Ohio History Journal




It was one of Pascal's thoughts that "rivers are highways that

move on, and bear us whither we wish to go." Surely it is, that primeval

and pioneer man has followed the courses of great streams because

along those channels have been found the lines of least resistance. On

the rivers and their banks therefore has history found its favorite

haunts. Dry up the currents of the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Danube,

the Tiber, the Rhine, the Seine, and the Thames, and you will have

changed if not have wiped out the courses of civilization.

In the stored records of our country the rivers have played their

part, picturesque and potent. The St. Lawrence, the Hudson, the Con-

necticut, the Colorado, the Illinois, the Wabash, the Wisconsin and the

Father of Waters have had their historians. Nor has the Ohio escaped

the pen of the chronicler. Mr. Reuben Gold Thwaites, the scholarly secre-

tary of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin was perhaps the first

to produce a volume devoted to the waters of the La Belle Riviere, as

the early French navigators styled the Ohio. His brochure issued first

as "Afloat on the Ohio," and reissued as "The Storied Ohio," is a de-

lightful account of a canoe voyage on this historic waterway from Red-

stone creek to Cairo, with landings at and observation upon the points

of interest along the route.

Mr. Archer Butler Hulbert, secretary of the Ohio Valley Histori-

cal Society and a Life Member of the Ohio State Archaeological and

Historical Society, is the author of an extensive and elaborate work

entitled "The Ohio River, a Course of Empire," recently put forth by

G. P. Putnam's Sons. Mr. Hulbert had already made himself known

to the reading public as the author of the unique and valuable contri-

bution to American History, "The Historic Highways of America." Mr.

Hulbert made his initial bow as the author on this subject, in which

he has become the highest authority, in the pages of this QUARTERLY

for January, 1900.

"The Ohio River" is a masterly and entertaining presentation of the

subject comprising some 350 octavo pages, with maps and copious illus-

trations. Mr. Hulbert has the historic instinct and discrimination with

rare powers of description. He carries the reader along through the



Editorialana.                       107


scenes and events touched by his theme as delightfully as the most

accomplished Cicerone guides the traveler through the bewildering

wealth of a museum or picture gallery. Mr. Hulbert is an enthusiast

in historic lore and his fervor is contagious. History to the average

person suggests little more than a series of dry dates of a funeral pro-

cession of lifeless figures and embalmed incidents. Mr. Hulbert galvanizes

the past into a living present. His Ohio River is a continuous panorama

and the reader moves from picture to picture without wearying, indeed

with accelerating interest. The best test of the book is that you close

it with the regret that the finis has been reached. It is doubtful if any

other American waterway touches in its course so much of historic

value and variety. It was first discovered and navigated in 1670, so far

as records go, by the famous La Salle, foremost in chivalry, romance

and adventure among the French explorers. It was the logical and

natural highway and connecting link between the French settlements on

the St. Lawrence and those on the Mississippi. Its source at the Forks

of the Allegheny and Monongahela was the great gateway to the bound-

less west and that stategic gateway was the point of contest bitter and

bloody between the Gaul and the Saxon. Its banks were the scene of

the initial struggles between the two great white races. Later it was

decreed by the Redmen, the aborigine, as the boundary line between

the advancing pale face and the indigenous children of the forest. Again

and again did the savage strive to drive back the English and the Ameri-

can across its majestic current. Its meandering course through the

magnificent wilderness of the untrodden west suggested its name:


"The first brave English adventurers who looked with

eager eyes upon the great river of the Middle West learned

that its Indian name was represented by the letters Oyo, and

it has since been known as the Ohio River. The French, who

came in advance of the English, translated the Indian name,

we are told, and called the Ohio La Belle Riviere, 'the beauti-

ful river.' We have, however, other testimony concerning

the name that cannot well be overlooked. It is that of the

two experienced and well-educated Moravian missionaries,

Heckewelder and Zeisberger, who came into the trans-Alle-

gheny country long before the end of the eighteenth century.

