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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Diversity Abounds: The Super Village of Lower Shawnee Town

View of the Ohio Valley from Raven Rock

Lower Shawnee Town was a 'Super Village,' at least twice as big as it protohistoric or prehistoric predecessors and larger than most contemporary Native American settlements in the region. Its inhabitants were a diverse lot, a mixture of indigenous people, Europeans, Africans, and offspring of their unions. Permanent native residents, transient French and English traders on business, native and European captives, relatives visiting from Shawnee towns located up the Ohio or even farther away, and diplomats and spies of all nationalities spent time in the town.”

-- Craig Thompson Friend, The Buzzel about Kentuck: Settling the Promised Land

How many area residents know of the tremendous importance and influence of an 18th century town at the convergence of the Scioto and Ohio rivers? Have they even read of a place called “Sonnontio” and considered how the cultural exchange in that place formed a unique, often uneasy society that crossed national and international boundaries?

Lower Shawnee Town, or Sonnontio, or Sonhioto, or Shannoah or the Bentley Site – many names exist for the settlement located on the second flood terrace of the Ohio at the mouth of the Scioto River. The grounds were home to an ancient culture archaeological site (Fort Ancient Culture) that later became a large network of Native American villages. At one point the population may have been as high as 1500 people, with 100 houses north of the Ohio River and another 40 on the Kentucky side.

Growing European populations on the east coast of North America and in southern Canada had caused Native American populations to concentrate in the Ohio River Valley, and Lower Shawnee Town was situated at a convenient point, accessible to many communities living on tributaries of the Ohio River.

Craig Thompson Friend writes that natives found the Ohio and Scioto valleys fertile places to live …

Land rich with the resources slash-and-burn farmer-hunters required: fertile soil, a mosaic of mixed hardwood forests, flat grassy plains, canebrakes, salt and freshwater springs, and clear streams. Deer, bear, elk, and bison wandered the countryside; wild plants and nut-bearing trees were abundant. Chert-bearing bedrocks and clay-bearing river banks provided the essential materials for tools and durable containers.”

The opportunity to trade for furs and to broker political alliances also attracted both British and French traders and the town became a key center in dealings with other tribes and with Europeans. Therefore, between about 1735 and 1758, Lower Shawnee Town became a center for commerce and diplomacy, "a sort of republic populated by a diverse array of migratory peoples” (the Iroquois, the Delawares, the Miamis, and the Shawnee) supplied by British traders.

Some historians have described the place as “the most important British trading village NW of the Ohio River” while other, less complimentary sources say it was “a village of mixed ethnicities with a large number of bad characters of various nations.”

Located at the confluence of the Scioto and Ohio Rivers, the village sat astride three important trade, travel, and communication routes of the time:
  1. The Warriors' Path, the major north-south Indian trail that may have had great antiquity;
  2. The overland Pennsylvania traders' path to Muskingum and Pickawillany, which led north and northwest from the towns; and
  3. The Scioto and Ohio river systems, which offered access both access north-south and east-west.
The town also lay near the Seneca Trail, which was used by Cherokees and Catawbas, and it was surrounded by fertile, alluvial flatlands that were ideal for growing corn. The Shawnee were the settlement's largest ethnic contingent, and these people shared origins in village-based tribal farming societies. Care of their corn fields was the responsibility of the women. Many important Shawnee ceremonies were tied to the agricultural cycle: the spring bread dance at planting time; the green corn dance when crops ripened; and the autumn bread dance to celebrate the harvest.

The Shawnee considered the Delaware as their "grandfathers" and the source of all Algonquin tribes. They also shared an oral tradition with the Kickapoo that they were once members of the same tribe. The loss of their homeland has given the Shawnee the reputation of being wanderers, but this was by necessity, not choice.

The Shawnee have always maintained a strong sense of tribal identity, but this produced very little central political organization. During their dispersal, each of their five divisions functioned as an almost autonomous unit. This continued to plague them after they returned to Ohio, and few Shawnee could ever claim to the title of "head chief." Like the Delaware, Shawnee civil chiefships were hereditary and held for life.

The native community a the mouth of the Scioto River was less a village and more of a “district extending along the wide Scioto River and narrower Ohio River floodplains and terraces.” It was a sprawling series of wickiups and longhouses, so expansive that French and British traders regarded Lower Shawneetown as “one of two capitals of the Shawnee tribe" (aka Chalahgawtha meaning "principal place").

Shannoah, on the Kentucky bank, became the first village in Kentucky built by Shawnee Indians and French traders sometime around 1830. But, in time, the village became a formidable threat to French ambitions. The French under Beauharnois pressed the Shawnees to move to Detroit with no success.

English adventurers did eventually make their way to Shannoah. On March 6, 1750, early explorer Christopher Gist wrote that he "killed a fat Bear" nearby. Gist would later guide Major George Washington on missions during the French & Indian War.

In 1751, Gist noted in his journal:

"Set the Mouth of Sciodoe Creek opposite to the Shannoah Town, here we fired our Guns to alarm the Traders, who soon answered, and came and ferryed Us over to the Town — The Land about the Mouth of Sciodoe Creek is rich but broken fine Bottoms upon the River & Creek. The Shannoah Town is situated upon both Sides the River Ohio, just below the Mouth of Sciodoe Creek, and contains about 300 Men, there are about 40 Houses on the S Side of the River and about 100 on the N Side, with a Kind of State-House of about 90 Feet long, with a light Cover of Bark in which they hold their Councils."

Shannoah was abandoned about November 1758, perhaps because of a 1753 flood, or maybe because of the French and Indian War, which began in 1755 in the Ohio Valley. After Shannoah was abandoned, the Lower Shawnee Town community on the north bank remained for a number of years before it, too, was deserted.

The population relocated to another site further up the Scioto River. Perhaps it was increased contact with whites on the Ohio River that persuaded the Shawnee to abandon the area. Whatever the reason, by 1760, the Shawnee had consolidated near present day Chillicothe, Ohio. Other evidence of these Indian towns are found on John Filson's 1784 map of Kentucky, which notes an "Old Shawnee Town" on the north side of the Ohio River where it and the Scioto River join.

As Native sojourners who moved every generation for more than 250 years, the Shawnees adopted a wide range of identities, and the differences among them accelerated over time. Through migration, the Shawnee and their neighbors adapted to disease, warfare, and dislocation by interacting with colonizers as slavers, mercenaries, guides, and traders. These adaptations enabled them to preserve their cultural identities and resist coalescence without forsaking their linguistic and religious traditions.

Lower Shawnee Town was excavated in the 1930s and was discovered to have had similar structures and building techniques as those found at another nearby Fort Ancient site, the Hardin Village Site located 8.1 miles up the Ohio. Also found during the excavations were distinctive Madisonville horizon pottery, including cordmarked, plain and grooved-paddle jars, as well as a variety of chert points, scrapers and ceremonial pipes.

Many 18th century European trade goods were also found at the site, including guns, gunspalls (manufactured gunflints) and gunflints, gun parts (sideplates, mainsprings, ram pipes, and breech plugs), wire-wound and drawn glass beads, tinkling cones, a button, pendants, an earring, cutlery, kettle ears, a key, nails, chisels, hooks, a buckle, a Jew's harp, and pieces of a pair of iron scissors.

* Historical Note – By the 1600's Native Americans of the Northeast had acquired a wealth of knowledge for working European sheet metals which was no doubt combined with experience in indigenous copper before contact. Both men and women wore tinkling cones for their dancing. 

