Last Thursday Myra noticed a news item about a town in the Salamonie River that had emerged into view because of the drought and low water. I checked my notes and found that yes, that was the site where a couple of Indian reserves were located, and which had an unusual southern boundary that had become obscured by the Salamonie Reservoir. (See the above map snippet from the 1879 atlas of Huntington County, Indiana. The snippet is provided courtesy of HistoricMapworks.com. If you click on it, you’ll go to the Historic Mapworks page from which it came.)
There had once been a road that headed northeast from the town along the treaty line for its first half mile. (I’ve marked it on the map with a brownish-orange line.) By the time the reservoir flooded the town in the 1960s, the sharp turns had been greatly rounded off, but the road still followed the treaty line where it left town.
The news items said the site had attracted a lot of visitors until the Indiana DNR closed it a week ago to prevent people from taking artifacts away. But the site was going to be open for supervised tours July 29 (today) and next Sunday, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.
It didn’t sound like there was a lot to see. The buildings had been razed before the dam was finished in the 60s, and a few foundations were all that was left. One article pointed out that the town site often is visible in fall and winter when water levels in the reservoir are lowered. In other words, this wasn’t quite as unusual an event as some of the other news articles had made it out to be. But the possibility of seeing some piece of the treaty line made me want to come anyway. And there would be people at the site who could help us learn about the town.
I called ahead to the Salamonie Interpretive Center to see if reservations were needed. The woman who answered the phone was very welcoming and explained that they had experience handling large crowds so didn’t think they’d need to turn people away. But since I’d be coming from out of state, she took my name and address just in case.
We got there early – in time for me to ask about the treaty line. Here as everywhere else the Indiana people were very friendly to us interlopers from Michigan. I got an invitation to come back and camp in one person’s yard – at another reserve boundary that I visited on a morning bike ride. And jumping ahead to the end of our Sunday visit, Myra and I got a ride from Walter and his wife, who took us around to look at the crops and to see other landmarks in the area. We were made to feel very much at home.
At the interpretive center, I tried to point out that the angling boundary line is unusual in that maps both old and new show that it extends both northeast and southwest beyond the two reserves shown on the old map. So there must have been some reason for that line other than to delimit the reservation. About one mile of modern road still follows that extended line, and it serves as a boundary for part of the Lost Bridge State Recreation Area.
But nobody knew about its origin. One guess was that it was all an old road. But I’m very skeptical that there was such a road more than half a mile to the northeast from the town. What’s shown on the old plat map is just not how map-makers tended to mark such things.
Myra later told me that while I was talking to the interpretive center people, that an elderly man in the room had become quite agitated about our discussion and was trying to interject something from across the room. I had been oblivious. She also said this man had been waiting in the same meeting room with us (we had most of an hour to wait) and that she also saw him out at the site. But by the time she thought to tell me about him, he was no longer to be found.
I might possibly be able to forgive her for not telling me sooner and pointing him out to me, since I wouldn’t even have known about this event if she hadn’t called my attention to the news items a few days ago. I’m still working on it (the forgiveness part).
The interpretive center people knew about the Indian reserve on the map, but I didn’t meet anyone else who was aware of it. It was news to Ron, who had owned property just outside of town in what had once been Reserve 30. Ron had known that there had been a Miami Indian town near this site, and even knew where a burying ground had been before it had been moved. But I didn’t meet anyone who had more information about the angling boundary.
S0 I still don’t know any more about the angling boundary than I did before. The old road it followed out of town had been on lower ground, and any traces of it were still under water, so I didn’t get a photo. Still, it was an excellent day and very much worth the trip.
A lot of other people seemed to think so, too. Back when we had been waiting in the gathering room at the interpretive center before going to the site, I counted eighty chairs. Soon it was standing room only, so I’m guessing at least 100 people were in the room with us to get a little orientation lecture. And there was an overflow crowd of a similar number were herded outside where they could get a separate introduction and orientation.
It was explained that we would drive caravan style to the site, which was three miles away. We would get to within a quarter-mile of the site, where we would need to park our cars off the road in case an emergency vehicle would need to come through. Shuttle buses would be available to take people the remaining quarter of a mile to the site, but those of us who could walk were encouraged to do so.
It took quite a while before the caravan left, and then it moved very slowly. When we finally got to the intersection a mile north of Monument City, where there was still a mile of dead-end road before we’d get to the site, it looked like at least as many cars as were in our caravan were already parked there. A lot of people didn’t bother to go to the interpretive center and went straight to the site, it seemed. And some of their cars were parked nearly a mile from the supposed place where we were told we would park. At that point I was guessing that there were at least 400 people, and maybe more. When I asked later on, I heard one estimate of almost a thousand people. I think the rule of reporting is to take the highest estimate that anyone comes up with and round it up. So I’ll go with that.
We found a parking space in the roadside ditch about a mile from the town site and walked in along with a crowd of others doing the same. Below are some of my photos. Click on them to see them in full, and to read brief explanations of what we saw.
35 mile ride in the a.m. YTD milesage: 1176.
[Late Monday addition: A link to the Upper Wabash Interpretive Services Facebook page. I like their work, and by that I mean more than a Facebook "Like."]