RailsandTrails.com - Texts - 1854 Ohio Railroad Guide
|Fort Ancient to Spring Valley|
FORT ANCIENT is 412 miles from Cincinnati, and 22 2 miles from Xenia. The view is not of Fort Ancient; but of a scene on the river, a little above,-as seen from the opposite bank. Fort Ancient is on the hill above, and of course, invisible from the Railway, or the river. "And what is Fort Ancient?" says the inquisitive traveler. Ah ! That is the question. It is a considerably deeper one than " Who built the Pyramid? " This Western world, especially the valley of the Mississippi, and most of all, the valley of the Ohio, contains numerous ancient monuments, some of which are unquestionably the remains of fortifications; some are evidently tombs, and others again are more doubtful; whether they were intended for military, for religious, or for monumental purposes. There are unquestionably some of each kind. Of those used for the tombs of the dead, it is questionable whether many of them were originally intended for that purpose; or, whether being found in existence, they were not used in some after generation, as ready made coffins and tombs for the dead. These tombs are called "Mounds," and are simply a raised cone of earth, with a flattened top, having the natural slope of the earth. They are of various sizes, from ten to one hundred feet in height. On some of them the largest forest trees are found ; and the mounds themselves are found often in the most remote wilderness, and in the densest woods. In these mounds are almost invariably found some remains of human bones; some pottery ware ; some charred ashes ; and occasionally a raised altar of earth, upon which either the body was placed, or sacrifice offered. In some, as at the Grave Creek Mound, near Wheeling, there was the appearance of a regular vault, with wooden sides, prepared with something of the design and intention of the Egyptian Pyramids. Such are the " mounds " of the west. But, we come now to the important question, " were those entombed in the mounds, of the same people with those who built them? And, were those buried here, the same race with our North American Indian? And were all of them of the same race? I confess, that I incline to the last opinion. But, there is such a love of romance in the human mind, that most persons, and especially antiquarians, have loved to dwell on the idea of a mysterious people, who once inhabited this continent, and who, having built all these monuments and fortifications, were at last utterly obliterated, by a barbarous race, so that even their monuments have not preserved their name from oblivion! The strongest argument against this romantic theory is found in this last fact; that these monuments contain nothing which furnish the slightest evidence of civilization, by which some knowledge of them might have been preserved. They were not a civilized people. That is certain. In fact, the builders of the mounds, and certainly those who were buried in them, were not superior at all to the better class of our North American Indians; such, for example, as the Mandans were. There is nothing in making a mound, nothing contained in them, which a tribe of Delawares or Pawnees might not have done. Where then is the mystery? As to the mounds; there is none, however much romance may make of it. By the way, here I may mention a tradition of the North'Western Indians, in regard to the manner in which the mounds were formed. It may, or may not be true; but contains a very pretty idea. A chief in Wisconsin, many years since, was asked if there was no tradition of the building, or purpose of the mounds? Re said that there was an old tradition, that long time ago, when a chief died; his friends and relatives laid him on a little altar, where sacrifices were made, and raised over him a hillock of earth, and that every time a friend, or a member of that tribe came by, he cast upon it a handful of earth. If he was a great chief, with a large tribe, and popular, his mound soon grew to be a large one ; but if he was a small chief, his mound was small. Thus the mound marked, without an inscription, the greatness of him who lay beneath.
Now, this may have been the manner in which some mounds were formed; but they, like our own tombs, are obviously of different kinds. Some of them have been re-opened, and strangers buried in them; and others were evidently intended for religious uses; and again, others were used, as we may infer from their position, as military watch-towers.
But we must not stop you in the cars to read the history of a tomb. What, you may well ask, has this to do with Fort Ancient ? Much : for there are mounds within Fort Ancient; and there are also other things, much more curious than mounds. Fort Ancient is, in fact, an old, and unknown fortification; one of the most singular of all these ancient remains which have puzzled so many. I am sorry you can not leave the cars, and walk through it. You would see a work, most manifestly intended for defence, evidently constructed by human hands ; but of whose author not the slightest trace, or memorial, or history remains, save only this solitary and deserted ruin. When you meet a ruined fortification on the Rhine, or the Danube, you know something of its authors. Its stones and walls tell you something. You can trace it very distinctly to German Barons or Roman Praetors ; but here you can trace nothing. These fallen walls have no characteristics of any thing, or of any known being. They were found in a wilderness, whose wilder inhabitants knew not whence they came. There were no inscriptions. The dead had no epitaphs. The profound solitude of the woods was interrupted by no sound from its lonely tenants. There was, when first seen, around these ancient fortifications, a dreary and painful solitude; a sense of presence, and yet a death-like repose, I recollect well a feeling of awe, when I first passed through Fort Ancient. The mounds seemed as if they would speak, and just then a huge black snake drew himself across the road, as if he were the genius of the place. I dare say no such impression is produced now; for all around is cultivation, and the air of life and activity pervades the neighborhood.
