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Welcome to
Greene County, Ohio
History & Genealogy

Green County 1803  - 1908.
Edited by A Committee of the Home Coming Association -
Xenia, Ohio -
The Aldine Publishing House
(Transcribed by Sharon Wick)

by Warren K. Moorehead, Curator of the Peabody Museum.


    PREHISTORIC man in Greene County left probably 60 or 70 monuments of which 41 are clearly seen at the present day.  The historic period - that of the Shawanoes, or Shawnees, at Old Town, then Old Chillicothe - did not embrace any of these remains.  The Shawanoes buried in ordinary graves and confined their village to the little plateau south of the gravel hills flanking Old Town Run.  The prehistoric people lived on Caesar's Creek, Massie's Creek, Old Town Run, and the Little Miami River.
     Whether glacial or pre-glacial man lived in Greene County is a debatable question.  In fact, scientists are divided into two schools on the whole question of glacial man in America.  There are those who believe that the discoveries in the gravels at Trenton, N. J., Wilmington, Del., Madisonville and Newcomerstown, Ohio, and in Nebraska and elsewhere are indicative of a human culture extending back 300,000 or 40,000 years.  Against this proposition are most of the Smithsonian scientists and several leading geologists who do not believe that the evidence warrants any such conclusion.  Although some rough implements were found by me in Old Town Run many yeas ago and, at the time, thought by Dr. Thomas Wilson of the Smithsonian to be paleolithic in character, yet it is not established that glacial man lived in Greene County.
     Coming down to more recent times and accepting observations and explorations as trustworthy, we observe that the earliest man in Greene County probably buried his dead in natural formations, which appeared moundlike in character.  It is quite likely that he selected glacial kames and knolls, rounded by the action of the elements during thousands of years; and because digging in this way was easy, he placed his dead in shallow graves upon these graceful summits.  When gravel pits were opened in Greene, Fayette, Warren and Clinton Counties, it was no uncommon thing to find human remains therein, and alongside such human remains lay types of crude implements somewhat different from those found in mounds and upon the village sites.  Therefore I have believed that in Ohio we hand not only tribes which built mounds, but also an earlier people, although not necessarily a people of great antiquity - that is, great compared with the age of the glacial epoch.
     These early people found game very plentiful, the winters not severe and life on the whole not a desperate struggle for existence such as characterized tribes in Canada and upon the headwaters of the Columbia and Missouri.
     The buffalo roamed throughout central and southern Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana and as late as 1760 buffalo were killed by Captain James Smith, long a captive among the Indians.  Buffalo bones have not been found in village sites in Greene County but they were exhumed from ash-pits at Fort Ancient and at Madisonville.
     Accustomed as we are to innumerable luxuries, regarding the high development of the 20th century as a matter of course and forgetting the millenniums through which man was slowly toiling upwards, we cannot understand how the American aborigine achieved what he did.  He had no metal, save a limited supply of copper in a few isolated centers.  All his art, manufacturing, building, etc., must be accomplished by the use of stone, bone and shell tools.  The Indian was more ingenious and saving than are we.  He made use of such material as he could find.  His textile fabrics - whether baskets or blankets, - his elaborate pipes, his skilfully made bows were all worked out of raw material by hand.  It seems incredible to us that he accomplished his work with such tools as the flint drills, the bone awls, the flint saws and the hammerstones that we find in every collection in Greene County.  But one must not forget that the Indian had great capabilities.  The Indian brain is finer than that of the Negro and his skeletal structure is also of a higher order.
     The mound building, to which he was given, extended throughout the entire Mississippi valley.  While there are some mounds in China and a few elsewhere in the world, yet mound building was not practiced largely save among American tribes.
     Reference to the archaeological map of Greene County herewith* presented will show the distribution of mounds, village sites and the earthworks.  From the character of the earthworks it is to be supposed that they are defensive.  The mounds were for burials exclusively.  The method of mound construction was simple.  Natives selected a level spot of ground, well situated, preferably near a stream and commanding the surrounding country.  They burned off the grass and shrubs and beat the surface until it was level.  On these hard burned floors they placed the bodies of their dead with various implements, ornaments, etc., and over the interment heaped a large mass of earth.  The earth was carried in baskets and skin bags, as is clearly shown by the different lens-shaped masses averaging about half a bushel in quantity.  Shortly after the mound was constructed, grass began to grow and then the monument became more indestructible than imposing structures of stone or brick.  A simple mound of earth outlasts any other work erected by man.
     Nearest to Xenia of all the works in the county is the circle on Old Town Run, two miles northeast.  Unfortunately I do not recall the name of the gentleman on whose land it lies, but it may easily be found.  Within the enclosure is a small mound.  It is quite evident that circles were erected as sun symbols, and sometimes as symbols of the universe.  The square represented the times as symbols of the universe.  The square represented the earth, or the four winds, or the four cardinal points.
     West of the Xenia is a large mound on the land of
Mr. John


  Mound on the Lucas Farm.
Mound near Cedarville.  