Even the tiniest pieces and scraps of copper and brass were recycled. Native Americans of New England mastered techniques of cutting, drilling, etching, forming, joining, and decorating indigenous and European sheet metal. Because of the skill required to make many of the rolled and riveted items, and because of the similarity between items made by both coastal and interior groups of Natives, there may have been Native metal work specialists who traded their products inland (Wray et. al. 1987).

The next time you cross over the Scioto River that links Portsmouth and its West Side, take a close look at the scenery. Imagine the appeal of the enduring landscape and how these natural resources helped form the vibrant community at the site of Lower Shawnee Town in the 18th century. Let the vivid imagery transport you to this time and consider what it meant to be in this place once inhabited by a truly distinct mixture of population.

Consider the beginnings of America as we know it and the long history that even predated European discovery. No wonder the place called “Lower Shawnee Town, or Sonnontio, or Sonhioto, or Shannoah” was a Super Village. We must acknowledge the heritage afforded by those in a colorful, diverse past and use this understanding to cultivate the same beautiful land we occupy today. How rich the harvest.

Allow me to leave you with a few more words by Craig Thompson Friend about the people in Lower Shawnee Town ...

The intermarriage and ethnic diversity within these settlements created a multitude of new kinship and social situations, adding layers of ethnic, social, and village relationships. Thus, the potential for factionalism and the development of different European responses may have been even greater in these villages than in traditional single-ethnic villages. As autonomous communities, these republics existed politically beyond the control of the French, British, and even the Six Nations at Onondaga, and their residents were responsible only to themselves. Thus, they had the freedom to make decisions based on their own needs, traditions, and cultural proscriptions, and they could ally themselves with whomever they wished or change their alliances with it suited their needs.”

Scioto, here is history in your own backyard. Please, take it to heart. 


David Pollack and A. Gwynn Henderson, "A Preliminary Report on the Contact Period Occupation at Lower Shawneetown (l5GP15), Greenup County, Kentucky.” Paper presented at the 58th Annual Meeting of the Central States Anthropological Society on April 9, 1982.

Craig Thompson Friend, editor. Klotter, James C., and James Klotter. “Foreword.” The Buzzel About Kentuck: Settling the Promised Land. University Press of Kentucky. 1999.

Stephen Warren. Worlds the Shawnees Made: Migration and Violence in Early America. 2016.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Fort Ancient Feurt Site: Remnants of the First People

It's there past fields and trees off Rt. 23. We who have lived here all our lives give it little thought. We do marvel at how it swells to enormous size during flood times, but normally we do little more than acknowledge its watery existence at others, choosing to give an an occasional glance as it contentedly flows in its winding course to the Ohio. 

Well, dear readers, the Scioto River and the valley that cradles it are geophysical giants in their contributions to human habitation. Thousands of years ago, people called this area home. Although we know too little about the first people of Scioto County, what we do know comes from precious remnants yielded by the soil, itself. 

The Fort Ancient Feurt Site is situated adjacent to the lower Scioto River north of Portsmouth. The Feurt Mounds and Village Site lies about three miles north off the west side of present-day U.S. 23 near the Clay Township overpass. For over at least 150 years, it has attracted both researcher and collector in search of relics of the Native Americans. The locale is home to a number of multi-cultural sites that were heavily utilized during the prehistoric era.

* Historical Note Mr. William C. Feurt owned the land of more than 400 acres of rich bottom lands and sloping hillsides, and it was considered one of the most productive and well-kept farms along the Scioto. Thus, the namesake of the ancient site.

The Feurt community probably first received professional attention in the summer of 1896 when the legendary researcher/ formidable archaeologist, Warren K. Moorehead, with the cursory support of The Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society, led a small team of diggers to the site. Moorehead discovered three mostly flattened mounded features all containing burials. He examined only a small portion of the site's most prominent features. He reported ...

"The afternoon of July 13th we went to Mr. Feurt's farm where we opened the smaller mound and dug the large ones the following day. They are located on the second terrace. The small one is two by twenty five feet, the next four by fifty feet, the largest six by sixty feet."

Moorehead's cursory field work episode yielded 33 burials most "without notable burial goods." It was typical in the early 1900's for members of the local collecting fraternity to anxiously wait for spring cultivation activities on the Feurt Site plateau so that they could collect specimens from the artifact-rich site. They knew they were walking over the location of a major prehistoric community, one richly endowed with the trappings of its life history.

In the Feurt Hill Site scientists and residents found refined pipestone specialty artifacts such as pipes; crafted whole and broken pottery and ornaments; necklaces made of materials such as raptor bird wing bones, shell beads, and canine teeth of mountain lions and gray wolves; flint items such as arrow points; and a profusion of bird and animal bones plus mussel shells. Even the remains of relics used in a bowling-type game called “Chunkey,” where wagering on outcomes was an important ingredient, were found.

Overall, the Feurt village encompassed about four acres. Situated under top-layer deposits was a uniform layer of gravel also containing artifacts. Much of this layer was hauled away by gravel haulers, some of whom upon their work discovering relics. No one knows the full extent of the treasure trove at the site.

Becoming Stewards of Ancient Humans

The Scioto Valley is a repository of prehistoric history as evidenced by the excavation of the Feurt Ancient Fort Hill Site. Discovering and examining artifacts of this period of ancient, cultural explosion in the Ohio River basin region is enriching and enlightening for us, the present stewards of the land. In fact, how rewarding it is to discover that the entire valley served as the home for thousands of inhabitants during that time.

Still, most importantly, we must honor an obligation to these magnificent people. The human connection to the remains is paramount to our history, to our respect, and to our solemn introspection. With every specimen or artifact found, we must properly recognize the lives of the people of this ancient past.

The Fuert site yielded many human remains. The excavation of the dead can be seen as an act of desecration or as an act in service to those who might otherwise be forgotten. For centuries white explorers and settlers in the Americas dug up the graves of indigenous people, looting sacred artifacts and using the remains for studies that promoted white superiority. For much of American history people could dig up artifacts and remains, sell them, buy them, and display them with little impunity or regulation.

How we deal with the dead is how we gauge our own humanity. While scientists can use bones and DNA to reveal much about the people of the past – their origin, their family trees, their patterns of migration, their diseases, and the types of labor they performed – respect and decency must govern any the disturbance of any skeletal remains.

For that very reason, artifacts and human remains are now protected by the The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), passed in 1990 to enable tribes to protect and recover their heritage. It has succeeded in reuniting many items from federally funded institutions with their rightful custodians.

With the legislation, Congress attempted to "strike a balance between the interest in scientific examination of skeletal remains and the recognition that Native Americans, like people from every culture around the world, have a religious and spiritual reverence for the remains of their ancestors."

But, when remains cannot be culturally linked to a modern tribe – or no tribe claims them – scientists may conduct research without getting approval from tribes to do so. Ohio law to this day does not specifically protect graves at abandoned cemeteries, those on private land or unmarked burials older than 125 years, including Native American artifacts and remains thousands of years. This lack of legislation must be questioned.

And, here is the most heated issue of all: the debate over repatriating and reburying human remains that are now held in museums or research labs. Some bioarchaeologists are staunchly opposed to returning bones to the ground; however, Native Americans largely disagree with storing the remains of their ancestors in storerooms and collection boxes.