Upon such a subject as the meaning of Ohio, one might easily

hold these men to be final authorities. John Heckewelder af-

firms that Oyo never could have been correctly translated

'beautiful'; Zeisberger adds that in the Onondago dialect of

the Iroquois tongue there was a word oyoneri which meant

'beautiful' but only in the adverbial sense--something that

was done 'beautifully', or, as we say, done 'well'. Mr. Hecke-

welder, knowing that it was commonly understood that the

108 Ohio Arch

108        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


French had translated Oyo when they gave the name of La

Belle Riviere to the Ohio, took occasion to study the matter

carefully. He found that in the Miami language O hui or

.Ohi, as prefixes, meant 'very'; for instance, Ohiopeck meant

'very  white';  Ohiopeekhanne  meant 'the  white foaming

river.' The Ohio River [he writes], being in many places

wide and deep and so gentle that for many miles, in some

places, no current is perceivable, the least wind blowing up

the river covers the surface with what the people of that coun-

try call 'white caps'; and I have myself witnessed that for

days together, this has been the case, caused by southwesterly

winds (which, by the way, are the prevailing winds in that

country), so that we, navigating the canoes, durst not venture

to proceed, as these white caps would have filled and sunk our

canoes in an instant. Now, in such cases, when the river

could not be navigated with canoes, nor even crossed with

this kind of craft--when the whole surface of the water

presented white foaming swells, the Indians would, as the

case was at times, say, 'juh Ohiopiechan, Ohio peek, Ohio

peekhanne'; and when they supposed the water very deep they

would say 'Kitschi, Ohiopeekhanne,' which means, 'verily this

is a deep white river.'

"For one, I like the interpretation of 'Ohio' as given by

those old missionaries--the 'River of Many White Caps.'

True, there is a splendid, sweeping beauty in the Ohio, but

throughout a large portion of its course the land lies low on

either bank, and those who have feasted their eyes on the

picturesque Hudson, or on the dashing beauty of the Sagueny,

have been heard to call in question the judgment of the French

who named the Ohio Belle Riviere. But it must be remem-

bered that the French first saw the upper waters of the Ohio,

which we now know as the glittering Allegheny. La Belle

Riviere included the Ohio and the Allegheny; its was not

until the English had reached the Ohio, about the middle of

the eighteenth century, that it came to be said that the Alle-

gheny and Monongahela formed the Ohio, at Pittsburgh. To

one acquainted with the roaring Allegheny, dancing down

through the New York and Pennsylvania hills, and who can

see how clear the waters ran in the dense green of the an-

cient forest-to such a one it is not difficult to see why the

French called it La Belle Rivier."


Mr. Hulbert then unfolds the history of the river from its earliest

discovery to the present time; the more memorable voyages on its

waters; the spectacular expedition of Celoron de Bienville (1749) in


Editorialana.                       109


which that romantic chevalier with his detachment of two hundred

French officers and Canadian soldiers, sixty Iroquois and Abenake In-

dians in a flotilla of twenty birchbark canoes embarked from Montreal

and pushing up the St. Lawrence to the waters of Lake Erie, ascended

the Chautauqua creek, crossed the lake and swung into the Allegheny

and finally into the Ohio. It reads like a fairy tale, this voyage down

the Ohio, the ceremonious burying at the mouth of debouching rivers

of leaden plates, claiming the territory for France; the ascent of the

Great Miami and the return by the Maumee and the Great Lakes to


In 1770 came the journey down the Ohio of George Washington

prospecting for land pre-emptions and who "has left the clearest picture

of the Ohio of pre-Revolutionary day, as the result of his trip."  It

was on this trip that Washington at least twice stood upon the terri-

tory now included in the boundaries of the Buckeye State.

