Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Fort Wayne Indian Agency Collection, 1802-1815

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, June 2010

Summary Information
Title: Fort Wayne Indian Agency collection
Creator: Johnston, John, 1775-1861 and Stickney, Benjamin Franklin, 1775-1857
Inclusive dates: 1802-1815
Extent: 3 volumes
The Fort Wayne Indian Agency collection consists of a letterbook kept by Indian agents John Johnston and Benjamin Franklin Stickney; an English-to-Ottawa dictionary, likely written by Stickney; and a memorandum book kept by Johnston during his time at Fort Wayne.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1947 and 1960. M-655, M-1142.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Fort Wayne Indian Agency Collection Book, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


In 1794, General Anthony Wayne established Fort Wayne at the junction of the St. Marys and St. Joseph rivers in Indiana Territory. The soldiers at the fort came into frequent contact with several Native American bands, such as the Miami, Eel River Miami, Delaware, Shawnee, Muncie, Wyandot, and Potawatomi. In 1802, the fort established an Indian agency and factory, in order to secure the Indians' loyalty and to weaken their ties to the British in Canada. The agents furnished the tribes with agricultural tools, domestic animals, money, and other supplies. They also held councils, issued trading licenses, and acted as intermediaries between the Indians and the United States government. Between 1802 and 1815, John Johnston and Benjamin Franklin Stickney were the Indian agents at Fort Wayne.

John Johnston (1775-1861) was born in Ballyshannon, Ireland, was raised in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and, as a young man, worked as a clerk in Philadelphia. After the Revolutionary War, he served with General Anthony Wayne in his campaign against the Ohio Indians, from 1792-1793. He married Rachel Robison in 1802 and soon after was appointed Indian factor at Fort Wayne, Indiana Territory. After the dismissal of William Wells in 1809, Johnston took over his post as Indian agent. He became a paymaster and a quartermaster during the War of 1812, and served as an Indian agent in Piqua, Ohio, from 1811-1831.

Benjamin Franklin Stickney (1775-1857) was born in Pembroke, New Hampshire. He served Pembroke as justice of the peace and postmaster general from 1805 to 1811, when he was assigned to scout the British forces in Canada by Secretary of War William Eustis. In March 1812, shortly before war broke out, the military assigned him to be Indian agent for Fort Wayne, Indiana Territory. He helped defend Fort Wayne, and he traveled with the military in Indiana and Ohio throughout the war. In 1820, he moved to Fort Miami in the Maumee Valley, and served as subagent for the Ottawa and Wyandot Indians. He mastered several Native American languages and authored dictionaries for many of them. He invested in land in northern Ohio, and played an integral role in the border dispute between Michigan and Ohio over the newly founded city of Toledo.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Fort Wayne Indian Agency collection consists of a letterbook kept by Indian agents John Johnston and Benjamin Franklin Stickney; an English to Ottawa dictionary, likely written by Stickney; and a memorandum book kept by Johnston during his time at Fort Wayne.

The Fort Wayne Indian Agency Letter book (189 pages) was compiled by agents John Johnston (April 15, 1809-November 30, 1811) and Benjamin F. Stickney (April 18, 1812-October 1, 1815), who documented all accounts, disputes, complaints, and other occurrences that transpired between the soldiers at the fort and the Native Americans. The letterbook records the agency business during the critical years before and during the War of 1812, when Fort Wayne was a vital part of American frontier defenses. The volume is comprised of copies of letters, speeches, circulars, and documents, to and from the agents and various departments of the United States government. The correspondents include Presidents Jefferson and Madison; Secretary of State James Monroe, Secretaries of War Henry Dearborn, John Armstrong, and William H. Crawford; the governor of Indiana Territory, William Henry Harrison; and Michigan governors William Hull and Lewis Cass; as well as several Indian chiefs (listed in Additional Descriptive Data). The entries contain lists of supplies received at Fort Wayne, lists of supplies and gifts extended to the Indians, receipts for work done at the garrison, reports on Indian activities, speeches addressed to the Indians, accounts of the war on the frontier, and reports about other conflicts in the area. The volume concludes with a 13-page "statements and observations relating to the Indian department" which summarizes Stickney's efforts during the War of 1812. For a complete transcription of the letterbook, along with a thorough index, see:

Thornbrough, Gayle. Letter Book of the Indian Agency At Fort Wayne, 1809-1815. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1961.

The English to Ottawa dictionary (40 pages) contains phonetic spellings for English words in the language of the Ottawa Indians (the Ottawa speak a dialect of Ojibwe). The book, likely composed by Stickney, contains words for mammals, fowl, birds, fish, reptiles, elements (earth, water, wood, stone, clay, etc.) plants, trees, body parts and facial features, food, maladies, medicine, feelings (love, malice, envy etc.), celestial features, weather, clothes and other goods, numbers, colors, and useful phrases. In addition to providing information on the Ottawan language, the dictionary relates concepts and terms that were important to the Americans. This volume was likely never published.

