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THE positive need of a reliable history of Indiana has been
recognized for more than ten years, by nearly all the people of the State. It is equally true that the harvest of materials for such a work was fully ripe. The early explorations of the French in the country of the Miamis; the labors of the zealous missionaries among the natives; the adventures of the fur-traders; the early wars with the Indians; the scenes and events around the old French forts and settlements; the struggles between the French and the English; the subjugation of the latter by Americans; the heroic proceedings of General George Rogers Clarke and his brave Virginians; the thrilling incidents and interesting reminiscences of pioneer life; the growth and prosperity of the settlements; the glorious part acted in the War for the Union; and, lastly, the unparalleled advancement in all the great industries and professions of civilization;- all these combine to render the narrative replete with interest and instruction.
How far we have succeeded in our attempt to collect and arrange these materials in the form of a history of the State, may now be seen; and, we shall regret, indeed, if, after so much labor, our work has been in vain. Our aims and objects have been shaped, as near as possible, by the demands or wants of the people. Hence it has not been an important part of our plan, as it has, of course, been beyond our ability, to present a work of any great literary merit. But such a work at this time is uncalled for, and it would seem that the present volume is needed to prepare the way for its demand in the future Although deficient in many things, it will scarcely fail of this desired end.
The early history of the Wabash Valley would, of itself, if properly written, make a volume much larger than the present one, and, perhaps, if viewed in the light of narrative excellence, more interesting. At the beginning of the eighteenth century communication was opened up between Louisiana and Canada, by the way of the Maumee, Wabash, Ohio, and Mississippi. Indeed this route had been traveled by a few, among whom was Robert de La Salle, some twenty years before, or as early as 1680. But with the beginning of the eighteenth century a general communication was established. With this came the necessity of forts or fortifications, to protect the route against hostile Indians, and, also, to further possess the country adjacent to it against the encroachments of the English colonies, which, until this period, and for several years after, were content with a narrow strip of land on the Atlantic sea-board. Such became the policy of the French Colonial Government sometime between 1690 and 1700, a decade during which the possibilities of establishing a permanent branch of the French Empire in the New World were bright and promising.
In 1700, the French decided to establish this chain of fortifications without delay, and in one year after, Fort Pontchartrain (Detroit) was established on the Detroit river. During the four years following, rude forts, or stockades, were erected at the head of the Maumee, where the city of Fort Wayne now stands, on Wea Prairie, near the Wabash, in what is now Tippecanoe county, and at a point further down the Wabash, where Fort Knox was afterwards established, and where the flourishing city of Vincennes now stands. The first was called Post Miami, in respect to the Indian Confederacy of that name, , which had its ancient capital near the site; the second was called Quantenon; the third, Post Vincennes, in honor of its founder. I am well aware that certain phases of these statements will be contradicted by persons who have made considerable research, particularly those points touching the exact date of the establishment of these posts; but it is necessary that such contradictions be accompanied by satisfactory proof. A prominent gentleman of this state, who has justly earned a wide reputation for historical information, stated, in a conversation with the writer, only a few weeks ago, that the first military occupation of Vincennes took place in 1716. Granting this, we give Post Miami (Fort Wayne) an antiquity exceeding Vincennes by eleven years, for it is certain that a military post was established at the former point in 1705.
But in the absence of the records themselves, the date of the first French military settlements in Indiana, can best be determined by observing the colonial policy under which they were made, as also, the year in which that policy was executed. In many portions of the Northwest, the first French settlements were merely the off-shoots of personal ambition, or missionary zeal, as was that at Green Bay, Wisconsin, or that near the mouth of the St. Joseph of Lake Michigan; the former affords us an illustration of personal aggrandizement - presented in the daring and privations of M. Longlade; the latter a grand demonstration of the burning zeal of Fathers Dablon, Allouez and others, early Jesuit missionaries of New France. With regard to these and like settlements, there is ground for dispute as to the date of their origin. But the first settlements in Indiana were not made by chance explorers, or roving fur-traders, or pious Jesuits; they were made under a fixed policy of the French Government-a policy framed by the sagacious La Motte Cadillac, the founder of Detroit. Near the close of the seventeenth century, this bold pioneer and statesman of New France returned to his native country, on a mission of greater importance to French interests than was, at that time, realized by his countrymen. Filled with patriotic zeal, he laid before the Colonial Minister, Count Pontchartrain, the first map of the Wabash Valley ever made, executed by his own hands. He pointed out the new route that had been discovered by La Salle and his associates, through the fertile vales of Indiana, and urged upon the establishment of a chain of fortifications upon it, for the protection of travel. And we fancy Cadillac reasoned in this wise: He pointed out upon his rude map the vast extent and richness of the country adjacent to the route on either side, and indicated the Indian strongholds, suggesting their value as allies in case of future conflicts with rival colonies. Whatever his arguments were, they were convincing, as the Colonial Minister at once entered upon Cadillac's plans. "Pontchartrain," says a French writer, “was delighted with his plan, and at once commissioned him to execute it."
Cadillac returned to Canada and established Detroit, as we have said already, in 1701. It was under this general policy that the first military settlements were made in Indiana. The missionaries undoubtedly visited Vincennes, as did they also the site of Post Miami, long before military posts were erected in those places, but no permanent missions were stationed until after their occupancy by military power. This took place according to the French Colonial records, in 1705, and as near As can be ascertained there is not more than six months' difference in the date of the first establishment of Posts Miami, Quantenon, and Vincennes. Certain it is, that they were all