FOLKLORE OF HIGHLAND CO., OHIO
THE SEVEN CAVES FAIRFIELD TWP.
WAW-WIL-A-WAY THE MOUND BUILDERS
by Violet Morgan, Greenfield, Ohio, 1946
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Thomas Beals and Nathaniel Pope, on their expedition to Ohio about 1795, crossed the northern part of Highland county, where they were to return later and settle permanently. This land was called the Virginia Military District and was portioned to Revolutionary War soldiers as the Government's method of paying them for their services in the war. Many of the soldiers did not want their lands and sold them to prospective settlers for about a dollar an acre. Simon Kenton, who may deserve the name of Ohio's Daniel Boone, made the first entry of land in Highland County, three miles east of Hillsboro, near Rocky Fork, September 7, 1791. This entry was for 500 acres and was made on four military warrants in the name of Samuel Gibson.
The highlands lie in the northern part of the county and some of this land is higher than that of the plateau section. Penn, Fairfield, Madison, and the northern part of Paint Township compose this high, level land. Here are found the best farm lands and the best quarries; and such picturesque features as the Seven Caves.
THE SEVEN CAVES
The Seven Caves were formed, geologists say, by the combined force of erosion of underground streams and a chemical action of carbonic acid gas exerted upon the Niagara limestone. Forming a natural scenic park, this region has been a favorite place for swimming, fishing, picnicking, and summering, from the earliest days. Once settlers went there on horseback and on foot. Two thousand feet of subterranean passages lie along three trails: The Cave-Canyon Trail; The Palisades Trail; The Indian Trail. The time it takes to follow them is about three hours. There are five closely-grouped caves on the Cave-Canyon Trail. These are: Witches' Cave; Cave of the Springs (Wet Cave); Phantom Cave; Dancing Cave; Bear Cave.
The entrance of the largest cave, The Cave of the Springs, is 175 feet long, 65 feet wide, and 28 feet high. A miniature lake called Jade Spring, lies 600 feet in from the entrance. Pioneers believed that this spring was bottomless. Branching off to the right is a narrow, twisting passage 500 feet long, which terminates in "the crystal room."
The Dancing Cave received its name from the first settlers who were said to have held dances there and to have used the stalagmite along the walls as seats. The Marble Cave is on this trail is regarded by some as the most beautiful cave of all. It receives its name from its resemblance to marble and to the small stalagmite formations resembling marbles found here that small boys always have loved to collect.
The Indian Trail meanders softly through spreading trees and wild flowers, leading us through leafy Gypsy Glenn in the cup of a cliff, and over a quaint, rustic bridge. Farther on, at Hemlock Point, we look down on the rapids and the big gorge. Far above us, we look up at Etnah woods, where so many years ago, wigwams and camp fires captured the scene. An Indian ford is at the riffle above a pool in which are interesting rock formations.
This park contains 100 acres filled with miracles wrought by the hands of time and nature. In a botanical survey of the grounds made by William Bridge Cooke, naturalist, in 1934, over 205 kinds of plants and 60 kinds of trees, were identified. Many rare specimens are among these.
Rattlesnake Creek, a large tributary of Paint Creek, a large tributary of Paint Creek, drains the northeastern part of the county and also forms the northeastern border of the county. This stream with its tributaries, Lees and Hardin, is an important part of the geography of the northern section. The first settlements were made along these streams because the soil was productive and rich. Fishing was good, and grist and wool-carding mills flourished. The settlers were attracted by the abundant springs and by salt licks where springs spread their salty deposits upon the surfaces and offered supplies of needed salt to pioneers and animals.
(Bridges, Centerfield, East Monroe, Highland, Highland Station and Leesburg)
BRIDGES: Population, about 7; Altitude, 889 feet above sea level; location, above 8 miles northeast of Hillsboro on the East Monroe-Bridges county highway, on Hardin's Creek in Fairfield Township. Unincorporated.
Bridges was never platted nor intended for a town. It was so named because each of four converging roads here has a bridge spanning the winding creek.
Waw-wil-a-way, famous Indian chief, once dwelled in harmony with his white brothers at the mouth of Hardin's Creek where fishing was exceptionally good.
Shortly after 1804, a Friends church was built on a pretty knoll in this locality and flourishing woolen and grist mills were built along nearby Lees Creek.
Bridges today consists of one house and a store, and the Hardin's Creek Friends Church. There is rural mail delivery service from Hillsboro and Leesburg. Children attend school at Leesburg. This is a farming community.
LEESBURG: Population, 839; altitude, 1,1021 feet above sea level; location, 10 miles north of Hillsboro on U.S. Route 62, and intersected by State Route 28, in Fairfield township. The founding of Leesburg in the spring of 1802 by Nathaniel Pope and immigrants from Tennessee, has an interesting story. The Friends Church, the first place of worship established in the township, was built at the southern edge of the village in 1804. It was called Fairfield Quaker Meeting House, and a noted Quaker woman preacher named Bathsheba Lupton is credited with its founding. The story is that old and young settlers spent their Sundays in company with the Indians, indulging in sports with them. Bathsheba mounted her horse and rode from cabin to cabin, admonishing them, and charging them to keep the day holy. It is claimed that this brought about the organization of the church.
