History of Duchouquet & city of Wapakoneta,
Auglaize County, Ohio (part 1)
From: History of Auglaize County, Ohio
Edited By: William J. McMurray
Histotical Publishing Company
Indianapolis - 1923
DUCHOUQUET TOWNSHIP AND THE CITY OF WAPAKONETA
Duchouquet township, the largest township in the county, covers approximately forty two square miles lying in
townships 4 and 5, range 6 east, section 31 to 36 of the former township and sections 1 to 36 of the latter township
making up the civil division; the township being bordered on the north by Allen county, on the east by Union township,
on the south by Pusheta township and on the west by Moulton and Logan townships, with the city of Wapakoneta in
the southwest corner and the village of Cridersville on the north line in sections 34 and 35 of township 5. The
Auglaize river enters the township in section 12 of the upper township and flowing southwesterly through Wapakoneta
flows out in section 31 of the lower township, and the township is thus thoroughly drained by the natural tributaries,
including Blackhoof creek, Quaker run and Two Mile creek and a system of ditches finding outlet in these streams.
Four railroads, the Baltimore & Ohio, the Toledo & Ohio Central, the Lake Erie & Western and the Western
Ohio electric line traverse the township.
WAPAKONETA IN THE DAYS OF THE INDIANS.
Regarding the situation in and about Wapakoneta prior to the settlement period opening with the departure of the Indians, Professor Williamson's comprehensive review has it that "from 1820 to 1833 Wapakoneta contained but few people who had been accustomed to mingle in the circles of white society. The adventurers who came here to barter with the Indians were persons destitute of character and indulged in all the vices of corrupt society. Drinking and gambling were inseparably connected with business and amusements of all kinds. Nearly every trader dealt in whisky. The order from the War Department prohibiting the sale of liquors to the Indians was not observed. The VanBlaricomes and others made money enough by secretly selling whisky to the Indians to enter farms for themselves. During the dry periods of summer and fall, wagon trains destined to points in the Maumee valley were of every day occurrence. Gaston Garde, an enterprising dealer in flour and salt, shipped large consignments to Wapakoneta, where they were loaded on pirogues and scows, manned by Indians, and floated down the Auglaize river to Defiance. If the boats grounded on the sand bars or other obstructions the Indians were ready to jump into the river and buoy them over." Other details of this pre settlement period are set out in the chapter relating to the days of early settlement of the county.
TRADITIONS CONCERNING PLACE NAME
Regarding the name Wapakoneta, there are several local traditions, one of which is to the effect that the name
is a combination of the masculine and the feminine, merging the names of an old Indian chief, whom the adherents
to this tradition claim simply to have been Wapaugh, and that of his squaw, who they say was Koneta. Some even
will go so far as to point out the stump of a great elm down along the riverside, which they say marks the site
of the identical elm tree under which the Chief Wapaugh and the "Princess" Koneta were married. Perhaps
it fairly may be assumed that no one who has written on the subject was better informed regarding the affairs of
the Shawnees than was Henry Harvey, the superintendent of the Quaker mission at Wapakoneta during the later years
of the Indian occupancy there. He makes no reference in his book to such a tradition, his story having it that
the place was called in honor of "an ancient and distinguished woman of that name." His spelling is Wapaughkonnetta.
This spelling also is followed by Col. John Johnston, United States commissioner and Indian agent, in his official
reports concerning the Indians at this point. Johnston had it that the village was named for a club footed chief
of that name. Hodge's "Handbook of American Indians" (Bulletin 30 of the Bureau of American Ethnology,
Smithsonian Institution) has it that Wapakoneta means "white jacket." The Miami name was Wapakonakunge
("where Wapakoneta lived"). The Western Gazetteer (1817) spelled the name Wappaukenata. In one of General
Harrison's official reports (1814), the name is spelled Wapauckanata. There are other variations in old books and
official documents relating to the days of Indian occupancy.
RELICS OF THE ABORIGINALS.
Concerning the tradition that Chief Wapakoneta was club footed and that from this infirmity his name was derived,
there is an oddly shaped stone in the Herrmann collection of Indian relics, now preserved in the museum cabinet
at the high school building at Wapakoneta, which is claimed to have been the very last over which old Wapakoneta's
ungainly moccasins were fashioned. There are many stones of strange shape, to which most any sort of a story might
become attached, but there is something about the shape of the "Wapakoneta last" and the fact that it
seems rather to have been artificially fashioned into its present form than to have been shaped as ordinary stones
are by erosion, that keeps firm the faith of those who adhere to this tradition and adds a certain additional value
to the not overly well kept collection of relics which some time ago was turned over to the school because it seemed
that there no longer was room for it in the court house, where it formerly was kept.
THE MAN FOR WHOM TOWNSHIP WAS NAMED.
Concerning Francis Duchouquet, the trader, whose post at Wapakoneta was the center of the fur trade hereabouts
in Indian days and in whose honor this township bears its name, it is narrated in the older chronicles that he
was the son of a half breed French trader who was engaged in trade with the Indians of what is now northwestern
Ohio and lower Michigan during the time of the occupancy of this region by the French. Francis Duchouquet is said
to have been born in the vicinity of Presque Isle in 1751 and grew up to the fur trade, in which trade he visited
all the tribes throughout this section of the then Northwest Territory. On one of his trips among the Shawnees
then occupying the Mad river country he married a Shawnee girl and was living with the Indians on the Mad river
in the region now comprised in Clark and Greene counties when the aboriginals there were dispersed by Gen. George
Rogers Clark's expedition, coming thence with the scattered tribe up here and finding refuge with the friendly
tribe which long before had established its headquarters or chillicothe at the head of navigation on the Auglaize
A TALE OF DUCHOUQUET'S BRAVERY.
It is narrated that while on a trading expedition with the Indians up in the Sandusky country in 1782 Duchouquet was present at and witnessed the horrid torture and death at the stake of Colonel Crawford and that he joined in an ineffectual intercession to save the life of the colonel. At any rate, it is pointed out, Duchouquet's description of that horrible scene agreed in every respect with the one given to the Government as an official report by Doctor Knight, who was Crawford's companion on the expedition which resulted of the earlier days who assembled a good deal of matter relating to the Indians of this region, Duchouquet "was never known, on any occasion, to participate in any of the savage cruelties practiced by the Indians on their captives. Although so closely related by blood to the Indians, his sympathies were always with the captive and wherever possible he rendered assistance. As an example of his many noble acts we cite the case of Charles Johnston, who was captured on the Ohio river in 1790 and taken to the upper Sandusky. At Sandusky, Johnston became acquainted with Duchouquet, who was engaged in the purchase of furs. To him he recounted his adventures and earnestly solicited his good offices in delivering him from the Indians. Duchouquet promptly assured him that every exertion should be used for that purpose and lost no time in redeeming his pledge. That evening he spoke to Chickatommo and offered a liberal ransom for the prisoner, but his efforts were fruitless. The Shawnee chief did not object to the price, but declared that no sum would induce him to give up the prisoner until they first had taken him to their towns. Soon afterward the Shawnee party engaged in a drinking bout. When their hearts were somewhat mellowed by rum Duchouquet repeated his offer and was again peremptorily refused.
"Duchouquet then inquired the name of the town to which he was to be taken and the fate which was in reserve
for him upon his arrival there. To the first question Chickatommo promptly replied that the prisoner was to be
carried to the Miami villages, but to the second he gave no satisfactory answer. The mention of the Miami villages
extinguished every spark of hope which still existed in Johnston's breast, as those towns had heretofore been the
grave of every white prisoner who had been taken into them. At this juncture fortune favored him. A Wyandot trader
appeared with several horses laden with kegs of rum and in the course of two days completely stripped the Indians
of every skin, blanket and article of merchandise possessed by them. On the morning of the third day Chickatommo
and his party awoke as from a dream and found themselves destitute, ragged and poor. Ashamed of their condition,
they appeared before Duchouquet and declared that the scalp of the prisoner could be transported more easily than
his person, but, if he still wished to purchase him, they would forego the expected entertainment of burning and
scalping the prisoner and would let him have the captive upon good terms. Duchouquet eagerly accepted the offer
and instantly counted down 600 silver brooches, the ordinary price of a prisoner. The Indians lost no time in delivering
Johnston into the trader's hands and the two lost no time in setting out for the Ohio river. After exposure to
numerous dangers Johnston and Duchouquet succeeded in reaching the lower Sandusky, from which point by the aid
of traders Johnston was able to make his way safely south."
