"... Standing on either bank of a little stream near by, called by the Indians Chimiche-cepe (Bad Creek), in Pike Township, Fulton County, Ohio ... they will find themselves upon the site of one of the oldest and most populous Indian Towns in the northwest, The Pottawatomie Village of Winameg ... at one time the village extended along both banks of the stream for nearly half a mile and north on the ridge to a greater distance containing many lodges, the beautiful springs breaking out of the banks in many places. They cultivated large fields of corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, as the rich land along the creek was excellent for such purposes. ...The place was the finest hunting and trapping country in all the North West. It abounded in all fur bearing animals, otter, mink, raccoon, fisher, beaver, at an early day, and the muskrat, all eagerly sought after by the fur traders. The prairies abounded in deer, elk and bear which furnished an ample supply of clothing for this people." —Description of town of Winameg from Dresden Howard's reminiscences, McClarren Family collection
One of the most exciting aspects of our new Natives & Newcomers exhibit is the wealth of primary source documents that have been used to create the interpretive material. Don Rettig, Director of the Toledo MetroParks, served as our research consultant. He scoured libraries, personal collections, universities and historical societies to find letters, journals and articles written by those people who lived, worked or traveled here during the 19th century. Many of these have never been published before and provide a rare glimpse into this time through the eyes of those who were there.
Dresden Howard is not new to Sauder Village. In fact, his figure has graced our museum building for many years! Dresden is the boy pictured with Chief Winameg in the carving of the Council Oak Tree. As a boy, his family earned the trust of the Natives living around them and he himself served as an interpreter on numerous occasions in dealings between the European-Americans and the Natives. And, as it just so happens, he was one of the most prolific writers of his experiences in Northwest Ohio in the 19th century and many of his reminiscences help fill out the story that will be told in Natives & Newcomers.
Born in 1817 in Yates County New York, Dresden moved to Ft. Meigs with his family at the age of 3. In 1823, they moved again to what is now Grand Rapids on the Maumee River where his father established a trading post and helped found the community. Dresden attended the Indian Mission School run by the Presbyterians and recounts some of the fun they had as children: "We enjoyed our Saturday half holiday. In the winter season, when the river was frozen over, we skated on the ice, both boys and girls, and when there was snow we enjoyed ourselves sliding down the long hill on the bank of the river... with lightening speed (the Indian sled) would fairly fly down the hill and far out on the ice on the river if successfully guided; if not, you might be able to see a load of boys and girls piled up in the snow or scattered along the hill."
Dresden Howard knew the great chiefs of the era such as Wauseon, Winameg and Ottokee and would record his experiences with them particularly at Council that he was often privileged to be a part of. In fact, he was present at the last Council in this area.
"The last speech made by an Indian in the county in Council was made by Ottokee at a council of Treaty made by the Government agents and Commissioners for their removal west. Their lands had been sold and the time had expired for them to remain. Ottokee told the Commissioners that his people did not want to go. They could not leave the graves of their fathers or their Council fires nor even the ashes and it was with great effort that they were induced to go.
A few more years of sugar making and trapping and all had disappeared. I may be censured for my sympathy for these wandering people, driven from place to place... But I still say better to have given them homes and made friends of them than to have made enemies of them."
As Dresden witnessed the removal of the Natives from this area, he stayed in contact with some of those who remained behind including Chief Winameg whom he describes at that time as being filled with and 'air of despondency'.
"I could discern the pain he felt when recounting the happy scenes of his people when all was theirs as far as eye could reach... Now, the spot of his Council fires, the graves of his dead and the little spot upon which he pitched his tent were not his."
In the 1840s Dresden traveled west to set up trading posts on the upper Missouri River before returing to Maumee and start a family. He became active in politics and served as a State Senator. Dresden Howard died in 1897.
His life was a witness to the changing times of this region and his words help us share this story with you!