Posted: Sunday, October 7, 2012
By KATE MALONGOWSKI
LOGAN TOWNSHIP — Despite the chilly weather, hundreds came out to Fort Amanda State Park to learn about its historical significance during a bicentennial celebration Sunday afternoon.
The park was filled with historians, many who re-enacted what it was like at the fort in its heyday, and the way settlers lived in the area during the early to mid 19th century.
“When war was declared in June of 1812 against Britain, the British took over Fort Mackinaw and took over Fort Detroit. The British were knocking on Ohio’s doorstep. So forts were built all over northwest Ohio,” said Mark Mohr, a Johnny Appleseed Metro Park District naturalist who was portraying Dr. Andrew William Bice next to the Fort Amanda Monument. The scene was complete with a horse and buggy nearby. Bice was on a finance committee that helped fund the monument that was erected in 1915.
“This was a supply fort where they built boats and ship supplies,” Mohr said, which Kentucky troops built. He said boats were built across the river, supplies were picked up at the fort and then shipped up the river to other forts in northern Ohio and Michigan to send to the Army men. The fort was used until as late as 1815.
Being a settler in those days wasn’t easy, either. Anne Smedley, a volunteer with Johnny Appleseed Metro Park District, explained the hardships back then that would be unheard of now. Dressed in settler’s clothing, she explained that churning butter, dipping candles, growing and hunting for food and bartering for supplies were all part of the norm 200 years ago.
“There was an endless number of tasks that had to be done,” she said. “You’d never be bored.”
She explained that durign the course of a few decades, Ohio went from undeveloped land to an agricultural and industrial giant by the mid 19th century.
For Sarah Mead, 17, and 13-year-olds Lexi Bayliff, Katherine Johnson and Kristen Johnson, all of Lima, they thought the experience was much more interesting than learning about Fort Amanda in a textbook.
“It’s different from how they teach us at school,” Lexi said. “Understanding the meaning of where you’re standing.”
As friends from the Firm Foundation Christian Center, it gave the girls a chance to bond and learn more about local history.
“It makes it more real” seeing the markings and being there rather than learning about it in class, Kristen said.
Dave Johnson, a passionate volunteer historian who is formerly from Lima but now living in Columbus, explained that his Fort Amanda research literally rewrote history books. For instance, Lt. Col. Robert Pogue named Fort Amanda after his daughter whom he sorely missed. There’s a wide misconception that the fort was named after his wife, but Johnson’s research showed that Pogue never had a wife named Amanda.
Also, while no battles occurred at Fort Amanda, Johnson said he has proof that a skirmish may have occurred nearby across the river at the Head of the Auglaize. With some digging, he found old musket balls and discarded belts, indicating a struggle of some kind.
Pat and Gerald Johns, of St. Marys, said they really enjoyed learning about Fort Amanda, particularly the things Johnson focused on.
“When I was in Girl Scouts we used to come up here for picnics,” Pat Johns said. “We’ve brought our children and grandchildren here and wanted to learn more.”
“You had to be pretty strong to live in those days,” Gerald Johns said.
“You don’t appreciate what they had to go through those days,” Pat Johns said, enduring harsh winters, suffering from diseases without nearby hospitals and lacking any modern amenities. “I’m not even sure people know what’s out here.”