The Fall of 1774 was memorable on the Ohio because of Dunmore's

War. The Earl of Dunmore, royal governor of Virginia took up arms

against the Indians of the trans-Ohio country.  His army numbered

three thousand, divided into two divisions of fifteen hundred each; one

division under General Andrew Lewis proceeded down the Great Ka-

nawha to its mouth (Point Pleasant) where it encountered the crafty

and brilliant Shawnee leader Cornstalk at the head of fifteen hundred

chosen Ohio braves. The Virginia backwoodsmen were victorious and

following their defeated foe crossed the Ohio and proceeded to the site

of Chillicothe where they met the division under Dunmore, which in

a hundred canoes, rafts and pirogues had embarked on the upper Ohio

and "landed in what is now the state of Ohio at the mouth of the Hock-

hocking, where a stockade was erected."    Even the worthy Homer

sometimes nods and at this point Mr. Hulbert, omits to our mind, one

of the most interesting and noteworthy events that ever transpired on

the Ohio. As the army of Dunmore returned from the interior it en-

camped at Fort Gower, mouth of the Hockhocking. There on November

5, 1774, was held an historic meeting of the Virginia officers. The wel-

come message was brought them of the patriotic action taken by the

Continental Congress then in session at Philadelphia and these Vir-

ginia officers resolved "That we will bear the most faithful allegiance

to his Majesty, King George, the Third, whilst His Majesty delights to

reign over a brave and free people; that we will at the expense of life,

and everything dear and valuable, exert ourselves in support of his

crown and the dignity of the British Empire. But as the love of liberty

and attachment of the real interests and just rights of America out-

weigh every other consideration, we resolve that we will exert every

power within us for the defense of American liberty, and for the sup-

port of her just rights and privileges; not in any precipitate, riotous

and tumultuous manner, but when regularly called for by the unanimous

110 Ohio Arch

110        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


voice of our countrymen."   That was a public, formal, spontaneous

declaration of American freedom announced by Virginia colonists on

the banks of the Hockhocking and the Ohio in the future Buckeye State,

six months before the shot was fired at Lexington that echoed around

the world and more than a year and a half before the Liberty Bell,

in the Quaker City, rang forth the glad tidings of national independence,

Surely The Ohio River deserves all credit accruing from that historic

fact. The Ohio bore its patriotic part in the Revolution and to that

Mr. Hulbert does justice. In the summer of 1778, the period of the

deepest decline of the American cause, occurred the beginning of the

brilliant successful campaign of the Revolution in the West, the con-

quest of Illinois by that daring "Washington of the West" the intrepid

Virginian youth, George Rogers Clark. He raised a motley contingent

of some two hundred Virginia and Pennsylvania volunteer backwoods-

men and at Fort Pitt embarked for the lower Ohio, the Falls at Louis-

ville, whence he invaded the Illinois country and performed that perilous

and almost unparalleled feat of capturing the same and holding the

Northwest to the American cause. The Revolution was followed by that

most potent of all Ohio river expeditions-that is potent to Ohio State

-the trip of the Adventure Galley or the Mayflower.


