Sharp Shooting

Between Toledo and Sandusky, Ohio, along the Lake Erie shore, is the century old Army training facility Camp Perry, named after Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the American naval commander who won the Battle of Put-in-Bay during the War of 1812. The fort is notable for containing the world’s largest outdoor rifle range. Every year since Camp Perry was commissioned in 1906 it has hosted the National Matches, America’s national shooting championship. Today, the base primarily serves as a training facility for the Ohio National Guard and Army Reserve. During the World Wars, however, it was a training post for Army officers, who were drilled extensively on marksmanship in those days.

One can drive for two and a half hours to the southeast of Camp Perry and come to the birthplace of Annie Oakley. Her family’s log cabin no longer stands on the site, but a plaque and marker were erected on the spot by a local organization devoted to Oakley’s memory. The site is landscaped and maintained by volunteers interested in its history. That the Oakley home did not survive through history is not surprising. When she was only six, Oakley’s father died of pneumonia and over-exposure, leaving the family destitute. Unable to feed her children, Phoebe Oakley bounded out Annie to a local family to help care for their infant son. This family was supposed to provide her with a stipend of 50 cents a week and an education. Instead, they kept her in a state of near slavery for two years, subjecting her to mental and physical abuse. Later, in her autobiography, Oakley would refer to this family as “the wolves,” but always refrained from referencing them by name. Oakley received little education and could not spell her own name properly. On contractual documents, she signed with the name “Oaklee.” Being fed little by her foster family and given no money to live on, Annie Oakley hunted small game at a very early age for food and pelts. She developed her skill for shooting quickly. When she was 15, a Cincinnati businessman contracted her for a shooting competition with renowned marksman Francis Butler. Oakley defeated Butler, shooting 25 out of 25 targets to Butler’s 24. A year later, the two married and began touring as a shooting act.

Besides its shooting range, Camp Perry is also believed to contain a ground to air missile battery that is a part of the nuclear missile defense network. During the Cold War, the fort was used as a Project Nike site. In the event of a nuclear attack against North America, an unknown number of Ajax missiles could be launched from Camp Perry to intercept enemy warheads in the earth’s upper atmosphere and effect detonation at a safe distance from the country’s populated areas. Project Nike was decommissioned in the 1970s. Information about what anti-missile defense operations still persist at Camp Perry is not available to the public, but we do know that the 372d Missile Maintenance Company, along with the 213th Ordinance Company missile support corps are stationed there, suggesting that some form of missile defense is still practiced on the base.

Presidente Hi-Yes

Fremont, Ohio: home of Rutherford B. Hayes, one of the eight American presidents born in the state of Ohio, and the present location of the Hayes Presidential Center. The center contains a library containing Hayes’s own 12,000 volume personal collection, in addition to over 70,000 other titles collected over time with the library’s modest acquisitions budget. The library’s primary emphasis is Guilded Age history, as well material to aid genealogy research. The library also collects archival items related to Hayes’s military and political career.

Adjacent to the columned library and museum is the Hayes family residence, a 31 room mansion named Spiegel Grove, after the 30 acre wood that surrounds it. In his retirement, Hayes had the house expanded to resemble Thomas Jefferson’s design for Monticello.

Hayes is remembered as a domestic leader first and foremost. His only notable activity in matters of state was the peace he brokered in South America after the War of the Triple Alliances, in which he successfully prevented Paraguay from being subsumed into Brazil and Argentina. The war had been initiated by Paraguay in 1864 when it invaded both Brazil and Argentina in an attempt to conquer additional territory up and down La Plata Basin. Despite its minuscule size compared to its neighbors, Paraguay boasted an enormous standing army throughout the 19th century, as was the prerogative of its dictatorial rulers who governed the country as thought it were a vast private estate. Brazil and Argentina conscripted an army of hundreds of thousands to meet Paraguay and push her back across the Paraná River, before finally taking Asunción and killing Francisco Solano López.