The first building was crude, built of logs, and covered with hewn slabs. A large hole in the middle of the church filled with charcoal, was the stove. This building was rebuilt later on. It became a popular place for state-wide Quaker meetings and people of all denominations came for the all-day meetings.
The most conspicuous and colorful figure of all Indian history of Highland County is that of Waw-wil-a-way, peace-loving Shawnee chieftain who lived near the mouth of Hardin's Creek with his wife and two sons, and who was deliberately murdered by three white men.
Many virtues have been attributed to him. He was said to have been well-known and beloved throughout this region because of his courage, intelligence, manliness, and generosity. He had been on surveying tours with General Nathaniel Massie as his faithful hunter and guide, and was an admirer and true friend of the white man.
The story is, that a report had been circulated by some white men that the Indians, who had been adhering to the terms of the peace treaty of 1795, were rising to make a terrible surprise attack upon the settlers in this part of the country. When a messenger on horseback rode through from Chillocothe, bringing the word, settlers everywhere collected and fortified themselves.
Shortly after this, the tomahawked and scalped body of Captain Herrod, a prominent settler living a few miles west of Chillicothe, was found by some hunters in the woods near the clearing of his home. Indians were blamed for the deed and feeling was bad. Investigation by Governor Tiffin revealed that the Indians had only peaceful intentions and the story of the intended uprising had been a hoax. Some thought that it had all been part of an unscrupulous plan by a white man who might have wished to supersede Captain Herrod in office in the State militia. At any rate, even today, Herrod's murder is as much a mystery as ever.
While on his way, in 1803, to Old Town (Frankfort) on foot, where he and his sons were accustomed to exchange their peltries for powder, lead, and other supplies, Waw-wil-a-way was met by three white men on horseback, Wolfe, Williams, and Ferguson.
The meeting was casual and friendly, Waw-wil-a-way shook hands with them cordially and asked about their health and their families.
Wolf asked the chief if he would trade guns with him and the unsuspecting Indian, assenting, turned over his gun to him for examination. After stealthily removing the priming from the pan of Waw-wil-a-way's gun, Wolfe handed it back stating that he did not wish to trade.
"Have the Indians commenced war?" Wolfe and Williams made inquiry as they dismounted from their horses.
"No, no! the Indians and the white men are now all one, all brothers," Waw-wil-a-way replied.
"Have you heard that the Indians killed Captain Herrod?" Wolfe asked the surprised chief.
The Indian, doubting the truth of the story, suggested, "Maybe whiskey, too much drink was the cause of the quarrel."
"But Herrod had no quarrel with the Indians."
"Then maybe some bad white man killed Captain Herrod," said Waw-wil-a-way again.
The conversation ended in the friendly manner in which it began. Waw-wil-a-way again shook hands with the white men and they resumed their ways.
The chief had gone only a few steps when Wolfe, raising his rifle, took aim at his back and fired. The ball passed through his body, but he did not fall.
Although mortally wounded, Waw-wil-a-way turned upon his murderers. He raised his rifle and aimed it at Wolfe for the smoking gun revealed who had shot him. Wolfe jumped behind his horse.
Then the chief shot Williams, who fell dead from his frightened and plunging horse. The scheme to remove the priming from Waw-wil-a-way's gun and render it useless had failed, for the cushion had been left on the tube.
Making a club of his gun, the Indian rushed upon Wolfe, and with one blow sent him prostrate to the earth. Wolfe regained his feet and attempted to seize Waw-wil-away by the tuft of hair on the top of his head. Instead he got hold of the shawl wound around Waw-wil-a-way's head. When he jerked the shawl to bring Waw-wil-away to the ground the shawl gave way, and Wolfe fell backwards.
"At this," Scott's History of Highland County says, "the Indian drew his scalping knife and made a thrust at his antagonist, who seeing his danger, and throwing up his feet to ward it off, received the blade of the knife in his thigh. In the scuffle the handle brook off and left the entire blade in the wound.
"Wolfe at the same time made a blow at the Indian with his knife, which entered his breast bone. Just at this critical juncture, Ferguson ran to Wolfe's assistance. The Indian then seized Wolfe's fallen gun and struck Ferguson a most fearful blow on the head and brought him to the earth, laying bare his skull from the crown to the ear. Here the sanguine conflict ended.
"During the entire encounter, Waw-wil-a-way never uttered a word. When the strife was over, his strength failed him rapidly from loss of blood, and his sight became dim. He cast one glance on his fallen foe.... turning, walked a short distance out into the grass, and sank upon his face amid the wild flowers."
