This map of General “Mad Anthony” Wayne’s campaign against Native Americans in 1794 shows his route into northwest Ohio through Paulding County. The map was drawn in 1944 for a report on the Anthony Wayne Memorial Parkway Project. (Photo submitted)
This map of General “Mad Anthony” Wayne’s campaign against Native Americans in 1794 shows his route into northwest Ohio through Paulding County. The map was drawn in 1944 for a report on the Anthony Wayne Memorial Parkway Project. (Photo submitted)

By Melinda Krick

Paulding County Bicentennial Committee

Part of a series

PAULDING – Did you know the path from Ohio’s transformation from a frontier wilderness to 17th state and ‘Heart of It All” cuts through Paulding County? There’s important history in our own backyard.

Before the counties of northwest Ohio were established 200 years ago, before Ohio was even a state, before the Constitution was ratified, before the Treaty of Greenville was signed, this region’s future was fiercely contested. The new nation was looking to expand westward while native peoples, supported by the British, were trying to repel white settlers expanding into new areas. The tribes claimed all the area north and west of the Ohio River and united to form a confederation in 1785 to defend their territory.

President George Washington ordered the American army to secure control over the new Northwest Territory, which included the land we now call Ohio. The first two military campaigns in 1790 and 1791, led first by General Josiah Harmar and then by Major General Arthur St. Clair – governor of the Northwest Territory – resulted in humiliating losses to the combined native forces, led by Miami leader Little Turtle and Shawnee leader Blue Jacket.

St. Clair’s defeat, near Fort Recovery, had a casualty rate of 97 percent killed or wounded, making it one of the most disastrous defeats in U.S. Army history.

In 1792, President Washington then called Anthony Wayne out of retirement to replace his failed generals. Wayne had been one of the most successful military officers during the Revolutionary War, with his boldness and bravery earning him the nickname “Mad Anthony.”

For more than a year, Wayne organized and trained his newly established Legion of the United States, while the government continued peace negotiations with the confederation.

Where the first two campaigns had been poorly planned, organized and supplied, Wayne meticulously crafted a well-trained and disciplined army, conducting drills of both men and officers himself.

Wayne’s Legion moved from headquarters at Pittsburgh down the Ohio River to a camp near Cincinnati in May 1793. In the late fall, after peace negotiations had failed, the Legion began moving northward into the heart of the confederation.

Wayne built the heavily fortified Fort Greenville, which served as their winter quarters. An expedition was sent about 20 miles northwest of the fort to the site of St. Clair’s Defeat, where the soldiers buried the hundreds of men who had fallen three years earlier. Wayne directed a fort be built there, to be named Fort Recovery, a symbol that the U.S. Army did not accept the defeat.

During that winter, Wayne had numerous roads cut in different directions from Fort Greenville to confuse the native forces. Would the white soldiers head northwest along the St. Marys River to the villages of Kekionga (present day Fort Wayne), or northeast along the Auglaize River to Fort Miamis (near present day Maumee)?

On July 26, 1794, the Legion was joined by an experienced militia from Kentucky. Two days later, they set a course north toward the confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize rivers. They covered 76 miles in 11 days through heavy, unbroken forests and swamps, cutting roads and fording streams and rivers along the way. This unconventional and unexpected route certainly surprised and confounded the native leaders.

After pausing to construct Fort Adams on the St. Marys River (near U.S. 127 between Van Wert and Celina), the Legion advanced due north until they reached what was Town Creek or Middle Creek in central Van Wert County. They followed the creek in a northeasterly direction toward the Little Auglaize River and entered Paulding County on Aug. 6.

One soldier wrote in his journal: “The soil fertile and rendered beautiful by the lofty timber it produces. One battalion mounted volunteers and a party of spies proceed to an old Indian town [Charloe] a few miles in our front, and not meeting any part of the enemy, returned the same afternoon.”

The Legion camped overnight on the Little Auglaize and continued marching the next morning, on Aug. 7. The same soldier wrote, “… we arrive at the Grand Glaize [Auglaize] River, a delightful stream, at this place about 100 yards wide, passing thro’ a country the soil of which is fertile and its situation pleasant. The right wing crossing and passing down the stream, enter the old Indian town spoken of in the entry of yesterday, and in which are the ruins of eight or ten cabins.”

