a ferry which was propelled by paddle wheels, driven by

dog power, after the style of the dog churn. Persons living in

1879 had used both the horse-boat and the dog ferry.

The "horse-boat," however, was not the first advance upon

the light canoe. So propitious did the heavily timbered district

appear for boat building, that just after the battle of Fort Ste-

phenson the national government reserved a strip of land along

the east side of the river for a government navy yard. This res-

ervation extended from State Street a mile down stream, and

east to the present Sandusky Avenue. It was never used as a

navy yard, and soon after the civil war Congress passed a bill

turning this government land over to the city of Fremont. The

city council, before offering it for sale, reserved a charming plot

along the bank for a city park. A succeeding council, less mind-

ful of future needs of a thriving city, fatuously gave away this

reservation to a manufacturer who thought he would like to build

a saw mill there!

In 1816, according to Dr. Brainard's manuscript, a small

sloop was built nearly opposite the upper end of Brady island, on

the west bank. She was of twenty tons burden and was called

the Nautilus. Succeeding the "horse-boat" the schooner Cin-

cinnati and the Ohio were built, in 1828, where the sash factory

now stands; and the Wyandot, at the mouth of Muscalonge

creek.

What the people along the river most wanted in those early

days was salt, more especially as the river teemed with fish.

"Every spring," says Dr. Brainard's manuscript, "the pickerel

and white bass were found in such multitudes all along the

rapids, that it was often quite impossible to ride a horse across

the ford till much exertion was made to drive them away and

make room for his feet. Fish had in the meantime become a



230 Ohio Arch

230       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

good article for traffic with southern teamsters, who occasionally

came in with six horse wagons loaded with flour to exchange.

Hence in addition to the much-needed flour, at times a good deal

of cash was paid for our choice fish, and our town became noted

not only for its romantic situation, its productive soil, the history

of its inhabitants, but for its extensive fisheries."

The Fremont Freeman of May 24, 1851, has this item: "This

has been one of the most prolific seasons for fishing for years.

On one ground there were about 100,000 white bass caught in

one week, about three hundred barrels. There have not been

far from a thousand barrels caught within the past two weeks."

I. M. Keeler, who came to Lower Sandusky in 1840, says

that it was difficult to cross the river in a boat, in the spring

season when the fish were going up. They filled the whole chan-

nel of water. He frequently saw three or four wagon loads of

white bass taken out with one draw of the seine. The barrels of

packed fish branded Dickinson, Birchard and Grant were to be

found all through the east. Sturgeon weighing from seventy

to a hundred pounds were common; cat fish and muscalonge

from twenty to fifty pounds. The fishermen would haul a stur-

geon up on the banks and cut his throat like sticking a pig.

The carcasses would lie there till dry and then be piled up and set

afire. They burned like a pitch-pine log.

Before the year 1800, James Whittaker had traded with the

Indians along the river, and his whilom partner Hugh Patterson

kept a store at Muncietown. The first real stock of goods, how-

ever, brought to Lower Sandusky was by J. S. and G. G. Olm-

stead, in 1817. It came from Albany to Buffalo by land, thence

by lake, bay and river. It consisted of merchandise, groceries,

hardware and liquor to the amount of $27,000. The brothers

brought with them carpenters to build a store, coopers to make

fish barrels; with glass, nails and pine lumber. The first season

the firm shipped 20,000 muskrat worth 25 cents each; 8,000 coon

worth 50 cents each; 2,000 deer, 50 cents; 150 otter, $5 each;

and 200 bear skins at $5 each.* In 1830 the first wheat was

shipped east. Later, loads of wheat were brought in from forty

 

*Everett's Sandusky County.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 231

 

to fifty miles around for shipment down the Sandusky. In the

early forties, Mr. Keeler remembers seeing loads of wheat "reach

from the present Wheeling station to the wharves, so thick that

you could step from one to another, four or five hundred of them

unloading from ten to fourteen thousand bushels in a day. There

was a whole row of warehouses near the present wharf." That

this traffic had periods of depression, an article in the Lower

Sandusky Freeman, July 7, I849, would seem to show. The ed-

itor wrote:

"Lower Sandusky for the last four or six years has remained

dormant hardly doing enough business to supply the demands of

the inhabitants and the surrounding country. This was owing

in part to the negligence of its antediluvian citizens to the

facilities which nature had placed within their reach. Always

boasting and priding themselves upon the fact that they enjoyed

one of the best localities for business in the western country and

flattering themselves with the belief that the place would be

built up in a few years from the fact that the Sandusky river was

navigable up to their doors, they looked with astonishment and

dismay when they saw their neighboring villages spring up into

large towns and outstrip them in all kinds of business. They had

more men of capital than either of their neighbors. They had

not learned that $Io,ooo laid out in making good roads would do

more toward building up a town than ten times that amount

locked up in their drawers. They had not learned the charm of

the nimble six-pence. The improvement of the river has at last

excited their attention and now dredging has made it navigable

for vessels drawing seven or eight feet of water. During the

present season there have been more vessels in our port than for

two years combined."

