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MIDDLETOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY
"Linking the Past with the Present for the Future"

Madison Township Bicentennial Sketches
(1799-1999)
by George C. Crout
 

The Ancient Peoples


'The Miami Valley served as a natural corridor from the Ohio River northward to join another valley onto Lake Erie. Using this ancient route were three groups of prehistoric peoples representing different cultures. These people all, at one time or the other, lived on the land now known as Madison Township. First were the people of the Ice Age who arrived as the glaciers were melting. They likely lived in caves in the hillside. Their ancestors had followed the animals to the new world, coming from Asia across a land bridge, once of ice, but known today as the Bering Sea. One of the animals of that age was the great mastodon, who had replaced the mammoth, an even larger animal that weighed as much as 20 tons. Remains of the mastodon have been found in this area.

A study of a mastodon's skeleton reveals that he was a big animal, about 10 feet tall and 15 feet from tusk to tail, weighing 5 or 6 tons--the ancestor of today's smaller elephant. Long brown hair protected his body against the cold of the Ice Age, and this same fur coat probably protected early man. The mastodon, as well as the people of that time, lived along the edges of the retreating glaciers that moved down the Miami Valley.

Madison Township is the land of the long past. People have lived among the shadows of its forests for thousands of years. After the people of the Ice Age, the earth warmed, glaciers melted and people known as Mound Builders came to the area. Their name--Mound Builders-is an apt description for this civilization left behind thousands of mounds rising skyward, some of which have survived the ravages of time.

Butler County is said to have contained over 250 mounds and 17 enclosures, which puts the county second in the state, next to Ross, for the number of earthworks discovered. The Great Butler Mound of Madison Township rises some 45 feet on a 500-feet circular base.

Like a silent sentinel, it has stood on the hilltop above West Middletown along the west bluff of Elk Creek, northeast of Miltonville for well over 2,000 years. It is along the Wayne Madison Road, representing a major landmark of the township and county, being known as the Great Mound of Butler County. It is one of the largest Adena mounds left in the United States, and in this region is second only to the Miamisburg Mound. When the trees are not in leaf, the mound provides a view of about 20 miles.

When first measured by archaeologists in the early 1800's, it was 43 feet high and 511 feet at the base. Its present measurements are 34 feet with a 176 foot base. An excavation in 1879 reduced the height while farmers encroached year by year upon its base, converting more and more land to crops.

The mound first appeared on an 1836 county map drawn by James McBride. It was located in Section 19 of Madison Township. This whole section of 360 acres was originally purchased by Benjamin Morrison from the U.S. government. He sold off one corner of the land which contained the mound to the Long family. This land remained in the Long family for over 150 years. An educated family, the Longs always appreciated the significance of the mound. Hampton Long of the third generation, was especially awed by it. He had a field glass which he would take to the top of the mound, claiming that on a clear day he could see 16 miles southward. On the Fourth of July evening, he viewed the fireworks of Cincinnati. Eventually a grandson of Hampton Long inherited the farm. Warren Fisher as a youth had learned respect
for the mound which he handed down to his son, Gerald Fisher.

While the City of Middletown once made an offer for the Mound, planning to include it under the Sebald Park development, the offer was so low that the Fishers had to reject it. It would have connected to the park through a long closed road between Elk Creek and the Wayne-Madison Road. The Butler County Park Board also was interested in the mound, but could not finance the purchase. Hearing the mound was threatened by development, the Archaeological Conservancy, a New Mexico based organization with an office in Cincinnati purchased the mound in July 1989. The Conservancy acquires such sites and often resells them to a governmental agency for long-term preservation. The Butler County Metro-Parks hopes to acquire the Mound sometime in the future. The township owes a debt of gratitude to the Longs and Fishers for their caring of the mound, and its sale to a preservation group.

In March 1990 volunteers working under the guidance of the Archaeological Conservancy tested the theory that the mounds were once used as a signal posts. One Sunday 25 volunteers climbed three area mounds--the Miamisburg Mound, the Kinder Mound at Franklin and the Great Mound--using mirrors to reflect the sunlight, proving that brilliant flashes of light could indeed be relayed from mound to mound as smoke signals had been in ancient days. The mounds had also served as tombs of dead.