Of Fort Ancient, the description in brief is this It stands on a plain, about 230 feet above the river, and between two rivulets running into the Miami. Each of these streams has high and steep banks; so that, in fact, this position is defended naturally, on three sides. It is only open on the fourth, or east side. The plain is nearly level, and on it is erected an irregular fortification, generally following the bank of the river and the creeks, in the shape of a high parapet, on the water side about eight or ten feet high, but on the plain nearly double that. To this parapet there are gateways, mounds, and some exterior defences. Nothing is more obvious, than that the work was intended for defence ; and it is equally certain, that the position was selected with skill and sagacity. If a modern general was to select some spot on the Miami river to defend, he could not have chosen a better one.
But I have detained you here long enough. We must hasten on. The railway runs at the base of the hills, and therefore shuts from sight all these ancient memorials. To a curious and contemplative mind, these remains are very interesting, and weeks might be occupied in examining these and similar monuments on the Miami, and Scioto. The view accompanying this is not of Fort Ancient, but of a scene on the Little Miami river, above the fort; in my opinion quite beautiful.
CORWIN, 50 miles from Cincinnati, and 14 from Xenia, is a station opposite the pretty town of Waynesville, Warren county, Ohio. On a clear day you will see across the Miami, (over which a bridge is thrown,) a village of white houses, lying amidst the foliage of a green slope. It is to my eye one of the most rural and beautiful towns, as seen from the station, any where to be found. It has no ambition to be a busy manufacturing or mercantile place; and therefore you see no dark columns of smoke, no tall chimneys, no din of noise. All is quiet, serene, rural and retired. By the way, there is one branch of business carried on here, the traveler may as well know. There is here a maker of Maple-sugar Candy, who unquestionably makes the best in the nation. If you see him in the cars, with his little boxes, five chances to one you will say " no." For you will think of the half-flour, musty stuff, you generally find under the name of candy. All I have to say, is, that this is real maple candy, the best in the country.
Waynesville is not pretentious. It is simply a rural village, originally settled by Quakers, and like them quiet, and unobtrusive. By the census, it has 744 inhabitants. There are two Friends' Meeting houses, and a Methodist Church.
SPRING VALLEY, 57 miles from Cincinnati, and 7 miles from Xenia, is a pleasant village; small, but neat. There is a woolen factory, a tavern, several shops, and in the neighborhood, a good many mills, and factories. The turnpike from Cincinnati to Xenia also passes here. The land is rich, the Miami river near by; so that on the whole, this position is a very good one, for those who wish to live in the country, and yet be in a village. It is called Spring Valley, from the very peculiar nature of the hills, and soil around. The hills which surround the place are full of springs, which gush out, almost as large as rivulets. For two or three miles, they are almost innumerable. You will see them on the slopes, as we pass up the little valley of Glady. This is the name of the little stream, we now follow to Xenia. Glady is only seven miles in length, rising in some large springs, near Xenia. In that seven miles, however, it turns the wheels of some seven or eight mills and factories. It is the busiest little water course you ever saw.
When you get half way through this valley, about three miles from Xenia, in the woods on the left, is the spot where Daniel Boone made his escape from the Indians. He had been taken prisoner by the Indians, and carried to Old Chillicothe, now called " Old Town," which is about six miles beyond this place, on the Miami. At Old Town he found a large body of Indians, painted and armed, ready for an attack on Booneborough, his own place. There he determined to fly, and on the morning of the 18th of June, 1778, being left on Glady, near this spot, with only an old Indian and two women, he took himself off, and made a straight line for Booneborough. It was well he did; for he found the fort in bad repair, and went to work at once, to put it in order.
This region around " Old Chillicothe," and from thence on, and to the Scioto, was the residence of the Shawnese, once one of the greatest and best of the Indian tribes. The Shawnees were originally residents of the South ; but, (says Col. John Johnston,) came to Ohio long anterior to Braddock's campaign in 1754. They occupied the country contiguous to the Wyandots, on the Scioto, Mad Diver, and Great Miami, and the upper waters of the Maumee. They were devoted friends and allies of the Wyandots, in all their wars with the whites. These two tribes were the last to leave Ohio, and there is not now an Indian, who owns an acre of land within the State. "Alas ! the poor Indian! " says some one. Yes, my friend, and alas! the poor white ! For, the Indian was only a savage, and he made war upon the whites, as the whites did upon wolves and bears; and many were the poor women and children who were tomahawked and scalped, in their ferocious rage. You will say, perhaps, the Indians owned the land; are you quite sure of that ? Investigate. These Shawnees were only wanderers. They came on to the land once occupied by the Wyandots. Did the Wyandots own it? No. They came where the Delawares and Iroquois once owned. In fine, can any wandering, savage tribe own a country, which they do not even occupy? but in which they are vagabonds and wanderers? They are unquestionably entitled to the rights of life, liberty and labor; but, ownership, according to the civilized idea of property, they had none.