After the war, Argentina aimed to split Paraguay between itself and Brazil. Brazil wanted to preserve it to act as a buffer with Argentina. Hayes negotiated a treaty wherein Brazil would agree to recognize a newly formed Paraguayan government and replace the pre-war border under the condition that Brazilian vessels be given rights to navigate the Paraguay River. Peace with Argentina was arbitrated in a second treaty by Hayes that gave significant territory in the Pampas to Buenos Aires, but which preserved much of Paraguay’s northern claims to Gran Chaco. In recognition and gratitude of the favorable terms Hayes was able to secure for them, the Paraguayans named one of its new land departments “Presidente Hayes”, a expansive grassy plain stretching between the Pilcomayo and Paraguay Rivers and which is today only sparsely populated by 81,876 farmers and herders.

The episode constitutes only a minor entry in Hayes’s presidential legacy. He is mostly remembered in the United States for ending reconstruction. This was thanks to the Compromise of 1877, where, in exchange for the presidency which he won narrowly by one elector and without the popular majority, Hayes agreed to remove federal troops from the Southern states, thus ending the Civil War occupation.

Discovery of Caves

Beneath Ohio is a more or less continuous stone aquifer in which there is trapped an ancient flow of water from Ice Age glaciers. The composition of the aquifer varies between limestone in the west and sandstone in the east, splitting the state almost perfectly in half. On the limestone side, Ohioans have discovered significant caves carved into the earth. This is a feature of carbonate stone of the aquifers there: the mild acidity of the ground water dissolves the limestone and causes fissures to form in the bedrock. These fissures expand into pockets, and then into caves, and then sometimes into vast caverns. There are probably several dozen such caves throughout western Ohio. I can report that no fewer than seven of these caves have been made into roadside attractions; and so I feel prompted to say something about them for this series, but honestly, all of these cave sites seem terribly unexceptional to me, and as tourist sites, they appear to be rather neglected and poorly maintained. I could speculate upon the figurative significance of caves generally, how they present an entirely new realm existing separately yet coinciding with the world above. I could ruminate upon the experiential uniqueness of being in caves: the temperature and atmospheric pressure, rock formations, water flow, the smell, the sense of being sealed in a vault and hermetically insulated. After doing some the research, I’ve found little worth reporting. I was, however, intrigued by one thing: the caves’ discovery. Every cave has a discovery story that reads like the uncovering of a mystery. Here I shall briefly recount the finding of each of the attraction caves in Ohio:

Indian Trails Caverns
Not known how it was discovered. Wyandot Indians were dwelling in the caverns when white settlers began entering Ohio. Archeological excavation of the caves has uncovered evidence that the caves have been intermittently used by humans since Paleolithic times.
Crystal Cave
“In 1887 a Mr. Gustav Heineman emigrated from Baden-Baden, Germany to Put-in-Bay, Ohio, where he established a winery. In 1897 he dug a well beneath his winery and discovered a large vug at a depth of 30 feet (10 m). On exploring the cave he found the cave walls covered with extremely large and well-developed tabular crystals identified as celestine, a form of strontium sulfate.
The original cave was much smaller than it is today, as much of the celestite was mined for the manufacturing of fireworks. However, Mr. Heineman decided to stop the mining and turn the property into a tourist attraction. Due to the Crystal Cave, the Heineman winery survived prohibition because of tourist revenues.” (Wikipedia)
Olentangy Caverns
“There is evidence that the Wyandotte Indians used these caverns as a haven from the weather and from their enemies, the Delaware Indians. One of the large rooms contains “Council Rock”, used by the Wyandotte’s for tribal ceremonies. The first white man believed to have entered the caverns was J. M. Adams, a member of a westbound wagon train that camped nearby in 1821. During the night one of his oxen broke loose and wandered off. In the morning the ox was found dead at the bottom of the entrance to the ancient Indian cavern. After exploring the entrance, Adams carved his name and date on the wall.” (olentangyindiancaverns.com)
Zane Caverns
Used by the Shawnee before the arrival of white settlers, and currently owned/operated by the Ohio band of the Shawnee tribe. Modern discovery of the cave occurred in 1892, when John Dunlap rescued a boy and a dog from a sinkhole.
Ohio Caverns
The tunnel system known today as the Ohio Caverns was discovered August 17, 1897 by Robert Noffsinger, a seventeen-year-old farmhand who worked on the land. After a heavy rain, Noffsinger found a sinkhole in the woods and, curious, decided to investigate. Noffsinger dug a few feet of soil until he hit the top of the ground’s limestone layer. After finding a crack in the limestone, Noffsinger broke through this rock as well. Immediately feeling the caverns’ 54 °F (12 °C) air, Noffsinger was even more curious. He returned later with an oil lantern and a rope and lowered himself into the ground, making him the first human in the Ohio Caverns.

