Fort Defiance Park
The Maumee River
Battle of Fallen Timbers Monument
Last autumn, I spent a few days traveling around northwest Ohio. I was seeking out birding spots and historical sites, playing the tourist from Columbus. I had a good time- here’s some of what I saw.
I stayed a couple nights at a small cabin at Grand Lake Saint Mary’s State Park in western Ohio. This was my base of operations for traveling through northwest Ohio up towards Michigan.
Grand Lake St. Marys State Park is a public recreation area located on 13,500-acre Grand Lake in Mercer and Auglaize counties, Ohio. Grand Lake is the largest inland lake in Ohio in terms of area, but is very shallow, with an average depth of only 5 to 7 feet. The state park is open for year-round recreation, including boating, fishing, swimming and hunting. The park consists of the lake and park facilities scattered all around the shore intermingled with private property and a facility operated by Wright State University. It is west of St. Marys, and south-east of Celina.
Northwest Ohio contains a lot of flat cropland- this is the till plains (and lake plains) region of the state. Western Ohio is largely farmland, while eastern Ohio has a good amount of forested hills.
As always, I enjoy the backroads and visiting small town Ohio. I spent a lot of time on Route 127, which went south-north through the area I was visiting.
Here’s Paulding County’s courthouse. I’m going to do a post on Ohio’s county courthouses some day- they are excellent studies of 19th-century architecture.
Occasional industrial facilities dotted the rural flatlands. Lima’s oil refinery was of particular interest.
Paulding and Wan Wert Counties had large wind farms out amidst the farmlands. It’s hard to get a feel for how tall the wind turbines are without being directly under them.
Halloween was on the way, and occasional houses were well-decorated to suit the season.
This Red-Tailed Hawk perched on a power line. I was in full birding mode!
I stopped at a few reservoirs along the way, looking for waterfowl and shorebirds.
One of the highlight stops for birds was the Black Swamp Nature Center in Paulding County. I saw some Yellow-Rumped Warblers and Rusty Blackbirds there.
Up in the very northwest corner of Ohio is Williams County. I visited George Bible Park there, and noted that the trees were more colorful there than the trees in central Ohio at that time.
Fort Defiance Park
One of the highlights history-wise of my trip was a visit to Fort Defiance Park in Defiance, Ohio. As you can see in the above pictures, only the fort’s earthworks are visible now, but the park has lots of signage to give you information about the site.
If you remember my post about historic Fort Recovery Ohio, you’ll be familiar with the earlier part of the story of Fort Defiance. General Wayne and his Legion of the United States, flush from victory at Fort Recovery, moved up towards the Native American stronghold area near the British Fort Detroit in 1794. He built Fort Defiance at the confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize Rivers. He used Fort Defiance as the jumping-off point for the decisive Battle of Fallen Timbers further north, which was the battle that claimed the Old Northwest Territory for the fledgling United States.
There are plaques at every location in the fort where a room or feature used to be. I was glad to see this documentation, it made the fort more real for me. I was slightly surprised that the fort was as small as it was.
Here’s where the Maumee and the Auglaize Rivers meet- at the heights where Fort Defiance was built. It is a solid strategic location for defense and control of movement and trade. The Ohio Territory wouldn’t become a state for another 9 years.
The inscribed stone above is a bit hard to read, but it commemorates the Native American Peoples and the herds of buffalo that originally lived in the area.
It’s hard to believe that there were such things as wolves, elk and buffalo in Ohio at least up until the early 1800s. It is also amazing to think that White-Tailed Deer were once nearly hunted to extinction in the early 1900s.
Here’s an example of wildlife living in the park today- a black squirrel (a recessive coloration of an Eastern Gray Squirrel). There is a theory that all Gray Squirrels used to be black when forests covered most of Ohio centuries ago, and that their current gray coloration is more adaptive to the current environment. I mentioned this in my post about black squirrels years ago.
Defiance’s Public Library sits next to the park- it’s a nice building in its own right.