At the Feurt site alone, over 500 burials have been exposed during its excavated history. Moorehead and others left a fertile field for future research about indigenous people that should enrich our own being. Still, we must also calculate the costs of the intrusion. When we weight the value of the pursuit of scientific discovery against the impact on groups of real stakeholders – descendants and other interested parties – both groups must be equal partners in the process.

Feurt Graves

The grounds of the Feurt site revealed our solemn human connection of settlement through the bones of an almost forgotten people of the Scioto Valley. As they read about the discovery and view artifacts and remains, few realize the extent of the settlement in our own backyard. The humanity becomes clear with further examination of the facts. The ancient Native Americans were the first organized culture in Ohio that we know about today. 

In 2018, The Department of the Interior has nominated Fort Ancient near the Little Miami River (a related settlement) to be designated as a World Heritage Site. They are among the largest earthworks in the world that are not fortifications or defensive structures. The site may soon join the ranks of the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, Pompeii, Stonehenge and the Taj Mahal, all of which are World Heritage sites. 

To attest to the enormity of the Feurt settlement, on July 5,1916, William C. Mills of The Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society began an extensive examination of the Feurt Site. From the smallest of Moorehead's designated cemeteries, which was actually triple the size Moorehead had determined, Mills uncovered 102 burials. He also identified an unusual site burial practice. The usually flexed interments were placed directly on undisturbed subsoil and covered with mounded earth, suggesting minimal preparation of gravesites.

An example of Mills' descriptions of his work in the cemetery was Burial #75 …

"This was a child of perhaps seven years of age. The body was placed in natural gravel and sand on its left side and arms extended parallel with the body, but the legs were flexed closely to the body. Around the neck was a necklace made of a perforated canine of the gray wolf, three effigy bear canines, made of wood and covered with copper, and a large shell gorget.”

Most of the inhumations were placed on their sides in a flexed position with their appendages close to the body. Serrated triangular points and shell ornaments were found with several burials.

The second earth mounded cemetery measured 90 feet by 45 feet and was 8 feet high.

Burial mound 3 was singularly interesting because

It contained the re-deposited bodies of at least twelve individuals. They had been interred elsewhere and moved to mound 3. All had missing body parts such as their head, arms and legs. An isolated fireplace was found at the original ground level in this cemetery. It was filled with charcoal and large pieces of broken vessels. Was this the one-time site of a feast /celebration honoring the dead? This cemetery, by Mills' measurements, was six feet high at its maximum elevation and extended 90 feet by 112 feet. One hundred and one burials were found. Several of the burials had One hundred and one burials were found. Several of the burials had necklaces made of materials such as raptor bird wing bones, shell beads and the canine teeth of mountain lions and gray wolves.”

Historians tell us the prehistoric indigenous peoples who constructed the Feurt Mounds lived in the nearby village. The examination of the Tremper Mound, in 1915, naturally led to the desire to know something of the inhabitants of the Feurt Mounds and Villagesite, lying just across the Scioto River to the eastward. The close proximity of the sites, as well as their relative size and importance, was sufficient to raise the question as to whether or not there might have been some connection between the two.

Willaim C. Mills says …

It was apparent without detailed examination that the cultural stages represented by the two sites were extremely different, and that if any connection were to be discovered it would be due entirely to con-temporaneity of occupation and the consequent relationship which, amicable or hostile, is bound to exist where two peoples are co-resident in a vicinity.”

What do we know about people of the Feurt site? Fort Ancient is a name for a Native American culture that flourished from Ca. 1000-1750 CE and predominantly inhabited land near the Ohio River valley in the areas of modern-day southern Ohio, northern Kentucky, southeastern Indiana and western West Virginia.

Although a contemporary of the Mississippian Culture, they are often considered a "sister culture" and distinguished from the Mississippian Culture. The Mississippians were a mound-building Native American civilization centered along the Mississippi River Valley. They inhabited many places there such as the larges city of Cahokia.

Engraved Ohio pipestone earspool, Feurt Site

Once Again, The Scioto Corn/People Connection

Although far from agreed upon, there is evidence to suggest that the Fort Ancient Culture were not the direct descendants of the Hopewellian Culture. It is suspected that the Fort Ancient Culture introduced maize agriculture to Ohio – corn, the saving grace of natives and European immigrants that followed.

About 1000 CE, terminal Late Woodland groups in the Middle Ohio Valley adopted maize agriculture. They began settling in small, year-round nuclear family households and settlements of no more than 40 to 50 individuals. These small scattered settlements, located along terraces that overlooked rivers and sometimes on flood plains, would be occupied for short periods before the groups moved on to new locations.

The people were primarily a farming and hunting people. Their diet was composed mainly of the New World staples known as the three sisters(maize, squash, and beans), supplemented by hunting and fishing in nearby forests and rivers.

* Historical Note – Henry Clyde Shetrone: “The stream of immigrants from across Bering Strait came after a while into Mexico and Middle America. Here, in a semitropical setting unfavorable to the more advanced planes of human civilization but eminently encouraging to the development from primitive to higher culture stages, they prospered.

From wandering nomads they became sedentary agricultural peoples, able for the first time to face the future with adequate stores of food supplies against famine and pestilence; able to exist in compact populous communities and thus to develop community enterprise and specialization of labor. The magic key which unlocked the door to progress was nothing more nor less than maize or Indian corn.

From a native seed-bearing grass, later known to the Aztecs as teocentli, these aboriginal agriculturists are believed to have developed, through conscious or accidental selection and cultivation, the world's greatest cereal, corn. With the development of agriculture – maize, beans, squash, and tobacco – came correlated inventions – spinning, weaving, and potterymaking. The high development of social institutions, religion, architecture, astronomy, and so forth, destined to make their appearance in due time within the important empires of Middle and South America, need not enter into this sketch.

Nor is it concerned with the peopling from this nuclear area of the South American continent which in time materialized. Equipped with the rudiments of agriculture and with the confidence engendered thereby, and carrying the germ of culture generated during their sojourn in the parental area in Mexico, the American aborigines again succumbed to the instinctive urge to seek new homes and to explore unknown lands …

From the nuclear area in southern Mexico the line of migration may be followed northward, finding its first materialization in the arid region of our Southwest …

The second stage of migration is found, not to the northward, as might be expected, but eastward in what is termed the Southeastern Woodland area, corresponding to the southern half of the general mound area. This second stage of removal from the Mexican cultural center brings us definitely into the country of the Mound-builders, and completes the hypothetical connection between the Asiatic migrants at Bering Strait.”

Important game species for the Fort Ancient people included the black bear, turkey, white tail deer and elk. Archaeologists have found evidence at some sites that suggest turkeys were kept in pens. The average lifespan during this time period decreased from that of their ancestors. The people were smaller in stature and less able to fend off infectious diseases than previous peoples. Archaeological investigations of their cemeteries has shown that almost all Fort Ancients peoples showed pathology of some kind, with high incidence of dental disease and arthritis.

Changes and European Immigration

By 1200 the small villages of Fort Ancient inhabitants began to coalesce into larger settlements of up to 300 people. They were occupied for longer periods, possibly up to 25 years. During the Early and Middle Fort Ancient period, the houses were designed as single-family dwellings. Later Fort Ancient buildings are larger multi-family dwellings. Settlements were rarely permanent, as the people commonly moved to a new location after one or two generations, when the natural resources surrounding the old village were exhausted.

