The West-central Ohio county of Auglaize is bisected by the Auglaize River. That’s the name French explorers gave it. Its Indian name is “River of Fallen Timbers”. In the days when the Miami Nation ruled this area, it was dense forest. Spring flooding undercut their roots causing trees to fall across and into the river.
The last independent Miami National chief was called Little Turtle. He headed a confederation of several tribes – the leading Miami plus Shawnee and others. Their territory covered much of present-day states of Ohio, Indiana, and Lower Michigan. He was eventually defeated by General “Mad” Anthony Wayne after whom are named Detroit’s Fort Wayne and Wayne State University, the city of Fort Wayne Indiana, and counties in Indiana, Ohio, & Michigan. But not before Little Turtle gave Wayne all he could handle for many years.
The decisive final kinetic action between forces led by Little Turtle and Wayne took place in this area in 1794. It is called, “The Battle of Fallen Timbers”. As a consequence of losing this battle, Little Turtle agreed to relocate his tribe to Northeastern Oklahoma. The Miami tribe lends its name to cities in three states: Ohio, Oklahoma, and Florida. Little Turtle made his last homeland encampment before the giant leap to the Oklahoma reservation at his national capital headquarters – the site of the current Auglaize County seat – Wapakoneta.
Now surrounded by countryside as flat and as scenic as a pool table, Wapakoneta is the original hometown of Neil Armstrong – first man to take one small step onto the moon’s surface. A museum commemorating this feat snuggles there beside Interstate 75. From the Southbound freeway side, it presents an earthen mound topped by a lighted dome whose splotchy paint suggests cratered lunar topography. It shares its parking lot with a Holiday Inn.
The museum contains many artifacts such as the space suit Neil wore on the moon. It also has some moon rocks and moon soil. The most interesting item was a five-inch-high scale model of the Lunar Lander. A Paris newspaper financed creation of this model by soliciting donations from the people of France. World-famous jeweler, Cartier, crafted the model in exquisite detail. It was made of pure gold. It was one of three presented to the three astronauts of Apollo 11 as a gift from the people of France. Statue of Liberty 2.0? Okay, France is no longer quite as grand as it once was. The model was stolen in the Summer of 2017 and likely melted down. It would be impossible to fence.
On a cold February Sunday evening, I was driving from Michigan down I-75 to a meeting next morning with Avionics Laboratory scientists and engineers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. Tiring, I stopped overnight at that Holiday Inn. It’s only about an hour’s drive from there on down to Dayton.
My paternal grandfather was named Zahn Douthat. His grandfather was Aloyous LaFontaine. His father was Little Turtle. In the early 70’s, I headed a team of 50 engineers and scientists that designed, built, and tested the central station electronics for NASA’s Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP). These automatic scientific laboratories were deployed and left on the moon by Neil Armstrong and his successors. In 1979, all five tiny one-watt transmitters on then operating ALSEP stations were commanded off to release radio channels. Thus ended made-in-USA moonbeams. This marked a half-century of lost momentum only now finally re-stirring. Project Artemis, a barely crawling infant.
Dean Z. Douthat is a retired engineer residing in a senior living facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is 1/4 Native American