Kuron (1812): The first buckeye fortWritten by Frank Kuron | | firstname.lastname@example.org
One winter, when I was about 8, my buddy and I built the definitive snow fort. Our design strategy — buckeyes! Buckets full were plugged into the walls of our fortress, certain to make it indestructible. Our snowball ammo hid a buckeye heart as well. That was until the neighbor kid went home crying from the one he took to the head. The little whiner caused our whole fort to be dismantled, and forced us to string up those buckeyes into ginormous rosaries as punishment.
There were several real forts in our area circa 1812. The earliest to be built in what became Ohio was Fort Miamis. Its subtle remnants are still visible as grass covered hills right there at the intersection of River Road and Detroit Avenue in Maumee.
Throughout several centuries, this property changed hands and appearances. Around 1680, the French built a military trading post there. It may have been the first real footprint of the white man in our region. Carefully selected for its broad river view, it offered early warning of approaching enemy threats.
In 1760 the post was surrendered to the British as spoils for winning the French and Indian War. The British quickly befriended the Native Americans in order to continue the lucrative fur trading that existed in the area. In 1783 the American Revolution ended and the Brits were supposed to move on, but they remained.
However, they only sporadically occupied the station and it soon fell into disrepair. By 1794, fear of another war with the Americans was looming so the old post was transformed by the British into quite a grand fortress.
Twenty-foot tall hand-hewn tree trunks, over a foot in diameter, made an imposing perimeter of defense. Historians say a ditch, I say a gorge, circled the palisade. (What would you call a two-and-a-half story deep channel?) Sharpened wooden spikes were planted in the bottom as well, just in case the fall wasn’t enough. Inside, in addition to the military accoutrements of cannons and ammunition stockades, this place had a blacksmith and baker, probably even that candlestick maker!
First stumbling block
Fort Miamis was designed to be the first stumbling block to the oncoming forces of Gen. Anthony Wayne, who really wanted to get this territory back in U.S. hands. In August 1794, just a few miles south of the fortress, Wayne engaged the Native Americans in what became known as the Battle of Fallen Timbers. The enemy was losing the fight. They opted to run for the protection of their friends, the British, at Fort Miamis.
Despite their pleading and pounding on the gates, they were refused sanctuary and so dispersed into the woods, soured about their allegiance to the British, as the pursuing Wayne arrived on the scene.
Wayne’s fight at this time was with the Native Americans, not the British. Likewise, the British commander was not authorized to begin another war with the U.S. So Wayne soon left, after giving a disingenuous order for the Brits to abandon the fort — which they promptly ignored.
By treaty, the Americans took possession of the fort two years later, but soon vacated and allowed it to deteriorate. Not until the spring of 1813 was the site reoccupied, again by the British who made it their base camp while attacking Fort Meigs.
During that siege, a disastrous battle, later known as Dudley’s Defeat, saw American POWs brought back to Fort Miamis. There, the spineless British General Henry Proctor turned a blind eye to the Native Americans’ piqued appetite for torture. Defenseless prisoners were cast into that spiked trough, stoned, beaten, stabbed and shot. Others were forced to run the gantlet.
That was until Tecumseh arrived and stopped the massacre, famously thundering at Proctor to, “Go home and put on petticoats,” since he obviously wasn’t man enough to stop the slaughter.
Now maintained by the Toledo Metroparks, signage displayed at Fort Miamis acknowledges its presence on the National Register of Historic Places. The only activity these old hills have seen since 1813, however, has been the sledding adventures of generations of children.
Perhaps you were one of them!
Bugle Call: Upcoming events
- Fort Meigs will host the next of its monthly Bentley Lecture Series presentations on Thursday, March 15. Former fort director and Bowling Green State University professor, Larry Nelson will speak on, “The Second Siege of Fort Meigs.” The presentation is free and meets in the Fort Meigs Visitor Center, 29100 W. River Road in Perrysburg at 7:30 p.m.
- The Wolcott House Museum Guild continues sponsoring free history lectures about our region at 10 a.m. through March at the Maumee Branch Library Auditorium, 501 River Road.
- The western Lake Erie region during the War of 1812 will be the focus of the annual Friends of Pearson March Sunday Series, at 2 p.m. each week in Macomber Lodge at Pearson Metropark.
- On March 11 the staff from Fort Meigs State Memorial in Perrysburg will discuss the battles that took place at the War of 1812 battlefield on the Maumee River.
- March 18, Daniel Downing, education and operations chief at the River Raisin National Battlefield, will talk about the famous battle at the Monroe, Mich., battlefield.
- Local historian and author Larry Michaels will conclude the series March 25 with a presentation about Northwest Ohio’s best known explorer, Peter Navarre, who played a role in the war.