The Late Fort Ancient period from 1400 to 1750 is the protohistoric era in the Middle Ohio Valley. During this era, the formerly dispersed populations began to coalesce. The Gist-phase villages (1400 to 1550 CE) became much larger than during the preceding period, with populations as high as 500. Archaeologists have speculated that the larger villages and palisades are evidence that after 1450, warfare and inter-group strife increased, leading the people to consolidate their villages for better protection.

This era also showed increased contact with Mississippian peoples; some of whom may have migrated to and been integrated into Fort Ancient villages. The Madisonville horizon of artifacts after 1400 includes relatively high proportions of bowls, salt pans, triangular strap handles, colanders, negative painted pottery, notched and beaded rims, and some effigies, all items and styles that are usually associated with the Mississippian cultures of the Lower Ohio Valley, at sites such as Angel Mounds and Kincaid Mounds.

Although the Fort Ancient peoples did not encounter Europeans at this time, they, like other groups in the interior of the continent, may have suffered high fatalities from their diseases, transmitted among Native Americans by trade contacts.

The next-known inhabitants of the area, who were encountered by French and English explorers, were the historic Shawnee tribe. Scholars believe that the Fort Ancient society, like the Mississippian cultures to the south and west, may have been severely disrupted by waves of infectious disease epidemics from the first Spanish explorers in the mid-16th century.


Carmean, Kelli (Winter 2009), Points in time: Assessing a Fort Ancient triangular projectile point typology, Southeastern Archaeology.

Lepper, Bradley T. (February 2005). Ohio Archaeology:An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio's Ancient American Indian Cultures. Orange Frazer Press. pp. 198–203.

"Middle to Late Fort Ancient Society". Archived from the original on 2010-06-21.

Mills, William C. The Feurt Mounds And Village Site, Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quart. 1916.

Peregrine, Peter N.; Ember, Melvin, eds. (2001). "Volume 6 :North America". Encyclopedia of Prehistory. Springer. p. 175.

Sharp, William E. (1996). "Chapter 6: Fort Ancient Farmers". In Lewis, R. Barry. Kentucky Archaeology. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 162–1.

Shetrone, Henry Clyde. The Mound-Builders. 1936.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

John Lucas Platted Lucasville, But Who Is the Town's Namesake?

William Lucas

We in the Lucasville Area Historical Society have been busy working on events to commemorate the Bicentennial of Lucasville in 2019. We acknowledge John Lucas platted the town in 1819, thus establishing the village of Lucasville. And, in fact, many members of the Lucas family came to Ohio from Virginia to establish residence shortly before that time.

Now, I realize I am a little slow at times. And, I understand that John is considered the founder of the town. However, I always assumed that Lucasville was named for the founder, John Lucas … that is, until I read the following entry in Henry T. Bannon's volume Stories Old and Often Told: Chronicles of Scioto County, (1927):

Lucasville – Named for Captain William Lucas, pioneer”

If this is correct, and I cannot verify any dispute to this assertion, then Lucasville owes its moniker to a captain and his lady, but not to Captain John, who served in the War of 1812. Instead, Captain John Lucas evidently named the town in honor of his father and his mother, William Lucas and Susannah Barnes.

Now, in order to establish the origin of the true “Lucas” ville, Ohio, and its roots, one must follow generations of three Edwards.

So, I must digress …

*Historical Note After the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, there was a wave of violent attacks and imprisonment of Quakers, owing in part to Charles II’s redoubled efforts to quell any sedition or heresy following the bloody Civil War and ensuing Interregnum. The Quaker movement, which had grown substantially since the early days of its founder, George Fox, sought a solution involving William Penn’s recent purchase of land along the east bank of the Delaware River (then called the South River) in the newly formed colony of New Jersey.

In 1677, the Kent was the first of four ships to sail from Kingston up Hull to what later became the city of Burlington, NJ, laden with Quaker settlers. That first winter, the first make-shift meeting house was made from the ships’ sails at Burlington, and soon after the village of Crosswicks was settled 15 miles to the north.

I can say with earnest reflection that the Lucas family – whose American roots begin with Robert Lucas from Deverill, Wiltshire, England – has a strong, distinguished character. It was Robert who ventured to sail for America.

Robert Lucas, one of the four sons of David Lucas (birth date circa 1594) and Amanda McHan (birth date circa 1598), was born in Deverill, England (circa 1630).

Robert Lucas arrived at Philadelphia on April 4, 1679, in the "Elizabeth and Mary" of Weymouth. Robert married Elizabeth Cowgill (date and location unknown). Robert's wife arrived in July 1680 with her eight children – John, Giles, Edward, Robert, Elizabeth, Rebecca, Mary and Sarah – in the ship "Content" of London, Wm. Johnson, master.

Robert Lucas was among the founders of Bucks County. He received a grant of 177 acres of land on the west side of the Delaware from Edmond Andross, Governor General under the Duke of York, and it was confirmed by patent from William Penn on May 3, 1684.

* Historical Note Bucks County is one of the three original counties created by colonial proprietor William Penn in 1682. It is situated north of Philadelphia and bounded by the Delaware River to the southeast. Washington Crossing Historic Park marks the point where George Washington’s army crossed the river to engage in a pivotal attack during the Revolutionary War. Pennsbury Manor, colonist William Penn’s estate, is downriver.

Robert Lucas was a Justice of Upland Court, 1681; member of Provincial Assembly, 1683, 1687 and 1688; and a member of the first grand jury in Pennsylvania, summoned 3mo. 2, 1683.

Robert died in 1704 in Bucks County, then British America. Elizabeth died circa 1712.

Edward Lucas, the son of Robert Lucas and Elizabeth Cowgill, was born on May 14, 1659. 

The land of Robert Lucas was then devised to his son, Edward Lucas.

Edward married Bridget Scott of Widington, Essex, England, on July 3, 1700, at the house of Thomas Lambert, in New Jersey, under the care of Chesterfield Friends' Meeting.

Edward later became Supervisor of Highways for Falls Township in 1730. The couple had eight children. Edward and Bridget's children were Mary (Lucas) Margerum, Mercy (Lucas) Bailey, Edward Lucas II and Ann (Lucas) Hutchinson. Edward died May 4, 1740, in Falls Township, Bucks, Pennsylvania. Bridget died June 21, 1748.

* Historical NoteThe Chesterfield Meeting, also known as the Crosswicks Meeting, was settled in 1680. The first log meeting house was built in 1692. The year 1684 also marked the sale of six acres to Frances Davenport, a Crosswicks Quaker and New Jersey Assemblyman, who gave the property for use by the Quakers. This six-acre tract is still owned by the Quakers.
The second meeting house, of brick, was built in 1706. Thomas Chalkley, a Friends minister who had recently emigrated to Pennsylvania, spoke to a "very large meeting" held under the trees at Crosswicks. There Edward Andrews was "mightily reached" and in time built up Friends in the area of Little Egg Harbour. (Rufus M. Jones, The Quakers in the American Colonies.1911), 388.)

During the Revolutionary War, the meeting house was used to house troops from both sides, with the understanding that the soldiers were to keep the meeting free for Sunday worship by the Quakers. the meeting house was used briefly as a barracks by the Hessians. During a skirmish at the North Crosswicks bridge, a cannon ball fired by the rebel troops was imbedded in the meeting house wall.

At the 1827 Separation, the Hicksites retained possession of the meeting house. The Orthodox first built a frame meeting house in 1831 on Ward Avenue in Chesterfield, replaced by a brick one two years later. It is now the home of the Chesterfield Township Historical Society. (“300 Years of Quaker Meetings in Burlington County, NJ” – mimeographed pamphlet prepared by Burlington County Library.)

