Showing posts with label Native Americans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Native Americans. Show all posts

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Earthworks and Cows and Hills, Oh My! A View of Chillicothe in the 1830s

"Chillicothe with Cows" Staffordshire platter. Used courtesy of Prices 4 Antiques.

In the early through mid 19th century, a considerable volume of Staffordshire pottery was created with views of American scenes. They were created, in Staffordshire, for the United States audience. Four illustrate Ohio views: two of Chillicothe, the first capitol of the state; and one each of Sandusky and Columbus.

Sandusky Staffordshire platter. Reproduced from Pictures of early New York on dark blue Staffordshire pottery, together with pictures of Boston and New England, Philadelphia, the South and West (1899) by R.T. Haines Halsey. Used courtesy of Boston Public Library and the Internet Archive.

There's little doubt that the Sandusky platter does, in fact, illustrate Sandusky, Ohio. It's consistent enough what was known about the city at the time that we can be confident in this assumption.

Columbus Staffordshire platter. Reproduced from Pictures of early New York on dark blue Staffordshire pottery, together with pictures of Boston and New England, Philadelphia, the South and West (1899) by R.T. Haines Halsey. Used courtesy of Boston Public Library and the Internet Archive.

Likewise, we can say the same for this view of Columbus. It illustrates the city from a viewpoint similar to that used by Thomas Kelah Wharton, below.

Columbus, Ohio from the south west
Columbus, Ohio from the south west. A drawing (1832) by Thomas Kelah Wharton. Used courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The similar in the lay of the city in Wharton's viewpoint, from the southwest, would seem to suggest that both views were made near the same time.

The two Chillicothe views - the one illustrated above and Chillicothe with raft - have, to this point, presented more difficulty. The most obvious landmark, the first statehouse, isn't visible in either view. It's been suggested by many that these views might not be Chillicothe at all, but rather, some other images chosent to stand in.

I tend to be cautious about asserting that a view isn't a place without evidence as to the actual location of the view being depicted. For an example of the dangers of these assumptions, I need point no further than Karl Bodmer's print of the Cleveland lighthouse, which many asserted couldn't be Cleveland because the lighthouse was clearly different and had different surroundings. It turned out that the structure being depicted was the harbor light, as is illustrated in depth in New Find! First* Painting of Cleveland in Color!

S.W. View of Chillicothe
S.W. View of Chillicothe. An engraving (1839) by Charles Foster. Reproduced from Chillicothe, Ohio by G. Richard Peck. Used courtesy of the Ross County Historical Society.

The landscape illustrated in the Staffordshire platter of Chillicothe seemed inconsistent with the one shown in this 1839 engraving by Charles Foster, one of four views of the city that he printed that year. This made me less comfortable with the assumption that the view on the platter was, in fact, Chillicothe, Ohio.

George Wood residence, Chillicothe, Ohio
George Wood residence, Chillicothe, Ohio. A watercolor painting (late 1830s). Used courtesy of Donald Carpentier.

A couple weeks ago, my colleague, Andrew Richmond, asked me if I might be able to identify the house illustrated in this watercolor from the late 1830s, the residence of one George Wood. I dug in. While Wood was clearly a man of considerable means, I wasn't able to learn that much about him. I was able to narrow down the general location of the residence, but beyond that, I was unsure. What followed was a lot of hemming and hawing.

Finally, I sent an email to Pat Medert, Archivist, at the Ross County Historical Society. Her response was most illuminating: "The house in the painting appears to be that of George Wood who resided at 144 W. Fifth St. George was born in 1793 in Jefferson County, VA. The family moved to Kentucky when he was a child, and in 1810, he and his brother, John moved to Chillicothe. They were partners in the mercantile and pork packing businesses. George also invested extensively in farm land in Ross County and was a person of considerable wealth at the time of his death in January 1861. He was never married and his estate went to his sister, Susan Hoffman."

Medert added, "George bought the property in 1833 and erected the house in 1837. It can be seen in a sketch made by Charles Foster in 1839. The house was remodeled in 1874, and renovations included the construction of an addition to the east side of the house. It is still standing and is well maintained."

