The historic Maumee river stretches for 137 miles (220 km) between Fort Wayne, Indiana, where it originates at the junction of the St. Joseph and St. Mary’s rivers, and Toledo, Ohio, where it flows into Lake Erie.
It was on the site of the city of Maumee, southwest of Toledo, that took place in August 1794 the last battle of the Northwest Indian War of which the Americans emerged victorious. The indigenous peoples, though allied with the British, had been denied the protection of the nearby fort which the British had just rebuilt to block the advance of the Americans to Detroit. The British’s preference had been to avoid with diplomacy the incident with the Americans who, for their part, had given up attacking the fort.
A fort hides another
The British fort, called “Fort Miamis”, was a true defense structure built on the heights overlooking the Maumee River, where the rapids area ends. Nothing that happened in the valley could escape the British. Today, only earthwork remains of the fort can be seen. It was strongly protected according to the fortification methods developed at the time by the famous Vauban, a French military engineer. But that’s not all. The British fort had earlier a predecessor on the same location, a well fortified trading post, and that one was French.
It is probably around 1680 that the French built their trading post, called “Fort Saint-Philippe des Miamis”. They had already understood the strategic importance of the Maumee site, where Native American tribes from the North as well as the West regularly met. The Maumee River then became the preferred navigation route between Canada and the colony of Louisiana, as only one portage was required to reach the Wabash River, a main tributary of the Ohio River (see map under Fort Wayne). The British had understood this well since at the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1764, they had strengthened the French post and called it “Fort Miamis”. This rich French fact in early American history would gain a lot by been better known.
“Roche de Bout”, also called “Roche de Boeuf”, is a limestone outcrop that forms an island (much larger in the 18th century) in the middle of the Maumee River at Waterville near Maumee (pictured above). It was a landmark for Native Americans and early French and Canadian travelers. It was used by the Miamis and their allies as a gathering place for tribal leaders.