Lower Sandusky was made a port of entry, with a customs

collector, in the early thirties. Sailboats could tack their way

up the winding channel. When winds were contrary, the

captains sometimes sent out men in canoes with windlasses to

put around the trees and so wind the boat around the bends. The

first published list of boats which I can find is in the Freeman

of May 4, I850, headed "Port of Fremont. Arrivals:



232 Ohio Arch

232       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

April I. Brig Castalia from  Sandusky City.

April 2. Schooner Butts from Cleveland.

April 2. S. S. Islander from Sandusky City.

April 2. Sloop Louisa from Cleveland.

April Io. Schooner London.

April io. Schooner Hero.

April 22. Schooner Virago from Buffalo.

Local newspapers of the next few years contain these items:

"March, 185I   The steamboat Islander has begun her regular

trips between Sandusky and this place. She left Wednesday last

with three thousand bushels of wheat." Wheat was then selling

at a dollar a bushel. June, 1851: A propeller, the Fremont, is

building here to run between this port and Sandusky City.

In July, 1851, the Freeman records that the schooner Hamer

ran between this port and Buffalo in seventy-eight hours, the

quickest trip ever made by a sailboat over that route. The same

month Captain Orr "gallantly gave the Ladies and Gentlemen

of Fremont a free ride on his fast sailing upper cabin steamboat

Islander. The day was beautiful and at an early hour one hun-

dred persons were on board and were soon gliding down the

smooth waters of the Sandusky, leaving the marts of shipping

far behind. The scene on the boat was of unusual animation.

Sweet smiles of the fair ladies, kind attentions of the nice young

men, little chit-chats, flirtations, songs, polkas and promenades."

In December of this same 1851, the deputy collector makes

his report of the port of Fremont for the season. Its value of

exports is $337,279.58; its imports $201,026. There were eighty-

eight boat arrivals and departures. The list of exports included

163,871 bushels of wheat; 43,241 of corn; 265,086 staves; I,009

kegs of butter; 20o barrels eggs; 28,580 pounds of bacon and

hams; 2,613 deer skins; 250 black walnut crotches; 14,942

pounds of leather. The principal import is salt of which there

were 2,990 barrels.

The Journal, May 19, 1854: "But few cities in northern

Ohio have better facilities for the speedy and direct shipment of

produce than Fremont. With her river and railroads she has

four direct connections with the lake. The river, however, is the

natural outlet and will do the freight business. That it is com-



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 233

 

petent to handle any amount of it is seen from the following

statement: The schooner Rush has just taken on the following

cargo: 5,680 bushels oats; 2,500 bushels corn; 320 barrels pork;

58 casks ashes; 93 casks hams; 18 rolls of leather; 30 kegs of

butter, 19 barrels of lard. With this ponderous cargo she passed

down the river without lighters and in thirty-six hours was safe

in Buffalo harbor. But few vessels on the lakes venture out with

a heavier cargo in proportion to their capacity than this; and

yet she was towed down the river by the Islander with perfect

ease. The Alwilda, the next day, took on 3,500 bushels of corn

and other freight. A quantity of black walnut timber and staves

has also been shipped and there is yet in the neighborhood of

300,000 feet of black walnut timber and 800,000 staves, and pro-

duce of every description waiting to go forward. The Sandusky

river as it regards the business of Fremont is of vast importance.

And as the depth of the channel across the bars is affected by

south winds it will be necessary that the channel there be deep-

ened and widened. In consequence of its serpentine course it will

always be necessary to have boats towed back and forth. In

view of this fact we should either procure a tug boat or build

propellers with sufficient capacity and of sufficient number to do

the business. Our opinion is that both are needed."

September 22, 1854. The Journal: "Our port presented a

lively appearance Monday morning, there being eight vessels at

the wharves receiving and discharging freight."

