FORT WAYNE (765 alt., 252,000 pop.), seat of Allen County, second largest city in Indiana and historically one of the most significant, is an industrial and railroad center in the heart of a rich agricultural region. Its traditions recall the chief town of the Miami Indians once occupying this spot, and the era when General Washington envisaged an American outpost here and General ' Mad Anthony' Wayne made the dream a reality. Gateway to the northern Indiana lake region, Fort Wayne is a recreational rendezvous as well as a manufacturing and trading center. Within a radius of 50 miles are 300 lakes varying from quiet fishing resorts to those offering more elaborate entertainment.
In the heart of the city the St. Mary's and St. Joseph Rivers join to form the Maumee River. From the junction of these rivers, four blocks from the business center, the flat land rises to a low range of hills partly encircling the northern environs. To the south lies a gently lifting plain.
Calhoun Street is the principal business street and the city's meridian. Century-old structures still sound and serviceable, grimy anachronisms amid modern stores and office buildings, stand in the narrow streets of the original part of town. Principal lanes for east-west traffic are Washington Boulevard and Jefferson Street; Clinton Street, the longest in Fort Wayne, is the main north-south traffic thoroughfare. The Italian Renaissance courthouse, in the square bounded by Calhoun, Main, Court, and Berry Streets, is the geographic center of the city. Towering over the entire business scene at 116 E. Berry Street, stands the 22-story Lincoln National Bank & Trust Company Building. A steel structure of modern design, it is faced with Indiana limestone, and has lead spandrels, terra-cotta top, and a cupola and observation tower.
Fort Wayne's location at the confluence of three rivers has led to its present importance. Seeing the advantage of the site for travel and defense, the Indians established Kekionga, or Miami Town, at this place; here early French traders and soldiers erected Fort Miami for the same reason. A prosperous fur-trading post for more than a century, Fort Wayne later developed as a commercial and industrial city. Owners of sawmills and gristmills found plenty of water power available, and industrial growth was stimulated by the building of the Wabash & Erie Canal, begun here in 1832. This canal, one of the longest ever constructed, connected the Ohio River and Lake Erie. By the time the railroad from Pittsburgh to Chicago was built, Fort Wayne had become such a center of trade and manufacture that its location on the main line of that road was inevitable.
Since 1891, when the Wayne Knitting Mills opened to produce the first full-fashioned hosiery in the United States, the manufacture of this product has been one of Fort Wayne's chief industries. In 1885 Sylvanus F. Bowser began to manufacture self-measuring oil tanks for kerosene; since then the city has become a leading producer of fillingstation equipment. Other Fort Wayne products include railroad car wheels, boilers, tanks, washing machines, steel, medicines, motor trucks, automatic phonographs, display cases, meat-packing products, mining machinery, and tents and awnings. One of the largest brewing industries in the State is also located here.
For years before and after the coming of white men, the site of Fort Wayne was the headquarters of the Miami Indians. Known at different times as Kekionga, Kiskakon, Omee Town, Twightwee Village, Frenchtown, and Miami Town, the village was a center of trade, travel, and communication for the greater part of the area that later became known as the Northwest Territory. A 7-mile portage from this point to the Wabash River joined the waterways of the Great Lakes with those of the Wabash and the Mississippi.
When white men first came to the site is not known with certainty. Dr. Charles E. Slocum, historian, says Samuel de Champlain reached the head of the Maumee River as early as 1614, and that La Salle crossed the portage in 1669 or 1670. But even the date of the building of the first French fort, Fort Miami, is obscure; and the name of the builder is not known. According to Dr. Slocum, this fort, built on the east bank of the St. Mary's River, was begun between 1682 and 1686.
Jean Baptiste Bisset, Sieur de Vincennes, appears definitely to have 'rebuilt and strengthened the first French fort in 1697.' In 1750 M. de Raimond, commandant of the fort, warned his government that English traders, by paying twice the French price for beaver skins and underselling the French on rifle balls, were capturing the business and ultimately would defeat the French. For his pains he was relieved of his command. True to his prediction, the fort was surrendered to the English at the close of the French and Indian wars in 1760.
In 1763 the English lost the fort temporarily to the followers of Pontiac, but soon recaptured it. They discontinued the garrison, however, and until the close of the American Revolution the site at the junction of the three rivers was a lawless trading settlement known as Miami Town. In commercial importance it was surpassed in the West only by Detroit and Vincennes, but in spite of the presence of English traders the Indians were powerful and defiant. Here many settlers captured in savage raids on settlements in Kentucky, Ohio, and southern Indiana were brought to die by torture; and the fame of Little Turtle as a soldier began in this vicinity with the massacre in 1780 of Colonel Auguste de la Balme and his troops.
At the close of the Revolution General Washington, writing to General Richard Henry Lee, said, 'I cannot forbear observing that the Miami village points to an important post for the Union.' In 1790, the second year of his presidency, Washington sent General Josiah Harmar to establish a post at Miami Town, but Harmar was outwitted and defeated by Little Turtle on October 19, only four days after his arrival. The next year General Arthur St. Clair led the second American army to defeat at Little Turtle's hands. But for the third expedition Washington selected as leader that master disciplinarian, Anthony Wayne, who drilled his army scientifically and finally defeated Little Turtle in 1794. After marching his army back up the Maumee, Wayne built the stockade (across the river from Miami Town) around which grew the American village of Fort Wayne.