Conflict between white settlers and Shawnee, Delaware, Kickapoo, and Miami Indians was a common occurrence in what is now Jackson County, Indiana in the 19th century. Natives in the area saw settlers who cleared lands, built forts, and tried to enforce rules as encroaching on their families and communities. Settlers, on the other hand, believed that they were improving the land and bringing civilization to the frontier.
Eight forts were built on a line from just south of Vallonia through Brownstown and on towards the East to shelter white colonizers and traders. Forts supported militias who traveled as far as a hundred miles to attack Delaware Indian villages north of what is now Indianapolis. Forts also were easily defensible against Native raiding parties who sought access to European goods including guns.
Most strongholds were built between 1809 and 1812. According to Joe Robertson, local historian, this was called the “String Fort System” because it consisted of a string of forts leading toward the much larger Fort Vallonia. These small structures were often within a half hour running distance of the next “fort,” and had an unobstructed view of the neighboring homestead. This allowed settlers to signal the next fort to warn them of conflicts and attacks.
Building the Replica String Fort
In the 1940s, Jim and Millie Heller hired the Wayman Builders to construct a log playhouse for their children Randy and Sally. The logs for this building were cut by John O. Shelton. This approximate one-third scale model of a string fort stood on the Heller property in Brownstown for more than 60 years, long after the Heller children and their friends were grown and many had moved away. In 2011, Joe Peters purchased the Heller property and was generous enough to donate the replica of the String Fort to the Jackson County History Center. In September of 2012, Carl Shake and the crew from Brownstown Electric Company moved the log structure to the pioneer village.