LIMA — There was a time David Johnson could care less about the War of 1812. But that was nearly 40 years ago, before he made a commitment to learn as much as he could about the fort that stood where Fort Amanda Memorial Park is today.
“The whole bottom line, what drives everything I do on this thing, is paying honor to what was done here. It is just to correct the myths,” Johnson said Wednesday as Ohio Valley Archaeological Consultants scanned the field at the park.
After preparing the nearly six acres (the fort sat on about 1.5 acres) in the morning, consultants used a ground-penetrating radar in the afternoon to scan the land. The scan, with information automatically being sent to a computer, can tell if there are features underground. Analysis will take a couple of weeks, Johnson said.
Johnson, who moved to Columbus in 2001, began studying Fort Amanda in 1974 after hunting in the area with a metal detector unveiled musket balls, gun parts, spurs and buttons from coats belonging to Maj. Gen. Anthony Wayne’s soldiers.
“I just got really interested in it,” Johnson said. “You get into this and you go, ‘Wow, this is a pretty historic area.’”
And as he got into it, Johnson discovered errors in how history is being told about the fort. The biggest myth, he said, is the location of the 32,000 square foot fort, which supplied the army protecting the Northwest from British invasion during the War of 1812.
Johnson believes the fort actually sat about 80 feet further to the north than what people think. He hopes the scans show just that.
“It is easy to blow it off and say, ‘Who cares?’ Well, I care,” he said. “American history is just full of junk, and it does nothing to help us appreciate our country. We need to know that occasionally our country fails at something. It is OK.”
Johnson said the land was much more than just a fort. There were corrals, butcher pens, buildings for a blacksmith shop and 80,000 gallons of whiskey.
“The scan isn’t going to change the history of Fort Amanda, but it was a major operation. It was not just a little frontier fort,” he said.
Johnson would like to one day scan the cemetery at the park. Markers show 75 soldiers buried there, but he believes there are none.
“I think it is more symbolic,” he said.
The field next to the park is owned by Dave Kriegel, who Johnson said is funding the project.
Also on site Wednesday was a video crew from WTLW. The station will produce a documentary about the scanning and Fort Amanda to distribute to schools.
“Most junior highs have an Ohio history curriculum, so this would fit in very nicely,” said Kevin Bowers, station general manager.
Johnson is eager to get the video into pupils’ hands.
“The way American history is taught, particularly to the school kids, is more John Wayne stuff than it is actual history,” he said.
Johnson has done extensive research, including tracking down descendants of the fort’s builders and learning as much as possible about the people who were there. He hopes to write a book.
“The point to me is I like to believe that someday I am going to see these people,” he said. “I can say I found their names and know a lot about them, but if you don’t do anything with it, how honorable is that?”
Fort Amanda Park