Photograph taken November 14, 2009 while visiting different sites in West Lafayette, Indiana ~ Cabin on Fort Ouiatenon
Long before the American Revolutionary War the French colonizing forces established a French post at Ouiatenon in the year 1717, more than a century after the first permanent French settlement at Quebec in 1608. Here and at other outposts such as Detroit and Michilimackinac the French annually exchanged large quantities of trading goods for tons of furs. From 1720 to 1760 the Ouiatenon post prospered and grew. During this time, regiments from the Compagnies Franches de la Marine were stationed at this fort, quite possible bringing with them their fifes and drums. At its peak, Fort Ouiatenon had as many as 90 houses of French, Indians, and mix-bloods and as many as 2,000 to 3,000 inhabitants.
For years peace reigned throughout the Wabash River valley between the French and the Indians. When trouble did come, it came from an outside source – the British. As the profits the French were making with the fur trade increased from year to year, the British longed to find a way to reap their own share of this profitable business. The only way to do it was to push westward into French occupied territory and persuade the Indians to trade with them. This competition over the valuable fur trade was only one of many sources of contention between the French and the British which finally culminated in the French and Indian War. It was at the end of this war in 1763 that the French lost their holdings in North America, and Fort Ouiatenon passed into British hands.
Today Fort Ouiatenon still occupies a position of historical importance. Since it is not surrounded by a metropolitan area, the fort’s site is the only early French fortification in Indiana that is available for archeological work – Vincennes and Miamis being long ago destroyed or buried by concrete. A blockhouse was reconstructed in 1930 (a few miles from the original site) and the fort and surrounding park is open to the public on a regular basis. In the fall of each year, the French and Indian era is brought to life as thousands of participants and spectators gather to recapture days gone by at the Feast of the Hunters’ Moon. Here one can experience life at an 18th century French trading post – taste the buffalo stew and Indian fry bread, see the authentically garbed soldiers and their female camp followers, listen to the sounds of thundering canons and muskets as well as the stirring notes of the fifes and drums, and allow the senses to recapture this most colorful period in our country’s history.