"Ouabache" was the French name for the Wabash — a native word meaning "white," for LaSalle, the first European to explore the Wabash River. The first peoples had long used this waterway for trade from the Great Lakes to Ohio and down to southern Indiana. Under French control, it connected settlements from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Lawrence River.
In 1790, General George Washington ordered Major John Hamtramck to conduct a survey of the Wabash River, from Vincennes to Fort Wayne. Major Hamtramck's journey through Wabash County on the river is recorded in his journal.
It was on the banks of the Wabash that George Rogers Clark captured the old northwest from the British. And nearby, William Henry Harrison fought the Battle of Tippecanoe, marking the beginning of the war of 1812.
Later, the building of one of the world's longest canals along its old trading routes, the Wabash and the Erie, would bring prosperity to the interior of Indiana and Ohio.
The river once again played a part in history on July 30, 2011, when 350 volunteers calling themselves the Wabash River Defenders
, gave up their Saturday morning to show their love for the old river by ridding her banks and waters of debris accumulated since the arrival of Europeans to her waters.
As far as anyone knows, this has never been done for this area of the Wabash river before.
In all, 19.2 miles of the Wabash River in Wabash County, spanning from Huntington to Miami counties, was finally rid of old tires, debris and ancient trash. Boats full of garbage made their way downstream to the pick-up point at Paradise Springs Park. Refrigerators, appliances, a camper, bicycles, six half-ton chain winches, toilets, an automobile and more were found and brought out of the river and later transported to Wabash. It was then separated into piles according to the type of material.
Volunteer coordinator, Michael Beauchamp, gushed with pride at the volunteer enthusiasm and turn out. 350 people ages 10-70 made up 20 volunteer clean-up teams. Each team was responsible for one mile. Rarely do first-time efforts see such initiative from volunteers.
They began the day at 6:30 a.m. and by the end of the clean-up they had collected 200 tires and tons of trash standing in piles over eight feet tall. On Monday the piles were taken by volunteers and the Wabash City Street Department to recycling centers and landfills. The volunteers were aided by the Wabash and Lagro city departments, Indiana State Police, Army Corps of Engineers, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and civic organizations.
You can follow the great efforts of the Wabash River Defenders on their Facebook page
Photos: Wikimedia Commons and Wabash River Defenders