1) Circa 1000CE Site of a Native American Late Woodland burial mound - This mound was partially excavated in the 1940s but some burials still remain. Extensive documentation and specimens exist at the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology. A type of Native American pottery known as “Wayne Ware” was named after the many intact vessels found at the site.
2) 1710 –1771 Potawatomi Indian Village Site - The 1768 map in the John Askin Papers at Detroit Public Library’s Burton Collection shows the Fort Wayne site as occupied by a Potawatomi Indian village. This tribe was one of four invited by Antoine Cadillac in 1710 to settle near the fort at Detroit for the French fur trade. During the 1760s British era the village’s leader was Ninivois (Nenewas). Bellin’s map of the Detroit River (see illustration) in his Petite Atlas Maritime of 1764 clearly shows the burial mounds he identifies as “ecores de sable” or “sand bluffs.”
Fort Detroit’s British Commander Arent DePeyster reports in a letter from 1780 that the Potawatomi are seeking permission to transfer their village’s land along the Detroit River and are moving away. In another letter, they leave their land and burial ground along the river to the care of former French Detroit official Robert Navarre.
Bellin's 1764 map, printed in Paris
3) August 16, 1812 Site of British General Isaac Brock’s army invasion of the United States. His force of 730, accompanied by 600 Native American warriors of allied tribes under the leadership of the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, crossed the Detroit River, landed and rendezvoued at the Springwells sand hill (now the site of Historic Fort Wayne). Together, they proceeded up the river road to besiege and capture the town and fort of Detroit three miles to the east. Detroit and Michigan were occupied by the forces of Great Britain for 13 months.
4) September 8, 1815 Site of the Treaty of Spring Wells between General (later President) William Henry Harrison representing the U.S. government and eight native American tribes which had fought against the U.S in the War of 1812. Tecumseh’s brother, the Shawnee Prophet Tensquatawa, Michigan Territory Governor Lewis Cass and Judge Augustus Woodward were on site. Making peace with the former, British allied, enemy tribes would be the official end of the War of 1812.
The treaty text is available at: http://digital.library.okstate.edu/Kappler/vol2/treaties/wya0117.htm Treaty negotiations are preserved in the American State Papers, Indian Affairs.
5) 1817 American writer Samuel R. Brown first describes the Springwells burial mounds in his Western Gazetteer or Emigrants Directory.
6) 1842-1845 The central burial mound on the fort property is destroyed by the construction of Fort Wayne by the U.S. Army and its contractors.
7) 1876 With government permission, Archeologist Henry Gillman, affiliated with Harvard University’s Peabody Museum, begins excavating the remaining Fort Wayne burial mound and writes an extensive report on his findings. Recovered items are sent to the Peabody Museum.
8) 1944-1945 With the Army’s permission, Archeologist Carl Holmquist of the Michigan Aboriginal Research Club completes excavating the remaining Fort Wayne mound. Twenty-three burials and grave goods recovered are presented to the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology. He notes in his report that at least two burials remain untouched and are still in place in the mound.
9) 1979 The City of Detroit’s Historical Museum, which then controls Fort Wayne, opens a large Woodland Indian Museum in a former double officer’s quarters near the existing burial mound. “Fort Wayne Ware” pottery, recovered from the mound, borrowed from the University of Michigan, is placed on display. In 1991, because of lack of maintenance funds, the museum is closed and historic artifacts removed to storage. Detroit Native Americans protest the closure at the time. In 2006, the fort was transferred to the City Recreation Department. As of 2010, the Woodland Indian Museum remains closed to the public.
For Potawatomi Indian history, see The Prairie People: Continuity and Change in Potawatomi Indian Culture 1665-1965 by James Clifton, University of Iowa Press, 1998. For more information on the history of Detroit’s Springwells (Fort Wayne) Mounds, please see “The Springwells Mound Group, Wayne County Michigan” by John R. Halsey, in Contributions to Michigan Archeology, Anthropological Papers, No. 32, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1968.
Above information compiled by James Conway, Fort Wayne Project Manager and Historian, July 2010.
Used with permission.