UPDATED: Supporters of ‘Anthony Wayne Day’ respond to critics, announce plans for July 16 commemoration

Gen. "Mad" Anthony Wayne's statue in Freimann Square will be rededicated in his honor July 16. (News-Sentinel.com file photo by Kevin Leininger)
Jason Arp
Mike Loomis

Supporters of the city’s recently proclaimed Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne Day Wednesday defended the event against criticism from Native Americans and historians and announced plans for the inaugural July 16 commemoration.

City Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th, sponsor of the resolution authorizing commemoration of Fort Wayne’s namesake that passed by a 6-3 vote in February, was expected to join other members of a supportive citizens group at a press conference announcing it will enter a float and mounted patrol honoring Wayne the July 13 Three Rivers Festival Parade. In addition to Arp, members of the group includes Barbara Harris and Benita Steyer of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Mary Penrose Chapter; Jeffrey W. Jones of the Sons of the American Revolution; Michael Skeens, Senior District Executive of the Boy Scouts of America, Anthony Wayne Council; David Miller, Commander, American Legion Waynedale Post; Judi Loomis, special advisor; local historians Sean O’Brien and Robert Jones; and Alan D. Gaff, author of several published historic accounts, including “Bayonets in theWilderness: Anthony Wayne’s Legion in the Old Northwest.”

The group organized shortly after council declared the special day for Gen. Wayne and began meeting on March 9. “We want to have a presence in the area’s best known parade, as we prepare for the actual day honoring General Anthony Wayne,” Skeens said in a statement.

In addition to the parade, the Freimann Square statue of Gen. Wayne will be rededicated, and a presentation will be given at the Old Fort about Wayne, with both events occurring on July 16. The Downtown Fort Wayne Optimists Club has also released details about an essay contest featuring youngsters’ writings about Wayne, and the contest is being conducted for children between the ages of 8-10. Prizes of $300, $200, and $100 are being awarded for the top finishers, and the winners will be included in the ceremonies held on July 16. Children in private, parochial, and home schools are all eligible to enter the contest.

Skeens said the group is also recruiting a re-enactor to portray Wayne in uniform for appearances before civic organizations, schools, and special events.

The Mary Penrose Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the chapter is named for the wife of Gen. Wayne. Harris, regent for the group, stated “The fact that our chapter is named for General Wayne’s wife brings all of these events a little closer to home.”

Arp said he has been working closely with the 122nd Fighter Wing of the Indiana Air National Guard — a unit nicknamed the “Blacksnakes” in a reference to “Black Snake”, one of the nicknames the Indians gave Wayne. Arp said that the unit will have a place in the planning for the special day, with a tribute for those in military service.

“There was a lot of support for my resolution recognizing General Wayne,” Arp stated. “I think a lot of people will want to participate in these events and show their appreciation for a military veteran, a patriot, and a trusted general officer reporting directly to our first president, George Washington.”

Not everyone has been supportive, however. The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma called on council to rescind the ordinance in light of its “Socially contemptible and historically inaccurate . . . data pertinent to the Miami and other federally recognized tribes upon whose homelands (Fort Wayne) now resides.” The tribe stated, for example, that contrary to Arp’s resolution, Native Americans were not led by British officers at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 — the same year in which Fort Wayne was established.

In addition, the tribe stated, council’s resolution “makes no attempt to recognize that tribal nations were negatively impacted by the actions of the U.S. Army under Wayne’s leadership . . . The military fort that came to be called Fort Wayne was constructed within sight of the smoking ruins (of Miami cities) . . . (and) the resolution of ‘Gen. Mad Anthony Wayne Day” implicitly commemorates those actions.”

But in a statement, Gaff said that “Fort Wayne needs a lesson in history, not hysteria. Following incursions of the Iroquois Confederacy into the western Great Lakes region in the 1600s, the Three Rivers area had been depopulated. It was not until the early 1700s that Miami, Delaware and Shawnee communities began to move into the Three Rivers area.

Following the Revolution, American colonists began to flood into the Ohio River Valley. Despite officially giving up all claims to the Northwest Territory, Great Britain continued to interfere with relations between the Indians and the Americans. In addition to illegally maintaining forts on American soil, British officials continued to manipulate the Indians in the Northwest Territory by encouraging various Indian factions to attack American settlers . . . There were British artillerymen at the Battle of Fort Recovery and there were also British militia at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. In both cases these troops were under command of British, not Indian leaders.”

“In the summer of 1795, General Wayne negotiated the Treaty of Greenville, which clearly defined Indian land, gave the Indians a large amount of goods, provided yearly payments, and allowed for the return of prisoners. More importantly, the treaty guaranteed peace in the Northwest Territory for a generation. Anthony Wayne should not be held accountable for events that occurred after his death in 1796, such as white settlers’ failure to respect the native land guaranteed by the treaty. Gen. Wayne admired the military abilities of his opponents, just as they respected his. There is no evidence for the negative portrayals by those who do not know or understand history.”

Attorney Mike Loomis, who first suggested the July 17 event to Arp two years ago to commemorate Wayne’s victory against the British on that date in 1779, said history is precisely what Wayne Day is intended to preserve. He said he has reached out to the Miami in the hope they will join in telling the story so all sides of the city’s founding story will be presented.

“We’ve never done anything to honor the namesake of our city. The more people I talked with about the idea, the more we all learned that most area public, private and home school programs do not teach a course, or information, about local history. That’s why we’ve created this new organization,” he stated.

The citizens committee is being operated under the auspices of the General “Mad” Anthony Wayne Organization, Inc.,” a non-profit entity created to enhance private, public and home school education programs about local history. The group can be reached by potential volunteers, sponsors, festival planners and event holders by calling (260) 452-7782 or by emailing info@madanthonywayne.org.