Buried Treasure

There is no record of any plunder being confiscated from Morgan’s forces after the surrender, leading many to believe that the Confederates hid the spoils from their raiding somewhere in the vicinity of the surrender site. Nothing has ever been found, but people continue to comb the area fairly regularly with metal detectors in search of treasure. Such discoveries of buried riches are not uncommon in Ohio. A few weeks ago I wrote about the excavation at Ft. Recovery and the disinterment of the remains of the soldiers who died there. Not long after the discovery of the mass graves, a man was hoeing his garden in town when he struck a rotten wood box. The man opened it and found around nine hundred silver coins and Spanish gold doubloons. This was the paymaster’s box from which St. Claire paid his men. While under ambush, the secretary of the regiment must have hastily buried it and then either forgot its location or died in the battle, thus taking the secret of its location to the grave.

Treasure hunting is a popular hobby in Ohio. This is partly because Ohio is old. There are abundance of ghost towns and old settlements where treasure hunters can find rusty old tools and rare coins. But there are older places in America, to be sure. What distinguishes Ohio from, say, New England or the Old South is that the patterns of human settlement and habitation have since the very beginning been meticulously documented and archived. Treasure hunters have the Land Survey to thank for this. In Ohio, ownership of land can be traced back to its original allotment and sale. So if there is a local story about a farmer who buried his savings to hide it from Morgan’s raiders, and then died before he could dig it back up, one can still find his farm and reconstruct the property boundaries from 150 years ago.

Interest in treasure hunting is indeed exceptional in Ohio, as evidenced by the preponderance of Ohioans in treasure hunting forums, the numerous “diggers clubs” around the state, the stores that sell treasure hunting instruments and literature, and the existence of an actual publication(!) devoted exclusively to metal detecting in Ohio. For a lot of people it’s a preoccupation. The serious ones are very object focused: they’re mostly focused on discovering precious metal and historical context is only incidental. There are some, though, that immerse themselves in the historical research and try to chase down stories from the local lore about hidden fortunes and secret Indian treasure. I find I have a real affection the people who post their stories on treasurenet.com. For them there is a component of the past that is still alive and retrievable, but it is not apparent. It is buried and lying dormant beneath the visible surface of this world. The treasure hunter sees that there is richness that is not immediately perceivable but that can be partially recovered with accurate records, a little imagination, and a metal detector.

There is treasure to be found in this forest because this was once a place.

The Surrender Tree

Hidden off the side Hwy 518, just ten miles from the Pennsylvania border, is a stone monument and plaque commemorating the surrender of Confederate Brigadier General John Morgan, who, in the summer of 1863, led a 1,000 mile raid up the Ohio River, deep into Union territory. With a force of about 1,200 riders, Morgan destroyed railroads and telegraph lines, skirmished with local militias, and forced the Union to reallocate a portion of its forces away from the main front to chase him through Ohio. Morgan’s raid was notable for its boldness—he was operating hundreds of miles from the nearest confederate force without any hope of relief or resupply—but in the broader context of the Civil War it is remembered as a only minor action. Speaking just for the monument, it is probably interesting less for the event it memorializes and more for the twisting, winding story of its own strange history.

After rapidly advancing up the Ohio River valley, Morgan was out-maneuvered by Union forces on July 26, 1863 and finally captured. He surrendered his command to Gen. James Shackelford at the edge of a field beneath a cherry tree. This tree became known to locals as the surrender tree. For many years after the war the tree stood as an incidental monument to the surrender and to the raid, and it was apparently viewed as such by residents in the area who were proud of having playing a role in Morgan’s defeat. In the early 1900s the tree was cut down but was then quickly replaced by a stone monument erected by the state to officially memorialize the event and the place. For forty years the monument stood beside the stump of surrender tree. It is unclear how many people would have visited the site since it was located on private property and probably was not serviced by any sort of road access. Later in the century, the property’s owners refused to grant renewal of the state’s rights to maintain the monument on their land and demanded its removal. So the stone was moved in the 1950s to a roadside rest area off state route 518, about 200 yards east of the original site. There it stayed for another 50 years. In 1999, the Ohio Department of Transportation closed the rest area due to lack of an adequate septic system. The monument could no longer be visited and was gradually forgotten.