Journal, July 13, I855: Captain Orr with his new steamer

the Island Queen was in port Saturday. Now that he has a

brand new craft and a fast sailer he cannot help being a greater

favorite than ever before. The Island Queen will make regular

trips to this port; may she always have a full cargo and fat

freight bills."

Journal, July ii, I856: "A hundred of our citizens left on

the Island Queen, July 4, for Kelley's Island. The Fremont band

enlivened all with their music. On the return trip at six o'clock

the company assembled on deck under the folds of the flag now

radiant with thirty-one stars, and were called to order by B. J.

Bartlett. On motion, the Declaration of Independence was then



234 Ohio Arch

234       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

read by I. M. Keeler. Lewis Pike made a short and pretty ad-

dress, followed by Mr. Oscar Ball."

The Journal, September 12, I856: "On the Ioth, about one

hundred and fifty Republicans of Fremont took passage on the

Island Queen for Sandusky to join in the mass gathering of Free-

men. We were accompanied by Old Betsy. It talked some, and

had many admirers and with the Fremont delegation was received

by the thousands with three tremendous cheers. The day was a

glorious one for the cause of freedom." This, of course fore-

shadows the Civil War.

The Journal, January 23, I857. "Who used Old Betsy last?

It has been standing in the street for several weeks now. Capt.

Parrish should see to this old servant."

This cherished cannon which lifted her voice in the first

public celebration of Independence Day in Lower Sandusky, 1813,

and which the following month did such valorous work in the de-

fense of Fort Stephenson, was removed after the war to the Pitts-

burgh arsenal.  Some years afterward Congress ordered its

return to the scene of its early triumphs. Owing to the dupli-

cation of village names it was missent to Sandusky City where

the authorities naturally wished to keep it, and for better con-

cealment buried it. Mayor Brice J. Bartlett of Lower Sandusky

put detectives on its track, traced it and sent men and wagon to

bring it home. It was the ingenious Thomas L. Hawkins who

identified the gun in Pittsburgh, recognizing it by the scar on its

breech which he believed was made by a cannon ball while in

action.- He said it was an old French cannon captured from the

French in the French and Indian wars of I756-63.*

April I6, 1859. "The launch of Capt. Totten's new vessel

came off Wednesday. It slid into the water without the slightest

mishap. Her dimensions are deck I45 feet, beam 30, depth o1

feet 8 inches. She is capable of carrying 20,000 bushels of

wheat."

In a long article on the celebration of August 2d, I860, the

Journal says: "At six o'clock Captain Parrish brought out Old

Betsy and fired a salute of thirteen rounds. Soon after the people

 

* Hawkins in conversation with J. P. Moore. Journal, Sept. 9, 1892.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 235

 

of the county began to pour in. The Cleveland and Toledo rail-

way [L. S. & M. S. R. R.], brought a large delegation from the

west, and at nine the Norwalk Light Guards and Bugle Band

with delegations from all the towns on the line. A little later

the steamers Bonnie Boat, Swan and Island Queen arrived from

Sandusky and Plaster Bed, bringing hundreds more." Cassius

M. Clay was the orator of the day.

Journal, March 25, 1859. Several vessels are now in port--

the Bonnie Boat, the new steamer from the Plaster-Bed (Marble-

head), to take the place of the Fremont burned last summer, was

in port Monday. She is a beautiful boat designed for the river

and bay trade and will make tri-weekly trips to this port..

February 6, I86I. G. W. Dwelley shipped the past two

months I00,000 pounds of fresh fish from his fish house in this

village. June 21, the schooner Ben Flint of this place sunk

in the Cleveland harbor, loaded with 14,000 bushels wheat; the

first serious accident to the Fremont fleet.

August I, i862 occurred a band excursion to Kelley's Island

on the Island Qucen. "We slowed it by 'secessia,' the band play-

ing Yankee Doodle and Hail Columbia, and the prisoners waving

a black and a red flag. On August 22, the government adver-

tised in the Journal for 2,000 cords of wood for the rebel pris-

oners on Johnson's Island. November 28, over one thousand

rebel prisoners exchanged and put on cars for Dixie, "just in

time to save the Government a huge wood bill."

Total clearings for the month of July, 1864, at the Fremont

port were valued at $151,975. In March, i866, the new propeller,

City of Fremolnt, to take the place of the old Fremont which had.

burned, began making weekly trips to Buffalo. She was owned

by the Fremont Transportation Company; capital $Io,ooo.

