History relates early encounter with a bear in county

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.

 

By R.L. HEMINGER

 

A history of the Maumee Valley, written by H.S. Knapp of Toledo in 1877, relates some interesting happenings and makes some informative observations with regard to Hancock County.

For instance, he quotes a letter from William Mungen, once a Findlay lawyer and editor and one-time congressman, as follows:

“Sometime around 1834, Michael Price, William Taylor, John McKinnis and one or two others not now remembered who had been on a trading trip to Perrysburg, were returning with goods, etc., and having got up into Blanchard Township in Hancock County, a few miles from the mouth of the river, discovered upon landing, a large bear running past them.

“They gave chase, overtook or interrupted it and attacked and killed it with the poles they used to propel their pirogues on the river after a serious and dangerous combat. They had no guns in the fight, their guns being in the boats when Bruno made his appearance.”

Mr. Knapp said much of the travel to Perrysburg and Maumee was by boat down the Blanchard, then upon the Auglaize and into the Maumee. The pirogues in which they traveled were hollowed-out trees, which were transformed into boats.

Historian Knapp quoted from some reminiscences, which he found in the Jeffersonian, a weekly newspaper of early days, written by an Edwin F. James, of Chillicothe, Ill. who had visited early Findlay. The following is an excerpt:

“We visited the John Hambletons on our visit to Findlay in May 1827. They took us to the fort, which was one and a half miles from where they lived. We crossed Lye and Eagle creeks on trees and tops of trees fallen from either side. We were introduced to Wilson Vance, the ‘head center’ (as Mr. James described the man who had laid out the town) and a gentleman indeed and in truth and chief agent of the town proprietors. We also met John C. Wickham, the town’s school teacher and Squire Carlin, who had started the first store.”

Findlay’s first doctor, Dr. Bass Rawson, was described as “one of God’s noblemen.”

Discussing the pioneer means of transport, the Knapp history says, hogs, which the settlers raised, were driven to Detroit and sold there.

Squire Carlin is quoted as follows with regard to the condition of Fort Findlay in 1882, 16 years after it had been built:

“The pickets next to the river were in a good condition of preservation, but travelers who had camped in the effort had chopped off the tops of many of those enclosing the other three sides for firewood. Within the enclosure were a blockhouse yet standing and two small houses, which had probably been used as barracks. The pickets enclosed about one acre of ground.”

In reading through the Knapp history, one comes across a page heading entitled “Fort Findlay Attacked.” This proves intriguing for no known record exists of any attack upon the fort here. But upon examining the page, one finds that the facts detailed there do not bear out the heading. Whoever put the headings on the page made a mistake, evidently.

On the page is a letter from a Major A. William Oliver dated “Fort Findlay, April 23, 1813,” addressed to Governor Meigs. In the communication, the major describes a situation on the Maumee River where 3,000 British soldiers were encamped across from the American fortifications and sending a few volleys across the waterway in a menacing sort of way.

Evidently the “Fort Findlay” address misled the one writing the headings.

The Findlay fort was never involved in any enemy action. It consisted largely of a depot in which materials of war were stored and which formed a military headquarters in this area, in the 1812 war.

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