History of Greentown, OH
From: The History of Ashland County, Ohio
By A. J. Baughman
Published By The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1909


"All along the winding river
And adown the shady glen,
On the hill and in the valley,
Are the graves of dusky men."

To understand the founding of Greentown, something must first be given of its predecessor, Helltown. Helltown was an Indian village, on the right bank of the Clearfork, a mile and a half below Newville. Small mounds are still discernable there upon a knoll where it is supposed Indians are buried. The name "Helltown" is said to have meant village of the clear stream. How long the town existed is not known, but in its day it was the home of Tom Lyon, Thomas Armstrong and other leading Indians of the Delaware tribe.

The site of Helltown was well chosen; the ground sloped to the east, and the river laved the base of the plat upon which the towu was built. From a bank a stream bubbled forth a stream of cool water, which rippled musically down the declivity of the hill to the river below.

"Here the laughing Indian maiden
Has her glowing lips immersed,
And the haughty forest hunter
Often here has quenched his thirst."

More than a century has passed since the Indians, to whom the hunt and the chase were alluring, roamed over the hills and along the valleys of the Clearfork, and still-

"The cool spring is ever flowing,
Through the change of every year;
Just as when the Indian maiden
Quaffed its waters pure and clear.

In 1782, Helltown was abandoned, the Indians. fleeing in alarm when they heard of the massacre of the Moravian Indians at Gnatenhutten, some going to the Upper Sandusky country and others joining a party of white renegrades of whom Tom Green was the leader, founded the town of Greentown on the Blackfork. The Indians killed at Gnadenhutten were of the Delaware tribe and kinsmen of the Heiltown squad.

At the time of the advent of the white settlers here the village of Greentown contained from one hundred and fifty to two hundred families, who lived in pole cabins. In the center of the town was a council house built of logs. While the Indians there were principally Delawares, there were also Mingoes among them, and some writers have confounded Greentown with the "Mingoé cabbins" spoken of by Major Rogers, but Dr. Hill thought the "cabbins" referred to were on the Jeromefork, near the place where the Mingo village of "Mohickan Johnstown" was afterwards located.

The white settlers maintained friendly relations with the Indians for some years, but when war with Great Britain was impending it was noticed that both the Greentown and the Jeromeville Indians made frequent trips to Sandusky, and when they returned were always well supplied with blankets, tomahawks and ammunition, evidently supplied to them by British agents who were engaged in trying to ingratiate themselves with the Indians against the whites.

In June, 1812, the United States declared war against Great Britain, after which the estranged relations between the settlers and the savages developed into threatened rupture and resulted in the forced evacuation of Greentown, followed with the murders of the Zeimers, Copus and Ruffner, also other crimes and atrocities. The reasons generally assigned for the killing of Copus was that he had accompanied Captain Douglas to Greentown and had advised the Indians to a peaceful removal. And it is stated that the Indians had a grudge against the white settlers up the valley, whom they charged with tying firebrands to their horses' taiLs.

The Indians also claimed that the settlers made them drunk on metheglin and then cheated them in trades. Metheglin was distilled from wild honey, which was plentiful in those days. It was a favorite drink, was very intoxieating and it is said that those who indulged in this delicious nectar could hear the bees buzzing for several days thereafter. The white settlers often joined the Indians in athletic sports on the campus of their village, in which "run, hop, step and jump" and wrestling were the favorite amusements, but the Indians never took defeat graciously.

Greentown was situated on the east side of the Blackfork, three miles above Perrysville. There the Blaekfork, after straightening somewhat from its tortuous course and running south for a short distance, makes a graceful curve to the east at the southwest limits of the Greentown grounds, courses along the base of the south side of the ridge, then turns again to the south and resumes its zigzag wanderings until its waters unite with those of other "forks" and form the Mohican river. Greentown was founded in 1782 and was destroyed by fire in 1812, thirty years after its founding. The cabins comprising the village stood principally upon the rolling plateau like summit of the hill, each Indian selecting a site to suit himself, with but little regard for streets or regularity. A sycamore tree, which in the olden time cast its shade over the council house of the tribe, still stands like a monument from the past, grim and white, stretching its branches like skeleton arms in the attitude of benediction. A wild cherry tree stands several rods northeast, around which there was formerly a circular mound, evidently made by the Indians, and still discernible; but whether it was used as a circus ring for athletic sports, or as a receptacle, is a matter of conjecture. Many think it was for the latter, as trinkets, if not valuables, have been taken from it; but no general exhumation was ever made.