Charles Foster was president of the company. Her sister boat,

the Saginaw also left weekly, the Saginaw being owned by the

New York Central R. Ry. line. "The Propellor Fremont is an

honor to the Lakes, fast, substantial, and convenient; with her 155

foot passenger cabin, twenty state-rooms, kitchen, etc., and all

built by Fremont money."*

* Journal, August 11, 1865.



286 Ohio Arch

286       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

In 1877, the Young Reindeer was still making tri-weekly

trips from Fremont to Sandusky, carrying freight and passengers.

These items read oddly enough to residents of Fremont at

the beginning of the twentieth century, who seldom see a large

boat upon the Sandusky River. The magnificent fleets of all our

western rivers melted like snow before the fatal rivalry of the

railways. Travel deserted them and traffic sought the swifter

transportation of the shore. The Ohio Railway must here have

brief mention. This famous structure, built on stilts, was one

result of the wild financial craze and bad state legislation of 1836

and '37, by which Ohio's credit was generously lent to railways,

turnpike and canal companies. The Ohio railroad was to extend

from Ashtabula to the Maumee and beyond, and it crossed the

Sandusky river at Lower Sandusky. Its novel construction is

the only part that intimately concerns this sketch. The founda-

tion was to be on piles driven into the ground by a traction ma-

chine. The whole thing was "a unique travelling railroad con-

struction circus."  The pile-driver locomotive worked also a

horizontal buzz-saw which cut off the pile when thoroughly set.

Behind the pile driver and saw mill was a peripatetic boarding-

house for the work hands, and the whole train was trundled along

over the rails laid on top of the finished piles. The cross-ties

were laid from pile to pile and upon this superstructure extended

the iron track. Meanwhile a supurb trestle of solid oak timber

was erected across the river from hill top to hill top and huge

piers rose out of the water to receive the woodwork of the bridge

which was located about fifty rods below the present State Street

bridge. The pile-drivers went merrily on for about two years,

booming, screaming, pounding their way through our magnificent

forests; Ohio railroad money was the general circulating me-

dium; when the bubble burst, the machines stopped, and the

people had the worthless Ohio railroad money in their pockets.*

It was nearly a half century before the last vestiges of the double

row of piles finally disappeared from the marsh lands of Lower

Sandusky.

The first bridge across the Sandusky river, anywhere on the

stream, was constructed about 1828, under the direction of the

* Condensed from Homer Everett and King's Ohio.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 237

 

Hon. John Bell, superintendent of the Maumee and Western Re-

serve Road. This bridge was where the present Fremont bridge

crosses State street. It was all of timber, without cover, and

rested on bents. It stood till February, 1833, when the extra-

ordinary freshet of that year moved it bodily and bore it on a

mass of ice and driftwood to the upper point of the island where

it lodged and lay stretched almost from bank to bank. By the

help of a few timbers and planks it was used some time as a

footbridge. It remained in this position till the river had frozen

over, about April first of that year. During the next summer

another bridge was built upon a similar plan by Judge Howland.

In the spring freshet of 1843, Presbyterian services, which were

held on the east side of the river, were dismissed early, because

word came that the bridge could not long stand. Many of the

people refused to trust themselves to it and crossed on the ice,

dangerous as that was. Among the crowd of the more daring

was Judge Howland. "I built this bridge," he said, "and the

Lord and the flood can't budge it." Soon afterward it broke

away. "The Lord's beat me this time," was his remark when he

came ashore. Many persons were carried down and some thor-

oughly drenched, though none were hurt. Soon after, the more

permanent bridge designed by Cyrus Williams was erected, the

timbers taken from the abandoned trestle work of the Ohio

Railroad bridge. This bridge stood over thirty-five years, until

the present iron bridge supplanted it, in I877, at a cost of $20,357.

A long communication on Sandusky river improvement,

signed by James Justice, John R. Pease, R. P. Buckland and A.

J. Dickinson, appeared in the Freeman October, I850, in which

these eminent citizens say that as commissioners of the river im-

provements they had received over $7,600, and expended $6,400.

The unexpended money was loaned to La Q. Rawson and Sardis

Birchard at six per cent. "The committee called to its aid the

late Hon. Rudolphus Dickinson who had long been connected

with the public works of the State and was supposed to know

more about such matters than any of the commissioners. He

assisted in making an examination of the bars in the river and

fixing upon the points where the work was done. The money

was expended with all possible economy, and the commissioners



2

2.38      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

have received no compensation for their time and trouble save

the abuse of those who make it a point to find fault with every-

thing in which they have not a hand. Every one who will look

at the matter with unprejudiced eyes must see that this improve-

ment had already been of great benefit to the county. The im-

provement of the Whittaker bar is completed so that all the

larger class of vessels pass without difficulty.  This alone is

worth all the money which has been expended. The lower bar

is not completed, but has been greatly improved. But for these

improvements vessels could hardly get over the bar empty, in the

present low stage of water in the lake and bay, it being lower

than for many years. The full extent of the benefits will not be

perceived until warehouses and vessels are built to facilitate the

forwarding of produce. These will come but not in a day or

year, at least by the few individuals who are undertaking them

against the opposition of those who ought to aid instead of op-

posing these improvements."

