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Fort Portage
A Historical Fort In Wood County That Has Long Since Disappeared

Where is Fort Portage?

Probably not one person in Wood county today is aware that such a fort ever existed in Wood county. Everybody knows of Fort Meigs, but Fort Portage has been lost to the memory of even the oldest living inhabitants of Wood county, yet Fort Portage once existed within our borders, and was an important place even before Fort Meigs was thought of, and its remains were plainly visible as late as 1830.

We have in our possession a rare old book Ė the property of C. W. Evers, that veteran searcher after early history, who will some day leave to the people of this country a rich legacy in the way of pioneer recollections. The book bears the following quaint title page:

"The Ohio Gazetteer and Typographical Dictionary containing a description of the several counties, towns, villages, settlements, roads, rivers, lakes, springs, mines, etc. in the state of Ohio, alphabetically arranged by John Kilbourn, published and sold on High st., a few rods from the State House. Printed in Columbus by P. H. Omsted in 1821."

Looking over this rare old book the other day we found this:

"Fort Portage, a block house, sometimes denominated a fort, on Portage or Carrying river, on the route from Fort Findlay to Fort Meigs; 18 miles southernly from the latter, and 29 miles north from the former."

Now where was Fort Portage and by whom was it built? The distances given are evidently wrong, for the distance between Findlay (Fort Findlay) and Fort Meigs, is only about 33 miles, but the mistake was one easily made for in those days there were no railroads, no wagon roads and very few land marks.

Fort Portage was located on the west branch of the Portage, a few miles up the river from Portage village, on what is now the Knaggs farm. As late as 1835 a few of the timbers of the stockade were still standing and the outlines of the old fort can still be traced.

By whom was it built? That is hard to say. The probabilities are that it was constructed by the early French traders long before Hull passed through this country in 1812, but it is claimed by some that Hull built it for the use of his sick men whom he was compelled to leave among the hostile Indians, while en route to Detroit.

Seeking the best source of information concerning the fort, the Sentinel wrote to Hon. D. W. Howard, of Wauseon, about it, and received the following letter in reply:

Wauseon, Oh, April 18, 1891

Ed. Sentinel: Your kind letter, and paper, with copy of my letter of the 11th, received, and in reply to your editorial you have corrected that which I intended to do in my letter, but in my hurry, neglected to do so. The word "Portage" is French for "carry", "carrion" is the Yankee or white-man, for "Portage". In the early days the "Carrying" (or Carrion) river was the name usually applied, when speaking of the stream, as that was the English, and "Portage" used by the French traders.

The "Block House" you speak of, I have passed many times when a boy, and camped near its walls, and always thought it an old French traderís fort; yet it was near one of the trails used by Hullís army, but I cannot vouch for the truth of this, but this is a matter of history. The swamps and streams were always full, and goods and furs were taken by canoes up or down the Portage and the Beaver, and carried across from the head waters of one stream to another. The "old trail" across was a well beaten track, the two streams furnished early communication (nearly all the way by water) from the villages on the bay at the mouth of the Portage river, to the large and important Ottawa village of the chief Gein-jo-i-no, on the left bank of the Maumee, opposite the mouth of Beaver creek (o-mick-oe-pe). This route, although much farther than via, of the Maumee, on account of the almost continuous rapids for 18 miles, was more convenient.

Hull may have built the block house, as I have often heard the story form the older Indians, that the "White Chief" (Hull) had left some of his sick and foot-sore soldiers in a small stockade in the swamp, who returned south over the trail after they had sufficiently recruited, and this may have been the place. I think there was something of the report, as I asked the Indians why they did not scalp the disabled men and the reply was the "no brave would scalp a sick soldier."

Speaking of the Portage, you will observe that the west branch of the Portage, and east, or south branch of Beaver creek are not very far apart.

Very truly,

D. W. H. Howard.

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Like me, you may remember seeing a historical marker along the west side of route 25, just south of Portage. The marker had a brass plaque that told about the fort and its location. It was there when I was in grade school, but the sign, like the fort itself, is no longer in sight.

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