Edward Lucas II, the son of Edward Lucas and Bridget Scott, was born on December 24, 1710.

Edward II married Mary Darke, who was not Quaker. The marriage was not approved of and Edward II was disowned for marrying out of unity. Sometime prior to 1740, Edward II and Mary moved to northern Virginia where Edward had purchased land from Lord Fairfax.

The farm in Virginia was located at Pack Horse Ford, about three miles from the settlement of Mecklenberg (Shepherdstown) on the road to Charles Town (now West Virginia). It contained three springs on what was later called “Lucas Run” or “Rattlesnake Run.” The family were early settlers of the region.

Mary Darke died in 1743, leaving four small children (One – John Lucas – had died in infancy in 1736).) The surviving chilren were Elizabeth Lucas (age 8),, Edward Lucas (age 5), Robert Lucas (age 3), and William Joseph Darke Lucas (age 1). Edward II would marry two more times before his death in 1777, in Jefferson County, Virginia (now West Virginia).

Elizabeth Corn (Corne? Korne?) married Edward II widower of Mary Darke, about 1744. She lived until at least February 17, 1765, when her youngest child John Lucas was born. Elizabeth and Edward became the parents of twelve more children, born in Jefferson county. (12 seems exceedingly high to this author.)

William (Joseph Darke) Lucas, the son of Edward Lucas II and Mary Darke, was born January 18, 1742.

William Lucas served in the French and Indian War under William Darke (later General) and in 1776, William Lucas became a first lieutenant in Captain William Morgan's company of volunteers that reinforced Washington in New Jersey. The men enlisted for three months, but a request by General Washington was “cheerfully granted.” Early in March 1777, the group was defeated by a superior force of the enemy at the Battle of Piscataway, New Jersey. Shortly after, their term of service having expired, the volunteers were honorable discharged.

According to his contemporaries, Lucas was praised for his bravery, coolness and "true moral courage.” He was said to be “the bravest of the brave.” Colonel Morrow often said that “for coolness, self-possession, and true moral courage he had no equal in his regiment.”

*Historical Note Captain William Morgan’s Company fought in the engagement against the British in March 1777 at Piscataway. The following describes the action:

Our company had voluntarily entered the service for three months. All but three or four of them stayed three or four more days over that time, as Gen. Washington, by a messenger to the company had requested us to stay eight days longer and as the captain was then absent I spoke to the company pressing them upon their honor not to leave us before the morning of the fourth day, which most of them complied with.

In that three month’s tour we were stationed near at the enemy’s quarters, and kept them from pillaging and foraging as far as we were able. In New Jersey in the winter of ’77 early in March had a short though sharp conflict with the enemy which was then called the battle of Piscataway under the command of Col. Thurston, (I think Charles Thurston) where we were overpowered by vastly superior numbers prepared for us with cavalry, infantry and artillery.”

(Danske Dandridge. “Historic Shepherdstown.” The Michie Company, Printers, Charlottesville, Virginia. 1910.)

William married Susannah Barnes, sister-in-law to James Rumsey, whose steamship experiments took place on the Potomic River, at Shepherdstown in Virginia (present-day West Virginia.) William and Susannah had five children: General William Lucas, Jr.; Susannah Buckles; Robert Lucas, Governor of Ohio and First Governor of Iowa Territory; John Lucas, Founder of Lucasville; and Samuel Lucas.

William built a large a large stone, L-shaped, 2-story house near Shepherdstown, known as "Linden Spring." The house is on the National Register of Historic Places and is significant as the childhood home of Robert Lucas (1781-1853), Governor of Ohio and first territorial governor of Iowa.

In 1781 William became a captain who organized for protection against the Indians. William married Susannah Barnes (also known as “Parker'), sister-in-law of James Rumsey, the noted American inventor and pioneer in steam engineering and navigation.

Around 1800, William moved to Scioto County, Ohio, William's wife, Susannah, died May 4, 1809, in Scioto County, Ohio, and was buried in the Lucasville Cemetery. William died July 2, 1814, in Lucasville and was buried with her.

* Historical NoteWilliam Lucas's brother Edward also had a very famous grandson named “William.”

William Lucas (November 30, 1800 – August 29, 1877) was born at "Cold Spring"near Shepherdstown, Virginia (now West Virginia). He attended the village schools and Jefferson College at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He went on to graduate from Tucker Law School in 1825, being admitted to the bar the same year.

Lucas commenced practice in Shepherdstown before moving to Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1830 and continued practice there as well as engaging in horticultural pursuits.

Lucas was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates in 1838 and 1839 and was elected as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives in 1838, serving from 1839 to 1841 and being unsuccessful for reelection in 1840. He was elected back to the House in 1842, serving again from 1843 to 1845 and once again being unsuccessful for reelection in 1844.

Afterwards, Lucas resumed practicing law and engagements in horticultural pursuits and was a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1850 and 1851. He was one of four delegates elected from the northern Valley delegate district made up of his home district of Jefferson County as well as Berkeley and Clarke Counties.

William Lucas died at his estate called "Rion Hall" in Jefferson County, West Virginiaon August 29, 1877 and was interred in Zion Episcopal Churchyard in Charles Town, West Virginia.

I guess “Lucasville” as in “Lucasville, Ohio” could be a generic name for a family of American settlers; however, I am writing this to report that one source confirms that the town was named for Captain William Lucas. Perhaps someone will find research that denies this claim. Please inform me of any needed postcripts to this entry. From England to Pennsylvania to Virginia to Ohio – the road of one family to Scioto County is quite storied and full of ancestors who made their mark on history.

The American Lucas Thread to Lucasville

Robert Lucas and Elizabeth Cowgill – Edward Lucas and Bridget Scott – Edward Lucas II and Mary Darke – William Joseph Darke Lucas and Susannah Barnes (namesakes of Lucasville)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Joshua Fleehart of the Ohio Company

Joshua Fleehart

His stature was said to be herculean, almost seven feet in height, and yet as light and agile as that of a wildcat. His dress was very similar to that of the Indians with moccasins and leggings. With small, deep-set eyes and thick, bushy brows and long, muscular limbs, he could follow a trail, whether that of Indian or wild beast, with such skill through the pathless forest that it was often declared that he could scent them, as the hunting dog does his quarry.

Joshua Fleehart was a legendary frontiersman whose extraordinary strength and activity, along with his most daring courage and his thorough knowledge of life in the woods, won him a high reputation among the first settlers of Western Virginia and Ohio. When the Ohio Company founded its settlement at Marietta, in April 1778, Fleehart was employed as a scout and hunter. The fearless man was invaluable to a frontier community.

Fleehart had three brothers, equally gigantic in statue, and two sisters, both a full six feet in height. By long practice and patient observation, aided by a natural intuition, he had arrived at a degree of skill in hunting that seemed almost superhuman.

His rifle was of the largest caliber and, like himself, of unusual size and weight. Few men could have held it straight and aimed steadily. It was a flintlock, of the then latest fashion, and, next to his wife and children, Fleehart bestowed upon it his most affectionate care. Even his beloved dog could not divide his admiration for “Long John,” as he playfully called his gun. An exceptional marksman, he could strike a small object at a hundred yards distance with incredible accuracy – no small feat considering the weapons of the time.

