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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Old Miami Trail Has Traversed The Ages

Dallas Bogan on 26 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

One of the most formidable and most historic trails in the Middle West is the Old Miami Trail. It was from prehistoric times the eminent trading and warpath between the northern and southern Indian tribes of Ohio. In later times it became the great military trail, which experienced the passage of men and armies, they making history for both the Native American and the White Man.
The countless treacherous twists of this old path tell a tale of blood and tragedy, not only for the Indian, but also for the tattered soldier and pioneer who first followed this trail. Along this famous trail Gen. St. Clair met a devastating defeat at Ft. Recovery, while in 1794 along this same trail Gen. Clark at the Battle of Fallen Timbers dealt the Indians a fatal blow.
It seems that the Indian name of this old trail is unknown, but it was a part of the great trunk trail, which ran from the Great Lakes to the Gulf. The land layout between the Great and Little Miami rivers offered a natural highway from the Lake region to the mountains southward through the valley of the Licking. This old trail is sometimes called the Tennessee River - Ohio - Great Lakes Trail. It was an old buffalo trail which the Indian, and later the white man, followed and essentially set up his or her own towns.
One branch went southeast through the Cumberland Gap and was known as the Wilderness Road or Boone's Trail, while another division swung southwest through Nashville and was called the Natchez Trace, or Boatman's Trail. The main branch of the Old Miami Trace traveled due north up from the Indian town of Chattanooga on the Tennessee and then connected with the other Indian trails branching off toward the Gulf of Mexico.
As was mentioned, the trail started at Chattanooga, bounded along the west bank of the Tennessee River, branched off at Harriman, Ky., moved up the valley of the Emory River over to the Valley of the Cumberland River. Thence to the Indian settlement at the junction of the north and south forks of the river at Burnside, Ky. It then proceeded to the Indian settlements of Central Kentucky at Danville, Lexington and Paris, where it followed the ridge of the Licking to its mouth; it then it crossed the Ohio to what is now Cincinnati. (The Wyandotte name for Cincinnati was Tu-ent-a-hab-whag-ta, "the place where the road leaves the river.")
At this point numerous important trails met. From the Ohio northward the trail is called the Old Miami Trail, obviously the name being taken from the powerful Indian tribe, the Miamis, who occupied this region. The old trail was sometimes called the Fort Miami Trail, simply because it led to old Fort Miami, the oldest fortification in the State of Ohio. This fort was built under the direction of Fontenac, Governor of Canada, in 1680, as a military trading post. Its location was about fifteen miles up the Maumee from Lake Erie. The French later moved it farther up the river; the English, in 1785, rebuilt it.
The Native Americans followed certain routes for both trade and warfare. The watercourses and the ridges along the watersheds were used as their earthworks now show. Both the Indians and the whites followed these same trails and used the same sites for their towns, such as Cincinnati, Hamilton, Dayton, Xenia, Piqua and Urbana. (A route is given from my source that was taken from an old English trading map in 1755, and a pioneer map of Ohio in 1803.)
The Miami Trail led from the waterfront at Cincinnati, wound its way over the hills east of Mill Creek, continued northeastward to Sharonville, Ohio, moved up the north side of Sharon Creek and over the hills toward Mason, where it crossed Turtle Creek to Lebanon (U.S. 42). Five miles to the right was the Little Miami River. The Little Miami regressed on the right crossing the high plateau, and while continuing north, Holes Creek was the next identifying point for the trail.
The trail leaned eastward around the head of the creek and then dropped into the lower section east of Dayton. It then crossed the Mad River to the heights north of the city, all the time keeping the Miami River on the left, and, eventually, descending into the flatland northeast of the Indian town, Tippecanoe.
Crossing the Great Miami again, the trail passed through Troy and followed the west bank to Piqua (Old U.S. 25). Continuing through Piqua, the trail passed the mouth of Loramie Creek to Ft. Loramie (S.R. 66). From this point the trail divided, one extended eastward toward the Shawnee towns and the other led northwest up Loramie Creek.
The trail apparently changed names at this juncture, it becoming Loramie Trace. This trace-veered west onto the plateau and, turning north, continued across the stream at Newport (S.R. 66). Proceeding through Fort Loramie, the trail led northwest across the flatland to Celina (U.S. 27) to the foot of the St. Mary's Lake. Crossing the outlet of the lake, it continued northwest to the lower St. Mary's River in Indiana (U.S. 27). Here one branch went north along the Bean River to the Straits of Mackinaw, while the other continued along the Maumee to Ft. Miami and then on to Detroit.
One Cincinnati branch went up Main Street to McMicken Avenue, around the foot of the hill to Colerain Avenue, on to Queen City Avenue, thence to Knowlton's Corner. One extension led from this point to Colerain Avenue, another went up to College Hill and on to Hamilton, while the another continued up Queen City Avenue to the Mill Creek Valley, coming again into the main trail. At Reading Road and the junction of the "Old Road" (Florence Avenue) a branch extended out the Montgomery Road to Pleasant Ridge, and on to Mason where it joined the main trails.
The other trail branched off toward Lebanon and Xenia, while still another extension of this trail, Montgomery Road, went out to Foster's Crossing, now Foster. Another went northwest at Florence Avenue and Reading Road up along the steep ravine to the Mt. Auburn Church, thence to Vine Street out along the Carthage Pike. This extension was known as Wayne's Trail and was used by Wayne's soldiers.
Minor trails were an integral part of the trail system. Such trails were established along both the Little Miami and the Great Miami rivers. The Indians preferred the east side, or the buffalo trail. There was a ridge trail along the west side of the Great Miami where it crossed the river at Dunlap and came down to the Ohio at about Anderson Ferry.
It seems that all the trails, including the Old Miami Trail, were used by the Indian in his travels going down to the salt springs at Big Bone Lick, Ky. Possibly the most important crossing of the Ohio for the Indians was the ford at the Eight Mile Bar, which was the lowest part of the entire Ohio. This location is about five miles above Coney Island. The trails from this point connected with the Little Miami Trails and the Old War Path near Williamsburg.
The Miami Trail, in the northern section of Ohio, is known as the famous old Wabash Way. This was the most prominent travel and trade route between Canada and Louisiana, it being used by the early French colonies. It also makes up part of the "Great Trail" of Ohio, which extended from Detroit to the forks of the Ohio, to Ft. Duquesne, later Ft. Pitt. This was a great fur-trading trail, LaSalle being the first to discover this section. He helped to establish Fort Miami and other military trading posts along the Wabash Way. Many early missionaries traveled this trail, among them, the French Jesuit, Pere Allouez. This group traveled more or less with the Miami tribes and was the first whites to roam the trail. The French fur traders followed the missionaries and established their trade with the Indians, setting up a station in 1740 at Shawnee Town at the mouth of the Scioto.
The Old Miami Trail has many tales to tell. Only since the white man traveled it has some sort of history been recorded. It has been reformed from a bloody trail of the past to what is now a grand highway system.

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This page created 26 August 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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