The burial ground is at the west end of the knoll upon which Greentown was situated and is somewhat triangular in shape. Heretofore, the ground has been held in superstitious, if not sacred, veneration. But it will soon be turned over to the plowshare and the agriculturist.

Caldwell's Historical Atlas of Ashland county states that the Greentown Indians were removed to Piqua, Miami county, by Captain Douglas and Captain James Cunningham, which implies that there were two companies of soldiers in the escort, but the number of troops is not given. The route of march was via Lucas to Mansfield, where they encamped near Bitter's run, west of South Main street for several days. After being joined by the Indians from Jeromevile, Colonel Samuel Kratzer conducted the command and removed the savages to Piqua, crossing Alum creek at Fort Cheshire, in Delaware county.

To appreciate places of historic note, one must enter into the feelings by reading its history and learning its traditions. Standing upon the site of old Greentown, the writer realized that the valley, whose broad and fertile acres spread out before him, was the place where the civilization of this part of the west was first planted and from which it extended to the golden shores of the Pacific.

Greentown was burned in August, 1812, by a party of soldiers who were absent from their commands. To understand the burning of the village it is necessary, at least briefly, to review the situation of the country at that time, the summer and early autunin of 1812, especially that summer in the Blackfork valley, a summer in which the earth was bringing forth a bountiful harvest; a summer luxuriant with flowers and musical with the carol of birds by day, while at night the moon was wont to peer atwixt the leafy branches of the forest, casting its pale glimmers of light through the languorous atmosphere ere it sailed forth into the open space of the sky to keep watch and ward over those who slept, as if to say, "Peace!. be still." But those peaceful days and restful nights of nature seemed but a mockery, for they were days of toil and nights of watching for the white settlers who worked hard and dwelt in insecurity, for the Indians were liable to come upon them, like the proverbial "thief in the night," unawares.

As the times became more threatening, with indications of an Indian outbreak probable at any moment, the several families kept sentinels on guard to, warn them of the approach of stealthy foes.

THE BURNING OF GREENTOWN.

The burning of Greentown has been criticized and censured by sentimentalists who regarded it as a breach of faith with the "noble red man" who was cruelly driven from his "happy hunting grounds" into forced exile.

But the burning of that village was not a breach of faith, for the officers did not sanction the act. It was done without warrant .by five or six stragglers who had dropped out of the ranks for that purpose. They were militiamen who had suffered wrongs too grievous to be borne from the bloody hands of the Indians and it was but human nature for them to retaliate.

It seems like a maudlin sentimentality to dilate upon the wrongs which the white settlers committed against the Indians, for the few misdeeds that may have been done by the pioneers were too insignificant to be given prominence in history.

In the early history of France we read of the dark and bloody acts of the Druids and how they immolated human life in their forest temples, but it was as a religious rite, as an atoning or propitiating sacrifice and while we stand appalled at the bloody spectacle, our condemnation is somewhat mollified when we consider the motive that prompted the act.

But with the Indians it was cruelty for cruelty's sake. They were savages and through all the civilizing influences of a century, they are savages still. Even those who have been educated at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, at the expense of the general government, drift back into barbarism, as a rule, after they return to the west.

Let those who have tears to shed over the burning of Greentown read the accounts of the Wyoming massacre and its aftermath of butcheries and then consider the Indians' bloody deeds in our own state and county of cruelty, torture and death; these three, and then tell us where is their claim for charity! Settlers have returned from the hunt and chase and found their cabins burnt and their families murdered. The bloody tomahawk and gory scalping knife had done their work, and mutilation had been added to murder. Notwithstanding the beautifuJiy drawn and charmingly colored word picture given us by novelists history teaches us that the Indian is cruel, deceitfth and blood thirsty by nature and devoid of the redeeming traits of humanity.

Return to [ Ohio History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ] [ Ohio Biographies ]


Ohio Counties at this web site - Ashland - Auglaize - Champaign - Columbiana - Cuyahoga - Darke - Erie - Franklin - Fulton - Madison - Mercer - Ross - Seneca - Shelby

Also see the local histories for [ CA ] [ CT ] [ IA ] [ IL ] [ IN ] [ KS ] [ MA ] [ ME ] [ MO ] [ MI ] [ MN ] [ NE ] [ NJ ] [ NY ] [ PA ] [ OH ] [ PA ] [ WI ]

[ Much more Ohio History may be found at Linkpendium ]


All pages copyright 2003-2013. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy