Colonel Dresden Howard

In 1820 Dresden Howard came to Ohio from New York State with his parents and other family members.  The trip from NY was made by wagon to Buffalo where some of them went on the 30 ton schooner Eagle, while the rest of the party continued overland.  Eight days later the Eagle arrived at the site of Fort Meigs near Toledo, OH. 

Imagine the dark, dreary, dense forest the travelers were seeing for the first time.  It stretched in every direction they looked.  They noticed that there were few white men, except for the Indian Agency building.  They could see the Indian camps and the smoke rising above the forest.  The travelers had intended to travel on to Ann Arbor, but they were tired from the long journey.  No doubt the women of the group did not want to travel through this heavy forest with the dangers of animals and the Indians that lived there.  Dresden's father established a trading post in the Maumee Valley.
Colonel Dresden Howard

Dresden's Boyhood

Dresden attended the Indian Mission School run by the Presbyterians.  He recalled that "we enjoyed our Saturday half-holiday," in the winter when the river was frozen we skated on the ice.  When there was snow they sledded down the long hill on the banks of the river at lightning speed and if successful you ended up on the ice covered river.  If not you would see boys and girls piled up in the snow along the hill.  

Dresden soon made friends with the young Indians, he learned their language, and  spent many nights with his friends in their wigwams.  His mother worried about her son spending so much time and the nights with his new friends, she was concerned that somethings would happen to him.  His mother still wasn't sure about their Indian neighbors; his father though he was safe enough.  

When Dresden was ten years old his father thought it was time for him to learn a trade, so with the limited knowledge learned in his father's trading post, he soon became an expert in judging the value of skins and furs that were brought to market.  Dresden's understanding of the Indian language and their ways made him a very valuable employee.  In early 1828 Dresden went with Benjamin Hollister and a pack train of horses to the mouth of the Chicago River on the shores of Lake Michigan.  On this long trip, Dresden only saw an occasional trading post, no cabins or settlements.  The business of the trading furs and pelts were carried on during the fall and winter months. 

In the summer of 1831, his father sent him on another expedition.  His father was a War of 1812 veteran and entitled to land.  Dresden was 14 years old and fully equipped and authorized to act for his father.  The trip started on the Maumee River to the Wabash River.  Riding on an Indian pony bought in Fort Wayne he rode to Terre Haute across the prairie to the Mississippi River.  He enjoyed that trip and was accompanied by his young Indian friends.  They camped wherever night found them and lived on the abundant game that roamed the prairie. 

Indian Removal

In 1832 Dresden was hired by the government along with three other men to aid in the removal of the Indians from present day Fulton County.  He knew as he was going to one of their camps on the upper tributary of the River Raisin that this was not going to be easy.  When he arrived in their camp he was greeted as the old friend he was.  They were happy to see him and once around the campfires, they feasted on venison and hominy.  He finally disclosed his reason for being there and that began the many nights of convincing his friends that they needed to uphold their end of the treaty that had been agreed to.

They were to be moved to Kansas and their land would be available to the white man to settle.  Even though the Indians had agreed to this, they did not want to leave their homelands where their ancestors were buried, where they were able to farm and hunt and live in peace.  Dresden told them that the white men who would eventually come might not be friendly to them; they could end up being abused and harmed.  Many nights were spent around the camp fire talking and trying to convince this friends that they must leave.   Dresden observed his friends with the silent tears falling from his their eyes, and they finally agreed to leave.  Camp was broken and the journey began to the meeting place where they would travel to Kansas.  Along the way some Indians disappeared during the night, they just could not leave, so they went into the dense forest and the decision was made not to try and find them.  

The long journey to Kansas was made by water and overland to their new home.  When they arrived in Kansas it was hot, dry, and treeless and most of all they were homesick.  They missed the land which had always provided them with plenty of food.  They missed the land of their grandfathers. 
Colonel Howard with Catawa Indians at Crystal Lake, MI on Sept. 6, 1896. 
Photo from the collection of the Museum of Fulton County.

Later Life

In 1841 Dresden's father died and Dresden soon closed his father's business and in 1842 he married Mary Blackfield Copeland.  They soon had two children, O.E.M. Howard and Mary Agnes Howard.   Dresden continued to be very active in his community and politics.  He was at the convention of 1860 that nominated Abraham Lincoln for President and was a delegate to the convention of 1864 which nominated Lincoln for his second term.  He served as a State Senator in 1872 and 73.  He stared the society that eventually became the present day historical museum.

In addition to his home in Winameg near the Council Oak tree, he and his wife had a summer home in Wauseon.  Dresden loved his home in Winameg, he was surrounded by  the history of his youth.  The Council Oak was meeting place where Indians held tribal meetings.  He planned that he and his wife would rest in the side of the hill near the Council Oak tree.  Colonel Howard's death on November 9, 1897 caused many residents of Fulton County to shed tears.  A true pioneer was gone,  he was a good man who loved his family, his friends, and has never been forgotten.  His love of the Indians that were here when he came as boy never left.  He always regarded them as friends and he missed them after they were gone from the area.  He kept a diary so that his memories would never be forgotten.

Colonel Howard (on Right) with Governor Ashley and Judge Nichols. 
Photo from the Collection of the Museum of Fulton County.

Sources:  Colonel Howard's Diary in the collection of the Museum of Fulton County, History of Henry and Fulton Counties, OH, Colonel Howard's Eulogy from the Toledo Blade.


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