Ten years later, December, I860, an editorial in the Journal

says: "With the exception of two bars the average depth of

water is from twelve to fifteen feet. The Whittaker bar is 800

feet across and is principally sand. The average depth on the bar

this summer is seven feet.  Eighteen miles below is the second bar,

a clay barrier, 1200 feet across with an average depth of six feet

of water." In August 1865, a committee was appointed by cit-

izens for river improvement. Before October, $I7,000 had been

raised, the contract let and dredging machines were at work,

"with a result that farmers get about two cents more a bushel

for wheat than before." In October, I866, through the perse-

verance of R. P. Buckland, Representative, the Government

made a survey of the Sandusky river and the following March

appropriated $20,000 for dredging and improving the channel.

By 1849, the confusion attending the repetition of the name

Sandusky up and down the river had become so serious that the

business prosperity of Lower Sandusky seemed to require a

change of name. Croghansville, the name of the settlement on

the beautiful high land east of the river, was the natural choice;

but the local hero had pronounced his name as though it were

spelled Krawn, and the discrepancy between its pronunciation



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 239

 

and its spelling would work havoc with frontier orthography.

The name of the "Pathfinder" was at that time in everybody's

mouth, and by Fremont's name the place was henceforth known.

The -matter was presented before the local courts by a young

lawyer, Rutherford B. Hayes.

Three miles north of Sandusky, in her land-locked harbor,

lies Johnson's Island, nearly a mile long, originally covered with

timber. It was a favorite resort of the Indians from up-river

who came here in fishing season, and also when they had pris-

oners to torture. In I86I, the property was leased by the na-

tional government as a depot for Confederate prisoners, the

necessary buildings erected and the first prisoners installed in

April, I862. The number constantly changed, three thousand

being the most detained there at any one time, but the records

show a total of over I5,000. Owing to the supposed security of

the place, the prisoners were largely officers. So considerate was

their treatment that their wants were said to have been better

filled than those of the Union soldiers guarding them.*  The

Michigan, the only U. S. vessel on the lakes, was stationed at

Johnson's Island as guard. In September, I864, the Confeder-

ates took advantage of the prevailing gloom among the Union-

ists to set on foot a gigantic scheme for the release of the Con-

federate prisoners in the northwest. Camp Douglas, near Chi-

cago, with 8,000 prisoners; Camp Chase, near Columbus, with a

like number; Camp Morton, near Indianapolis, with 4,000; and

Johnson's Island with nearly 3,000 officers, were the points of

conspiracy. The time chosen was when the Democratic national

convention had just declared the war a failure. The plan was

for this great body of soldiers, officered from Johnson's Island,

to seize horses and hurry south, raiding the country, and join

the rebels in Virginia. At the same time the steamer Michigan

was to be captured and co-operate with the released prisoners on

land. A Confederate Captain, Cole by name, who had been

posing as a rich oil man from Titusville, and figuring largely in

social circles in Sandusky, was entrusted with this task.

On the I9th of September, the steamer Parsons, plying be-

tween Detroit and the island was boarded on the Canadian shore

 

* Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio.