The Spring Valley Mound

     The two lower pictures were taken at the "ancient work" described in the article - the one of the "embankment"; the other of the "ancient channel" from point G.

B. Lucas, which was opened about 15 years ago by Messrs. George Day and Clifford Anderson.  The burials in this mound presented two types, the ordinary interment and the cremated skeletons.  Curious tubular pipes, flat tablet-shaped ornaments of slate, the war hatchets, large flint knives, copper bracelets and problematical forms were found with the skeleton.

ANCIENT WORK, Green Co., Ohio

     The largest ancient fortification of Greene County is at Cedarville Cliffs.  Messrs, Squire and Davis, the pioneers of American archaeology, in their famous publication "Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley"  (1848), being the first work issued by the Smithsonian Institution, present a map of this work which is herewith reproduced.  I quote from their original description.
     "It is situated on Massie's Creek, a tributary of the Little Miami River, seven miles east from the town of Xenia, Greene County, Ohio, and consists of a high promontory, bounded on all sides, excepting an interval at the west, by a precipitous limestone cliff.  Across the isthmus, from which the ground gradually subsides towards the plain almost as regularly as an artificial glacis, is carried a wall of earth and stones.  This wall is now about ten feet high by thirty feet base, and is continued for some distance along the edge of the cliff where it is least precipitous, on the north.  It is interrupted by three narrow gateways, exterior to each of which is formerly a mound of stones, now mostly carried away.  Still exterior to these are four short crescent walls extending across the isthmus.  These crescents are rather slight, not much exceeding, at the present time, three feet in height.  The cliff has an average height of upwards of twenty-five feet, and is steep and almost inaccessible.  At odd are breaks in the limestone, where the declivity is sufficiently gentle to admit of a passage on horseback.  At E is a fissure in the cliff, where persons may ascend on foot.  The valley, or ravine, CC, is three hundred feet broad.  Massie's creek, a considerable stream, washes the base of the promontory on the north.  The area bounded by the cliff and embankment is not far from twelve acres.  The whole is covered with the primitive forest.
     "The natural strength of this position is great, and no inconsiderable degree of skill has been expended in perfecting its defences.  A palisade, if carried around the brow of the cliff and along the summit of the wall, would render it impregnable to savage assault.  About one hundred rods above this work, on the opposite side of the creek, is a small circle, two hundred feet in diameter, enclosing a mound.  About the same distance below, upon the same bank, is a large conical mound, thirty feet in height and one hundred and forty feet in diameter at the base."
     Messrs. Squier and Davis also illustrated the semi-circular embankment and mound lying half a mile south of the work previously described.  They present a diagram of the polygon, seven miles north of Xenia on the east bank of the Little Miami river, some distance below Yellow Springs.  These gentlemen refer to the mound enclosure by a circle on Old Town Run, two miles north of Xenia.  At the time their book was published, the high conical-shaped mound below the cliffs (near the Hon. Whitelaw Reid's house) was something over thirty feet in altitude and one hundred and forty feet diameter at the base.  In subsequent years people from Cedarville have attempted its exploration and the height is somewhat reduced and the diameter extended.
     The other mounds are scattered about the county, following more or less regularly the water courses.  None of them were house sites or "lookout stations", but all may be safely classed as mortuary tumuli.  No stone mounds are to be found in the region and artificial terraces common on Caesar's Creek in Warren County, do not, I think, extend into Greene.  If they appear in the southwest edge of Green, I stand corrected.  Save at Cedarville, no large mound exists in the county.
     There have been, from time to time, persons living in Xenia who were interested in Archaeology.  When I was a boy a picnic party was organized to visit Fort Ancient, twenty-two miles south.  I remember following Judge E. H. Munger and two or three other gentlemen who were familiar with Professor Short's "North Americans of Antiquity", about the wonderful enclosure and listening to their comments.
     Although the monuments, sixty or seventy years ago, were much more distinct than at present, yet very few persons in Ohio took any interest in them.  The pioneer was Celeb Atwater of Circleville, who visited Greene County before 1818.  His book, "Archaeologia Americana", was published in 1820 in Worcester, Mass.
