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Copied from Harbaugh's 1909 History


Miami County Ohio

Chapter 1


- Introductory - First Lords of the Soil, the Mound Builders- Speculations and Traditions as to the Mound Builders -
The Indians not the Aborigines - Coming of the White Man -
Resistance of the Indians - Area of Miami County -
Its Division into Twelve Townships - Topography, Elevation, Drainage - Fertility of the Soil - Disappearance of the Forests
Conditions Favorable to Agriculture- Tributaries of the Miami - Geological Foundation - Prehistoric Remains- Indian Occupancy -
Early Abundance of Game

In the preparation of this work the author will incline to the narrative rather than to the technical style. He will give the principal facts as they appeal to him, clothing them in language easily understood, leaving to the close student the disputed points and those which border on tradition. There is nothing in local history so confusing as that which borders on the obscure, and history, to be intelligible, should be stripped of the mistiness which sometimes surrounds it.

The true history of a country is that of its people, for they are the makers of history. After the discoverer comes the pioneer who is the avant courier of trade, commerce, the arts and sciences. The sound of his axe is succeeded by the music of countless wheels of industry, and from small beginnings in the wilderness spring the myriad avenues of civilization which, diverging like the spokes of a wheel, complete in time the upbuilding of a community or the glory of a nation.

That this is the case locally I will endeavor to show in the following pages. There exists no doubt that the first "lords of the soil" embraced within the present borders of Miami County were a race of people known as the Mound Builders. Of this race, which vanished before the coining of the Indian, we have traces in the shape of mounds, fortifications, and relies of earth and stone. Whence came the Mound Builder and whither he went is to this day a subject for speculation. J.F. McLean, who is an authority on the Mound Builders and their works, calls them "an ancient and unknown race of people, possessing a well-developed type of civilization, who once inhabited the Valley of the Ohio." It is but fair to say that his opinion of the attainments of this people is disputed by other writers.

"This race, continues Professor MeLeaia, "has left us no written history, but the testimony of its existence and advancement in the arts and sciences is attested in the stupendous structures consisting of mounds, walled enclosures and domestic implements, which have long attracted the attention of observers, scientists, and the public generally. The ethnologist has been intensely interested as to the type of mankind that constructed the remains. Many are the theories that have been propounded, but certain testimonies exist which enable us to arrive at plausible conclusions."

It is no longer believed that the Indian erected the squares and parallelograms found in different parts of Ohio nor the mounds which exist in various parts of this country. "The North American Indian, continues the authority above quoted, "has no habits of progressive industry. There is not one scintilla of evidence that he built these mounds. His own testimony is against it. To say the least, he was incapable of the task. For instance, one Indian tradition avers that the primitive inhabitants of Kentucky perished in a war of extermination waged against them by the red tribes, and the Indian chief Tobacco informed George Rogers Clarke of a tradition in which it was stated that there was a battle at Sandy Island which decided the fate of the ancient inhabitants. Chief Cornplanter affirmed that Ohio, and this local section as well, had once been inhabited by a white race who were familiar with the arts of which they (The Indians) knew nothing.

There is no doubt that the Indians had such traditions. They saw the various mounds and, being unable to account for them, they invented traditions which, to their romantic minds, would suit the case. The red man was a born story teller. Every camp fire had its romanticist, and the wigwams that dotted the vast region through which the Miami flows heard more than one fanciful story of the vanished races. There is no definite history that all the stone implements and weapons which are found to this day within the boundaries of Miami County came from the hands of the Indian. In regard to the makers of these relies there is a large amount of speculation. Dr.Abbott and others have discovered a paleolithic man and another whom they link kindredly to the Eskimo. Then we have also the Mound Builder and the pre-historic Indian, and the latter day "Lo." That the Indian manufactured stone weapons, implements, etc., there is not, much donbt. From diggings made within the Ohio Valley in 1884 the following conclusions as to how the arrowheads was formed may here be given:

The primitive man first removed the outlying stratum of earth. On reaching the flint a large fire was made on it which caused the rock to shatter; water probably being thrown on it to hasten the work. Removing such pieces as could be detached, the process was repeated, if necessary, until the limestone below was reached and a hole made large enough to work in. The burnt portions being all taken off and thrown out of the way, clay was plastered along the upper half of the flint to protect it from the heat, and a fire built in the bottom of the hole against the larger and lower part.