The Great Mound is the work of the Adena peoples, predecessors to, and for a time, contemporaries of the Hopewells. Adena is the name bestowed upon the culture by archaeologists, its being the site on which the first studies were made--in this case, Adena, the home of Thomas Worthington an early Ohio Governor. The dating of the mounds and the contents have been made through radioactive carbon tests. The Adena culture has been researched by several archaeologists in books in area libraries.

One area archaeologist, John P. McLean in a book, the Mounds of Butler County wrote: "The Great Mound of Butler County's contents consist of 824,480 cubic feet of earth. At 22 cubic feet per load, this would give 37,476 wagon-loads, which, allowing ten loads per day, would take one man nearly 12 years (not including Sundays) to remove the Mound ... This will give us some idea of the great labor bestowed upon the structure. But then consider that the most primitive methods were used, and the earth carried in sacks thrown across the shoulders, or else in ear-then vessels, the labor at once is seen to have been stupendous..."

McLean also noted that while the Great Mound was a post of observation, "its primary object may have been for sepulcher." He wrote it had been enlarged and used for a signal station, He stated that ''many years ago some persons started to open it. The excavation is but slight and at the top. Some bones and traces of fire occurred."

The building of the Great Mound had required sustained effort over a long period of time. The workers were indefatigable, and represented a sedentary people with a stabilized economy. They were scattered across the land in groups in what is now parts of West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio. How many hundreds or thousands who lived in the area of the Great Mound will never be known. But undoubtedly they cultivated the land along the lowlands of the river, and used the Great Miami River for transportation, bringing in flint and metals found in their mounds.

Evidence of medicine bags have been found in their mounds. Some of the same herbs and drugs used by them did have medicinal qualities, and are still in use today. Compounds 12 were made by their medicine man known as the Shaman, who was credited with possessing supernatural powers. Smoking plants such as tobacco was probably part of the Shaman's ceremonies. Many Adena pipes have been taken from the mounds. The Shaman was combination medicine man and religious leader.

The Adena people liked the rich, alluvial land along the Great Miami River and its tributaries in Madison Township. Unlike those who came before them who depended upon hunting for their livelihood, the Adenas discovered agriculture. They learned how to take seeds and plant them in gardens, care for them and harvest a crop. They grew beans, squash, pumpkins and sunflowers. Anthropologists believe that the harvesting and storing of sunflower seed was their most important idea, for they could store it for use in the winter when other food was scarce. These people were the first farmers in the township.

A study of the Adena culture shows it to be a highly organized and complex society, much advanced over the people of the Ice Age. They not only possessed some engineering skills as shown in the building of the mound, but lived and worked in communal groups as proven by their work on the mound.

According to archaeologists the Adenas were a handsome race. They possessed large round heads and a long face with prominent cheek bones. They also had a language, indicated by engraved clay tablets found in Adena mounds.

While the largest mound was the Great Butler, McLean mapped nine smaller ones in the township. All were along streams flowing into the Great Miami River or on its floodplain. McLean himself directed the opening of a mound on the Mattix farm just one-third of a mile southeast of the Great Mound. It was 6 feet high with a diameter of 80 feet. One-half mile north of Miltonville McLean measured a mound 300 feet in circumference and 5 feet high. Northeast of Trenton he found one 7 feet high and 306 feet at the base and from it one could view the Miamisburg Mound.

One mound was destroyed when the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad was under construction in 1850-5 1. Its tracks cut through it. This mound was described as being 15 to 20 feet high and 100 feet in diameter. A C. H. and D. railroad official, John Woods, who observed the tracks being laid at that point in a letter noted: "The railroad runs through one side of the mound, half of which was cut down for the track. The workmen found arrows, and a considerable quantity of charcoal, cloth and bones. Several shovelfuls of earth and cloth were obtained. The charcoal seemed to be that of the oak and sugar tree. A quantity of cloth was found, the cloth was not such as a civilized race would manufacture ... it being more costly than wool, and less adapted to the purpose of clothing. It could not have been formed on an ordinary loom, undoubtedly, the result of native handiwork."

The smaller mounds were usually 8 to 10 feet high and on a base of about 40 feet. A small mound on the old Kemp farm near West Middletown had been excavated and charcoal and some woven cloth was found in it. During the 1920's young boys especially the Scouts, searched the West Middletown hills for artifacts of the Mound builder and Indian.

In more recent years archaeologists from Miami University have done some digging on the Wilda C. Augspurger farm in the township. They were studying a mound there, finding some relics. Some years before the Augspurgers had found a large stone hammer there, and it is now on display at the Butler County Historical Society's Museum.

