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Walls of First Trading Post at Portage Still Standing

On the southern edge of the historic village of Portage, O., four miles south of Bowling Green, sturdy and strong stand the four stone walls of the first story of the Indian trading house of Collister Haskins, the first white man to establish himself permanently within the interior of Wood County back from the Maumee River. The story is this:

Collister Haskins was a native of Massachusetts, born in 1799. Coming west, he first located where Waterville, Lucas County, is, in 1817. He married Fanny Gunn, daughter of Martin Gunn of Waterville and the celebrated Gunn clan. He was then 18.

In 1824 he entered from the government land in Section 12, Liberty Township, Wood County. He braved the loneliness of the forest and built a log cabin. His friends came from the Waterville section, 12 miles, to the first "house raising" in the interior of the county.

On Bank of River

The location was on the south bank of the west branch of the Portage River near General Hull’s old blockhouse, built in War of 1812, about one-half mile south of the present town of Portage and west of the Dixie Highway. He established a trading post, bartered for furs and pelts, mostly with the Indians, prospered, and soon built the more pretentious trading house and tavern shown in the picture.

When Mr. Haskins located , there were two Indian trails which crossed Wood County from East to West. The trail to his trading post was by water up the Portage River from Lake Erie, and near his store left the river and followed the chain of ridges to the head of Beaver Creek, then navigable for canoes, reaching the Indian village at the creek’s junction with the Maumee River.

Postoffice Established

The second Indian route came up the Portage River the same as the first, but cut across the head of Tontogany Creek, and reached the Indian village of Ton-tog-a-nee, also on the Maumee River.

A postoffice was established at "Haskins Place" in 1829 on the Bellefontaine-Perrysburg route, and Mr. Haskins laid out the village of Portage in 1836. The Indians were his patrons until they left their sugar camps and hunting grounds, the last of them about 1840. Mr. Haskins died at Portage in 1872.

In 1842 the village was still in a very primitive condition. Beyond the little stock of goods carried by Ephraim Simmons in his tavern, there were no mercantile accommodations, so the settlers had to cross Mount Ararat to Bowling Green, and often had to go to Perrysburg for their groceries and dry goods. Simmons tavern occupied the northeast corner of the Findlay road and Walnut street. Some years later that house was burned and P. F. Peachen erected a tavern building on its site. That was also burned; but a third building was constructed by Hodgman, said to be the same house occupied by Dr. Fisher. John Carter’s cabin was east by north of the Hodgman House: John Long’s cabin stood where the widow Elizabeth Sargent formerly resided while Peter Johnson had a cabin where stands the late modern residence of Nicholas Dienst, while the log house built in 1833, adjoining what is known as the Drain dwelling, was then used for school purposes.

In 1844, John H. DeWitt married Wealthy Haskins, built a frame house south of and adjoining the cabin in 1833, and then razed the first human habitation on the site of the village. In 1855, Capt. Knaggs built the "Pioneer Hotel" on the northwest corner of the Findlay road and Main street, now known as the "Bradford House".

In June 1857, a petition signed by thirty persons residing in and near Portage, asking that the village be incorporated, was presented. On December 7, the petition was granted, the S. W. of Sec. 12 T. 4 R. 10 belonging to Daniel Mercer, being omitted at his request. On December 12, 1857, an amended plat of the village was placed on record, and on the same day the petition for the incorporation was granted.

The preceding article was first published in the Toledo Blade on Friday, August 4th, 1939, under the banner of "Wood County’s Interior Trading Post". The copy that was given to me by the late Lion Dale was a copy of a copy several times removed, and thus very hard to read in several places, and I apologize for any errors. All attempts to locate the original article were unsuccessful.

The picture mentioned in the article has not been included, but the caption read as follows:

"This picture of Haskins Place, the trading post of Collister Haskins, founder of Portage, O., and the first white man to settle permanently in the interior of Wood County, was taken 20 years ago. Since then, the wooden upper-structure of the old post has been torn down and only the first-floor stone walls remain. The old ruin is at the edge of the village of Portage, four miles south of Bowling Green. The women in the window are Mrs. T. W. Knight and Mrs. Fred Brook Portage."

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