“This country was the home of the red men, a home from which they were loth to part. God had given them this beautiful valley of the Scioto for their home. It was a migratory field for the restless buffalo; the elk and the bear roamed its wooded hills; the deer and wild turkey made it their home; the valleys and the upland were filled with small game; fish sported in the cool and pellucid (translucently clear) waters of its rivers and creeks, and in shadowy nooks, near bubbling springs and crystal fountains, the aborigines built their wigwams. It was a paradise for the hunter, and the Indians liad roamed lord of all.
“In 1795 the valley of the Scioto, with its wealth of forest and stream, with its high and rolling upland, bold bluffs and nestling valleys, became the property of the palefaces, and that which stood for centuries in its wild and rugged grandeur was, ere long, to assume a prominent place in the future of our State.”
– History of Lower Scioto Valley, Ohio. Chicago: Inter-State Publishing Co. 1884
Too often we overlook the grandeur of the land which we call home. Becoming so accustomed to our surroundings, we fail to uphold the natural gifts that bless our being. Thousands of years ago, Native Americans began peopling this valley and here lived in harmony with Mother Earth as they carefully nurtured the land they so loved. It is left to us to be good stewards of our surroundings.
One way which we can do that is to study the annals of the footsteps of those who came before. The very paths of old can reveal much about the significance of our natural history. The original traces or paths through the dense forests of Ohio were created by animals – such as buffalo and deer – in search of food, water, and salt licks. These narrow, well-worn trails were often just wide enough to allow passage in single file. They were ideally far enough from streams to avoid swamps and lowlands, and they sometimes followed the ridges, and became known as “high-ways.” Ravines and their attendant creeks made travel difficult as well.
Along these trails the aboriginal Ohio peoples traveled whether engaged in warfare, the hunt, trade and barter, or migration. Later the trails served, together with navigable streams, as the only means of entrance for the white traders and settlers who pushed their way into the country west and north on the Ohio River. Thus the trails in great measure determined the course of improved highways and in this way strongly influenced the location of early settlers' communities and towns.
Such is the case with our very own Scioto Trail. This trail has long been of striking importance, running north and south through the state, between Sandusky Bay and mouth of the Scioto River. Ascending the Sandusky River, crossing the portage and descending the Scioto to its juncture with the Ohio River, the Scioto Trail crossed the Ohio and joined the famous "Warriors' Path," leading far into the southland. Surely the likes of Boone, Tecumseh, and scores of other famous frontier figures employed the old Scioto Trail.
The Scioto Trail's link with the Warriors' Path was crucial for Native Americans. For centuries, the Cherokee and the Shawnee traveled through the Cumberland Gap along a game trail known by the Shawnee as Athiamiowee, translated as “path of the armed ones.” Both tribes traveled the path in and out of Kentucky, using it as a hunting ground. Bitter enemies, these two tribes regularly attacked one another. As pioneers began to come through Cumberland Gap in the late 1700's, the trail became part of what was known as the Wilderness Road.
Together these trails – the Scioto and the Warriors Path – constituted one of the greatest passages of the western country. The principal towns were the Sandusky towns near the bay ; the Pipe's towns, Half King's town, Wyandot's town, in the vicinity of the upper rapids of the Sandusky river; Mingo and Delaware towns in Delaware county ; Old Salt Lick town and Mingo town in Franklin county; Maguck and the Chil- lieothe towns in Pickaway and Ross; Hurrican Tom's town and Wanduchale's town further south and Chillicothe on the Ohio, or Lower Shawnee town, at the mouth of the Scioto.
Thus, the Scioto Trail was the walkway of the Shawnee from the neutral hunting ground of Kentucky to the fishing grounds of Sandusky Bay and Lake Erie. It was used for predatory raids upon the early settlements of Kentucky and the flatboatmen of the Ohio.
The local segment of the trail lies upon the second bottom of the broad flats (U.S. 23) and leads up past the loops of the Scioto, until the narrower valley through the gap in the Pike County hills causes it to rise from the river and cross the ridge. Much of the old trail is covered today by U.S. Route 23 and is easily recognized.
The path leads through Wakefield over the hills northeastward , descends into the flats at Waverly to rise again over billowing hill tops, and descends northeasterly to the flats below Chillicothe.
Mound City testifies to its antiquity. From the heights to the south of Chillicothe is the triple ridge of Mount Logan, and beyond it Rattlesnake Knob standing above the Pickaway Plains to the north. Passing directly through the meadows, after crossing the river at the north edge of the present town, the trail touches Mound City in the Camp Sherman area and moves over the rolling prairie, with retreating hills to the right and willowy loops of the river on the left.
