Fort’s location had been unknown for more than 200 years
By Kyle Shaner
Sidney Daily News
FORT LORAMIE — The location of the 18th century fort for which the village of Fort Loramie is named, which had been lost for approximately 220 years, has been rediscovered north of the village.
Wayne’s Legion Research Group, an amateur archaeological group led by West Liberty resident Greg Shipley, discovered the location of the north wall of the fort on Ted and Linda Fleckenstein’s farm, approximately 100 yards north of Loramie Creek.
“It’s been the most important single discovery of something that I’ve ever done, and I’ve found a lot of incredible things,” Shipley said. “But I never really thought that I would find a fort wall. Nobody has seen this since probably about 1800; 220 years ago was the last time anybody ever knew where this wall existed because they pulled the logs out, and it was gone.”
Wayne’s Legion Research Group, which is entirely self-funded, has conducted archaeological digs on the Fleckenstein property since September 2013. The group discovered the site of Pierre-Louis de Lorimier’s trading post that year and discovered other artifacts during the past eight years, but the site of the fort remained elusive.
Many people doubted that a stockaded fort ever existed near Fort Loramie, Shipley said, with some accounts stating there was only a blockhouse. However, he and other members of Wayne’s Legion Research Group continued the search in the hopes that they would find the fort.
“A lot of people didn’t really believe that after the Treaty of Greenville that they had fortified this as a stockaded fort,” Shipley said. “But I guess they called it Fort Loramie because indeed it’s stockaded.”
The group discovered a black stripe about a foot under the ground on Oct. 2, 2020, which they suspected could be a trench line for the fort. Knowing they would need a lot of time and favorable weather to complete the excavation, they paused their search until July 6.
About a dozen members of the group resumed the excavation this summer, removing 3 inches of dirt at a time from 10 foot by 10 foot squares. They eventually discovered the north stockade line of the fort, which is 48 feet 3.5 inches in length, much larger than Shipley had expected.
“We knew it would be around but didn’t really know for sure until some of them started doing research and all that stuff,” Linda Fleckenstein said.
The discovery marks the first time in almost 50 years that a stockade line was discovered in Ohio, Shipley said. The site of Fort Laurens was excavated in the early 1970s in Bolivar, which is in eastern Ohio.
With the discovery, visitors have been a common sight at the Fort Loramies excavation as the Fleckensteins and their friends come to watch Wayne’s Legion Research Group work.
“Everybody treats us like we’re the Little League ballgame, and everybody comes and watches us,” Shipley said. “And it’s really fun.”
The tree trunks that made up the walls of Fort Loramies are gone, likely scavenged by pioneers around 1800 after the fort had been abandoned by the military, Shipley said.
“The pioneers came along and used this for like a quick source of building material after the military abandoned this post about 1800 – there was nobody here anymore – maybe even as early as 1798 or early ‘99,” he said.
The holes left by the tree trunks, ranging from 6.5 to 12 inches in diameter, created molds that were filled with topsoil and left a clear outline of where the north wall once had stood. Wood fragments that probably broke off when pioneers removed the posts also were found in the dirt and will be preserved.
“Most people didn’t really think there was a fort here,” Shipley said. “And now it’s undeniable. It’s irrefutable that this was a stockaded fortification.”
Based on research, which includes United States Department of War documents, Shipley said Fort Loramies was constructed in October 1795 by Gen. Anthony Wayne’s soldiers and had 27 men permanently stationed there. It was a valuable site because of its proximity to Loramie Creek and the St. Marys River – waterways used in transporting military supplies.
Supplies from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, would float down the Ohio River and then up the Great Miami River. The waterway would be navigable until the area of Loramies – named for French-Canadian Pierre-Louis de Lorimier, who built a trading post in the area in 1769.
The supplies then were transported approximately 11 miles on land to the St. Marys River. From there they could be shipped to Fort Wayne and Fort Defiance, critical outposts in fights against the British and Native Americans.
“If it hadn’t been for the Wayne period, who knows if the United States ever would have expanded further,” Shipley said, adding the areas south of the Great Lakes could have been controlled by the British and become part of Canada.
Hostilities started to subside with the Aug. 3, 1795, signing of the Treaty of Greenville between the United States and Native American tribes. That treaty led some people to believe the United States wouldn’t have needed a fort at Fort Loramie, but Shipley said Wayne still saw the area as vital to countering the continued British presence in the region.
“I think Wayne still thought that he was going to have to go up there and push the British,” Shipley said. “He wanted to push the British out of America.
“I think he always had in mind this would be the critical supply hub for his campaign to push the British back out of the northern edge of the Northwest Territory.”
After the British abandoned much of the region in 1796, the Americans were able to use the Great Lakes for transportation of supplies. Thus, the recently constructed Fort Loramies was no longer valuable to the American military and soon abandoned, though evidence of its presence remains.
“We’ve never stopped finding things. Every day we find amazing things that has to do with the beginning of the old Northwest Territory,” Shipley said, which includes buttons from military uniforms, canister shots used in cannons and Spanish coins minted in Guatemala and Peru.
Wayne’s Legion Research Group soon hopes to find remnants of the east and west walls of Fort Loramies. They have a general idea of where the walls would have been but won’t know for sure until they start digging.
In the corners of the fort would have been blockhouses that were approximately 20 feet by 20 feet, Shipley said. The blockhouses would have sat atop the ground, and evidence of them likely was destroyed by subsequent farming in the area.
In 2016 Wayne’s Legion Research Group found a trash pit near Loramie Creek that Shipley now suspects sat just beyond the south wall of the fort.
“We think now they were just throwing their trash over the wall,” he said, adding it probably will be a couple years before additional excavation begins in that area.
The north wall of the fort is being documented with photographs, and the Shelby County Engineer’s Office is using GPS mapping to document the exact location of the wall. Concrete stepping stones also will be placed atop the ground to mark the location of the wall after it is covered by dirt this fall.
“We’ll have the outline of the fort, hopefully for a long, long time into the future will be completely visible from the top of the ground,” Shipley said. “You’ll know you’re standing right on top of where Anthony Wayne’s stockade construction once had been.
“I can’t take this stockade wall home, and I can’t put it in a display case. But it’s still so important to have worked on something like this in my lifetime.”
Artifacts found on the Fleckenstein property have been given to the family while members of the Wayne’s Legion Research Group get satisfaction through their work of uncovering history.
“We just love having an opportunity to work on an incredibly rare site such as an American fort from the Anthony Wayne period, and that’s our reward, just having the opportunity to do this and to make these discoveries,” Shipley said.
For more information about the Wayne’s Legion Research Group and its Fort Loramie findings, visit Shipley’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/greg.shipley.756. Shipley plans to create a book about the site sometime in the future.
Reach the writer at [email protected] or 937-538-4824.