No evidence suggests Wayne’s men constructed any type of fort or structure in this area.

Still in Paulding County, the Legion continued a few miles downriver and camped for the night at the mouth of Flat Rock Creek, south of what is now Five Span Bridge. There, the soldiers found corn, beans and potatoes.

On Aug. 8, the army began encountering miles of native settlements and cultivated fields along the Auglaize all the way to the Maumee River. There, at the confluence of the Auglaize and Maumee – where the largest native conference ever had been held in 1792 – Wayne chose to build a large fortification with earthworks. He had cut through the middle of enemy territory before the confederation knew what happened and built a great outpost halfway between their most important strongholds.

The legion quickly built Fort Defiance, so named because Wayne remarked, “I defy the English, Indians, and all the devils in hell to take it.” To which a subordinate replied, “Then call it Fort Defiance.”

Days later, they advanced down the Maumee toward Fort Miamis at Maumee, occupied by the British. On Aug. 22, near the fort, the Legion engaged native warriors and Canadian militiamen in an area where a tornado had toppled hundreds of trees, leaving them in tangled piles that provided defensive cover. Here, at Fallen Timbers, about 1,500 warriors led by Blue Jacket, initiated an attack against about 3,000 soldiers. With the well-prepared army appearing victorious after a brief battle, Blue Jacket’s men fled to the fort and attempted to gain entry, but were locked out.

Wayne’s Legion camped for three days within sight of the fort. After burning the nearby native villages and crops, the Legion withdrew and marched back up the Maumee, continuing to burn homes and fields along the route until they reached Kekionga, where they built Fort Wayne.

The march upstream again passed through Paulding County, on the north side of the Maumee River. During the three-day trek from Fort Defiance to the headwaters, the army camped here once, near Antwerp. Local legend tells us a detachment passed up Flat Rock creek and camped a few days about a mile southwest of Paulding, near what is known know as “Lovers Lane” (Road 132) southeast of the county hospital.

There’s also stories that Wayne’s men buried a cannon along the way. A newspaper article printed in 1909 stated a local man claimed the carriage of a cannon broke down during the march, according to two of his uncles who had served with Wayne. The cannon supposedly was buried on the banks of the Flat Rock 25 miles east of Fort Wayne, but was never found.

Wayne’s Legion returned to Fort Greenville in November and went into winter quarters. The following year, Wayne negotiated the Treaty of Greenville between the U.S. and the confederation, which relinquished their claim to two-thirds of Ohio.

In less than 20 years, the United States was at war again. The conflict with Great Britain touched every part of the nation, from the Gulf of Mexico to Mackinac Island, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, including the Maumee and Auglaize valleys.

The War of 1812 reignited hostilities along the frontier with Native Americans, many of whom were allied with the British. Most of the Northwest Territory had not been ceded by the Indians to the U.S.

General William Henry Harrison – also governor of the Indiana Territory and a future president – was named commander of the Army of the Northwest after General Hull surrendered Fort Detroit to the British without a fight. Numerous forts were built in western Ohio to help protect settlers, to store supplies and to protect supply routes. One blockhouse was constructed at the confluence of the Auglaize and Little Auglaize rivers in Paulding County, and named Fort Brown in honor of its commander or builder, variously referred to as Captain, Colonel or General Brown.

Fort Brown was part of a supply route that included Fort Jennings and Fort Amanda (Wapakoneta) to the south, and Fort Winchester at Defiance to the north. All the outposts supported Fort Meigs near Perrysburg, a pivotal stronghold from which Harrison recaptured Fort Detroit and defeated the British and the native leader Tecumseh in Ontario, Canada.

Many stories indicate two or three soldiers, possibly more, were buried at Fort Brown, with their grave markers visible to early settlers.

According to other records, another supply fort was built at this time in what would become Paulding County – one dubbed Fort Junction at the mouth of Six Mile Creek near what is now Auglaize Golf Club. This fort, like Fort Brown, supposedly was a supply blockhouse constructed by Kentucky militia.

The site of Fort Brown was commemorated with a stone monument in 1953 as part of the Ohio Sesquicentennial Celebration. Markers note the site’s importance in the War of 1812 and to the Native Americans of the region, as well as a brief stop for Wayne’s Legion en route to the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

Next time: When the Indians left Paulding County.

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