Headstone dedicated to IN delegate from 1816

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A new headstone was dedicated at the gravesite of William Polke – a delegate to the 1816 convention that created the Indiana Constitution.

The headstone for William Polke.
The headstone for William Polke.

A dedication ceremony Saturday was held as a grave marker was placed at the burial site of Polke in McCulloch Park on Broadway just south of the old General Electric plant. The ceremony was part of the Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project, to honor all Indiana constitutional convention delegates, according to the press release from the Fort Wayne Parks Department.

Born Sept. 19, 1775, in Brooke County, Va., Polke later moved with his family to Knox County in southwest Indiana. He grew up to fight for Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers and was wounded during the Battle of Tippecanoe, Castaldi wrote in an article published this summer. Polke went on to win election to the Indiana territorial legislature, which existed before Indiana became a state on Dec. 11, 1816. Polke then held a variety of positions, including being assigned in 1838 to lead the removal of Potawatomi Indians of this area to a reservation in Kansas, Castaldi wrote. Polke was named register of the land office in Fort Wayne in 1841, according to the press release.

He died here April 29, 1843. Polke was buried with fanfare but has rested in obscurity since about 1860.

City officials recently learned from a Polke descendant that his grave was located next to and perpendicular to the grave of former Indiana Gov. Samuel Bigger, who died in 1846 and lies in a well-marked grave in that same corner of the park, Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi said previously. Castaldi said earlier. Historians have long suspected some graves may remain, possibly because some deceased had no family members present to give permission for the move, according to the press release.

Allen Co. Bicentennial Coordinator and ACPL Genealogy Center Manager Curt Witcher (left); Martha Barnhart from National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (center); and IN Archives and Records Admin Director and state archivist James Corridan (right)
Allen Co. Bicentennial Coordinator and ACPL Genealogy Center Manager Curt Witcher (left); Martha Barnhart from National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (center); and IN Archives and Records Admin Director and state archivist James Corridan (right)

Corridan has tried to track down the gravesites of all delegates to the 1816 convention that created the Indiana Constitution. He determined Polke had been buried in Fort Wayne in what is now McCulloch Park. He then found a descendant who had information that showed the grave was just south of Bigger’s, according to the press release.

Indiana archivist James Corridan, Indiana Senate President Pro-Tem David Long, Allen County historian Tom Castaldi and Fort Wayne Parks Director Al Moll all participated in Polke’s headstone dedication event as guest speakers.

The  ceremony was sponsored by Mary Penrose Wayne Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution.