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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.