John Johnston kept the Fort Wayne memorandum book (145 pages) during his tenure as Indian agent at Fort Wayne, from 1802-1811. The volume contains both personal and official material. The first entry was March 20, 1801, when Johnson was appointed by General Henry Dearborn to be a clerk in the War Department. He arrived at Fort Wayne on September 20, 1802. The volume contains several lists of supplies for Fort Wayne and for gifts to the Indians, and records bills and accounts from the Indian agency and the War Department. Many of the accounts concern Indian agent William Wells (1802-1803). Johnston also made notes on his daily responsibilities, of enquiries into food and supplies, and on people traveling to and from Fort Wayne and Washington D.C.; Dayton, Ohio; and Detroit, Michigan. Several entries relate to Native Americans, and discuss Little Turtle's adopted son and the husband of Little Turtle's daughter. Among Johnston's personal notes are financial records for planting his farm and orchard in 1808. The memorandum book provides information about life in the Indiana Territory in the early 19th century.

Subject Terms

    • Armstrong, John, 1758-1843.
    • Attwater, Reuben, 1768-1831.
    • Baltimore (Md.)
    • Bloomfield, Joseph, 1753-1823.
    • Cass, Lewis, 1782-1866.
    • Clinton, DeWitt, 1769-1828.
    • Crawford, William Harris, 1772-1834.
    • Dearborn, Henry, 1751-1829.
    • Delaware Indians--Government relations.
    • Detroit (Mich.)
    • Eel River Band of Miami Indians.
    • Eustis, William, 1753-1825.
    • Fort Wayne (Ind.)
    • Greenville (Ohio)
    • Harrison, William Henry, 1773-1841.
    • Heald, Nathan, 1775-1832.
    • Hull, William, 1753-1825.
    • Indian agents.
    • Indian traders.
    • Indians of North America--Alcohol use.
    • Indians of North America--Government relations.
    • Indians of North America--Indiana.
    • Indians of North America--Michigan.
    • Indians of North America--Northwest, Old.
    • Indiana--History--War of 1812.
    • Jefferson, Thomas, 1732-1807.
    • Kickapoo Indians.
    • Lear, Tobias, 1762-1816.
    • Little Turtle, 1747?-1812.
    • Mason, John, 1766-1849.
    • Meigs, Return Jonathan, 1764-1825.
    • Miami Exporting Company.
    • Miami Indians.
    • Monroe, James, 1758-1831.
    • Munsee Indians.
    • Ojibwa language--Dictionaries.
    • Ottawa Indians.
    • Ottawa language.
    • Piqua (Miami County, Ohio)
    • Potawatomi Indians.
    • Quakers.
    • Shawnee Indians.
    • Shawnee Indians--Treaties.
    • Society of Friends--Missions.
    • United States--History--War of 1812.
    • United States. War Dept.
    • United States. War Office.
    • Upper Sandusky (Ohio)
    • Wells, William, 1770-1812.
    • White River Watershed (Ind.)
    • Winnebago Indians.
    Genre Terms:
    • Accounts.
    • Letter books.
    • Memorandums.
    • Receipts (financial records)
    • Speeches.
    • Translation documents.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Fort Wayne Indian Agency letter book,  1809-1815 [series]
    Volume   2  
    English to Ottowa dictionary,  undated [series]    [Note: Enclosed in volume 1]
    Volume   3  
    Fort Wayne Indian Agency memorandum book,  1802-1811 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Correspondence or speeches by the following Indian Chiefs:

    • Anderson (Delaware)
    • Bear's Foot (Potawatomi)
    • Beaver (Deleware)
    • Big Snake (Shawnee)
    • Black Hoof (Shawnee)
    • Butler (Shawnee)
    • Captain Lewis (Shawnee)
    • Charley (Eel River)
    • Crane/Tarhe (Wyandot)
    • Five Medals (Potawatomi)
    • Godfroy (Miami)
    • Little Eyes (Chequia)
    • Little Turtle (Miami)
    • Marpot (Powawatomi)
    • Oil Snake (Shawnee)
    • Owl (Miami)
    • Silver Heels (Miami)
    • Winamac/Catfish (Potawatomi)
    • Wolf (Shawnee)
    • Yellow Beaver (Potawatomi)
    • Young Snake (Shawnee)
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library holds additional manuscripts pertaining to John Johnston and Benjamin Stickney, including:

    • The James Birney papers: an item related to Johnston (August 20, 1850).
    • The Josiah Harmar papers: 7 letters concerning Johnston (December 24, 1834, January 12, 27, April 8, May 6, 21, and June 8, 1835).
    • The Michigan collection: one letter to Johnston from the American Fur Company (January 26, 1818).
    • The War of 1812 collection: one item related to Stickney (February 10, 1813).

    The Indiana Historical Society has items related to John Johnston in their Indiana Territory collection.

    The Library of Congress holds material concerning Johnston in their Jonathan Meigs and Ethan Allen Brown collections.

    The Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio, has several letters, papers, and ephemera of John Johnston.


    The Fort Wayne letterbook was published in 1961:

    Thornbrough, Gayle. Letter Book of the Indian Agency At Fort Wayne, 1809-1815. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1961.

    Hill, Leonard U, and John Johnston. John Johnston and the Indians in the Land of the Three Miamis. Piqua, Ohio, 1957.

    Johnston, John. A Vocabulary of Wyandot. Bristol, Pa.: Evolution Pub., 2003.

    Griswold, Bert Joseph, and John Johnston. Fort Wayne, Gateway of the West, 1802-1813: Garrison Orderly Books, Indian Agency Account Book. Indianapolis: Historical bureau of the Indiana library and historical department, 1927.