I’m not sure when, but the state historical society did eventually secure a new location and moved the stone from its place in the abandoned rest stop. Today it stands on a tiny plot of groomed land that appears to situated between a residential property and some sort of aging commercial lot, maybe a dairy or a cannery. There is nothing to announce the monument’s presence, no place to pull one’s car off of the road to visit it and nothing to inform the public about the true location of the surrender, which is now probably lost to memory. Today, the Morgan Surrender monument looks like—and for all practical purposes is—an oversize lawn ornament. It is an orphaned memorial, commemorating an event which lives on only in historical non-fiction and in state archives. I wonder if this in some way diminishes the reality event, the fact that there is no longer any concrete indicator to give testimony in physical space that this event happened, and that it can now only be thought of abstractly as a matter of narrated history. I also wonder about the life of the monument, which is now developing its own illustrious history, completely independent of the thing it is meant to signify. The surrender of Gen. John Morgan remains a static and dead period of time long past, but it’s memorial continues to peregrinate around the earth’s surface, accruing new particulates of meaning and incident.

Point of Beginning

Located off of Route 39, straddling the border of Pennsylvania and Ohio, there is a short, granite marker indicating the beginning point of the U.S. Public Land Survey. The marker appears to have two metal signs on either side of it. I can’t tell what they say from Google street view, but presumably these are separate plaques erected by the Ohio and Pennsylvania Historical Society’s respectively to describe the significance of the spot. The borders of West Virginia (formerly Virginia), Pennsylvania, and Ohio meet at this location. It is also the arbitrary point of origin from which the government’s survey of the entire American West begins. Inaugurated in 1785 by a U.S. Ordinance entitled “for ascertaining the mode of disposing of lands in the western territory,” the Land Survey was the first mathematically designed rectangular land survey system ever conducted in the modern era. As stipulated, the survey was to divide the land into townships six square miles in size laid out along east and west and north and south base lines derived from a staked point of beginning. These townships could then be subdivided in 36 separate square mile sections, which could be further subdivided into minor rectangles of any desired size; and so it was with this frame of measurement that all property west of Pennsylvania and Virginia was given boundary and made salable.


On September 30th of 1785, the Geographer of the United States Thomas Hutchins led a party across the Ohio River to the Point of Beginning and initiated the survey. Hutchins measured a baseline running 42 miles west into the wilderness. Due to threat of Indian attack from the North, Hutchins team only surveyed lands to the south of the line. This first tract to be mapped and platted out was called the Seven Ranges. The United States government parceled out the ranges and sold them at auction for a minimum price of $1 per acre. Such land sales would be a principle source of revenue for the federal government for much of the 19th century.

The effect that the rectangular land survey system has had on shaping and transforming the American landscape really cannot be understated. Not only has it served as a catalyst for westward expansion and for the peopling of the West, it is also why roads in the United States are constructed to run in straight lines—sometime in direct defiance of topography—and why they intersect at right angles. It is why the Midwest is a patchwork of rectangular fields and why the furrows in those fields are plowed as a succession of parallel lines. The rectangular land survey is a classic product of Enlightenment thinking: rigidly geometric and mathematical, an indisputable and endlessly reproducible demarcation of property emanating from the intersection of legality and engineering. It wrests with nature and forces it to submit to definition. Its maps are not maps of the land but maps of how the land might be used; they are procedural guides for making the land conform to human will and for dividing the plunder fairly among its owners.

The marker found on the side of the road on Route 39 is actually not the original Point of Beginning. The true point was submerged by damming of the Ohio and is no somewhere in the middle of the river. One assumes though that it could still be found from its recorded coordinates and by tracing the original geographer’s line and the state border to their point where they meet.

