When you go through the history of the early settlers of the Milan territory, some names appear so many times that we learn these men were important – David Abbot (Abbott) who founded this area, F. W. Fowler who became a prominent judge and Ebenezer Merry who founded the Village of Milan. And of course, these early settlers had to exist with the Delaware Indians, who also occupied this land during the settlement. Peace treaties were signed and land transferred after 1815, but when the first settlers came to this land, there were no treaties and many Indians believed the white settlers were pushing them off their land, which is historical true today. 

Church missionaries from the eastern colonies, and from Canada, ventured into Ohio and neighboring states to convert Native Americans during the 1700’s. New Salem, a Moravian Indian Village, was established in May 1787 (closed in April 1790) and it was located slightly north of David Abbot’s east land by the Huron River. By the time the Firelands was established in 1809, some Indians in Ohio had already experienced missionaries and in this area, the missionaries had very little luck converting Native American. Many native Americans did co-exist with the new white settlers because each taught lessons to the other on how to survive the frontier. There was a small Moravian Mission Indian village in the Village of Milan consisting of 15 cabins, a mission house, church and mill and it lasted until 1809 when the Moravian and the converting Indians moved away. The peace between the Native American and the settlers were necessary if the settlers were to survive, but there were always a fear of disruptive Indians returning, or area Indians (Munsees) going on the warpath, and through bloodshed claiming their land. Because of this, one of the first jobs of early settlers was to design a plan of what to do if the Indians attacked.

In 1811, it became known that large numbers of Indians were traveling to Fort Madden, which was held by the British, where they were supplied with firearms and ammunition. The settlers in this area noted that some of the braves from the nearby Indian Villages had also left to get their arms. When America declared war against the British Empire on June 18, 1812, the vast Northwest Territory, including the Firelands, was subject to raids from the British and the Indians. Most of the small settlements built a blockhouse (a small isolated cabin in the form of a single building) or stockade (log placed side by side vertically with the tops sharpened to provide security) as a place to refuge if an alarm was raised that the Indians were nearby. And many of the settlers left for more populace areas in 1812 (including women and children), which left only a few settlers at Abbot's Settlement*. We don't know exactly who was left at Abbot's Settlement*, but certainly most of the women and children were moved to safe towns.

There were seven blockhouses or stockades in this immediate area –the first six being Florence Township, Berlin (Vermilion) Township, Bloomingville, Fort Huron aka "Fort Nonsense" at the Lake Shore east of the River's mouth, Sprague/Russell Blockhouse (north of  Flemmond's Cove) and Parker's Farm, west of Milan. And the last one and most important to this area was “Camp Avery”, in old Avery Township, which has been the encampment of the most interest to many local-historians.

There are some problems with telling the story of the history of Camp Avery. Many of the stories of the camp are urban legend without supporting documents. Most stories about Milan History are recorded in Firelands Pioneer. But in this particular piece, I had Ted Reising-Derby a historical researcher, who spent countless hours to research military correspondence and the Firelands Pioneer to tell me the facts of the story of Camp Avery. We’ve spent many months e-mailing each other to discuss the history of  Avery Township. It’s hard to separate some stories from legend and truths – Ted depends upon the written word of the military and people who lived at that time, and I’m looking for general ambience of the people lived in 1800’s. Sometimes the military and the people who lived in 1812 tell different stories. I have the advantage because I’m telling the story. But I’m a photographer who has a keen interest in everything in 1800 and he is a history researcher who spends a lot of time reading journals, maps and letters, so although we’ve found common grounds and there is still a difference between this writer and the researcher.

I’ve read what the historians and authors have written about Camp Avery (or Fort Avery as sometimes they call it) at the Abbot’s Settlement* and most of it is legend without fact. Camp Avery was NOT located at Abbot’s Settlement*. There may have been a small blockhouse at Abbot's Settlement* to protect people doing shipbuilding (we have no facts that support a blockhouse at Abbot's), but if there was a blockhouse, it was not the blockhouse at Camp Avery. The key to this is Ebenezer Merry, the same person who founded the Village of Milan. We’ve studied military letters and communications, memories written on the Firelands Pioneer and land deeds at Huron Recorder’s office and we were surprised at the location. Rather then list of quotes on Firelands Pioneer or military communications, I will quote a paragraph of the obituary of Charlotte Merry, the wife of Ebenezer Merry about Camp Avery:   

“After a residence of fourteen years at Mentor, Mr. Merry moved to the township of Milan, (then called Avery township), their location being on the Huron River, about two miles north of the present town of Milan, embracing farms subsequently sold to Kline and Minuse. On these premises was Camp Avery, a fortification constructed during the war of 1812, the blockhouse of which was now occupied by Merry’s family which they remodeled and had a house warming held on New Year’s day in 1815.”