240 Ohio Arch

240       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

by a number of men bringing an old trunk. Off Kelley's Island,

the officer in command of the boat was confronted by men with

revolvers, the old trunk opened, the whole party armed there-

from, and the boat taken over. At Middle Bass Island the

Island Queen, a boat plying between the islands and up the river,

mentioned frequently heretofore, came alongside to exchange

passengers. She was boarded by the conspirators and captured,

the Island Queen being then sunk, while the Parsons cruised

about the Bay awaiting the signal from accomplices on the

Michigan. That part of the plot, however, had failed. Cole de-

layed the signal a few moments too long and through some in-

discreet movement was arrested by the captain of the Michigan,

whose guest he was. The Parsons soon suspected the situation,

and fled to the Canadian shore. There the boat was scuttled and

the conspirators escaped. Cole was confined in Fort Lafayette

but escaped to Canada and afterward joined Maximillian in

Mexico. He was eventually pardoned. Beall, "the pirate of

Lake Erie," the prime mover in the conspiracy, who with his

forces waited in the Parsons outside the Bay, was hung as a spy,

on Governor's Island, February 1865.*

No history of the Sandusky river can ignore its varying

volume of water. Usually water stood in the Black Swamp all

summer, keeping the river up, while the heavy forests equalized

and conserved the moisture. In the high water of springtime,

there was but half a mile of portage between the Sandusky and

the Scioto rivers, and that very level and clear of rocks. In 1838

occurred the greatest drought in the history of Ohio. The wet

prairies of even the redoubtable Black Swamp, from the San-

dusky to the Maumee were evaporated; the bottoms cracked open

from the shrinkage; the tall grass died by the acre, and trees

growing in the swamps were killed.+

In April 1860, the Fremont Journal says:     "For three

nights and two days the fall of rain has been unprecedented.

The Sandusky contains more water than for twelve years - two

feet above the high water mark of 1854. The highest ever re-

membered was in 1847, when the river was at least two feet

* Condensed from Lake Shore Magazine, and Cole's Narrative in

Philadelphia Press, February, 1882.

+ Crawford's Expedition.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 241

 

higher than this morning. There was also notably high water in

1821, and in 1904.

Before dawn on the Sunday morning of February 4, 1883,

the Fremont fire bell aroused the citizens who found hundreds

of their dwellings surrounded or already inundated by water.

Heavy rains of two days, falling upon a frozen ground, with ice

gorges formed below town, had caused a sudden rise of water in

the river four or five feet above any previous high water mark.

The water flowed through Front street, the principal business

street of the city, with a mighty current which no boats could

stem. The whole third ward between the river banks and the

foot of the hills was several feet under water; huge ice blocks

floated in, packed and froze solid. Two thousand persons were

driven from their homes. There were many narrow escapes and

several deaths from drowning and exposure. Several bridges

along the river were carried away, and that of the L. S. & M. S.

Railway collapsed under a freight train, thirty-seven cars being

precipitated into the river. The damage to property in Fremont

alone amounted to about $100,000.*  Loss in the upper towns of

Tiffin, Bucyrus and Upper Sandusky was also large.

While the river was the recognized thoroughfare for pio-

neers travelling north and south, the only land route between the

east and west was the Maumee and Western Reserve Road which

crosses the river at Fremont, at right angles. In 1822 the gov-

ernment authorized the State to construct the turnpike road from

the Western Reserve to the Maumee river, deeding it, in consid-

eration, certain adjoining lands.+ In May, 1830, the State of-

fered these lands for sale-about 40,000 acres, "handsomely sit-

uated on said turnpike and in a section of the country which is

rapidly improving."++

In the winter of 1832-3, Judge Jeremiah Everett, being in

the Legislature, obtained an appropriation of $20,000 to macad-

amize this thoroughfare through the Black Swamp. The im-

provement was needed. Water stood from ankle to knee deep

 

*Fremont Journals, February 9 and 16, 1883.

+ Journal, August 20, 1875.

++ Sandusky Gazette, May 18, 1830.

Vol. XIII-16.



242 Ohio Arch

242       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

from Fort Stephenson to Fort Meigs, and the road was a terror

to travellers. For several years a leading business of the set-

tlers on its line was tavern-keeping, and at one time within its

thirty-one miles there were thirty-two taverns - all primitive and

limited in accommodations.*

In 1823, three families travelling to the Portage river, "were

the first teams to go through on the line of the present road. It

took us five days, camping in the wood every night.++

Rights to mud holes were recognized. A young man

started in a wagon with a team of mules for Michigan, to buy

land. He had one hundred dollars. He got stuck so often and

had to pay one dollar so often to people who lived near the mud

holes to help pull him out, that long before he completed his

journey his money was exhausted. He was not discouraged,

however, and said the place to find what you have lost is where

you lost it. He accordingly located himself beside a mud hole

and stayed there till he had earned his hundred dollars back !++

So effective was the improvement of the road, that in 1835

it was nothing unusual to count ninety pioneer teams passing

in one day. The Four Mile house was habitually full of people

from floor to garret. Those that the landlord could not accom-

modate, would camp on the road side.

