Some events that transpired at the Forks of the Wabash helped shape the face of our nation. Others reflected movements going on all over the country.
When you step inside the Chiefs’ House, you will quickly see that the Miami who lived here in 1846 were far distanced from the Miami who greeted the French here 150 years earlier. This is the home of people who had succeeded in meeting the demands of a rapidly-changing culture. They were not hunters, they did not nap flint tools, and they did not live in matted wigwams. Rather they were successful business people and committed community leaders. They were people of wealth and good taste, and they were also politically astute. The negotiating skill of the people associated with this house resulted in many Miami families remaining here in Indiana. As a result of their skill, today we can find the Miami not just in history books, museum exhibits and old photographs but as vital members of our present community, a part of the tapestry of who we are today.
The construction of the Nuck House still shows the scribe marks left by Mathias Nuck as he marked the notches he was about to carve out with an axe. The scribe marks were drawn free-hand, not with a straight-edge. Mathias carved the notches: some shallow, some steep, and visitors will see how tightly the logs fit together. Our Visitor’s Center features his wood-working tools.
Visitors to the Forks will notice the clapboard siding on the east wall of the Nuck House. This clapboarding was added to keep the timbers of the house dry, but perhaps more importantly, the siding spoke to the new status the Nuck family was attaining. With a few coats of whitewash, this wood siding gave the house the appearance of a “real” house. It was not some rough-hewn cabin in the wilderness, but a “modern” home where a family of rising means lived.
The discovery trails of Forks woods will take visitors through a cross-section of transportation history. The Wabash River – the ancient transportation route and link to the Mississippi River system – comes within a few feet of the towpath of the Wabash & Erie Canal. After the Canal’s demise, the towpath became the right-of-way for the old interurban rail system that connected communities in Indiana and ushered in the 20th century. A few feet beyond the interurban route is modern, four-lane U.S. Highway 24. As visitors stand on the canal towpath, they are literally standing in the footprints of 10,000 years of people moving toward their future.
It all happened here, and if we listen, we can still hear the whispers of earlier times. Won’t you come out and take a listen for yourself?