Ohio Icon: Fort Recovery State Museum

Fort Recovery (Photo by Damaine Vonada)

Location: In the village of Fort Recovery, the site near the Wabash River where General “Mad” Anthony Wayne ordered the construction of Fort Recovery in 1793.

Provenance: Fort Recovery State Museum exists because of two battles fought to decide whether Native Americans or the United States would control the Northwest Territory. During the Battle of the Wabash in 1791, an Indian coalition commanded by Blue Jacket of the Shawnee and Little Turtle of the Miami trounced the forces of Gen. Arthur St. Clair.

Gen. Wayne purposely built Fort Recovery on the very battlefield where the Indians had crushed St. Clair — Wayne’s message to the natives and their British supporters that the United States intended to recover from that humiliation. Led by Blue Jacket and Little Turtle, more than 2,000 warriors stormed the fort in 1794, but thanks largely to Wayne’s expert riflemen, its 250 American defenders prevailed at the Battle of Fort Recovery. The victory weakened Native American resistance, and, the following year, Wayne negotiated the Treaty of Greenville with several tribes, ending years of carnage on Ohio’s frontier and establishing a boundary between Indian and U.S. lands that opened the Northwest Territory for settlement.

Significance: The museum pays tribute to both the defeat that spurred the development of America’s military and the victory that helped to define the young United States as a viable player on the world stage. In addition, the museum anchors a cluster of related attractions that includes Fort Recovery Monument Park, where a granite obelisk marks the graves of those killed while serving under St. Clair and Wayne. Dedicated in 1913, Monument Park also features a statue of a frontiersman symbolically facing west.

Currently: An Ohio History Connection property operated by the Fort Recovery Historical Society, the museum is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. The museum, a gorgeous stone building, was a Works Progress Administration project that opened in 1938.

It’s a little-known fact that: The museum’s birthday observances include an open house in September and presentations such as “The Forts of Anthony Wayne” by historian David Simmons on Aug. 19.