“Wesley Viets” was John Wesley Viets (Jan. 6, 1835, Fort Jefferson, Darke County, Ohio - Dec. 31, 1915, Soldiers’ Home, Dayton, Ohio), son of Hezekiah Viets and Hulda Ludington. He was 72 years old when he gave these remarks at the October 24, 1907, dedication ceremony. His father, Hezekiah Viets, was among the earliest settlers of Darke County, Ohio. 



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Not having the slightest hint of my name being called upon this occasion, I am entirely unprepared to come before you and I do not feel that I can add anything to what has been said in regard to the history of this old fort. All I can say is what I know from my own experience.

I came to this place nearly seventy-three years ago, and it was then comparatively a wilderness.   I have played on this spot hundreds of times and we always called it the war grounds. We would say, “We will go over to the war grounds and hunt bullets.” We would pick up six-ounce bullets that were shot from the old guns, the old flint lock that we had to load and prime it. Powder was ignited through a flint and we still had them when I was old enough to shoot squirrels in the woods. Pocket money was a little scarce and we boys would come over here and hunt bullets and then mold them into small bullets to use in squirrel hunting.

In regard to the fort, a great many asked me where the old fort was. Now I can’t tell that. I am not old enough to remember. I can remember very distinctly what we called a magazine stood right about where that apple tree stands, and here was another magazine here, and down below the hill was a large spring. There was an underground ditch dug from that magazine and it was dug deep enough that a man could walk from that magazine to this one and from there it extended to the spring below. That was covered with what we called puncheon laid across the ditch and then covered with dirt, and the underground ditch was used for protection in going from one place to another for water. You can see the low place right along there extending to that magazine and from there it goes on down to that old spring, which has been running ever since I can remember and still affords water. Then across on the other hill there is another place that was said to be a magazine. And I remember when there was a dam from the road across the creek there, which was called the beaver dam, but what it was put there for, I don’t know.

I can remember when there was but one frame house in this place that stood on the corner there and was burned down three years ago. There was at that time eight or ten log cabins. I can remember when every frame house in this town was raised. Our first school house was built all of round logs. The fire place took wood in four foot long. The wood was hauled by the patrons of the school and piled up, and the pupils would go out and chop it. It would take two or three boys to carry the back log, as we called it. The chimney was made of sticks. That was burned down finally and we put up a frame school house on the same site. We would have school generally three months in the year. About the holidays we had great times. We turned the teacher out and, if he was a little obstinate and didn’t like to come to our terms about a treat, we would take him down to the creek, cut a hole in the ice and put his head in the water for a while.

My father came here between 1813 and 1815. In looking through old papers a few years ago, I found a license reading something like this: “This is to certify that Hezekiah Viets has the privilege of bringing a store to and selling goods in Fort Jefferson from this date until the sitting of the next court, which will probably be in July.”

This small tract of ground which was called the old war ground was all cleared off, not even any stumps on it. We didn’t consider it anything to pick up a bayonet, a musket ball, an old lock, Indian tomahawk and bomb shells. In clearing the farm above here, I found in the fork of a tree a part of a bomb shell half as large as my hand. I found in 1869 one bomb shell that was called an eight pounder. That was filled with powder yet and had the cork in where the fuse was attached, but the powder had been wet and would not ignite. We had not yet learned to appreciate these old relics and failed to take care of them, consequently, they were mislaid or destroyed. Only a few years ago, I picked up a half dozen grape shot, a scalping knife, and what they called a bullet puller to draw the loads from the guns. I picked them up right here, just north of the house there. But in regard to the old fort, I have paid but little attention to its history.


The fort named Fort Jefferson was built by General Arthur St. Clair in his 1791 campaign against the Indians.  (http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=709)  Later on that campaign, his army suffered a tremendous defeat at the Battle of the Wabash or "St. Clair's Defeat." (http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/summer/battle.html)  The next campaign against the Indians was in 1793-4, led by General Anthony Wayne.  He used Fort Jefferson as a supply post and built Fort Greene Ville. (http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=706)  He also built a fort at the site of St. Clair's Defeat that he named Fort Recovery.  His victories in that campaign led to the 1795 Treaty of Greeneville (http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=1418&nm=Treaty-of-Greeneville-1795)    (Greeneville has since been shortened to Greenville.)  What is now Darke County was on the western edge of the land ceded by the Indians in that treaty.  "The Indians, however, could still hunt on the land that they ceded."  Settlers probably didn't really feel "safe" in the area until after the death of Tecumseh on October 5, 1813, during the War of 1812

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