It passes the famous view of Mount Logan, where the sun rises over the three peaks, a scene which suggested the Seal of Ohio. After crossing Kinnickinnick Creek it entered a region replete with Indian history. It reaches into the Pickaway Plains proper where the rolling prairies studded with ancient isolated trees grow as they did in Indian days. Once among them, one mile east of Nash Corners, was the famous Logan Elm, where the great Indian made his tragic and eloquent address to the Royal Governor Dunmore and the victorious Colonel Lewis. This point lay upon the trail circling the plains that bound the bordering Indian Villages.
Many natural landmarks still stand in the Pickaway Plains to recall Indian habitation. Among the prehistoric mounds is the Burning Mound of the Shawnees, southeast of Circleville. There are several large elms adjacent to the aforementioned site of the Logan Elm that are probably almost as old. Beyond Congo Creek, on the southern bank of which stood the Logan Elm, and over Scippo Creek, the trail leads past the lookout hill in the center of the Plains known as the Black Mountain. Up Scippo Creek a short distance lay Cornstalk's Town and the town of the Grenadier Squaw.
Signal Tree Near Richmondale
* A Note of Special Interest
An amateur historian named Tom O'Grady tells of his recent discovery of a “signal tree” on Weddington Hill, south of Richmondale, Ohio. Do you know what a signal tree is?
In order to live and work efficiently, these tribes needed a way to navigate their land and communicate with one another. Called "marker trees," or "trail trees," saplings were carefully bent by a local Native American tribe, forcing them to grow in unnatural shapes. They became guideposts essential to the Indians' way of life. The shapes of the signal trees varied depending upon the tribe and the message being relayed. The trees are typically made from those of the hardwood family, such as oak, maple, and elm.
These unique formations communicated a special message to the tribe members. Some of them stood as a geographical divide said to mark the boundary between two local tribes. Others, like highway exit signs, pointed tribespeople to water sources, medicinal plants, and special burial sites. They were also used to indicate safe-crossing points at rivers, rock or mineral deposits for tool-making, and the burial sites of their ancestors.
Tecumseh and His Pan-Indian Campaign
Tecumseh, himself, made epic journeys on many Native American trails arguing the need for inter-tribal peace and unity to counter the land hunger of the United States. He and his brother, the Prophet Lalawethika, with the help of runners and riders, used established Indian trails and waterways to organize the so-called “Pan-Indian Campaign.”
All present-day residents of the Scioto Valley should be mindful of Tecumseh's allegiance, a great heritage that continually challenges us to honor and be ever appreciative of the land on which we live. Largely without conscious recognition, we tread upon the same pathways once taken by native inhabitants.
In 1811, Tecumseh warned of the fate the American Indians would suffer unless they united to resist the white man. Do we properly respect what we once usurped? It is not without anguish that we better understand the obligations of our settlement. From the words of the great Shawnee leader ...
“... but what need is there to speak of the past? It speaks for itself and asks, Where is the Pequod? Where the Narragansetts, the Mohawks, Pacanokets, and many other once powerful tribes of our race? They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white men, as snow before a summer sun. In the vain hope of alone defending their ancient possessions they have fallen in the wars with the white men.
“Look abroad over their once beautiful country, and what see you now? Naught but the ravages of the pale face destroyers meet our eyes. So it will be with you Choctaws and Chickasaws! Soon your mighty forest trees under the shade of whose wide spreading branches you have played in infancy, sported in boyhood, and now rest your wearied limbs after the fatigue of the chase, will be cut down to fence in the land which the white intruders dare to call their own.
“Soon their broad roads will pass over the graves of your fathers, and the place of their rest will be blotted out forever. The annihilation of our race is at hand unless we unite in one common cause against the common danger, and thus escape the common fate.”
“Your people, too, will soon be as falling leaves and scattering clouds before their blighting breath. You, too, will be driven away from your native land and ancient domains as leaves are driven before the wintry storms.”
“The Ancient Ohio Trail.” http://www.ancientohiotrail.org/routes/lower-scioto-valley.
Emmit A. Conway, Sr. “Trail Signal Trees.” http://www.oldeforester.com/Sigtree.html.
“Historic American Indian Tribes of Ohio.” Ohio Historical Society. www.ohiohistory.org.
History of Lower Scioto Valley of Ohio
“Indian Trails and Towns in Ohio.” http://ohiomounds.com/?page_id=28
Cassandra Lewis. “These Trees Have Secret Native American Codes. Their Meaning? Brilliant!”
“Remarkable Ohio: Scioto Trail.” The Ohio Channel. https://www.ohiochannel.org/video/remarkable-ohio-scioto-trail.
“Warriors' Path.” Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. https://www.nps.gov/cuga/learn/historyculture/warriors-path.htm.
Frank Wilcox, William McGill, Richard S. Grimes. “The Scioto Trail or Warriors' Trail.” Ohio Indian Trails.