THE ORIGINAL PEOPLE OF THE
by Warren K. Moorehead, Curator of the Peabody Museum.
I. PREHISTORIC MEN.
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
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
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
West of the Xenia is a large mound on the land of
||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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
CLICK HERE to
RETURN to TABLE OF CONTENTS >