With the largo boulders he broke off the upper unburned portion and carried it to some convenient level spot, where, with smaller hammers, the blocks were broken into suitable size for working. It is a singular fact that no arrow-heads or other specimens were made where these blocks were broken up, but the small pieces were always carried to another spot - sometimes only a few yards away. In making large or heavy articles, as axes, pestles, etc., that did not require careful or delicate work from the beginning, he used a hard, tough, pebble, preferring diorite or some form of quartz. With this he could knock off chips and spalls from his inchoate implement until he had removed as much of the useless portion as he could in this way; then, with light blows, he pecked over the entire surface until he had brought it to the correct outline on every side. With a piece of gritty sandstone he ground away the marks of the hammer and finally rubbed off all rough places and scratches with a softer, finer-grained stone than the first, and thus gave the specimen a smooth surface with more or less polish. All instruments for cutting or splitting had the edge made sharp and smooth by rubbing as soon as the form admitted, often before the hammer marks were effaced from other portions; and if a groove was needed it was wade as soon as possible.

I have been thus particular regarding the manufacture of the stone relies of the vanished races, as gleaned from the conclusions of archaeologists, for the lnformation of the school-boy who today searches the farms of this county for these interesting relies. He is the coming areliveologist and must take the places of those who go before him. The Mound Builder has occupied and ever will occupy the mind of the antiquarian, and his sojourn in the Miami Valley need not be enlarged upon in a work of this nature. He was the true aborigine, a term which applies only to the first inhabitants of a country. Many writers speak of the Indians as , which term, according to the makers of our dictionaries, is incorrect. The Indians, following the vanished races, became the second occupants of the soil, and henceforth when reference is made to them they will be called Indians, which is their rightful title.

In this county relies of early occupation have been found everywhere. They are numerous in some localities and infrequent in others. On the Col.Johnston farm, near Piqua, great numbers have been found, and in certain places throughout the Stillwater region. These relies are the only implement legacies left us by the races which once tenanted this section. In all probability some of the tumuli to be found within our borders would yield results if opened, and on several occasions this has been done. Some gravel pits have brought to light many skeletons, but the skulls when measured have inclined scientists to the opinion that they were the remains of Indians. Not long ago a pit on the eastern side of the county produced a perfect skull faced with a flattened copper plate, which gave credence to the assertion that the remains were those of an Indian chief of distinction. In some of these "finds" no weapons or implements were brought to light. The Indian, as a rule, buried the weapons of the dead with them, unless the hasty abandonment of a field of battle prevented.

In one pit on the Joseph Stafford farm in Lost Creek Township more than fifty skeletons were uncovered in one spot, which inclines one to the belief that the early inhabitants fell victims to an epidemic which carried them off in great numhers. It is well known that at various times the red races that inhabited Ohio were decimated by smallpox, a disease for which they had no cure, and consequently they died rapidly. Few Indians were actually killed in battle in Miami County, for, so far as is known, no intertribal wars occurred, and the numbers slain by the whites were not great. Summing up everything, there remains no doubt that this county saw in its primitive state the villages of the Mound Builder. While he left behind him comparatively few traces of his occupancy of our soil he must have lived here, to vanish in the mists of the past and become one of the enigmas of the ages. The space that exists between his disappearance and the coming of the Indian is indeterminable. Whether it should be counted by decades or centuries no one can tell. If the Mound Builder was the sentient being some have called him, it is strange that he should leave behind him no hieroglyphics by which the learned could arrive at the time of his habitation. The Indians speculated over him; as has been said, they had traditions of him but the forests of this vast and now densely populated region are as silent regarding him as are the rivers of the Old World of the first people who looked upon their waters.

The Indians of Miami County had their own history to make, and they made it. Too often that history was made to the sorrow of the first settlers. They disputed the ground with the white man; they reinained here as long as possible. The man saw that the land was fair and he wanted a new home west of the Alleghanies, and the forests of Ohio beckoned him irresistibly. The dawn of civilization broke with the vanisbiiient of the savage. The settler came here to remain, and not all the red tribes were strong enough to dispossess him. There could be no peace between the two races. The settler was ready to extend the olive branch, but the Indian rejected it. The warrior saw in the vanguard of civilization a menace; he stood ready to resist every encroachment and it is to his credit thdt he did it with all his might. There remains among us today nothing to mark the Indian occupation of this county. The fertile fields were destined to receive a new race of people, and with the disappearance of the scarlet tribes the whites began that era of prosperity which exists to the present day.

The area of Miami County approximates four hundred square miles. It is divided into twelve townships, six on each side of the river, which, rising in Hardin County, flows southward and enters the Ohio near Lawrenceburg, Indiana. The surface of the county is undulating and the soil productive. The land in the western part of Newberry Township is the most elevated in the county. In the Stillwater region, especially in Union Township, the elevation is again marked, and precipitous banks in some places fringe that historic stream, but these acclivities lose themselves in gentle undulations until they become level plains. Newton Township, also on the west side, is mostly level, though bluffs are found along Stillwater as it courses through that particular section. In the northern part of the county, or that portion embraced by Washington Township, in which is the City of Piqua, the land is again undulating in the eastern and south part. East of the Miami River there is but little high ground except in Bethel Township, where the land attains considerable height; but all these elevations are tillable and produce good crops.