OLD QUAKER MISSION HOUSE AND MILL.
The operations of the Quaker mission at Wapakoneta Indian village from 1819 on to the time of the departure
of the Indians has been referred to elsewhere. This mission maintained a grist mill, a saw mill, a blacksmith shop
and other accommodations for the benefit of the redmen, the mills occupying a site alongside the left bank of the
river at a point just at the rear of the present Masonic hall building on Auglaize street, a race extending from
a dam at a point across the river at the bend in the vicinity of the present electric light and pump house supplying
the power for the mills. Portions of the frames of these old mills still were in evidence as late as ten years
THE PLATTING OF THE TOWNSITE.
Following the departure of the Indians in 1832 the old Indian village came under the complete control of the
whites and during the succeeding winter it became apparent that there would be a sufficient number of incoming
settlers at that point to make a town out of it. Taking time by the forelock, three forehanded landowners on the
spot got together and decided to have a town site platted. These men were Peter Aughenbaugh, Jonathan K. Wilds
and Joseph Barnett, who have been mentioned above as among the first land buyers on the site, who secured the services
of John Jackson, then surveyor of Allen county (it being remembered that this region then was comprised within
Allen county), who on January 22 and 23 surveyed and platted the Wapakoneta town site, the original plat of which
was acknowledged before a notary at Dayton on January 25, 1833. This plat, on file in the county recorder's office,
reveals a platted tract of thirty one blocks, the lot numbers running from No. 1 in the northeast corner of the
tract to No. 90 in the southwest corner, the north line of the same being named Auglaize street and the south line
Pearl street, with alleys sixteen and one half feet between the blocks. Main street was laid out south of Auglaize
street and between this and Pearl is Mechanic street. The east line of the original plat is Park street; west of
that, Willipie street, between which and the next street, Perry, is an unplatted square, lying between Main and
Mechanic streets, reserved for public uses (present city hall site), and west of Perry is Blackhoof street, beyond
which is Logan street, the west line of the original plat. And it was thus that Wapakoneta got its formal, civil
start. As the population grew and as the needs for expansion became apparent additions were made to this original
plat until now (1922) the town plat covers all of section 29, three fourths of section 32, the northeast quarter
of section 31 and a fraction of sections 28 and 33 of Duchouquet township.
THE COMING OF THE FIRST WAYSIDE INN.
In 1831, the year in which the Indians ceded their lands away, Jeremiah Ayers, an enterprising individual, settled
here and put up a cabin on the trail (now Auglaize street) at the point now occupied by the Central hotel (lot
8 of the original plat) and began to take an active part in development work. In the spring of 1832 he moved this
cabin back to the rear of his little tract and facing the trail erected a two story frame building after the style
of the old wayside inns with an overhanging porch facing the street and ample space for the stage coaches to discharge
their passengers, in the rear being a yard and shed for the accommodation of the stage horses and the horses of
travelers coming this way. With additions and improvements made from time to time this old hotel, the Wapakoneta
House, served as the principal public house in the village until its destruction by fire in 1866, and there are
still quite a number of persons living here who retain agreeable childish memories of the stirring scenes about
the old inn's courtyard following the arrival of the stage or the post riders. The old Wapakoneta House was the
local terminus of the St. Marys-Wapakoneta stage line, the old Dieker House at St. Marys serving as a similar terminal
at the latter point, while from Lima on the north and Sidney on the south the stages were also discharging their
traffic at the hospitable doors of Mine Host Ayers.
Jeremiah Ayers was also active in other lines. He became one of the chief owners of town lots at Wapakoneta, bought the old mission mill, which he restored to activity, and in 1834 erected a distillery at a point along the river about where the city electric light and power house now stands. It is narrated that this distillery produced the greater part of the whisky that was consumed in this section up to about 1860, and from all accounts of the times this was no small quantity. It is recorded that "for nearly thirty years Ayers was the most enterprising citizen of the village." He died in 1868. A son, Herman Ayers, and a daughter, Mrs. Irene Wilson, survive, and are now residents of Sidney.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE SETTLEMENT.
When Robert J. Skinner, receiver for the land office, located at Wapakoneta in 1832 he occupied the house that
formerly had been occupied by Captain Elliott, the Government blacksmith, who had taken over for household occupancy
the old Quaker mission house, and William A. VanHorn, the registrar of the land office, occupied the old Indian
council house, which stood at about where now is the northeast corner of the original plat, Park and Auglaize streets.