In the Harrison campaign of 1840, enthusiasts of Bellevue

had a log cabin on which hung out the sign 'Cider and Cold-

water: do your duty and drink hearty.' "We had a procession a

mile and a half long when we started on our travels, and it

lengthened till it reached from Bellevue nearly to Clyde. Thirty

ladies rode in a long canoe on a wagon, drawn by a yoke of

cattle, with a team of horses in front. We went clear through to

Maumee, and stayed there a week. The mud was almost knee

deep, but we had a wonderfully good time I often saw men

going through mirey roads with teams and horses where the mud

and water would rush together after them, leaving the road as

level as the floor."

*Clark Waggoner's Speech. Sandusky County Pioneer Meeting.

+ Reuben Rice, Elmore, speech Pioneer Meeting. Journal, September

10, 1875.

++ Judge Wm. Caldwell, Speech Pioneer Meeting. Journal September

17, 1876.

Alvin Anderson, Bellevue, speech Sandusky Co. Pioneer Meeting.



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                243

 

Even in the fifties, J. B. G. Downs kept a bed-room fitted up

in his Fremont mill to accommodate the Black Swamp customers

who in certain seasons required ten or twelve hours of good day-

light to pick their way through deep and mirey paths back to

their homes. They said the mud was so deep that bottom could

be found only by using a ten-foot pole."

Reference to the picturesque presidential campaign of 1840,

recalls the part played therein by Col. Richard M. Johnson, then

vice-president of the United States, and everywhere known as

"the man who killed Tecumseh." It was he who made the

speech to the garrison at Fort Stephenson on the Fourth of July

1813, and he stopped again at Lower Sandusky, October 5, 1813.

on his way back to Kentucky after the Battle of the Thames.

On this second occasion he stopped at the tavern of Israel Har-

rington on Front street, adjoining the present site of the First

National Bank. In the campaign of 1840, both parties had great

meetings at Lower Sandusky. The Whigs held theirs August

22d, when Governors, Ewing and Corwin addressed large num-

bers. October 4th following, the Democratic meeting took place

in the yard of Capt. Samuel Thompson's hotel east of the river.

This occasion was marked by special demonstrations, including

the firing of cannon, the premature discharge of which cost John

Jacobs an arm [Was old Betsy the offender?]  Speakers were U.

S. Senators William Allen and Benjamin Tappan, and Vice-

President Johnson was present. His part was to be ready when

Senator Allen referred to him, to strip his arm and show the scar

of a wound received in the war, as proof that he was a greater

hero than Harrison. The Whig papers always spoke of this

part of the regular programme as Allen's menagerie, and of Col-

onel Johnson as the lion of the show.* It is interesting to know

that in this campaign, Sandusky county, otherwise invariably

Democratic-went for Harrison by a majority of one vote.

The old General was not repudiated in the Sandusky valley to

the salvation of which in his younger manhood, he had given such

arduous care.

In April 1823, subscriptions of money, produce, labor and

material aggregating about $1,800 were secured for the erection

 

*Hon. Clarke Waggoner, Fremont Journal, August 10, 1888.



244 Ohio Arch

244       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

of the first court house in Sandusky county. In July the com-

missioners contracted with Thomas L. Hawkins to erect the

building. Work was commenced in the fall of 1823, the frame

was raised and the chimney partly built. The location, [the

Pease place, on Hayes and Park Avenues,] proved unsatisfactory

to the subscribers; and the Sandusky Gazette, of May 18, 1830,

contains an advertisement for bids to move the frame to another

site. The result was that twenty-five yoke of oxen were har-

nessed to rollers and the unfinished building moved bodily out of

the woods to the brow of the hill northwest of the present city

hall. This old first court house is still standing with all its tim-

bers sound and strong, and is the parsonage of St. John's Luth-

eran Church. Everett's Sandusky County history is in error in

saying that the first jail was erected about 1832 and the court

house earlier. The advertisement for the bids of moving shows

that the jail had been erected prior to 1830 and the court house

was not completed until after that date.

The county jail stood a few feet south of the court house.

Here Sperry, of Green Spring, who had been sentenced to be

hung, committed suicide. Sardis Birchard once asked Rev.

Henry Lang, who, as pastor of St. John's, later occupied the

house, if he were not afraid of spooks, coming home late and

putting away his horse in the old jail. Lang replied that he did

not allow himself to be scared by evil spirits, when Birchard said:

"What! not afraid of spooks in the old jail where Sperry

killed himself? It is a capital place for spooks, Sir, a capital

place." This old jail was taken down in 1865, a prison having

been prepared under the court house, and eight men worked long

and industriously to level it with the ground. It was built of

logs two feet square. The foundation remained up to a late day,

as the border of the parsonage flower garden.

