This page is part of the Warren County Ohio GenWeb project
You are our 2325 visitor since 11 February 2005 -- thanks for stopping by!



Transcription contributed by Martie Callihan 11 February 2005

The History of Warren County Ohio
Part III. The History of Warren County by Josiah Morrow
Chapter IX. Physiography and Antiquities
(Chicago, IL: W. H. Beers Co, 1882; reprint, Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, 1992)
Related Links:
Fort Ancient


Very interesting archaeological remains abound in the county and throughout the region of the Miamis. The extensive and elaborate ancient earthworks show conclusively that this region was in the distant past occupied by a dense population, not of nomadic tribes, but dwelling in fixed communities, probably devoted to agriculture, and having certain peculiar laws, customs and religious rites. Some of their works required an immense amount of labor and considerable engineering skill. What race of people built these remarkable and interesting earthworks is unknown, and, in the absence of positive knowledge, their origin is referred to a people called Mound-Builders. Both tumular and mural remains of this extinct race are found in almost every portion of Warren County. Many of the less important archaeological works have been obliterated by the cultivation of the soil; others remain today among the largest and most interesting ancient works in the Mississippi Valley. One of the largest mounds in the United States is found near the Great Miami at Miamisburg; it is 65 feet high and 800 feet around the base. Fort Ancient, on the Little Miami, is one of the largest, strongest and most important of the defensive works of the extinct race on the continent. The following description of this remarkable work is from Caleb Atwater, and was published in the Archoelogia Americana :

"The fortification stands on a plain, nearly horizontal, about two hundred and thirty-six feet above the level of the river, between two branches with very steep and deep banks. The openings in the walls are gateways. The plain extends eastward along the State road, nearly level, about half a mile. The fortification on all sides, except on the east and west, where the road runs, is surrounded with precipices nearly in the shape of the wall. The wall on the inside varies in its height, according to the shape of the ground on the outside being generally from eight to ten feet; but on the plain, it is about nineteen and a half feet high, inside and out, on a base of four and a half poles. In a few places, it appears to be washed away in gutters, made by water collecting on the inside.

"At about twenty poles east from the gate, through which the State road runs, are two mounds, about ten feet eight inches high, the road running between them nearly equidistant from each. From these mounds are gutters running nearly north and south, that appear to be artificial, and made to communicate with the branches on each side. Northeast from the mounds, on the plain, are two roads, each about one pole wide, elevated about three feet, and which run nearly parallel, about one-fourth of a mile, and then form an irregular semi-circle round a small mound. Near the southwest end of the fortification are three circular roads, between thirty and forty poles in length, cut out of the precipice between the wall and the river. The wall is made of earth. " Many conjectures have been made as to the design of the authors in erecting a work with no less than fifty-eight gateways. Several of these openings have evidently been occasioned by the water, which had been collected on the inside until it overflowed the walls and wore itself a passage. In several other places, the walls might never have been completed.

"The three parallel roads near the southwest end of the fortification appear to have been designed for persons to stand on and annoy those who were passing up and down the river. The Indians, as I have been informed, made this use of these roads in their wars with each other and with the whites. Whether these works will belong to the same era and the same people, I cannot say, though the general opinion is that they do. On the whole, I have ventured to class them among 'Ancient Fortifications,' to which they appear to have higher claims than almost any other, for reasons too apparent to require a recital.

"The two parallel roads outside the fortification running from two mounds northeastward are very similar to modern turnpikes, and are made to suit the nature of the soil and make of the ground. If the roads were for foot-races, the mounds were the goals from which the pedestrians started, or around which they ran. The area which these parallel walls inclose, smoothed by art, might have been the place where games were celebrated. We cannot say that these works were designed for such purposes; but we can say that similar works were thus used among the early inhabitants of Greece and Roma"

The extreme length of these works, in a direct line, is nearly a mile, but, following the angles of the walls, they reach probably a length of six miles.

On the river hill on the west side of the Little Miami, at Foster's Crossing, is an ancient work composed of burnt earth. The inclosure contains about twenty acres, and the embankment, although nearly leveled by time in some places, can be traced around the whole area. As a work of defense, it had a position of great strength. It could be attacked with advantage only from a narrow space of level land on the north. At this place the wall was highest and strongest, and is now about ten feet high and fifteen feet wide at the base. Here, too, was the gateway, defended by an elliptical mound on the outside. The peculiarity of this work, however, is the burnt earth of which the embankment is composed. There does not seem to be a handful of clay in the remains of the ancient wall which has not undergone the most intense heat. The rocks, too, show the marks of fire. Even where the embankment is highest, excavations by the hand of man, by water, or the uprooting of large trees, show that the earth is as red as brick-dust down to the level of the ground-The burnt clay was not molded, but is found pulverized, or in large or small irregular-shaped masses.

There were other works of defense in the county of less size and importance which have never been surveyed or platted, or accurately described. It cannot be said that any law governing the arrangement of either the tumuli or fortifications has been discovered. Both appear to be more numerous along the rivers than elsewhere. It has been thought by some writers that the archaeology of

the Miamis has for its distinguishing feature a system of strong fortifications along the two rivers, and that the numerous mounds on the headlands and interior points may have been signal stations, commanding the whole region and binding the country together as the seat of one united nation. A more common view is that the mounds were places of sepulture and memorials raised over the dead, the largest mounds being erected in honor of distinguished personages. The notion that they contain the remains of vast heaps of dead fallen in great battles is wholly unsupported by the facts obtained from excavations and examinations. But one or two skeletons are usually found in these mounds, and where many are found it is probable that the later Indians, and, in some cases, Europeans, have buried their dead in them. The New American Cyclopedia assumes, from facts and circumstances deemed sufficient to enable us to arrive at approximate conclusions concerning the antiquity of the Mound-Builders' records, that we may infer, for most of these monuments in the Mississippi Valley, an age of not less than two thousand years. "By whom built, whether their authors migrated to remote lands under the combined attractions of a more fertile soil and more genial clime, or whether they disappeared beneath the victorious arms of an alien race, or were swept out of existence by some direful epidemic or universal famine, are questions probably beyond the-power of human investigations to answer. History is silent concerning them, and their very name is lost to tradition itself."

