Along the Heritage Trail

John Tipton painted in 1837 by George Winter
(IMAGE COURTESY OF THE INDIANA HISTORICAL SOCIETY)

To Tiptonsport

Early road a significant connection

By Tom Castaldi
John Tipton moved the federal Indian Agency from Fort Wayne to Logansport, Indiana, in 1828 and set up his office in Alexander Chamberlain’s large log house on the south side of the Wabash River across from the mouth of the Eel River. Chamberlain is remembered as having erected the structure to accommodate travelers along a trail that extended all the way from Terre Haute to the junction of the Little Wabash River at Huntington then on to Fort Wayne and down the Maumee to Lake Erie.

Benjamin Stuart, a 20th century Wabash Valley historian, noted in a book he published in 1924 that a line of stagecoaches was making regularly scheduled trips around the year 1828 between Fort Wayne and Terre Haute. A glance at our Indiana maps of the 1830s makes it clear that this route connected to the National or Cumberland Road at Terre Haute, giving it national significance.

H. S. Tanner produced an 1833 map of Indiana for the New Universal Atlas. S. A. Mitchell prepared his map in 1834 that was reproduced in Logan Esarey’s History of Indiana. Both indicate a road connection between Fort Wayne and Terre Haute was made through the wooded landscape that was Indiana. The two maps show the road following the north bank of the Wabash River from Fort Wayne to Logansport where it intersected with the Michigan Road. Here the road crossed to the south bank. During the early years, the crossing was made by fording the river between the present-day bridges now designated as Indiana Highway 29 and Indiana 25. Between Logansport and Lafayette, the road continued west through a town named “Tiptonsport.”  A promising river valley village, it was named for John Tipton who had served under William Henry Harrison at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.  Tipton rose to the rank of major in 1812 and by 1822 became a Major General.  During 1820, while serving in the State legislature, he was appointed to the committee that located Indianapolis as Indiana’s capital, and he went on to represent Indiana in 1821 helping to set the Indiana’s boundary with Illinois.

Obviously, Tipton has had a lasting influence on much of Indiana and especially on Allen County when it was formed in December 1823. Bert Griswold wrote in his 1917 history, “the name of Allen was suggested by General John Tipton who was an admirer of Colonel John Allen, the gallant Kentuckian who, after the relief of Fort Wayne in 1812, lost his life at the battle of the River Raisin, in Michigan south of Detroit.” 

As noted, Tipton was the Indian Agent in Fort Wayne, first assigned to the position in 1823 and serving in that capacity until 1828 when he moved the agency’s location. Soon he was being eyed for higher office in Washington, D.C.  During the years 1832 to 1839, Tipton served as a U.S. Senator advocating for a harbor at the mouth of Trail Creek, but he lost to those in favor of it at the mouth of the Chicago River.  Had Tipton won his point, Chicago today might be in Indiana near the site of present-day Michigan City.

Several sites have been named for John Tipton in Indiana: a township in Cass County, Tipton County and its county seat as well.  As a town, Tiptonsport succeeded for a time and was in competition to become the county seat of Carroll County before Delphi won the designation. However promising, the community of  Tiptonsport vanished from the map. During the 1840s, the Wabash & Erie Canal route followed the Wabash River valley, ignoring the town located on the south side of the river. 

A new village emerged along the canal at a lock site there. It took the name New Franklin. Once platted, it was populated quickly and mostly by the businesses from nearby Tiptonsport.  However, when the canal went out of business in the 1870s, New Franklin went out of business, too, and no longer exists.  For community developers, it is a strong reminder that a place name usually takes a backseat to transportation access. When Tipton surveyed the Indiana-Illinois line in 1821, he described the village of Chicago as consisting of nine or 10 houses.  That port on Lake Michigan, the Illinois & Michigan Canal and railroads all located there certainly has had an effect on the growth of that then-Tiptonsport-sized settlement of the 1820s.

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: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 3:45 pm
Last updated: Wed, 05/23/2012 - 3:12 pm