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Oakdale History: South Wayne

A History of South Wayne Community

Fort Wayne was considerably enlarged on August 14, 1894, when the City Council declared the annexation of South Wayne. This was a territory which extended south of Creighton Ave. between Hoagland Ave. and the St. Mary’s River.

The wooded area had long been a favorite ground for the Miami Indians who remained in the precincts during early town days. The reservations of Richardville, LaFontaine and Beabien were all along the St. Mary’s just south of the South Wayne community. A stream through the area, known as Shawnee Run, disappeared with drainage work. A stone bridge over Shawnee Run had existed along Fairfield Ave., just north of Pontiac Street. The bridge work was still visible under the street, according the Peter Certia who went down the sewer in 1952 to have a look at it. The stream had meandered through what later became Beechwood Circle and environs east and west.

Asa Fairfield, a sea captain from Maine and a privateer in the War of 1812, came to Fort Wayne in 1833. He purchased land in the South Wayne vicinity in 1834 from Benjamin Kerchival and Ann Turner, a granddaughter of Chief Little Turtle and daughter of the fort surgeon. Fairfield prospered as farmer and canal boat operator. It was his boat, the ”Indiana,” which made the first trip on the Wabash-Erie Canal. The date was July 4, 1834, and the trip was to Huntington and back to Fort Wayne.

In the decade that followed, Asa’s sons Cyrus and John watched hundreds of Indians race across the landscape on horseback to the saloon of Old Chief Godfrey. Thousands of wild pigeons weighed down the tree limbs of the forested area. Wild hogs roamed and wolves preyed on them. The area between Creighton Ave. and Rudisill Blvd. was originally called Richardville before being named South Wayne. A plank road went along the Indianapolis Road, which was later renamed Broadway. The first Allen County infirmary was built in the district at Savilla and Broadway.

Some of the streets speak names of early homesteaders Byron Thompson, B.B. Miner, and R.S. Taylor. Fairfield sold part of his land in the 1860s to C.D. Bond, George Fox and L.M. Ninde. Cyrus Fairfield ran a soap factory on Broadway. Thompson owned a stirrup factory nearby. Early residents included Judge Fay, Homer Hartman, Edward Colerick, Samuel Stophlet, W.J. Vesey, Dr. Isaac Knapp, G.E. Bursley, O.N. Heaton and John Ferguson. Early landmarks, also remembered by streets, were Beaver’s Mill and Esmond’s Mill. The Bond brothers, Charles and Stephen B., both had large homes to the west of Fairfield. James Barrett’s place was on the other side of Fairfield.

In order to avoid paying Fort Wayne taxes, the residents of South Wayne incorporated in 1889. Within a few years, however, the costs of Jenney Electric Street Lights, roads and a water works convinced some of the South Wayners that separate towns don’t have all of the advantages. A community fight developed. Attorney J.M. Barrett Sr. won the battle for Fort Wayne by guiding an annexation bill through the State Legislature, providing for a city to annex adjacent territory without majority consent of the annexed. This is the same Barrett who developed the Barrett Bond system for citizen participation in public improvements. The final meeting of the South Wayne Council was on Sept. 1, 1894, at which J.M. Henry, president, permanently adjourned the official community.

At about the same time South Wayne was becoming a part of Fort Wayne, some other residential areas were being developed in the city. Typical of the fine residential areas of the era of the 1890s was that built in what was formerly Williams Park, bound by Creighton Ave., Webster St., Woodland Ave. and Hoagland Ave. Louis F. Curdes, long-time real estate broker and builder, plotted and sold the Williams Park area. Ten years later in 1905, Curdes opened the Forest Park addition on the northeast side. The fine residential development stimulated and influenced building on the city’s northeast side for generations thereafter. The long oval of Forest Park Blvd. was built over the exercise track owned by the Centlivre family and used by the fine show and race horses which the Centlivres maintained for many years.


20th Century History of Fort Wayne, By John Ankenbruck, ®1975