So basically, once we found the many blockhouse notes in Firelands Pioneer and other material, we had to look at the deeds from Merry to Kline and Minuse to confirm where Camp Avery was in terms of a map. The first clue was an old tax map from Milan Historical Museum which showed where Ebenezer Merry was located and it is about two miles north from the now Village of Milan. I'll show it on the map below:

Milan Historical Museum Tax/School District Map

Camp Avery, is in current time - immediate south of the Ohio Turnpike beside River Road. Why did they build the camp away from most traffic on the Huron River and the Abbott’s Settlement*? There are four reasons why they built on the Merry’s land:

(1) The British completely controlled Lake Erie with ships of war and whenever ships with American soldiers ventured into Lake Erie, they were fired upon. In fact, according to the Firelands Pioneer, soldiers of the British armies did raid American soldiers during the night at Fort Huron which was probably viewable by British ships in Lake Erie. General Perkins had picked the location of Fort Huron and the higher command (Major General Elijah Wadsworth) wanted Merry’s land, so Perkins was ordered to move some of his troops to Ebenezer Merry’s land.

(2) The military knew the location of both Merry and Abbot. The commanding officer wanted to hide the army from the British and he chooses Merry, instead of Abbot, because no large British ships could navigate the waters near Merry’s farm.  

(3) The troops could also cross (fording) the Huron River at that point which appealed to Wadsworth  because it would be convenient as a supply and rest stops for troops between Pittsburgh and Lower Sandusky and on the forts on the Maumee River.  

(4) The command knew that the fields at Merry’s farm would feed the troops during the winter, which was important because many people left this area during the summer because of the war of 1812.  Merry and Alex Mason had planted this crop and they tended them during the summer months.

General Perkins choose the strategic high ground overlooking the Huron River to build the blockhouse (September 5, 1812) and they built a stockade, which was enforced by earth on all sides and the only way to attack the stockade was difficult because it required climbing the hill. A regular garrison of 40 Ohio men was stationed at Camp Avery and they had a water well at the camp. Other regular soldiers or militia were rotated at Camp Avery during this time – probably up to 250 soldiers. The camp was named because the troops were camped out and it was in Avery Township. 

Merry's Land Survey on 1819 at Firelands Historical Society Merry's Land w/Camp Avery in Pink - Today's Aerial

Other names were used in historical journals or by others writers in writing about Camp Avery – Camp at Avery, Fort Avery (probably because it contained a blockhouse and stockade) Fort Huron and Camp Huron (because it was beside the Huron River – not to be confused with Camp Huron at Huron, Ohio) and Captain Parker’s Blockhouse and Parker’s Fort (because Clark Parker built the blockhouse at his brother’s farm – Charles Parker Farm  - west of Milan). Some people think that one of the Parker brothers may have helped in building the blockhouse at Camp Avery, but so forth, this has not been verified by us. 

Camp Avery only lasted a short time for the military. Most of the Ohio soldiers had signed a six month enlistment and when their enlistment times were up, they returned to their homes and farms. Perkin's plan was to set-up these encampments, while moving troops to western Ohio camps. There seem to be no military communications, to, or from, Camp Avery, recorded after December 1812. Past local-historians have suggested that Captain David Barrett, of the local-militia, assumed command of Camp Avery after the Ohio troops moved out. But other records suggest that the Camp was empty by 1813 and that the future Lieut. Barrett, had already joined the American forces, and was stationed elsewhere.

A Mr. Harvey rented the farm from Merry and converted the blockhouse to a barn in the winter of 1813/14. Mr. Merry and his wife, Charlotte, and six of his children, moved to Milan in 1814 and decided to covert the blockhouse/barn to a log cabin. While they put in the floor and the fireplace/chimney on the blockhouse, the Merry family stayed with Mr. Harvey until they moved in the blockhouse/barn/log cabin by December 1814. And as noted before, they gave a New Year's party in their new log cabin. Among the attendants were David & Mary Abbot, Jared & Huldah Ward which were the original settlers at Avery Township.   

"We have met the enemy and he is ours"

On September 10, 1813, Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry fought the "Battle of Lake Erie" and his victory over the British ensured American control of the lake which was a great morale for the people along the Lake Erie and the Huron and Sandusky River.

On the "War of 1812", after two years of various battles (see the Map of the War of 1812), the diplomats meet on Christmas Eve in 1814 and signed the "Treaty of Ghent" and it was ratified in Washington on February 17, 1815, which finally ended the war. Neither country would win the "War of 1812", and Great Britain and the United States  would never go to war again.

 

- Footnotes -

*Abbot’s Settlement: When David Abbot purchased 1800 acres on both sides of the Huron River, this area was part of Avery Township (Avery Town now known as Milan Township) which was on both sides of Mason Road.  In 1811, Abbot submitted to the recorder’s office a “Town Plat of Huron” which was on the east side of the river and after the war, this area became briefly the County Seat on Huron Township, until it was moved to Norwalk in 1818. Abbot’s Settlement is also known with historians as Abbott’s Settlement, Huron, Avery (there is no record of changing the name from Huron to Avery) and the old county seat. The old town of Huron/Avery are gone today and they have no relationship to the current towns of Huron or Avery in Northern Ohio today.   

 

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