"The New Englanders at once began preparations to emi-

grate to the shore of the 'River of Many White Caps.' The

vanguard of about fifty officers and workmen left for the West

in the winter of 1787-88, and after a tedious journey over

Forbe's Road through Pennsylvania reached the Youghioheny

in the early spring. Here at what is now West Newton, Pa.,

boats were constructed for the river trip, the flagship of the

tiny squadron being the Adventure Galley, afterwards called

the Mayflower in memory of the historic ship of the Pilgrim

fathers. Descending the Youghioheny, Monongahela, and the

Ohio the veteran hero General Putnam, landed at Fort Harmar

at the mouth of the Muskingum, April 7, 1788. On the oppo-

site shore of the Muskingum the pioneer town in the North-

west Territory was founded by these forty-eight founders of

Ohio. Fort Harmar, erected partly to prevent the Virginian

and Pennsylvanian squatters from crossing the Ohio, received

with equanimity the legal purchasers of the Ohio company's

domain. At once a blockhouse was erected by the New Eng-

landers and named the 'Campus Martius'; about it the little

town began to grow up. In the fall preceding, Congress had

elected General Arthur St. Clair governor of the territory

northwest of the river Ohio. In July, 1788, he arrived, and

on the fifteenth of that month the inauguration ceremony was

duly celebrated. The veterans of the Revolution on the Ohio


Editorialana.                       111


gave the name of Marietta to the new town in honor of Mary

Antoinette and France. Generals St. Clair of Pennsylvania,

and Putnam   of Massachusetts, Samuel Holden Parsons of

Connecticut, and James M. Varnum of Rhode Island were the

leaders in the work of establishing the settlement, aided by

Winthrop Sargent, secretary of the Territory, and by the

noble Manasseh Cutler, who was a frequent visitor and a power-

ful advocate in the East. Parsons, Varnum, and John Cleve

Symmes, Chief Justice of New Jersey, were elected Judges

of the Territory."


Over against the safe and sane settlement at Marietta, followed

in 1796 the erratic and almost ridiculous settlement of the deluded

Parisians at Gallipolis. That incident is the vaudeville act in the his-

tory of Ohio, it is the comedy amid many tragic surroundings. Another

theatrical scene on the Ohio was the journey of the conspirator Aaron

Burr from Pittsburgh to Blennerhassett Island and his inveiglement of

the stupid but doubtless well-meaning Herman Blennerhassett.  That

was another tragico-comedy on the Ohio which Mr. Hulbert gracefully

depicts. But we must refer the reader to The Ohio River for a proper

appreciation of its extent and value. It will be read with equal in-

terest by teacher and pupil, young and old. Mr. Hulbert has a clear,

vigorous, easy-moving style.  If anyone thinks history is stupid, let

him read this book and learn otherwise; if one imagines the Ohio river

is a commonplace "shallow babbling run" let him read this book and

learn of its mighty influence in the western advance of civilization and

its fascinating career through the history of American progress.

Mr. Hulbert's Ohio River is not only the most complete and satis-

factory contribution to the literature of the subject which it treats but we

know of no American waterway having so accomplished and accurate a



In the early autumn of 1906 the New York Academy of Science

through Dr. Wissler, Chairman of the Committee on Archaeology and

Ethnology, invited the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society

to make an exhibit of the progress accomplished by the Society in archae-

ological science in Ohio during the past year. The Executive Committee

of the Society authorized Prof. W. C. Mills, Curator, to make such ex-

hibit. Prof. Mills prepared a miniature model, on the scale of one foot

to forty feet, in plaster and wood of the Harness Mound, which was

exhumed by the professor in the summer of 1906. The model represented

three fourths of the mound completed with the exact position of the

burials and fire places. The burials represented were two kinds, cre-

mated and uncremated. Of the latter but few were found in the mound,

112 Ohio Arch

112        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


there being but five uncremated in a total of 133 burials. The evidence

from the explorations revealed that the process of cremation generally

took place at some spot more or less distant from the grave, the

charred bones and ashes being gathered up after the burning and placed

in the grave. All the graves showed careful preparation and in each

instance a platform of clay was arranged surrounded with logs. The

platform was usually oval in shape, the center being raised above the

level of the sides.

In several cases the center of the grave had been hollowed out,

thus forming a basin shaped receptacle. In many instances the graves

were constructed in the form of a parallelogram, being more than a

foot in depth, the cremated remains having been placed in the bottom

of the grave. All these various forms were developed in the model.

In addition to the model of the mound two other models were prepared

exhibiting typical graves and made the exact size of the original, show-

ing the oval basin shape and the parallelogram  form. Casts of the

various pieces of copper, stone and bone implements were placed in

the model graves duplicating the originals as found in the exhumation.

The exhibition of these models and other constructions illustrative

of the advance of science was held in the American Museum of Natural

History, New York City, during the holiday week and some two weeks

following. The occasion was the annual meeting of the American As-

sociation for the Advancement of Science. During the exercises of the

Association, Professor Mills read two papers relating his experience in

the exploration of Ohio mounds and describing the results of his obser-

vations. The models exhibited by the professor were examined with

great interest by the distinguished members of the Scientific Association.

Professor Mills is now engaged in the construction of an exact miniature

reproduction of the Serpent Mound. These models will be exhibited at

the forthcoming Jamestown Exposition.