General Anthony Wayne: A Strange Journey Home


A “British Connection” Love Your Parks Tour Story assigned by Glynn Burrows of Norfolk Tours in England, and compiled by Nancy J. Reid & Lisa D. Smith, Big Blend’s Mother-Daughter Duo

It was at the cusp of summer and fall of 2020 when we visited Erie, Pennsylvania, “The Flagship City.”  As full-time travelers on our Love Your Parks Tour, our main goal is to visit and document as many parks in the USA, and when setting up our stay at the historic Spencer House Bed & Breakfast, innkeepers Steve and Lisa Freysz gave us a list of places to experience including Presque Isle State Park. They also recommended that we take a walk down their street, dubbed “Millionaires Row,” to the Watson-Curtze Mansion at the Hagen History Center. We highly recommend a visit to this museum complex as one of your first destinations in Erie. It will give you a glimpse of the diverse and historic story of Erie, which includes the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Lake Erie, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Erie Canal, and the Industrial Revolution. And then when you visit Presque Isle State Park, explore the historic downtown, soak up the public art and all of the other sites, you’ll appreciate the history even more. The history runs deep, in fact, there’s so much history that during our short stay we visited Presque Isle State Park and the Hagen History Center twice!

One of the stories that caught our attention was that of controversial General Anthony Wayne’s “Strange Journey Home.” On display at the Wood-Morrison House at the Hagen History Center is Mad Anthony Wayne’s Pot & Chair (pictured above). Of British descent (Ireland & Wales), Anthony Wayne was a soldier, officer, statesman, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. His military career started in the Revolutionary War where he served in the Invasion of Quebec, the Philadelphia campaign, and the Yorktown campaign. His wild military exploits and explosive personality earned him the nickname “Mad Anthony Wayne.” While he has been heralded as a military hero over the years, his actions against Native Americans and his ownership of slaves have damaged his reputation.

Suffering from gout, it’s said that Wayne died in a chair in Erie (the one in the exhibit) on December 15, 1796, during a return trip to Pennsylvania from a military post in Detroit. Wayne was buried at Fort Presque Isle, where the modern Wayne Blockhouse now stands. In 1809, Wayne’s son Isaac rode up to Fort Presque Isle to relocate Wayne’s remnants to their family plot in the graveyard of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Radnor, Pennsylvania. In order to be able to transport his father’s body, Isaac decided to have the corpse boiled in a pot (yep, that kettle featured in the exhibit), to remove the remaining flesh from the bones. He put the bones into two saddlebags and rode off ….and to hear the whole story and the haunting legend that follows, listen to our interview with Jeff Sherry, Museum Educator of the Hagen History Center. Listen here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on PodBean.


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