This building is said to have been made of logs and was about thirty feet in width and forty in length. The Indians
had given it a bark roof, but when VanHorn took it over he had it covered with clapboards and otherwise rendered
it more comfortably habitable, presently adding to it a small addition built of brick when the brick kiln in good
time was started going. It is narrated that adjacent to this VanHorn place was a log stable standing in a corner
of a field inclosed with a rail and brush fence, in which field VanHorn fed the ponies when they came in from the
woods range. This narrative goes on to say that "there was quite a rivalry between James Elliott and VanHorn
in appropriating the ponies left ranging in the forest by the Indians when they moved to Kansas. As soon as a pony
was captured it was branded with V or E, the initial letter representing the party who had captured it. The ponies
had to be trained before they were of much value to their owners. When 'broken to work' they performed good service
in the country where beasts of burden were scarce."
REMAINS OF OLD FORT AUGLAIZE.
At this time of the beginning of orderly white settlement at Wapakoneta there still were remaining some of the timbers of old Ft. Auglaize, the stockade erected by the French traders in 1784, on the right bank of the river on the bluff overlooking what then was regarded as the head of navigation on the Auglaize around the bend of the river about where the old cemetery is. This fort, which was abandoned after the battle of Fallen Timbers, was a stockade inclosing about an acre of ground and served as a protection to the storehouses erected within the enclosure by the traders, and from this point there was long carried on extensive trade with the Indians throughout this section, goods being brought up the river from the French posts to the north. During the War of 1812 the site of the Indian village at Wapakoneta was the scene of considerable activity, this having been a sort of a cross roads of the military trails from Cincinnati up through Piqua to Defiance and from Franklinton through Ft. McArthur and on to Ft. St. Marys, and what is now beautiful Greenlawn cemetery just on the western edge of the city was a common camping ground for marching and countermarching troops, a good spring located between the camping ground and the present site of the county fair grounds furnishing the troops with an abundance of fresh water. It is recorded that in the spring of 1813 a log house was erected at this camping ground to be used as a storage house and officers' quarters and that General Harrison was a not infrequent visitor at that point during the progress of his campaign throughout northwestern Ohio. On the hill just west of the mouth of Pusheta creek barracks were erected for the use of the troops stationed there, it being the duty of this company "to watch the movements of the Shawnees and to intercept British emissaries and renegade Indians from the savage tribes of the north and west." It also was used as a depository of goods and provisions for the armies on the Maumee. Thus it will be seen that there had been a good deal going on in and around the site of the present city during the pre settlement period.
THE INCORPORATION OF THE VILLAGE.
Gradually settlers were attracted to the scene by the promise of a growing settlement here at the stage cross
roads and it was not long until quite a village had sprung up in the clearing which slowly was extended to make
way for this expansion. Isaac Nichols, a veteran of the War of 1812, built a frame store building on the lot just
east of the Wapakoneta House and in 1834 another inn was put up, this being operated by H. B. Thorn. In this latter
year the villagers recognized the necessity of a jail and a small frame structure eighteen feet square was put
up for this purpose. It has been written that "criminals confined in it were handcuffed and chained as a precaution
to prevent escape." This apparently served as a calaboose until the county erected a jail, as set out in the
chapter on county government.
LITTLE NEED OF COMMERCIAL ADVANTAGES.
From contemporary evidence on the subject it is apparent that though its citizens were ambitious, Wapakoneta
still was not far out of its forest hamlet state when it became the county seat. A review carried in Robert Sutton's
atlas of Auglaize county published in 1880 and based on the testimony of persons then living who were living here
in 1849, sets out that "at the period of incorporation the town was still without any material improvement
worth the name of enterprise, save in the erection of residences and opening of small retail stores and shops.
The trade for five years was of a purely local character, as the town had no commercial facilities and even had
little need of commercial advantages as far as exportation was concerned. The town, like the country by which it
was surrounded, was almost a swamp, for even years after the construction of the railroad gravel was as unknown
to the streets as brick to the sidewalks and crossings. The streets consisted more in open public ways than in
convenient thoroughfares. Walks and crossings consisted largely of cordwood. thrown closely enough to afford a
stepping across the mud, except when the blocks were submerged, which was not infrequent.