The course of the Miami lies through a region particularly adapted to agriculture, and this fact no doubt attracted the early settler and decided him to locate here. The many small streams which enter the Miami head largely in natural springs, and it is noticeable that they are generally free from contamination, the water being clear and healthful. These creeks, for the most part, flow through farm lands, and nearly all have low banks which afford stock easy access to the water. Spring Creek, so named on account of contiguous springs, courses through a fine farming region. Lost Creek and Honey Creek, also on the east side of the county, enter the Miami in Bethel Township and not far apart. Indian Creek, heading in Lost Creek Township, flows in a southwesterly direction into Lost Creek. The various small tributaries of the Miami form a perfect network of drainage through out the county. Nearly all of them are subject to sudden rises, which help to enrich the land and stimulate fertility. On the whole the topography of Miami County is conducive to agriculture in all its forms. There is little waste land; the forest area is gradually disappearing, many farms being entirely treeless, a striking contrast to the physical geography of the country a few years back.

The fertility of our soil is equal to that of any county in the State. The bottom lands on both sides of the Miami are highly productive, and the uplands bring forth abundant crops. The lands cleared by the first settlers now constitute the best farms in the county, which proves that the pioneer was a person of discrimination. He came from an older country east of the Alleglianies and sought among the forests of the Miami a home which promised to rival the one he had left. While the soil of this county varies in depth and productiveness, there has never been anything to discourage the farmer, and this accounts for the small numbers who have emigrated from this region. There is today no farm within our border that is not convenient to market, and the numerous good roads that spread in every direction facilitate the delivery of our agricultural products. A few years ago a piece of land in Staunton Township, known locally as the "Shaking Prairie," was considered wholly untillable, but today it produces excellent crops. Tobacco of late years has become a staple crop in the county, which still further demonstrates the fertility of the soil. Usually the character of the surface depends upon its geological formation. To a large extent the development of natural conditions is dependent on the drainage. The farm lands of Miami County are generally supplied with good water, which is furnished by natural springs and creeks. In the early days homes were built at or near springs, and running water was a desideratum. The larger waterways of the county have numerous "arms" or tributaries, which flow into them from various directions. These creeks are the natural drainage of the localities through which they flow. The Stillwater is the largest of the streams that enter the Miami. It finds its source in Darke County on our northern border and, after traversing Union, Newton and Newberry Townships, debouches into the Miami a short distance north of Dayton. This important tributary of the parent stream takes its name from the tranquillity of its current, which cannot be called rapid at any place. Stillwater is the drainage of the western side of the county. It is noted for the absence of abrupt banks on the west side, while on the east for nearly its whole course through Union Township the land slips level from the bed of the stream, receding like the trend of a prairie. Stillwater has many tributaries, chiefest among which is Ludlow Creek, which is celebrated for its "Falls," one of the most romantic places within the borders of the county. Other creeks of less importance to the Stillwater region are Greenville, Trotter and Panther.

The main tributaries of the Miami enter it from the east. These are Lost Creek, Spring Creek and Honey Creek. Flowing into these are a perfect network of lesser streams, some of which have local names, while others are too small to have an appellation. The natural water system of the county is most excellent, supplying as it does the needs of agriculture and enriching the several commuinities in more ways than one. The larger streams afford sites for mills, but the introduction of improved milling machinery has of late years done away with the old system. The Miami eventually receives all the drainage. The county itself has a slope from north to south. In regard to the drift, as manifested within its borders, I quote from the State Geological Survey:

"The entire surface of Miami County is covered with loose material, composed of gravel, sanded clay, with a great number of granite and other rocks of similar origin. The commonly received opinion is that these materials have been drifted hither by the agency of water, either fluid or ice, and the facts observed all tend to point to the north, mostly beyond the chain of the great lakes, as the source from whence it has been brought. The Miami, which enters the county at the north, cuts through a perpendicular thickness of about seventy-five feet of drift clay, gravel and bowlders, and all the water courses which intersect the northern portion of the county cut through the drift to the depth of thirty feet."

The foregoing gives one an idea of the understratum of our soil. In some places the drift is composed of sand and gravel, with a sprinkling of clay, in others the clay is absent. The fine gravel for which the county is noted affords material for the excellent roads that bisect it everywhere. The gravel supply seems exhaustless and much of this material has never been uncovered. I shall not go into details concerning the various strata of rock that under lie our surface. It is sufficient to say that we have within the county three distinct geological formations. These are the Niagara, the Clinton Rock and the Blue Limestone of the Cincinnati group. The Niagara formation is exposed at various places, notably along Greenville Creek, at the Piqua and other quarries. From the Niagara most of our quarried stone comes. The Clinton Rock is seen in the Honey Creek region and is prominent along Lost Creek. The builders of the Troy hydraulic found between that city and Piqua several hundred feet of solid Clinton Rock, through which they were obliged to cut. The Blue Limestone lies below the base of the Clinton. It is thus observed at the base of the Charleston Cliffs, as well as on the Stillwater near West Milton. It would only weary the general reader to detail the numerous classes of rock which enter into the geological history of the county. The description would prove interesting only to the student and he is referred to the various surveys which have been made of this region.