(The George Wood residence is about a third of the way from the left in the Charles Foster print.)

The George Wood residence is on the south side of the street. The surrounding geology means that this view is looking approximately southwest.

This is, indeed, an interesting painting, but what does it have to do with the Staffordshire Chillicothe (with cows)?

Look at the background of the George Wood residence. The hills aren't covered with trees like they are in the Charles Foster print. Further, they're similar in style to the view on Chillicothe (with cows). This suggested to me, "Hey, this might actually be Chillicothe, Ohio."

With the assumption that the view on this piece of Staffordshire was Chillicothe, I tested what would happen if one made the rest of the evidence fit that hypothesis.

Chillicothe Courthouse, Etc., in 1801
Chillicothe Courthouse, Etc., in 1801. A print (June, 1842) by Horace C. Grosvenor. Published in American Pioneer (June, 1842). Used courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society.

This is the first statehouse, as illustrated in 1842. At the time, the building was still standing - this represents a reasonably accurate depiction of the structure. The statehouse was in the middle of this city. What this illustration doesn't convey are the significant quantity of buildings that were built up around the structure by the 1830s.

Since the statehouse was only two stories tall, it wouldn't stand out much among the buildings.

Detail, Chillicothe with cows Platter
Chillicothe with cows (detail). A Staffordshire platter (circa 1830). Used courtesy of Dennis and Dad Antiques.

With the assumption that this is Chillicothe, the statehouse is most likely represented by the cupola indicated by the green arrow. With that knowledge, how can we orient ourselves in this city?

The 1860 Topographical map of Ross County, Ohio includes the first detailed map of Chillicothe that I've been able to find. Note: if you're aware of an earlier one, please let me know. The lack of such a map seems odd, especially given that one of the great early maps of the state, Hough and Bourne's 1815 Map of the State of Ohio was published there.

The 1860 map doesn't help much. The landscape illustrated in the foreground, which I assumed was the floodplain of the Scioto River, had been significantly changed since the view used for the Staffordshire platter was made.

Map of a Section of Twelve Miles of the Scioto Valley with its Ancient Monuments
Map of a Section of Twelve Miles of the Scioto Valley with its Ancient Monuments. Constructed by E.G. Squier, 1847. A print (June, 1847) by Sarony and Major. Plate II in Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley (June, 1847) by Ephraim G. Squier and Edwin H. Davis. Used courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

In a desperate measure for any sort of early map of the city at all, I remembered this wonderful view from Squier and Davis' 1847 Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. It illustrates all of the Native American earthworks present in the vicinity of Chillicothe, most of which are now lost.

Detail, Map of a Section of Twelve Miles of the Scioto Valley with its Ancient Monuments
Detail, Map of a Section of Twelve Miles of the Scioto Valley with its Ancient Monuments. Constructed by E.G. Squier, 1847. A print (June, 1847) by Sarony and Major. Plate II in Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley (June, 1847) by Ephraim G. Squier and Edwin H. Davis. Used courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

This detail illustrates the area being illustrated. In the lower left are the hills we see in the background. The green "X" marks the approximate location of the statehouse. The artist's viewpoint is marked by a red arrow.

The cows, then, it seems, are sitting inside a circular mound! What better visual icon could there be for that area, really, than the earthworks built by the Native Americans?

Not only does this information help to reasonably conclude that the view is, indeed, Chillicothe, Ohio, but it means that we now have an image of a Native American earthwork that before this point we knew only by a measured drawing!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Book reivew: Ohio Archaeology

Ohio Archaeology: An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio's Ancient American Indian Cultures by Bradley T. Lepper (2005) is the best book yet written on the subject. Most of what has been written on Native Americans in Ohio is either geared toward an elementary audience or is so academic as to be unreadable by those without a background in the field. This book finds a middle ground.

Written at about a tenth or eleventh grade level, Ohio Archaeology is written like a textbook, with the exception that it is far more willing to deal with difficult questions than most textbooks. The individual chapters are written by scholars and experts.