Among the most interesting archaeological relics are the utensils, implements, weapons and personal ornaments of pre-historic times. It should be borne in mind that, while most writers on American antiquities make a distinction between the Mound-Builders and the tribes the whites found in possession of the country, such a line of demarkation cannot well be drawn with accuracy with respect to the stone, flint and copper relics. Some of these relics may belong to a pre-historic race of the distant past, some to the earliest Indian tribes inhabiting the country, and others to later Indians, whose mechanical arts may have been modified by contact and trade with the whites. It is, therefore, impossible to separate the relics of the Mound-Builders from those of the later races. We cannot refer the copper implements to any particular epoch, nor can we determine when the stone age began or ended. Stone implements have been found associated with the remains of animals long since extinct, yet these implements are not different from those known to have been in use among the savage tribes when first seen by the whites.

The relics now under, consideration have been found in as great quantities in Warren, perhaps, as in any county in Ohio. With respect to the purposes for which they were designed, they may be divided into utensils for domestic use, implements for handicraft, weapons and ornaments. With respect to the materials from which they were fabricated, they are stone, flint, slate, copper, pottery, bone, horn and shell.

The most common relics are the flint arrow-heads, spear-heads and daggers. Thousands of arrow and spear heads have been picked up in the county. Other flint implements, such as knives and cutting tools, scrapers and borers, have been found. Of stone relics, the most common are axes and hammers, grooved so that a forked branch or split stick could be fastened for a handle; balls more or less round, probably used as hand-hammers; pestles for crushing grain, and many ornaments—among them, flat, perforated tubes of highly polished slate, and various forms of flat stones, polished and perforated. Stone pipes are found of various sizes and construction. Specimens of ancient pottery have not been often found in the county.

Charles Rau, the author of several valuable papers on American antiquities, has shown that there was an extensive trade or traffic among the pre-his-

toric races of America. This is rendered evident from the fact that their manufactured articles consist of materials which must have been obtained from sources in far-distant localities. The materials of which many relics found in the Miami country are composed can only be found at a distance of hundreds of miles. The term " flint," used to describe the material of which various chipped implements are manufactured, is used to include various kinds of hard and silicious stones, such as hornstone, jasper, chalcedony, and different kinds of quartz. There have been found in the United States places where the manufacture of flint implements was carried on. There was a great demand for arrow-heads among the primitive tribes, and in places where the proper kind of material could be found, there were work-shops for their manufacture. An important locality to which the aborigines resorted in Ohio for quarrying flint is now called Flint Ridge, and extends through Muskingum and Licking Counties. Dr. Hildreth says of this ancient flint quarry:

"The compact, silicious material of which this ridge is made up seems to have attracted the notice of the aborigines, who have manufactured it largely into arrow and spear heads, if we may be allowed to judge from the numerous circular excavations which have been made in mining the rock, and the piles of chipped quartz lying on the surface. How extensively it has been worked for these purposes may be imagined from the countless number of the pits, experience having taught them that the rock recently dug from the earth could be split with more freedom than that which had lain exposed to the weather. These excavations are found the whole length of the outcrop, but more abundantly at ' Flint Ridge,' where it is most compact and diversified with rich colors."

The greenish, striped slate, of which variously shaped tablets are made, is believed to occur in no parts of the Union except the Atlantic Coast district, and to have been transported, either in a rough or worked condition, from that region to the different parts of the Mississippi Valley in which the relics are found. The copper used by the aboriginal tribes was probably obtained chiefly from the northern part of Michigan.

As comparatively few copper relics are found in the mounds, an account of the excavation of a mound in which were found a number of copper articles is here given. The mound was situated on the farm of J. S. Couden, on the south side of the Little Miami, between Morrow and South Lebanon, and near the terminus of a series of ancient works extending for nearly a mile in length. It was a small mound, only about four feet high, and not different in appearance from several others near by. It was opened in the spring of 1878. The explorers made an excavation three and one-half feet by five feet, and eight feet deep. In digging, stones were found promiscuously arranged and bearing the marks of fire. At a depth of eight feet were found a skeleton, a large sea-shell, and a number of copper implements and ornaments. The skeleton was lying on its back, with its head toward the northeast. The shell was large enough to hold a gallon of water. On the skeleton were found ten copper axes, the largest being found on the head, the smallest at the feet. The axes varied in size from seven to four and one-half inches in length, and from four to three inches in width. They were only about one-half an inch in thickness. As is usually the case with Mound-Builders' axes, none of them were perforated for the attachment of a handle. One of them was flat on one side and rounded on the other, and was probably intended for use as an adze, with a handle fastened at right angles to the side. In the mound were found a thin copper crescent, perforated with four holes, and several other copper pieces, which were supposed to have been ornaments.

blank page

FOOTNOTES: [a place to add additional information that you might want to submit]


NOTICE: All documents and electronic images placed on the Warren County OHGenWeb site remain the property of the contributors, who retain publication rights in accordance with US Copyright Laws and Regulations. These documents may be used by anyone for their personal research. Persons or organizations desiring to use this material, must obtain the written consent of the contributor, or their legal representative, and contact the listed Warren County OHGenWeb coordinator with proof of this consent.

This page created 11 February 2005 and last updated 6 November, 2005
© 2005 Arne H Trelvik  All rights reserved