Farmer's Castle 

Farmer's Castle was a defensive fortification built opposite the mouth of the Little Kanawha River on the Ohio River by the Ohio Company. It was located about 15 miles downriver of Marietta, Ohio. After the disastrous expedition of General Harmer into the Shawnee and Miami country and the resulting Indian war, settlers on the frontier built the fort composed of thirteen block houses with thick palisades, and very soon pioneer families moved into the structures.

Joshua Fleehart supplied those at Farmer's Castle with meat and, as a scout who preferred the woods to a life of enclosure, he would live close by and give alarms to the settlers when Indians were expected to attack. Upon attack, he would typically sally out into the woods to reconnoiter and get a chance to kill some of the enemy, saying “he could do more service there, and felt more free and courageous when behind a tree, fighting the Indians in their own way, than when confined to the shelter of a blockhouse.”

Tales about Fleehart abound. Here are two celebrated examples.

In 1791, Joshua Fleehart and Benoni Huriburt, also a skilled frontiersman, left the fort at Belpre to hunt and visit their traps at the mouth of Little Hocking. While passing the narrow's above the creek, they heard turkeys gobbling on the hillside a short distance from the river. It was common practice for Indians to imitate the call of this bird to lure settlers within rifle range. Still, turkeys were prized meat.

Huriburt wanted to land and shoot the game, but Fleehart, detecting something wrong with the sound, said it was made by Indians and persuaded Huriburt to stay in the canoe.

When they reached the mouth of the creek, and seeing no signs of Indians, Huriburt left the canoe and went up the bank into the woods. In a short time Fleehart heard the crack of a rifle which he knew was not Huriburt's gun. Pushing the canoe to the other shore of the creek, he ran up the bank and hid himself where he could see if anyone came to the place where he had landed. He directly heard Huriburt's little dog trying to defend the body of his master, but the Indians soon silenced it with a tomahawk. Huriburt had been warned of the dangers of such excursions but reportedly had said he “did not look upon them with dread of a New England man” and “was not afraid of any Indian.”

After watching for nearly an hour, so close that he could hear the Indians talk, Fleehart ran to the canoe, paddled across to near the Virginia shore and hurried back to the fort.

The next morning a party of men conducted by Fleehart went down by the water and found Huriburt dead and scalped and the body of the little dog beside him.

Another story tells of a trip up the Scioto.

Late in fall of 1795 Joshua Fleehart took his canoe, rifle, traps, and blanket and left for a long trip with no companion, not even his trusted dog that he left in the garrison with his family He made his way down the Ohio and pushed his canoe up the Scioto River a distance of 15-20 miles into hostile Indian country – at that time where few, if any, white men dared to venture.

At the time, the Scioto Valley was rich with prized game. It was the best hunting ground for Fleehart's main quarry – the bear and the beaver. The hills of Brush Creek were said to abound in bear, and small streams like Brush that fed the Scioto were well-suited to beaver. Fleehart headed for the Scioto River.

Fleehart chose a spot for his winter's residence within 25-30 miles of the Indian town of Chillicothe. He knew that the Indians seldom went that far to hunt in the winter; thus, he didn't fear their interruption. He built a hut of saplings near the river and prepared for the winter. He was careful to take great care to cut only small trees and make the cuts near the ground, concealing stumps with leaves and dead branches.

For 10-12 weeks Fleehart trapped and hunted unmolested. He “luxuriated on the roasted tails of the beaver, and drank the oil of the bear, an article of diet considered by the children of the forest as giving health to the body, with strength and activity to the limbs.” His success on the trip far exceeded his expectations, and he found winter to pass away quietly and most pleasantly.

About middle of February, Fleehart began to load his canoes with the meat and he had taken when he heard a report of a rifle in the direction of the Indian towns. Nevertheless, no problem followed, and he slept quietly that night.

Fleehart rose the following morning before dawn and saw an Indian slowly approaching, closely inspecting his mocassin tracks. He fired and the Indian fell. Fleehart rushed to his prostrate foe. He was about to “apply the scalping knife,” but seeing shining silver broaches and broad bands on his arms, he fell to cutting them loose and stuffing them away. Then, out of nowhere came the crack of a rifle as the passage of a lead ball passed through the bullet pouch at his side. He looked to find three Indians withing a hundred yards of him.

* Historical Note – The reference to scalping is a historical find. I am shocked by this behavior, and, I present the research as I found it even though it is so reprehensible. The French and Indian War (1754-1760) is replete with incidents of scalping by French, English and Native American combatants. Newspapers, diaries, journals, and other period sources all document these occurrences.
While Europeans did not originate scalping, they did encourage its spread through the establishment of bounties. J. C. B. writes that "the French and English were accustomed to pay for the scalps, to the amount of thirty francs' worth of trade goods. Their purpose was then to encourage the savages to take as many scalps as they could, and to know the number of the foe who had fallen."

Fleehart knew the enemy was too numerous to encounter, so he ran. He concluded to leave level grounds and take to the high hills that lie back of the bottoms. He and his pursuers began a deadly game of chase, often stopping to climb trees while hoping to get a shot and kill or disable each other. His pursuers finally “treed” and successfully flanked him while forcing him from cover.

At that point, Fleehart used his exceptional physical skills to run like hell. Indians could not overtake the fast, strong man – not even their best runners could keep up. The chase continued for several miles. In desperation, the Indians stopped and fired, and one of their projectiles almost found its mark while shattering the handle of Fleehart's hunting knife, jerking it so violently against his side, that for a moment he thought he was wounded. He immediately returned the fire, and, with a yell of vexation, the Indians gave up the chase.

Fleehart made a circuit among the hills, and at dark he went to the river where he had secreted his canoe. He was so fatigued that he lay down in the canoe and drifted downstream. He awoke in the morning as the boat “was just entering the Ohio River.” He quickly crossed over to the southern shore – a more desirable, less dangerous location – and in a few days, pushed his canoe up to Farmer's Castle.

According to Hildreth's Pioneer History, with his rich packages of peltry and brilliant silver ornaments as trophies of his victory, Fleehart became the envy and admiration of “his less venturous companions.”

The adventures of Fleehart would fill a volume and in relating them, he modestly kept himself in the background and gave “Long John” the lion's share of credit. Though not as popular today as Danial Boone and Simon Kenton, one must wonder why. Perhaps it was his humble character that led to obscurity. I couldn't even find a wiki to confirms birth and death dates.

Yet, hold the presses. One footnote MAY be in order.

* Footnote

What eventually happened to Joshua Fleehart? I cannot confirm this is the same man, however, a person by that name ran away with a certain “Miss Vera Maddox,” and in this endeavor they were aided by Moses and Ellen Jane Stegall.

* Historical Note – It is written that Moses Stegall, the person who cut off the head of one of “America's first serial killers,” Micajah "Big" Harpe, was himself a drunkard with less than a sterling reputation. Brothers Micajah and Wiley Harpe were notorious war criminals who raped, stole, burned down properties, and murdered patriot colonists. In 1799, they killed members of Stegall's family. Moses became a member of a posse that captured and killed Micajah Harpe.

After he confessed to 20 murders, Moses Stegall cut off the murderer’s head. The head was spiked on a pole near the Stegall homestead at Henderson, Kentucky. The place where the head was standing is still known as Harpe’s Head Road.

Back to Joshua Fleehart ...