Ft. Recovery

Near the headwaters of the Wabash in central western Ohio, there is a small farming town that has grown up out of one of the frontier forts established by Gen. Anthony Wayne and the Legion of the United States during their campaign against the Western Confederation Indians of old Northwest. In the summer of 1793, Wayne ordered that a fort be built on the same site where Arthur St. Claire had been routed two years earlier and his regiment nearly decimated. 632 men lost their lives in that battle, an astounding 69% of St. Claire’s total force of 920. Almost everyone else was wounded. Reports suggest that only 24 men escaped the fighting unscathed. Added to this, all of the camp followers (women, servants, laborers), possibly as many as 200 people, were slaughtered by the Western Confederation and scalped along with the soldiers. The effect of the defeat on the nation’s morale must have been devastating. A quarter of the entire U.S. Army had been lost in a single conflict. As gesture of defiance, Wayne occupied the old battlefield and built fortifications so that the position could be defended. This was Ft. Recovery, a hastily constructed stockade with a detachment of 250 men and several small artillery pieces. The Western Confederacy met Wayne’s gesture with one of their own: the Indians marched on the fort with a force of more than 2000 Shawnee and Miami warriors. For two days the men of the fort endured successive assaults from the Indians. Unable to scale the walls and lacking heavy guns to knock them down, the warriors of the Wabash confederacy finally withdrew. It was been speculated that the Indian’s loss at Ft. Recovery was the real precipitating factor that ultimately led to the disintegration of the tribal alliance. We know that after the battle, leadership of the Western Confederacy’s warriors passed from Chief Little Turtle of the Miami to the Shawnee chief Blue Jacket. This transfer of power away from the Miami, who were more numerous and a more senior member in the confederacy, to the Shawnee might have caused some allegiances to dissolve among the tribes. That might account for the Confederacy’s lack of temerity at Fallen Timbers where they had gone into retreat after suffering only a few dozen casualties.

Today, Ft. Recovery is a small, inconspicuous town of about 1400 people located in the fertile agricultural belt of Ohio’s till plain. There is a well-appointed historical museum that offers the standard of mix of artifact exhibits, verbose expository panels, and creepy mannequin dioramas. According to its monthly newsletters, the museum hosts regular history lectures and fund-raising auctions. There is a replica palisade and tower on the museum grounds. This was built in the 1930’s by a public works crew that employed out-of-work men during the Depression. I wonder what it must have been like for unemployed carpenters to construct this fragment of frontier fort. It’s just a single wall, which I think is significant in that, if it is to function as a fort, you are neither inside it nor outside it, or perhaps you are both inside and outside, defending and attacking. Building it must have felt so purposeless.

In the middle of town, occupying the village square, is a tall obelisk memorializing those fallen in St. Claire’s defeat. Beneath the obelisk, there is actually a mausoleum that contains the soldiers’ remains. As the story goes, in 1851, a group of boys were playing along the banks of the Wabash and came upon some human bones. Area residents dug at the spot and discovered hundreds of skeletons interred together in mass graves. It was determined that these were the remains of the soldiers who had perished in the Ft. Recovery battles, both in 1791 and 1794. A ceremony was held to rebury the bones. By all accounts, the event was very large. Thousands came to pay honor to the dead. Today, the battle is just an obscure fact of American history, but to Ohio pioneers it must still have been a very potent memory. They owed their land and their homes to the men who fought in these battles. After the burial, there was desire to see a monument built over the spot to commemorate the dead, but the years wore on with nothing being decided and no money raised to begin construction. As an attempt to renew interest in the project, a large imitation monument was erected on the main intersection of town. It was a wooden pyramid, about 35 feet in height, painted yellow and coated in sand. A gas pipe was run through the center so that a flame could be lit at the pyramid’s apex. This test monument collapsed after a few years in a windstorm. Construction on the permanent monument—the granite obelisk—was not begun until 1912, 120 years after the battle. Perhaps this is an example of how victories are better remembered than defeats, but monument is not so much a memorial to the battles but to the sacrifice of the soldiers, whose lives were squandered despite having fought bravely. Yet even more than being a tribute to the fallen, I think it can be viewed as a shrine and benediction of the country’s relentless campaign of westward expansion, one of many throughout the Midwest that stand as milestones in time and space on the path of American triumphalism. Today, in the late stages of empire, we tend these monuments which stand in juxtaposition to the ongoing decay and mounting inconsequentiality of the places that surround them. A question I ask myself is what relevance such monument have in the communities where they are located. I think the answer is that they mean quite a lot. In larger, more vital cities, the community’s identity changes drastically from generation to generation. The meaning of an Ohio town remains relatively static from year to year, decade to decade, generation to generation. The only change is change caused by decline. New history is not often made, and so old history becomes more salient and enshrined.