During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, jails and

even courts of justice had been regarded as rather superfluous

appendages to the settlement. An old record says that a man by

the name of Avery stole an axe about the year 1820. He was

arrested and there being no jail in which to confine him till he

could be tried, the citizens decided to give him a sound thrash-

ing. He was tied to a tree down by the river and a hundred

lashes "well laid on." After being released, he swam the river



The Sandusky River

The Sandusky River.                 245

 

"and never came back."    It was a border life and justice

strangely executed. "An honest man," said one of the early res-

idents "could hardly live here. I heard of a Frenchman, La

Cost, who coming into these parts to buy land and supposed to

have considerable money, was taken suddenly ill in a tavern and

died there. His portmanteau was cut open and the money ex-

tracted. His wife and son came on to settle his affairs. The

wife was taken sick and she died, and the son thinking to bring

things to light instituted a lawsuit. He found the law 'dead and

insufficient in Sandusky, however, and hastily departed lest he

too decease.' "*

An old record tells how one Anderson by cunning manage-

ment, was appointed collector of the customs here, but the ap-

pointment was not liked. Judge Howland, a famous character,

especially disliked Anderson, and got John R. Pease appointed

in his place. Whereupon Howland would say to his friends,

"It's a fine sight to see a wicked man repent and do penance for

his sins. Anderson is going about with a face as long as your

arm and has Peas in his shoes !"

The first mill along the Sandusky river for grinding corn

was built at Lower Sandusky by Thomas L. Hawkins and

Thomas E. Boswell in 1818, where June and French's mill now

stands. It was a rude structure, and John W. Tyler used to say,

"it cracked three grains of corn into one."

The first carding mill in this vicinity was bought by Judge

John Bell, who commenced carding wool in the year 1827 "on

the river at what was then called Chamber's Hill a few rods

above the first plank road gate." Can some reader identify the

spot?

Thomas L. Hawkins is a name familiar to all who have the

least knowledge of the early annals of Fremont. He was the

town rhymster and the fact that his father was associated with

him in building a mill dam near the site of the old June dam;

in digging a mill race and constructing the first grist mill;-

not to mention the horse-boat and the dog-ferry - makes some

mention of these two eccentric characters a legitimate part of

river annals. The elder Hawkins spent a season or two here

about 1817 and 18. His dress, according to Mr. Homer Everett,

 

* Reuben Rice, Elmore. Journal, September 10, 1875.



246 Ohio Arch

246       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

 

was of the fashion of 1776. One year he made the whole jour-

ney from Kentucky, where he resided, to Lower Sandusky, on a

short-horned ox, using a side saddle tightly girthed on. After

the grist mill was built and the spring freshet came the old gen-

tleman watched the ice and water with great anxiety. At last

his dam began to move steadily down stream.  The old man

lifted his hat from his head and exclaimed: "The Lord giveth

and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord; but

the Devil take my precious soul if I do not built it up again."

This elder Hawkins kept a canoe in his mill pond. One

day a Frenchman took it to hunt ducks and after landing on the

opposite side left his gun in it and went off to gather plums.

The old man waded the river and got his canoe; fired off the

Frenchman's gun, and paddled back. Fastening the canoe he

hastened to Judge Harrington and had the Frenchman fined fif-

teen dollars for taking one canoe. But the Frenchman was his

equal. He laid a counter claim for the same sum for shooting

off his gun one time for nothing. Unfortunately early annals

failed to relate the outcome of this suit.

The old man missed slabs and fancied they were appropri-

ated for firewood. He bored some long ones and filled them

with powder. The next morning a tremendous explosion in a

neighboring log cabin took out the whole gable end. The towns-

people naturally concluded this was dangerous and though the

culprit owned up to stealing the slabs, Hawkins was arrested and

arraigned. His plea was that his slabs were green and wouldn't

burn without some powder to help them, and he claimed the right

to treat his own slabs just as he pleased!

Such were some of the eccentric characters who walked our

streets and plied our river nearly a century ago. Trivial, indeed,

are many of these annals, and yet, if by their presence, the reader

sniffs up something of the essence of local history, no apology is

required for their insertion. The scrawl and the blot are inher-

ent parts of the original autograph which the past has written all

over our Sandusky Valley; who would wish them copied out in

fair chirography?  Frontier life has passed far on:

"We may build more splendid habitations,

Fill our rooms with paintings and with sculpture,

But we cannot buy with gold the old associations."



247