Along the Heritage Trail

A warrior’s tale

Wells led rescue from Fort Dearborn

By Tom Castaldi
COURTESY OF THE ALLEN COUNTY LIBRARY DIGITAL COLLECTION
COURTESY OF THE NEWBERRY LIBRARY
Have you noticed the historical marker on North Wells Street near the Imagine School? This sturdy aluminum-cast sign ranks with others around the nation
marking ancient traces and roads. Early explorers and military expeditions took advantage of these established routes, as did the first settlers as they moved into new territories. Some became the modern-day roads and highways we drive over in our cars and trucks.

Standing on the north side of Fort Wayne along the 1915 route of the Lincoln Highway is the Fort Wayne-Fort Dearborn Trail marker that reads: “An ancient Indian trail, through Pottawatomie country, variably called the Dragoon, White Pigeon, Great Northwestern and Fort Dearborn Road. After 1795 used for mail delivery between Fort Wayne and Fort Dearborn, Captain Wells, Wayne spy, was slain along this route.”

William Wells, the boy captured by the Miami and eventual son-in-law of Chief Little Turtle, became the first Indian Agent stationed at Fort Wayne.

As a result of aggressive U.S. treaty demands between 1803 and 1809, new Indian resistance developed under the leadership of the Shawnee Tecumseh and his brother, the Prophet. In 1811, William Wells was ordered to go to Fort Dearborn, present-day Chicago, and escort the small garrison back to the stronger Fort Wayne. Painted in the tradition of Miami war paint, Wells led a small group of warriors from Fort Wayne to Fort Dearborn to the rescue. Though sensing great danger, Wells obeyed orders and on Aug. 15, 1812 led a small troop of soldiers accompanied by the endangered women and children back toward Fort Wayne.

After traveling only a short distance from the fort, the wagon train was attacked by a large band of Potawatomi. Defending a wagon filled with children, William Wells was cut down by musket fire. The Indians cut off his head and, as a show of honor for the great warrior, ate his heart on the spot.

As we pass a sometimes-unnoticed historical marker on Wells Street, time is too short to digest the depth of the story related in the few words the space provides. To comprehend all it has to share can be incomprehensible. ■

Tom Castaldi

Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi, a retired Essex vice president, hosts "On the Heritage Trail," which is broadcast at 6:35 a.m. and 8:35 a.m. Mondays on WBOI, 89.1 FM, and "Historia Nostra" heard on WLYV-1450 AM.

Posted: Mon, 07/02/2012 - 11:43 am
Last updated: Thu, 08/30/2012 - 11:37 am