Waw-wil-a-way's death was the climax of a number of incidents that led to the last Indian Alarm in southern Ohio.
His body was found where he fell, legend claims, and was taken to an Indian cemetery in Deer Park, the John McMullen land now owned by his son, Attorney Robert McMullen. The grave has never been identified. This land lies near the Seven Caves, and a trail near it is said to have been the place where the Indians attacked a band of travelers on their way to a crossing on Paint Creek, and massacred them.
Wolfe and Ferguson survived the fray to find the countryside in a turmoil, Indians and whites not knowing what to do or what to expect. General McArthur and a detachment of men rode away to hold council with the great chief, Tecumseh, near Fort Greenville, where the peace treaty of 1795 had been enacted between the Indians and whites. Here the white men were assured that the Indians held the terms of the treaty sacred. The chief himself went with the men to Chillicothe where he addressed the people there through an interpreter and allayed their fears.
In the meantime, several hundred Indians had collected at the forks of Lees Creek in Highland County, near Leesburg, Some of the chiefs went to the home of a Quaker settler, Nathaniel Pope, asking that a council be held. Pope sent for his Quaker neighbors, and they met with the chiefs under a spreading elm which stood by a spring on Pope's farm.
It was not an unfriendly meeting. The Indians suggested that they make a property settlement and agreed to maintain friendly relations with the white settlers should actual hostilities break out. They asked for half of the settlers' provisions and salt, all of their blankets, and demanded that the men should seek out the murderers of Waw-wil-a-way.
Mrs. Pope objected to parting with her blankets and it looked as though the treaty had been made only to be broken. An Indian picked up her youngest son, a lad of about 12 years. This boy in later years became General J.W. Pope. standing him up against a tree, the Indian pretended to tomahawk and scalp him as a threat as to what would happen to her family should she continue to refuse to give up her blankets. When she did not instantly agree, he stepped back and began throwing his tomahawk and sticking it into the tree just above the boy's head. This was too much for Mrs. Pope. She relinquished the blankets and the Indians went away, taking with them William Pope and other young men to hunt down Waw-wil-a-way's murderers.
It was an Indian law that the nearest relatives of the murdered man had a right to kill the murderer whenever and wherever he could find him. Knowing this, Wolfe had fled to Kentucky. Here he employed an agent to act for him and a negotiation was entered into with the sons of Waw-wil-a-way. The agent, acting for Wolfe, agreed to give each son a horse, a new saddle and bridle, and a new rifle. Thereupon peace was made between Waw-wil-a-way's family and Wolfe.
A great ceremony was made of this truce. In the presence of a large Gathering of Indians and whites at Old Town (Frankfort) the two sons of Waw-wil-a-way and Wolfe occupied the center of a hollow square. The horses, the new saddles and bridles, and the new rifles, were there too, ready to change hands.
Solemnly raising their hands toward heaven, Waw-wil-a-way's sons relinquished their claim to the life of the murderer when they called upon the Great Spirit to accept the blood and life of Wolfe.
The scene was so impressive that many were moved to tears. Waw-wil-a-way's sons took Wolfe by the hand, called him brother, lighted the pipe of peace, and smoked with him.
At the conclusion of the meeting the two Indians returned to their camp at the mouth of Hardin's Creek. Here they sat down beside Allen Crawford, a white settler, and his sons were were camping there on a hunting trip.
This was the peaceful ending of the last Indian alarm in southern Ohio.
THE MOUND BUILDERS
Veiled in mystery is the story of the strange race of men called Mound Builders who once dwelled in Highland County, so-called because of the burial mounds they left behind them.
In Williams Brothers "History of Ross and Highland Counties," the findings of archaeologists studying the Cooper mound near Leesburg were recorded:
"It was originally a symmetrical and beautiful mound, probably from 100 to 120 feet in diameter and 25 to 30 feet high. It was found to have regularly stratified composition. The first layer was three feet of loam. Next came 10 to 12 feet of hard, compact clay showing in some places the effect of intense heat. Then came three or four feet of ashes, charcoal, calcined bones and fragments of wood, which, when removed, disclosed a thin layer of a plaster-like substance containing skeletons of five humans, stone tools, ornaments, etc. These skeletons lay with the skulls together and the feet wide apart which suggested the form of a star or spokes in a wheel. At the feet of the tall skeleton of a woman about seven feet long, were found awl or needle-shaped bone or horn implements and close by three copper bracelets. It was claimed that pearl-like necklaces were also found around her neck.
"To the east of this group a few feet away was another skeleton shrouded in a plaited rough fabric made in three plaits each a half inch in diameter and gathered at the edges with a large cord. It was in a wooden case and all was highly carbonized. Under this outer covering was another which was similar to our ordinary coffee sacking except that the warp was about one half inch apart. There were 15 more layers graduating in fineness until the last layer which was the finest of all. It bound the body. It appeared that the folds of the cloth started from the chin downward until the body was shrouded."