Fallen Timbers

The Battle of Fallen Timbers Historical Site in Maumee, Ohio, just southwest of Toledo is an appropriate place to begin this Ohio travelogue since this is probably the place and memorialized time in history that Ohio began, at least the Ohio that is available to memory. In the years following the Revolutionary War, settlers from Virginia began to migrate through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky and were met with violent resistance from the Indian tribes that resided in the area. These were tribes that had sided with the British during the Revolution and remained hostile toward the United States. Seeking to defend their territory from colonization and intimidate settlers into returning east, the tribes carried out raids against Kentuckians who had settled along the Ohio River. Over the course of the 1780s, the Ohio Indians reportedly killed upwards of fifteen hundred settlers. During this time it became a mark of distinction among the Kentuckians to be considered an Indian killer. Settlers banded into local militias and engaged in retaliatory actions such as burning villages and crops and terrorizing non-combatants. These Indian wars of the 1780s amounted a bloody civil conflict, each side trading atrocities of escalating in brutality.

With ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788, the new federal government could finally allocate funds for a standing army defend American Sovereignty over the West. To pay off war debts from the Revolution, the U.S. government has begun selling land north of the Ohio River; consequently, security of the frontier and protection of property claims in that region became the Republic’s top priority.

General Josiah Harmar

In October of 1790, General Josiah Harmar marched north from Fort Washington (present-day Cincinnati) with a force of about 340 regular soldiers and 1,000 Kentucky and Pennsylvania militiamen to subdue the Miami village of Kekionga in Northern Indiana and to build a winter fort there. Harmar was unaware that the Ohio tribes had joined in alliance and would be fighting him in concert. When he arrived in Kekionga in late October, he was astonished to find a force of over 1,000 warriors waiting there to meet him. The Indians fell on Harmar while his forces were divided. An entire detachment of American regulars were lost in a conflict that came to be know as the Battle of the Pumpkin Fields, so named because the steam rising off of the skulls of the freshly scalped soldiers reminded the Indians of cooked squash steaming in the Autumn air. Dispirited at the ineptitude of their commander, Harmar’s militias deserted and he was forced to withdraw across the Ohio.

The resounding failure of this first Ohio campaign was a serious blow to the credibility of Washington’s fledgling government. Angry over the defeat, he ordered the Kentucky Governor Arthur St. Clair to lead a force himself into Ohio and to establish a permanent fort to defend the territory. St. Clair set out late in 1791 with an ill-equipped force that had not been sufficiently trained for wilderness fighting. They were shadowed by the Indians and forced into skirmishes throughout the march. On November 4th, while in camp near the headwaters of the Wabash River, St. Claire’s was surrounded by the entire force of the Western Confederation, a force composed of warriors from more than a dozen different tribes. St. Claire was hastily pressed into battle and in three hours of intense fighting, 2/3 of his force had been killed and the other third wounded. The American only escaped absolute annihilation with a last ditch bayonet charge which broke the Indians’ line and allowed the remainder of the force to escape into the forest.

St. Claire’s defeat was so severe that it prompted an investigation of Washington’s mishandling of the Indian Wars. These early military setbacks very likely called into doubt the country’s capacity to defend itself and to secure its territorial claims. Sensing that vulnerability, the British, still ensconced in Canada, crossed Lake Erie and built forts in Ohio where they could supply arms to the Indians and potentially exploit America’s weakening claim. Faced with a rather desperate situation, Washington recalled Anthony Wayne, one of his more successful commanders from the Revolutionary War, to lead a new force into Ohio and shatter the Western Confederation. Wayne mustered a new army in Pittsburgh and, rather than immediately marching into war, he spent of the summer of 1792 drilling his soldiers and training them in new tactics. Wayne devised a new system of small force warfare wherein infantry, cavalry and artillery would be grouped into the same battalions rather than commanded as separate units on the battlefield, as was traditionally done, and led to battle as a working unit. This made the overall force much more flexible and more capable of defending itself in the event of an ambush. Wayne led his new army, which he called with conscious grandiosity the Legion of the United States, into Ohio the summer of 1793. He marched up the Great Miami River, building and garrisoning forts along the way. The American’s managed to defend these positions into the winter. Then, that following summer, the Western Confederacy fielded its largest force yet, more than 2,000 braves, to besiege the new forts and to confront Wayne’s main force. The Legion of the United States met the Western Confederacy army on the banks of the lower Maumee on August 20th. The battlefield is called Fallen Timbers because a windstorm had blown down a stand of trees on the spot, and the Indians believed the felled trunks would limit Wayne’s mobility. This, however, proved not to be the case. The Americans flanked Western Confederacy with cavalry and very quickly broke its line with a heavy bayonet charge. Fighting was very brief; only a few causalities were taken on either side. More effective was Wayne’s show of strength which succeeded in demoralizing the less warlike tribes in the confederacy. This combined with British Canadia’s sudden withdrawal of support caused a break up of the Western Confederacy which remained in disarray until the ascendency of Tecumseh fifteen years later.

