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Published: Thursday, 10/25/2007

Swanton Township historical marker to be dedicated Saturday

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

SWANTON - A historical marker, featuring details on the roots of Swanton and Ohio's last Ottawas, will be unveiled this weekend.

A project of the Ohio Historical Society and the Swanton Township trustees, the marker will be dedicated during a ceremony set for 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday in front of the township hall, 13410 Airport Hwy.

"It is our hope that the placement of this historical marker will become a community point of interest. We envision it as a gathering place and an enhancement to the Swanton Township Hall property," township Trustee James Irmen said.

"We are very grateful to Rob Lucarelli for his leadership on this project. His commitment to preserving our local history is only exceeded by his knowledge of our unique connection to Native American settlements in this area," Mr. Irmen said.

Mr. Lucarelli, a local history buff, assisted trustees with the application to the Ohio Histori-cal Markers program.

The application was approved because of the statewide significance of this area, Mr. Lucarelli said.

Individuals, public agencies, or private organizations can nominate historic properties, persons, and events of significance on a local, state, or national level for the Ohio Historical Marker Program. The Ohio Historical Society administers the program.

On the "Ohio's Last Ottawas" side of the marker, the text reads: "Here in the Oak Openings Region of northwest Ohio, some of the last Ottawa villages in Ohio lined the banks of Swan Creek during the 1830s. These Native Americans were led by Chief Ottokee, a descendant of Pontiac, and half brother to another Ottawa Chief named Wauseon. Known for being honest and friendly, Ottokee was the last Ottawa chief in the Maumee Valley, for years refusing to go when the last of his people were removed to lands west of the Mississippi River."

The other side is devoted to Swanton's history: "In 1835 a road opened from Maumee to the Indiana State line, running through this area. Swanton emerged here, near the Ottawa village, as a frontier town with several shops and hotels for pioneers heading west. To the east, a tollbooth and junction from Toledo known as the Chicago Pike opened. With the arrival of the railroad, 'Old Swanton' was outstripped and moved to its present location. The Swanton Township Hall was originally a schoolhouse, built in 1909 and served as such until 1938."

During Mr. Lucarelli's research, history came alive.

"What I did was to piece together a picture of that site, which in the late 1830s was just as cool as anything Hollywood put out for Gunsmoke or Bonanza," he said.

"You've got an Indian village numbering in the 100s along Swan Creek and an Indian chief in a house on the other side of Swan Creek a little farther east. Behind that, a trading post run by Luther Dodge. A little west, a primitive mill was set up, called a corn cracker, drawn by horses."

The corn cracker was primitive, Mr. Lucarelli said, but "the alternative was to haul corn to Maumee. Early settlers did not have horses and wagons. They hauled the corn on their backs, and slept on bags. They waited their turn if they went to Maumee."

Mr. Lucarelli said he pieced together the history of the site from books. "When you watch westerns on TV, things here were not that much different, other than it was heavily forested and there were not too many gunslingers."

Chief Ottokee lived on land near the new marker's site, Mr. Lucarelli said. The government as the time thought the Indians were a "hindrance to development," he said. After the Removal Act of 1830 was enacted, "Ottokee was the last holdout. He did not want to leave the grave of his father."

The guest speaker at the dedication will be Randy Buchman, a Defiance-based historian who has spent several years building relationships with tribal chiefs.

The marker cost $1,500, and a grant from the Ohio Historical Society paid about half of that cost, Mr. Irmen said.

Descendants of Chiefs Wauseon, Ottokee, and Pontiac were invited to attend, Mr. Lucarelli said.

A re-enactor at Fort Meigs, the Fulton County Historical Society's museum, and the Toledo Area Metroparks, Mr. Lucarelli is working on a book about local history.

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com, or 419-724-6006.



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