Peak Fletcher, who was in love with Maddox, and a brother of the young woman followed the runaways and overtook them in the now state of Illinois. They were found at night in a cabin, and, at a signal, Maddox and Fletcher fired through the chinks and killed them. Miss Maddox was sitting at the time in the lap of her lover, with an arm around his neck.

It was said after dragging them out of cabin, the men left the bodies of Fleehart and Stegall there for wild animals to eat and started back with Ellen Jane and Vera. The women supposedly escaped on the way home when Maddox and Fletcher got stupid drunk.


Lou V. Chapin. The Line of Fire, Or, The Advance Guard of Civilization in America. 2010.

Lewis Collins. Collins' Historical Sketches of Kentucky: History of Kentucky, Volume 2. 1874.

John Frost. Heroes and Hunters of the West: Comprising Sketches and Adventures of Boone … 2017.

Samuel P. Hildreth. Pioneer History: An Account of the First Examinations of the Ohio Valley and … 1848.

“History of Washington Bottom”

Jim Ridley and Read Ridley. “Killing Cousins.” The Nashville Scene. October 31, 2013.

Edmund Lyne Starling. History of Henderson County, Kentucky: Comprising History of County and City … 1878.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Pioneers With Pone: The Corny Scioto Legacy

Come my tan-faced children,
Follow well in order, get your weapons ready,
Have you your pistols? Have you your sharp-edged axes?
Pioneers! O pioneers!

For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
We the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Not for delectations sweet,
Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious,
Not the riches safe and palling, nor for us the tame enjoyment,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

From Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, 1865

Explorers seeking riches invaded the Native American lands of the Ohio country in the 18th century. These hearty, adventurous souls encountered a wild but plentiful land. Abundant peltries (raw, undressed skins of small animals) lured many trappers and traders into the Ohio Valley where they caught these animals and also obtained valuable furs from Indians. Later, however, the crops, not the wildlife of the region, would become the golden resource of the settlers who followed.

The first authentic exploration of the Ohio River (Belle Riviere) by an expedition organized for that purpose was made in 1749 by Pierre-Joseph Céloron de Blainville, French military officer, and Jesuit Father Joseph Pierre de Bonnecamps. It was ordered by Comte de la Galissoniere, the governor of Canada, to strengthen the French claim on the Ohio Valley.

The expedition included 216 French Canadians and 55 Native Americans in a flotilla consisting of large boats and canoes. It started from La Chine, Quebec (near Montreal) on June 15.

This exploration became known as the “Lead Plate Expedition.” The French used lead plates at the mouths of several principal tributaries declaring the claims of France. At each point, a tin or copper plate bearing the French royal arms was nailed to a tree. Below, an inscribed leaden plate measuring about eleven inches long and seven and one-half inches wide was buried, declaring the claims of possession.

This was a traditional European mode of marking territory, but must have contributed to Native American anxieties about the intentions of the French, and thus ultimately the survey had a counterproductive effect.

In total, Céloron buried at least six lead plates. One was stolen by curious Indians almost immediately, possibly before it was even buried, and placed in British hands. Two more were found in the early 19th Century. The whereabouts of the rest remain unknown.

Celoron's French soldiers proceeded from Pittsburgh to the Great Miami River, planting the plates as they went. Along the route, the soldiers encountered numbers of British traders, especially at a village known as Lower Shawnee Town at the Scioto River's mouth.

The Celoron expedition arrived at the village on the Scioto River on August 22, 1749. The journal of Bonnecamps gives the first reference in history to an Indian settlement at the mouth of the Scioto. It is as follows:

The situation of the village of the Chaouanons (French for Shawnee) is quite pleasant – at least, it is not masked by the mountains, like the other villages through which we had passed. The Sinhioto River, which bounds it on the east, has given it its name. It is composed of about sixty cabins. The Englishmen there numbered five. They were order to withdraw, and promised to do so. The latitude of our camp was 39 degrees 1'.”

Indians were in actual possession of the land at that time. They were alarmed at the invasion of the French in 1749 and were reported by Celoron as giving a warning “salute” that gave the expedition great cause for alarm…

Those Indians discharged well nigh a thousand gun-shots. I knew the powder had been gratuitously furnished by the English. Such a waste of ammunition was proof if its abundance and increased the alarm of the French for their safety.”

Historian Andrew Lee Feight, Ph.D., writes that this tenuous confrontation at Lower Shawnee Town marked the beginning of what modern-day historians refer to as the Great War for Empire, still commonly known as the French & Indian War). The tense meeting of Céloron and Shawnee leaders in the summer of 1749 is immortalized in the Portsmouth Flood Wall murals of Robert Dafford, and its original version by H. H. Wessel (entitled, “Under the Banner of France”) that can be found in what is now the third floor, Law Library of the Scioto County Court House.

Of the meeting, Feight writes …

Céloron and his men came ashore in armor, with their weapons loaded and ready for a fight, but there was none. The French forces most likely encamped on the bottoms, on the east side of the Scioto River, across from the village. When Céloron finally addressed the Indians, he delivered a message from the Governor of Canada, which warned the villagers about the nefarious designs of the English …

The talks proved difficult and Céloron, who had been ordered to expel and plunder English merchants, would leave without evicting the handful of English who were living in the village at the time. Céloron, instead, choose to head down river, without burying one of his famous lead plates, which he attempted to place at the mouth of all major tributaries of the Ohio.”

Following the Celoron expedition, French traders and trappers became active in the Ohio Valley. Historian Henry T. Bannon writes that the French at the time were far more capable than the English in carrying on the fur trade and, in that way, they held the territory after Celoron's voyage. But that region was not long to remain a possession of France; for it was taken from by Great Britain in 1763.

And not too long after the contact from these early explorers, many English pioneers began settling the Scioto Valley. The first attempt at permanent settlement was said to be in 1785. From the American Pioneer the following article is taken, contributed by George Corwin of Portsmouth. It reads:

"In April, 1785, four families from the Redstone settlement in Pennsylvania descended the Ohio to the mouth of the Scioto River, and there moored their boat under the high bank just below where Portsmouth now stands. They commenced clearing the ground to plant seeds for a crop to support their families, hoping that the red men of the forest would suffer them to remain and improve the soil.

"Soon after they landed, the four men, heads of the families, started up the Scioto to see the paradise of the West, of which they had heard from white men who had been captured by the Indians, and traversed it while in captivity. Leaving their little colony of four women and their children to the protection of an over-ruling providence, they wandered over the beautiful bottoms of the Scioto as far up as the prairies above, and opposite to where Piketon now stands. One of them, Peter Patrick by name, pleased with the country, cut the initials of his name on the beech tree near the river, and upon the margin of a little stream that flowed into the Scioto. These letters afterward being found, gave the name of 'Pee Pee' to the creek, and then to the prairies through which the creek flowed. And from this also came the name of Pee Pee Township in Pike County.”

The Seeds, the Crops, the Subsistence

Of course, the pioneers' very existence depended upon what they could attain from the earth. In the fertile Scioto Valley both the abundance of wildlife, the streams and rivers, and the rich soil gave them great sustenance. Whenever possible, they chose a location for home near a spring of pure water. Their first labor was to build a shelter, and the next was to prepare the soil to raise a crop of grain.

The first settlers brought their corn meal with them, and as soon as this supply was exhausted, they sought more supply. Bannon writes that “two men traveled to Manchester or Limestone by canoe to secure more.” Manchester had been founded in 1791 by Nathaniel Massie. At the time the old buffalo trace at Maysville (Limestone) had been settled by Frontiersman Simon Kenton.