Again recurring to pre-historic relies, it is well to say they are not abundant in this county. True, some have been found at various times, but the archeologist has not been paid for his researches. We have within our borders no particular earthworks such as are found at Newark and in other parts of the state. Since several discoveries of mastodon remains have been made in the county, it is natural to suppose that the mastodon was co-existent with early man. Scientists place the prehistoric man in advance of the Mound Builder, yet beyond some pottery and implements of the latter race we know nothing of them. It is therefore not unlikely that in this County, ages before the first moccasin crinkled the leaves, the two strange races referred to lived and vanished.

The coming of the Indian is well known. He appeared along the banks of the Miami and in the adjacent region. He made this locality his hunting ground. He drifted hither from the Miami of the Lakes or from the fastnesses of Kentucky, south of the Ohio. It is said that the Shawnee came from the far South, moving gradually northward till he established himself in the Valley of the Miami. The Indian considered the land he inhabited his own. He erected his wigwam, planted a little maize, and where today are farms and cities of this county, he hunted the wild game or engaged his red rivals in battle. It is useless to attempt to locate all the red tribes that frequented this locality at differeiat times. They will be referred to further along in this work. Fortunately the pioneer, who was a person of wide observation, has left us many accounts of the Indian. He had excellent opportunities for seeing the red man at home, on the warpath and in the chase. It was the richness of this region, not only in natural beauty, but in game of every description, that filled the Indian with a desire to fight for it. He had nothing in common with the palefaces, and from the moment the first white settler penetrated the forests of the Miami he had a natural and vindictive enemy in the Indian hunter.

During the Indian occupancy of Miami County and for years thereafter, game was abundant. There was sustenance here for wild animals of every description. The streams were stocked with fish and the forests afforded shelter for birds, and beasts. The Indian, who was a natural hunter, spent much time in the chase. Before the advent of the settler he killed with the arrow or by laying snares for the wild tenants of the woods. Throughout the country deer, bears, wolves, wildcats, turkeys, pheasants and wild pigeons were to be found. There is authority for the statement that in 1749 buffalo were seen along the Miami. Bears were plentiful. They grew fat on berries and wild honey, which abounded in the Miami forests. It is stated as a matter of record that David Loury during his lifetime, killed one thousand bears on Mad River, which is an indication of the numbers to be found within the confines of this county. In the autumn of 1816, nine years after the formation of the county, Henry Kerns killed a bear whose quarters weighed four hundred pounds. As the bear vanished deer seemed to increase. The cool water courses and the wild and luxuriant pasture lands, untouched by the hand of man, formed their favorite habitat. John Knoop, one of the first settlers of the county, saw nine deer at one time where the hamlet of Staunton now stands.

In fact, deer were so numerous at one time that they could be shot from the doors of the cabins, and more than one pioneer woman brought down the antlered lord of the forest from her window. The wolf was for a long time the sneaking, sleep disturbing element of the county. He roamed the forests in bands ever on the alert for the sheepfold and the unprotected lamb. His long howls awoke the echoes of the night and he became the settler's most annoying enemy. At last the Legislature offered a bounty of three dollars for his scalp, and thereafter he was pursued untiringly and at last destroyed. Of the smaller game, squirrels inhabited the county in vast numbers. In a few years they became great pests, destroying whole fields of corn in a short time. Their depredations resulted in the formation of organized bands of squirrel hunters and special days were set apart for the destruction of the litle pests. During one of these famous "hunts," which took place a few miles south of Troy, one hundred and fifty bushels of corn were awarded to Elias Gerard, who within six days brought in 1,700 squirrel scalps. A like amount of corn was given Charles Wolverton, whose trophies numbered 1,300. The great squirrel migration took place in this county in 1828 when thousands of the little animals traveled from west to east permitting nothing to swerve them from their course. Countless numbers were killed with clubs by the pioneer youth during this strange hegira. Such was the great game preserve of this county at the dawn of its history. The large game which survived the skill and rapacity of the Indian hunter succumbed to the settler. War was made on the wildcat, wolf and panther on account of their destructiveness, and the wild turkey was killed for food. The boys of the pioneer families were early taught the use of the rifle and became skilled with it. They could bring down the squirrel from the topmost branches of the oak and did not fear the panther. It was the descendants of these young pioneers who in after years became the marksmen of the armies of Grant and Sherman.

End chapter 1
Harbaugh's 1909 History of Miami County

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