A nice view of the Maumee from Fort Defiance.
The Maumee River gets its name from the Miami tribe of Native Americans; the river used to be known as the Miami River for that same reason. Pronunciations by the settlers of Native American words was usually a bit off.
A view of the river a few miles away from Defiance.
The Maumee River is the largest watershed of any river feeding the Great Lakes, traveling through the breadbasket of Ohio from its origins around Fort Wayne Indiana. From Fort Defiance, I followed the river up towards its terminus in Lake Erie.
Here’s the Weir Rapids area of the Maumee. One can imagine the canoes of Native Americans, French Woodsrunners, and British and American traders plying this area like they did for centuries.
Ring-Billed Gulls and Dunlin shorebirds hung out in the shallows.
Much of the area of the Maumee watershed used to be the Great Black Swamp, a large area of glacially-fed wetlands in northwest Ohio. It was drained by the late 19th century and provides rich agricultural soil. This ended the serious problems with malaria the area had had for thousands of years.
Battle of Fallen Timbers Monument
As the Maumee River gets close to Lake Erie in the greater Toledo area, there is the Battle of Fallen Timbers Monument, recognizing General Wayne’s greatest victory over the Native American Confederacy led by Blue Jacket and Little Turtle. This decisive victory by the forces of the young United States opened up the Ohio Territory and ultimately the Old Northwest Territory to American settlement.
The park is long but fairly narrow. From the parking lot you walk towards a cluster of plaques, monuments and statuary.
The Battle was at a place called Fallen Timbers, where a tornado had jumbled up many fallen trees. A description of the battle can be found in the book Autumn of the Black Snake: The Creation of the US Army and the Invasion that Opened the West by William Hogeland. The battlefield is a quarter of a mile north from the monument.
The statue shows General Wayne with a frontiersman and a Native American.
Turkey Foot Rock was the location where Me-sa-sa, an Ottawa Indian chief, died during the Battle of Fallen Timbers.
Me-sa-sa was one of the principal leaders of the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794. General Anthony Wayne and his Army of the Northwest marched against Indian forces in northwestern Ohio along the Maumee River. The Indians prepared to attack him in an area known as Fallen Timbers. It was a place where a tornado had knocked down many trees, and the natives intended to use the fallen trees for protection. Although the Indians used the fallen trees for cover, Wayne’s men quickly drove the Indians from the battlefield. As the Indians were retreating, legend has it that Chief Me-sa-sa jumped on top of a boulder at the base of Presque Isle Hill, hoping to rally his forces. At the time of the battle, the rock was supposedly more than five feet in length and at least three feet high. According to surviving accounts, Me-sa-sa was immediately shot and died next to the boulder. His attempts to rally the Indians failed. The white Americans had thirty-three men killed and roughly one hundred wounded, while the Indians lost approximately twice that number. The fight became known as the Battle of Fallen Timbers.
Following the battle, the boulder where Me-sa-sa was shot become a shrine in his memory. Locals routinely found offerings, such as beef, corn, and trinkets, on the boulder. Indians had left these offerings to honor their deceased chief. The boulder became known as Turkey Foot Rock. It remains unclear why the rock was named Turkey Foot Rock. One possible explanation is that whites called Me-sa-sa Turkey Foot. A second explanation is that the rock had carvings on it in the shape of a turkey’s foot. Some accounts claim that these carvings existed on the rock before Me-sa-sa’s death, while others claim that Indians made these carvings to honor the deceased chief. The boulder and some of the carvings is still visible today at the site of the Battle of Fallen Timbers.
A Fox Squirrel watched me closely from a nearby park bench.
Autumn wildflowers- Calico Asters- were blooming.
I walked across a pedestrian bridge over a highway just to the north and looked at some of the land that the Battle of Fallen Timbers was actually fought upon.
Eventually it was over the river and through the woods back to the cabin. I visited a couple other places that will have to be given their own blog posts eventually. Stay tuned!