No pork was to be had, but bear meat was often used in its place. Later, pork and cornbread became the principal articles of pioneer food.

Thus, the old couplet:

You can have plenty of pork and pone,
If you don't like this, you can let it alone.”

* Historical Note – “Pone” is an Indian word and corn pone originated with the American Indian. In the Indian language cornbread is “Aughpone.” From the Journal of Nicoholas Cresswell of Virginia (1774). Colonists didn’t just borrow the word for cornbread; they also borrowed Native American ways of preparing cornmeal, adapting the recipes to suit English palates. Native Americans made cornbread in one of two ways: with a paste of crushed green corn kernels, or from a batter made by adding water, salt, and animal fat to cornmeal. They would use a thin paste to make flatter cakes, resulting in something more like a cornmeal pancake. They treated a thicker batter as bread dough, shaping by hand into loaves for baking.

As long as the game supply was forthcoming, settlers could vary their bill of fare with venison, wild turkey, or grouse. They drank tea made of sassafras, sage, or sycamore. Coffee, when available, was so expensive that ten pounds of rye were browned and mixed with every pound of it. And, once more exhibiting the dependence upon a crop, distilled spirits were in general use as beverages.

Bannon writes that distilling of spirits led to their free use in home, at public celebrations, and at house raisings. However, not everyone imbibed. Samuel Marshall, Jr., son of whom local historians claim to be the first “permanent settler of Scioto County,”was among the first opponents of use of intoxicating beverages. In 1824, Marshall gave notice of his intention to have a house raising at which no liquor would be furnished. His skeptical neighbors thought no one would attend the sober affair, but on the day of the labor, a huge crowd was on hand to see “this a miracle performed.” And, under these novel conditions, “all hands went to work with enthusiasm and the house was erected.

So, for many good reasons – food, barter, drink (for most tastes) – the first mechanical problem the pioneer had to solve was the construction of a device with which to grind corn into hominy meal. The first contrivances were primitive mortar and pestle operations. Bannon concludes …

A cavity was cut in a tree stump, and a pestle was made by driving an iron wedge into a heavy stick. A small quantity of corn was put into this homemade mortar and pounded into meal with the iron wedge and the assistance of a spring pole. (After one stroke upon the corn in the mortar, it would rebound for another.)

The next appliance used for grinding corn, consisted of two stones, one laid flat upon the other. The lower stone was stationary and upper stone was revolved upon it by hand power. Corn was fed into this crude mill through the eye of the revolving stone and then ground into meal. This form of mill was succeeded by the ordinary hand mills, having two cranks, and operated by two men, but these soon gave way to the water mill. To separate the bran from the meal, the pioneer used a sieve, made by stretching a piece of perforated deerskin over a hoop.”

As time passed, extensive, fertile fields in the region yielded annual crops of corn much greater than needed for the requirements of the inhabitants. Excess corn, ever becoming more readily at hand, was very bulky. This corn was sold occasionally as low as ten cents per bushel. Still, trade was very limited as no adequate means of transports existed. Thus, any labor expended by farmers in growing more than sufficient supplies for their own use, was of little avail.

But, the innovative settlers soon discovered the crops were a boon to business. To provide the logical sale for corn and perishable fruits, farmers erected distilleries at which corn was condensed into whiskey and fruits were turned into brandy. These resourceful farmers and distillers sought new markets and turned to local merchants who operated local taverns and saloons with good success.

* Historical Note – Similar conditions caused the Whiskey Insurrection (Rebellion) of 1794 in western Pennsylvania in which farmers who condensed grain into distilled spirits rebelled against federal taxation. They resisted the internal revenue tax levied in 1791 upon the spirits because it was a tax upon a form of manufacture necessary to enable the small farmers to find a market.
It is true that a wagon trail to Chillicothe existed as early as 1799, but it was not a highway created by law. Four dollars per hundred pounds was the rate charged for transporting goods from Portsmouth to Chillicothe over this road by wagon. That was an extremely hefty charge for delivery, and unaffordable to the masses.

Then, the first roads were commissioned, and these early routes greatly increased markets for farm goods. In 1803 the first public road was opened in Scioto County and consisted of a way cut through a dense forest. Bannon writes it was located upon the line of Gallipolis Road. Trees were cut sufficiently near the ground so that the stumps would clear the axles of a wagon. Brush was removed from the roads and “mile trees” were marked.

*Historical Note – Gallia Street was named after its original destination, Gallipolis, Ohio. The name was shortened in the 1800’s to Gallia Pike. Gallia Pike was the road to Gallipolis outside the city limits of Portsmouth while the road inside the limits was called Gallia Street. Gallipolis is home to “The French 500,” a group of French aristocrats, merchants, and artisans who were fleeing the violence and disruption of the French Revolution in 1790.

The Ohio and Scioto river valleys figured most prominently in the settlement of Ohio. European settlers had already touched the soil and surveyed the territory there even before Congress set aside 3.8 million acres in 1783 for the Revolutionary War veterans of Virginia as the Virginia Military District. These valleys became the lands of hopes and dreams for the new settlers. And, sadly, they became the ghost settlements of their longtime native inhabitants. As I explore the history of the place, I cannot underestimate the role of the rich natural resources that support all life there.

1612 J. Smith Map of Virginia 17 Eating the broth with the bread which they call Ponap.

    From maize to pone to moonshine to field corn, corn is the great sustainer of existence. In her new book, Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland (2015), author Cynthia Clampitt acknowledges how corn practically created the center of the country. Clampitt says …

    "Some have compared the spread of corn across the United States to the sweeping conquest of the great empire builders. It is an apt comparison. Corn made it possible to 'conquer' the frontier with astonishing speed and created an empire of farms, transportation, and cities that made the country wealthy. The Midwest is not where corn started, but it is where it became powerful.

    "The Corn Belt was born in Ohio. Chillicothe and the Scioto River Valley is where the paradigm of farming shifted to feeding corn to animals.”

    Like so many human residents of the valleys, corn is an overachiever. It is a rugged plant from the grass family and it grows fast, compared to other grains. Every resident of Ohio can look with pride and wonder upon these beautiful fields filled with the simple, lofty crop of corn. As Bernard L. Herman Ph.D. Professor of Folklore and Folklife at the University of North Carolina, so descriptively states ...

    The corn—all ringed and jointed stalks, sibilant leaves, greenish-blond silk going brunette—teased the senses with transient pleasure …

    My thoughts wandered to the scent of corn and an August afternoon a lifetime ago in the company of my friend and fabled local antiquarian Ms. Jean. The redolence of corn in scorching summer perfumes the imagination, flavors recollection – and there’s plenty of corn and memory to go around in our corner of the world.”

    Ohioans could well be blessed with the nickname “Pones” instead of “Buckeyes” if legislators had looked to the fields instead of to the trees for a fitting moniker. Sweet, indelible memories, indeed.

    A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine.”
    --Anne Bronte


    Henry T. Bannon. Stories Old and Often Told: Chronicles of Scioto County, Ohio. University of Michigan. 1927

    Cynthia Clampitt. Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015.

    Andrew Lee Feight, Ph.D. “Lower Shawnee Town & Céloron's Expedition.” Scioto Historical, Accessed December 5, 2018.

    Bernard L. Herman. “Remembering Jean Mihalyka.” Southern Culture. Accessed December 5, 2018.