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Lawton Park, circa 1905

By Randy Harter

Fort Wayne Reader


The grounds for what would become Lawton park were purchased in 1864 as a site for the Indiana State Fair, an event that ended up only being held there once, in 1865. The property joined the city park system in 1866 and was given the name of Northside Park. In 1899, local and national military hero Henry W. Lawton was killed near Luzon while leading a 4,000 man army during the Philippine Insurrection.

Lawton, born in Maumee, OH was chiefly raised in Fort Wayne and in 1858 enrolled in the Methodist Episcopal College here which stood at the intersection of Wayne and College Streets in today’s West Central neighborhood. At the onset of the Civil War in 1861, he joined the first Indiana regiment that was formed and later became the first Fort Wayne native to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, given for his heroism during the war’s Atlanta campaign. Lawton would go on to distinguish himself in the Spanish-American War, several Indian campaigns, and in the tracking to Mexico of Indian Chief Geronimo in 1886.

Northside Park was renamed in honor of Major-General Henry Lawton in 1900 and the cannon returned from the Philippines was placed upon a limestone base there. Recently, the over 115 year old cannon was removed, taken to Illinois for restoration, and then re-installed at the park. You can see the cannon on your left as you pass the park while driving south on North Clinton Street. A bronze statue of Lawton was erected in Lakeside Park in 1921 and additionally statues of him are in Garfield Park in Indianapolis, and Thomas Park in Lawton, OK. His grave and a bronze monument to him reside in Arlington National Cemetery.

The two dandies in the straw boater hats holding cigars were photographed at the Lawton Park monument about 1905. (Image courtesy of ACPL)

Randy Harter is a Fort Wayne historian and author of two books on local history.

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