     Old citizens in Xenia will remember Mr. W. B. Fairchild.  Of the Xenians of seventy-five years ago, Fairchild was one of the most intelligent.  His interest in science was marked and he is mentioned in the first report of the Smithsonian Institution several times.  Mr. S. T. Oweins, surveyor of Greene County in the early forties, is credited with having made the first accurate survey of these interesting monuments.  In recent years a number of gentlemen residing in or near Xenia have accumulated archaeological collections.  These have a special value to science and should be preserved in the Xenia public library, or where they will be available to future generations.  Perhaps the best exhibit of stone art of prehistoric tribes is the collection owned by Mr. George Charters.  His exhibit comes from Caesar's Creek, Massie's Creek, Old Town Run and other favorite sites.
     Particular attention is called to the skill of the Greene County natives in the chipping of flint, now a lost art.  Some of the large spear heads found in Greene County are made of pink and white flint brought from the Flint Ridge pits in Licking County, nearly a hundred miles distant, and are marvels of skill and beauty.  On some of the larger ones I have seen depressions from which flakes as small as the 32nd of an inch were detached.  Any prehistoric man was able to make his ordinary arrow-heads, but it required a master hand to make a certain kind of spearhead which I have named the "sunfish" pattern because of its resemblance in form and color to the large blue and red sunfish of Green County streams.
     The late Mr. Jacob Ankeney had a large collection of Greene County specimens.  As a boy I used to go to his house and spend hours with him in the examination of his treasures.  But unfortunately this collection has become scattered, so it is said.  Next to Mr. Charters' exhibit in size is that of Mr. George Day.  Dr. Spahr of Clifton has some hundreds of interesting implements relating to primitive art of northern and eastern Greene County, and there are a score of smaller exhibits scattered throughout the county.  These taken as a whole give one a comprehensive knowledge of the Stone Age in this region.  The tribes do not appear to have been sedentary in their habits although they appear to have lived long enough in one place to raise crops of corn, tobacco, pumpkins, and beans.  Numerous stone pestles attest this.
     So far as we are able to judge, Greene County natives were not given to travel or exchange.  Aside from Flint Ridge flint, all materials were local.  They received a little copper from the north and a few plates of mica from the south - both dear to aboriginal hearts.  But they did not import ocean shells, and pearl beads, and galena, obsidian, and Tennessee flint as did the tribes in the Scioto Valley.
     Prehistoric man in Greene County was of what is called "Fort Ancient culture," that is, the Fort Ancient culture is totally different from the higher culture of the Scioto Valley.  The tribes of surrounding counties from beyond the Great Miami on the west to the headwaters of Paint Creek on the east belong to this same general Fort Ancient stock.  It is quite likely that in case of attack by enemies from the north or from the Scioto, they retreated to Fort Ancient.  Traveling light, as aborigines do when in danger, they could reach Fort Ancient from almost any part of Greene County in from four or five hours.  With the exception of the site at Old Town made historic by Kenton, and Boone, and Blackfish, and Captain Bowman, all the other places on which Indian implements are found in the county are pre-Columbian.  Their exact age cannot be determined although it is probable that some of them may have been inhabited two or three thousand years ago.
     Nothing remains today of prehistoric man in Greene County save his mounds and stone artifacts.  Civilization has obliterated pretty much all else.  Yet, it seems to me, that we owe it to science - if not to the memory of those red men of the simple life - to preserve such of their works as time has vouchsafed to us.  The notable ones are the enclosure and mound near Cedarville Cliffs.
     The "Cliffs" have been a favorite picnic resort for a century.  Nothing more picturesque exists in the state.  Greene County could easily make of the place a park, for the natural beauty and park conditions are perfect.  The expense would be trifling and the benefit to the community at large beyond price.  Such a place as the "Cliffs" near any city would have become a public "nature-field" a generation ago.
     The park scheme would properly include the imposing mound near Mr. Reid's home and the fortification on the bluffs over-looking Massie's Creek.  Then future generations might exclaim with pride:
     "Greene and Licking Counties are the only two of the eighty-eight that preserved their natural scenery and their antiquities."



* See the article "A Description of the County and Its Townships"

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