After the battle, Wayne built a line of forts along the Maumee which would defend the northern marches of the Indian country and secure the south part of Ohio for settlement. Americans began clearing and planting properties along the main rivers and then moved further into the interior, and, within just nine years after Wayne’s victory, Ohio was given statehood and admitted into the Union.

The Ohio Historical Society maintains a small memorial to the Battle of Fallen Timbers off of Route 24 just outside the city limits of Maumee. It features a bronze statue depicting General Wayne flanked by a Native American figure to his right and a Kentucky frontiersman to his left. The group stands atop a stone pedestal and is positioned at the end of a tree-lined arbor about 100 meters in length. Near the statue group is a boulder called Turkey Foot Rock. According to legend, as the Indians were in retreat, Chief Me-sa-sa of the Ottawa leapt atop the rock to rally his warriors away from the battlefield. He was struck by a musket ball and died beside the stone. For many years following the battle, locals would find offerings of beef, corn and barley on the boulder.

Across the highway lies the actual battlefield grounds, which has not yet open to the public. There is a thicket of trees on the site surrounded by open field and suburban tact housing. On the battlefield’s west edge is an enormous mall and shopping center called “Shops at Fallen Timbers.” Constructed in 2007, the development is termed by its owner and developer, a “ retail lifestyle center,” a designation that apparently indicates combination of traditional retail stores with leisure amenities oriented toward more affluent consumers. I’ve actually been to this place. I was visiting family and we dined at the P.F. Chang’s restaurant located in the Fallen Timbers complex very soon after the property opened for business. As I remember, it was in the middle of winter, in the dead of night, we were possibly having Christmas Eve dinner. It was a very cold night, with ice and snow, and I was not able to see any neighboring development beyond the parking lot. The place impressed me as being very desolate and isolated. It felt like an outpost of regimented and rehearsed activity in an ocean of nothing. It was an aggressive assertion of will, that it should exist in a place where nothing suggested that it should, not dissimilar, in many respects, to the real Battle of Fallen Timbers.

Series: Roadside Monuments of Ohio

For the next several weeks (perhaps longer) I shall be writing posts about monuments and memorials from the state of Ohio. I will be using notes that I have compiled for over the course of several years. Roadside historical have always been an errant interest of mine, and I have always believed Ohio’s to be the best. I’m sure there are a number of political, historical and geographical reasons for this. I don’t really care about any of them. I shall be treating Ohio as though it were any other place, because that is after all what it is. I did not begin the Monuments of Ohio project because I was interested in Ohio history or because I have a fondness for the place. I was born in an Ohio town, but I know almost nothing about Ohio. I have not visited any of the monuments I will be writing about. I only know about them because they are included in a road atlas that I won in a geography bee when I was in middle school. I would look at this atlas compulsively—and still do—and I would study the place names and markers. This is how I became acquainted with Ohio’s odd “points of interest”, like the Dental Museum of Bainbridge or the Mac-o-Cheek chateau; America’s first stretch of paved road; the myriad birthplaces of presidents, civil war and astronauts; the one or two frontier battle fields and the countless others that were forgotten and lost. I found them on a map and looked them up on the internet. If I there was a phone number to a front desk or something I would call and ask the person who answered to explain where they were and what they were doing there. For a long time I wanted to make a book out of these notes, but there was not unifying principle I could use to organize them, no cohesive theme beside basic fact of proximity. That these things reside in a place which had recently been termed Ohio is not a good enough commonality for me. As I commit my findings to the Golden Assay logs, I shall be attempting to understand what they mean, and what there is to be learned from them beyond the plain reality of their existence.