The work is profusely illustrated with a variety of media. Maps illustrate the geology of Ohio in each time period. Illustrations from 19th century publications show what the various features looked like before they had eroded so much or were destroyed entirely. Aerial photographs with drawings superimposed help to show what remains of these earthworks, and how to see them against the landscape. The artifacts themselves are also well documented, as are the processes through which they were located.

Ohio Archaeology addresses the subject matter in chronological order. It incorporates some sites in surrounding states, especially for the earlier history, in order to explain the conclusions reached. It does everything that I might want in such a book.

There's one other book that might rival this one for shelf space, if I had to choose: Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley by Ephraim Squier and Edwin Davis. Ancient Monuments, or, more commonly, Squier and Davis, was, in 1848, the first publication of the Smithsonian Institution. It documented many of the earthworks that have since been lost. When you see a historic illustration of a mound in Ohio, chances are good that it is from this book.

The title is a bit misleading. By "Mississippi Valley", the authors meant, by extension, the Ohio River valley, where many of the Ohio sites are located. This doesn't stop them from also addressing several sites in nothern Ohio, documented by Charles Whittlesey.

The Smithsonian Institution published an excellent reprint of Squier and Davis in 1998, on the 150th anniversary of the original. It is better than most reprints, and a title that I highly recommend.

If not for Squier and Davis, we would not have documentation of many of the major earthworks in the Ohio valley. Few met the same level of quality and accuracy. If not for this title, we wouldn't even have the record of what we have lost.

If I had to choose between Ohio Archaeology and Ancient Monuments, it'd be difficult. As a lover of history, I'd choose Ancient Monuments, with its lovely plates illustrating dozens of sites. As a librarian, I'm inclined toward Ohio Archaeology, so that I might actually understand what I am seeing.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ancient Fort, Newburg

The other day, I was browsing Charles Whittlesey's Early History of Cleveland, Ohio, looking for something interesting to write about. I came across the following map, illustrating a "Ancient Fort" in Newburg Township.

I've always been interested in the prehistory of this area. So many of the impressive earthworks are located in southern Ohio that those that had existed in the northern part of the state are usually forgotten. It further helps that Whittlesey provides such a great description of the location:

This consists of a double line of breast works with ditches across the narrow part of a peninsula between two gullies situated about three miles south easterly from the city on the right of the road to Newburg on land heretofore owned by the late Dr. H. A. Ackley. The position thus protected against an assault is a very strong one where the attacking party should not have projectiles of long range.

On three sides of this promontory the land is abrupt and slippery It is very difficult of ascent even without artificial obstructions Across the ravine on all sides the land is upon a level with the enclosed space The depth of the gully is from fifty to seventy feet About eighty rods to the east upon the level plain is a mound ten feet high and sixty feet in diameter At the west end of the inner wall is a place for a gateway or passage to the interior.

The height of the embankment across the neck is two feet and the enclosed area contains about five acres. Perpetual springs of water issue from the sides of the ravine at the surface of the blue clay as they do at Cleveland.

I began by checking the 1858 Hopkins map which showed that the land owned by Dr. Horace A. Ackely was located south of Broadway, between East 55th and East 65th Streets. This is further corroborated by the presence of streets named "Ackley" and "Mound".

The problem is that the landscape shown in Whittlesey does not correspond at all with what is present today. The stream shown in the picture, Morgan Run, has been culverted, and the gullies, bulldozed flat. I thought perhaps in another historic atlas might show the location of the stream, which would give me a starting point. The 1881 City Atlas of Cleveland Ohio gave me what I needed. The stream isn't a perfect match, but it's the best approximation of the general shape that I've been able to find.

It still remains to correspond the historic geology with modern roads. A solution to this problem was found in this turn of the century USGS topographical map, found on Rails and Trails.

morgan run

The following is my best approximation of the location of the fort and the associated mound to the east:

View Ancient Fort, Newburg in a larger map

I visited the area, looking for anything that my might look even faintly mound-like, but alas, there seems to remain no physical evidence of either the defensive mounds or the circular one to the east.