If you ever choose to read of this era, especially in the 18th century, you’ll find that the shore of Lake Erie was a busy place considering the only people living here were scattered groups of Native Americans who mainly used northern Ohio as a common hunting and fishing ground. There were very few large settlements; rather, these folks hunted, trapped and fished during the warm weather and then returned to their villages for the winter. In the spring they were back early to make maple sugar. Don’t ask me to explain how the Native Americans learned to work a sugar bush, but they knew how to do so before the first Europeans ever reached North America.
Travelers, traders, French missionaries and military men of both England and France walked or boated across Lake Erie and some of them used the portage or path which existed across what we know as the Marblehead Peninsula on the north side of Sandusky Bay. This portage/path was at the east edge of Port Clinton. In 1750 the French built Fort Junundat just to west of the portage. It appears from my sources that Fort Junundat was garrisoned only a short time (if ever), and was in ruins in 1754 ... at least that’s what the surviving journal of a French traveler says.
At this time Benjamin Franklin was editor of the Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper in Philadelphia and apparently was fascinated with the wilderness territory west of the Alleghenies. He campaigned to have Fort Junundat garrisoned with English troops (the United States didn’t exist yet). Franklin also pushed to have a fort built and staffed on the south side of Sandusky Bay and that was accomplished in 1761.
This was Fort Sandusky, which was a fortification with a stockade around it. This fort was built on the south side of the Bay near the mouth of Cold Creek at a location which became the village of Venice in American pioneer times and is now annexed to the west side of Sandusky. Land and road records in the Huron County Courthouse verify the location of the “old English Fort” as being at Venice.
Fort Sandusky’s usefulness didn’t last long. On May 16, 1763, as part of Chief Pontiac’s Conspiracy, a nearby Wyandot Chief visited the fort, ostensibly to obtain some tobacco from Ensign Pauli, Fort Sandusky’s commander. Sufficient braves accompanied the chief to overpower the little garrison and take Ensign Pauli prisoner. The fort was set on fire, but ruins of it still existed as late as 1820.
Ensign Pauli was taken back to Pontiac’s village near Fort Detroit, where he was prepared for burning at the stake, At the last minute a widowed squaw requested that he be spared and made her new husband. He agreed to the deal and after a short time escaped and found safety with the English troops inside Fort Detroit.
Next week I’ll tell you about the connection of our Ohio home with Maj. Robert Rogers and his English Rangers outfit in 1761.
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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.
Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.