The Adenas were followed by other Mound Builder cultures--the Hopewell and the Fort Ancient, whose life has been recreated at Sunwatch a museum located in south Dayton. Then another culture appeared commonly known as that of the Native Americans or Indians. Many anthropologists believe that the ancient peoples all migrated to America from Asia during different eras in prehistoric times, and one culture successively replaced the former one. Their stories have been pieced together by archeologists and anthropologists, for they lived before written records were made.

Most people in thinking of Indians remember the Miamis for which many things in the area were named, but when the pioneers arrived the Shawnee tribe was in control of the land. Recent research indicates that the Mesopelia Indians may have inhabited the land which became Madison Township after the downfall of the Fort Ancient civilization sometime during the 1200's. Little is known of the Mesopelias except they were gone before 1670.

The tribe first encountered here by the French traders along the great river was that of the Miamis. They had first been recorded as living along the Fox River in Wisconsin, being driven southward into Illinois and Indiana. By 1711 they were in the Wabash River Valley from which they moved southward into the Maumee and Miami river valleys, where their chief town was Pickawillany, now Piqua. The Miami nation at its zenith was one of the largest and most powerful tribes in the nation, being a part of the Algonquin Confederation. They boasted they could place 5,000 warriors on the field. They were described by early explorers as kind and courteous. They had cleared large areas for raising corn, their main crop. They were well organized and such chiefs as Little Turtle were intelligent and good leaders. They were brave warriors in defending what they considered their land, living in Ohio longer than any other Indian tribe of historic times. They farmed the prairie lands around the Great Miami River.

in 1763 after the French and Indian wars, the Miamis abandoned their major stronghold past Piqua and settled on the Maumee. By the time the first white settlers arrived in Madison Township, they found another tribe, the Shawnee, who had migrated to Ohio from the Southeast as their name indicates. Shawnee is from the Indian word, Shawneu meaning South. This was a nomadic tribe moving from place to place, looking for good hunting grounds. Their warriors were brave and fearless, very distrustful of the whites to whom they had lost hunting grounds. The Shawnee have been described as "the most savage of Indian nations." First settling in Ohio in the Scioto River valley, they moved westward pushing out the more gentle Miamis.

By the time the pioneers arrived in Madison Township, the Shawnee realized time was running out. The white man had conquered them forcing them and other Ohio tribes to sign the Treaty of Greenville, Aug. 3, 1795. The treaty had opened up the land west of the Great Miami River--the Virginia Military tract--to settlement. Border warfare had ended and peace was to prevail with Ohio Indians until the outbreak of Tecumseh's Confederacy, prelude to the War of 1812.

Township pioneers found a few scattered Indian villages and their children were to later remember playing with Indian children. On the whole relations were friendly but wary. As settlement progressed in Butler County the Indians migrated to its northern townships which contained the last hunting grounds. Here were still a few elk, deer and bear, but they often had to stop at the settlers' cabins to ask for "ochpon"- -bread; "monako"- -milk, or "quisquish" meat. The Shawnee were not above stealing the hogs, and it was -said they "would kill the white peoples' hogs and call them bears." They were known often to steal horses, some from across the river around Middletown.

The Indians also had developed a taste for whiskey. Captain Pipe, as one Indian was known once stopped at the Andrew Lewis home in Hanover Township where he was given a meal, after which he demanded whiskey. When told there was no whiskey in the house, he became infuriated, thinking Lewis was holding out on him. When Captain Pipe pulled out a knife, Lewis grabbed his rifle and the unwelcome guest took to the woods. Over in Oxford Township, little Samuel Smith was kidnapped by the Shawnee, but the settlers searched for him, finding the baby unharmed in a wigwam.

The Indian most remembered in Madison Township was Chief Tom Killbuck, who had a brother, Bill Killbuck, Chief Tom Killbuck lived along a branch of Elk Creek north of Flag Run, which became known as Killbuck. In a county history, James McBride wrote, "Tom Killbuck was the Indian Chief. After two years, three families came from Kentucky and settled in adjoining sections, making too many white people for the red men. Then they moved their wigwams three miles northeast on a branch of Elk Creek, now called Killbuck Run, after the name of the Indian chief." In the same area lived a Shawnee Chief Mishawa, who was believed to have been killed at the Battle of the Thames in Canada in the year 1813 during the War of 1812. He was fighting under Chief Tecumseh, the Shawnee's greatest chief, who was also killed there along with many warriors. Thus ended all Indian resistance. But even before the War of 1812 most of the Shawnee were gone from the township. Only a few old Indians remained on the land of their fathers in a little camp along Killbuck Run. Chief Tom Killbuck lived on there for many years visited by the boys of Madison. He is buried at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Cemetery above Poasttown. Here he is listed on its records as a war veteran having served as a scout for the Colonial Army during the American Revolution. According to legend after the Chief s death, a lone Indian returned each autumn to the creek to visit the graves of his departed brethren. He would stand on that sacred ground in the moonlight under the boughs of the trees and recite incantations, humming a dirge, and then break up some arrows, throwing them to the ground. He then quietly disappeared into the shadows of the forest. Finally he never returned.

A hundred years later stories of Chief Tom Killbuck were still remembered in the Dickey family. A descendant of the township's first settler, Paul S. Dickey, wrote to a local historian; "Tom Killbuck, an Indian Chief had his tribe in the area my ancestors settled on Elk Creek. They were a friendly tribe and the Chief was sort of a religious person.

Still remembered by some in the Madison area is an Indian legend that a pot of gold lies buried somewhere around Poasttown. An old Indian who had achieved some wealth in gold coin which lie kept hidden, decided to leave Madison Township to die among his brothers, living on a reservation near Peru, Indiana. fie did not wish to take his daughter with him on this last journey, and tried to find a husband for her, offering the gold as a dowry. Unsuccessful, he buried the gold, but the girl never married and died without ever revealing where the pot of gold had been buried.

Long before the settlers arrived explorers had visited the land of Madison Township. The first Europeans to dip oars into the Great Miami were the French, Sieur de la Salle is credited with being the first European to explore the Ohio River. He came to the region during the
winter of 1669-70, and he may have made his way up the Great Miami river, but no one will ever know for certain since his journals covering this period were lost.

However, it was not many years until French traders or voyagers, as they were known, were going up and down the Great Miami trading with Indians along its banks for furs. The French found a ready market for the furs where the winters were cold. the French hoisted the French flag over the Miami Valley and incorporated it into their Province of Quebec. It wasn't long until the English traders arrived, and they did not accept the claims of the French to the valley.

The French soon realized they would have to make their claims to the valley clearer to both the English and the Indians. The Governor of New France, Galissoniere, decided to secure the French claims by sending Celeron de Bienville to the Ohio Country. In 1749 he made his way to the head waters of the Ohio River. Proceeding downstream he planted a lead plate at the confluence of each important tributary as well as fastening to a tree a thin metal plate proclaiming the land to be a French possession. According to Celeron's own journal his expedition was "composed of one captain, eight officers, six cadets, one chaplain, 20 soldiers, 180 Canadians and about 30 Indians." The flotilla consisted of 20 birch bark canoes.

On August 31, 1749 Celeron buried his last leaden plate--the sixth--at the entrance of "the Rocky River"--the French name for the Great Miami. He also attached a proclamation to a tree. Neither the plate nor proclamation have ever been found. Then Celeron started up the Great Miami, writing, "Owing to the scarcity of water in this river, it took 13 days in ascending it."

Since the waters of the Great Miami were so low at this season of the year, about half of Celeron's party went by land, but Celeron, himself, rode in one of the boats. Thus one day in early September 1749, Celeron arrived at the site on which Middletown and West Middletown would someday be located. He paused here a short time to bury a member of the expedition who had died, marking the grave with a stone inscribed in French. The stone was later found by a settler near West Middletown. By Sept. 13 Celeron had arrived at what is now Piqua where his men and the Indians smoked the peace pipe.

But as a footnote, it should be recalled that in Sept. 1991 during the celebration of the Middletown Bicentennial, two voyager groups returned to the site where Celeron had stopped in 1749. Their modern counterparts stepped ashore from their 36 foot canoes to the banks of the Great Miami. They were welcomed ashore. When reminded that one of their voyagers' group of over two centuries past had died here, they conducted an ancient ceremony of passing in French and threw a wreath into the water of the river.

It Would take a long war between the English and French that would conclude with the American Revolution before the control of the lands northwest of the Ohio would be declared part of the new nation, the United States, which came into being with the military and economic help of the French. This story is told in detail in many Historical accounts.


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