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Published: Sunday, 11/16/2003

1805 Fort Industry treaty entices Toledo historians

A printed copy of an 1805 treaty between the United States and the  sachems, chiefs, and warriors  of northwest Ohio is the sole reference to Fort Industry, a fanciful likeness of which is part of Toledo s seal. A printed copy of an 1805 treaty between the United States and the sachems, chiefs, and warriors of northwest Ohio is the sole reference to Fort Industry, a fanciful likeness of which is part of Toledo s seal.

A seven-page slice of Ohio history - a rare, nearly 200-year-old paper link to Toledo s obscure Fort Industry - soon will be put on an auction block in New York.

If the price is right, it could be bound for Toledo.

“My heart gave a little pitter-patter,” quipped Mike Lora, curator for the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library s rare books collection.

In perusing a catalogue for an upcoming auction at the New York-based Swann Galleries, Mr. Lora s eyes fell on Lot #210: a 198-year-old copy of the Treaty of Fort Industry, the agreement between several Indian nations and officials of a fledgling United States. It was signed July 4, 1805, at Fort Industry, a short-lived structure near what is now downtown Toledo.

The contract essentially ceded 500,000 acres of Indian land in Huron and Erie counties to the westward-expanding United States. In return, the Ottawa, Chippewa, and “such of the Potawatomi nation as reside on the river Huron of Lake Erie,” would receive $18,916.67 from the government. The Wyandot, Munsee, and Delaware nations “and those of the Shawanee and Seneca nations who reside with the Wyandots” were to get $1,000 “every year forever hereafter.”

The browned copy of the treaty at the New York auction house most likely was one of only a few hundred printed in the weeks after the treaty, then circulated to U.S. senators for their “advice and consent,” said Jeremy Markowitz, a specialist in rare documents for Swann Galleries. An inscription on the treaty, dated Jan. 17, 1806, reads: “None in the Senate voted in the negative.”

Mr. Markowitz valued the item at $300 to $400 for the public auction scheduled for Dec 4. While rare, he told The Blade, “it s not the original.”

But for local history buffs, the paper is worth more for “its historical significance and emotional connect,” said Dr. G. Michael Pratt, a professor at Heidelberg College in Tiffin. Dr. Pratt has researched local history of that time and documented with high-tech sleuthing equipment the details of the Battle of Fallen Timbers in Maumee in 1794 and the Treaty of Greenville the next year.

Fort Industry is a part of Toledo's seal. Fort Industry is a part of Toledo's seal.

The Fort Industry Treaty is one of the earliest legal documents pertaining to the area. But more than that, it is perhaps the only reason that history even recorded Fort Industry, a structure that remains mysterious even though an artist s somewhat inaccurate image makes up Toledo s official city seal, adorning city vehicles, police officers patches, and other city property, Dr. Pratt said.

No one knows exactly what the fort looked like, why it was called Fort Industry (industry in the area was years away), or even if it was a fort. Most likely, it was a simple blockhouse - maybe just a stockade fence - and a small collection of cabins, Dr. Pratt said.

In fact, no one is sure where Fort Industry was located, though it appears that it was somewhere in Toledo s current downtown along Summit Street where the Maumee River and Swan Creek meet. A row of older businesses located in that area and across from the SeaGate Convention Centre bear the name Fort Industry Square.

The treaty is “important to Toledo because the negotiations took place here,” Dr. Pratt said. “And really, whether or not there really was such a thing as Fort Industry - and I mean more than a blockhouse and just a few people s nickname for it - Fort Industry has become an icon now.”

Fred Folger, another local historian, agreed: “It s a paper with a definite date of an actual happening. There was a date, and witnesses, and signatures before Toledo was called Toledo.”

More than three dozen U.S. and Indian representatives, interpreters, and other witnesses signed the original animal skin treaty of 1805 with their names, with X s, and with inked drawings of their animal names. Eventually, it was archived in a vault at the National Archives with the other 374 treaties between the United States and various Indian nations.

Like so many of those treaties, it would become the subject of complex legal battles that dated into the 1970s, and whose fairness continues to be debated today.

“All the treaties we signed - and there were 19 between the Wyandot and the United States - were broken, but it wasn t by us,” said Chief Leaford Bearskin, chief of the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma, who are descendants of those who signed the treaty and the only federally recognized Wyandot nation.

If the Toledo-Lucas County Library System obtains the item at the auction, it would be housed in The Blade Rare Book room, a 1,600-square-foot, climate-controlled room at the main library which is home to an intriguing compilation of old letters, reference books, vintage photographs, art collections, and other extraordinary materials.

Its acquisition would put the document just blocks from where the original treaty was penned. That makes all the difference for those such as Mr. Lora, who prefer the real paper of nearly two centuries ago to copies filtered and smeared and blemished by microfilm, microfiche, and the Internet.

“The closer you can get to the history itself, the more knowledgeable we can be about its significance,” Mr. Lora said. “It s entirely appropriate that a public library try to obtain all it can about its community s link to the past.”

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