Frontier Conflict in the Scioto Valley

Covering the years 1730 through the War of 1812, this tour explores the history of Native American efforts to defend their homeland, first, from the encroachments of the French and English colonial empires, and, second, from those of the new American Republic. This is the story of the conquest of the Scioto Valley and the larger region of the Trans-Appalachian West, what is sometimes called the "First West." From Celeron’s Expedition in 1749 to Tecumseh in the War of 1812, the Shawnee and other Indian nations of the Old Northwest attempted to maintain their sovereignty and control over their ancestral lands.

Explore the all too-American story of an indigenous people who were violently forced off their lands to make room for another and more numerous people, the descendants of European colonists and their African slaves who had first gained their foothold on the eastern shores of the Atlantic Ocean. This is the first chapter in the story of the American conquest of the Scioto Valley and the larger Trans-Appalachian West. It is a dramatic story of frontier conflict and Native American resistance to the loss of their homelands. It is a story of endings and beginnings, as the frontier line of settlement moved seemingly inexorably westward and the forests were cut and burned, the bottom-lands cleared to pave the way for pioneer American settlements and farms.

In the 1750s and 1760s, the Indians of the Scioto Valley were being squeezed between two competing Atlantic empires -- the French to North and the British to the East. With the defeat of the French in the Great War for Empire (the French and Indian War) and the end to French claims in the region, an emboldened land speculating elite in the east, most notably from Virginia and Pennsylvania, hoped to exploit the lands of the Ohio Valley, which the British had acquired from France. Native American resistance to colonial settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains however, meant that frontier conflict would continue under the British Empire.

The Great War for Empire and the frequent flooding of the bottoms at the confluence of the Scioto and Ohio Rivers led to the abandonment of Lower Shawnee Town and the movement of Shawnee villages northward to the Pickaway Plains of the Scioto River in modern day Ross and Pickaway Counties. The Shawnee and other Indians would continue to hunt in the hills to the east and west of the Scioto’s Mouth, with small hunting parties returning to their favorite hollows and salt licks, where the deer and other game remained thick.

In the early 1770s, as tensions grew between the colonies and King George III and Parliament, the Indian villages of the Scioto Valley found themselves facing an attack at the hands of the Virginia colonial militia, who were led by Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia. Dunmore, along with his officers and even the rank and file militia were bent on extracting a land cession treaty from the Ohio Indians that would recognize Virginians’ rights to peaceably settle on the southern side of the Ohio River in modern day West Virginia and Kentucky. The conflict turned violent in 1774 and it has since become commonly known as Dunmore’s War.

Dunmore’s War not only marked a significant Indian defeat, with the attendant destruction of Indian villages along the Scioto. Perhaps more importantly the invading army’s soldiers and officers had seen first hand the beautiful lands of the larger Scioto Valley and they now could picture in their mind’s eye a future wherein they cleared the forested bottoms and made their fortunes in new frontier cities that were sure to develop as time went on.

The Treaty of Camp Charlotte of 1774, which brought an end to Dunmore's War, opened up Kentucky and the lands south of the Ohio River to English colonial settlement. However, Native American resistance to the first frontier settlements in Kentucky would ensure that the bloody conflict continued during the Revolutionary War and in its aftermath in what has come to be known as the Northwest Indian War, the first war of the newly independent United States of America.

In the late 1780s and early 1790s, the location of modern-day Portsmouth, Ohio, became infamous as one of the most dangerous points on the Ohio River. Hundreds of settlers, floating down river on flatboats were attacked, with many deaths attributed to Shawnee and Cherokee warriors who refused to recognize American claims to the region. These Native Americans were part of a larger resistance movement, which brought together numerous Indian nations of Ohio and the Great Lakes region. In 1795, a new American Army, commanded by Gen. Anthony Wayne, defeated the Indian alliance at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. The Greenville Treaty would bring the Northwest Indian War to a close and open up the Scioto Valley and the larger Ohio country to American settlement.

Indian resistance to the expansion of the United States would soon be revived thanks to the efforts of two Shawnee brothers, Tenskwatawa (the Shawnee Prophet) and Tecumseh. Not until the Prophet's humiliation and defeat at Tippecanoe in 1811 and Tecumseh's death in the War of 1812, would the story of frontier conflict in the region come to a close.

Lower Shawnee Town & Céloron's Expedition

Beginning in the late 1730s, the Shawnee Indians established one of their principal villages here. Some sixty years earlier, in the 1670s and 80s, the Shawnee had been expelled from the Scioto and Ohio valleys by the Iroquois in what historians…

Horsehead Bottom & the Origins of Dunmore's War

In early April 1774, a 22-year-old George Rogers Clark arrived at the Mouth of the Little Kanawha, where modern-day Parkersburg, West Virginia, is located. This site had been chosen months earlier for the rendezvous. Eighty or ninety male settlers…

William Crawford & the Destruction of Salt-Lick Town

Jonathan Alder, a native of Virginia, is best remembered for his life as an Indian captive in Ohio during the 1780s and 1790s. He was taken prisoner and adopted into a Mingo family in 1782, towards the end of the American War for Independence. Adler…

Logan's Elm & Commemorating Dunmore's War

Here at the Logan Elm State Memorial, visitors can read the frontier history of the Scioto Valley written in bronze and stone. First conceived in the fall of 1841 by the Logan Historical Society, the Elm and its grounds have become the location of…

Allan Eckert & Tecumseh at the Mouth of the Scioto

One need not refer to well-known bestseller lists to appreciate that more Americans are familiar with Allan Eckert’s telling of frontier history than with the writings of any dead or living, academic historian. Every generation has its own popular…

Raven Rock State Nature Preserve

With its dramatic overlook, Raven Rock has long been an attraction for area residents and visitors. It's history is legendary, with some stories placing, at various moments in time, Daniel Boone and Tecumseh at its edge, 500 feet above the Ohio…

Maj. John Belli at the Mouth of Turkey Creek

Today, the largest Yellow Buckeye in the State of Ohio stands near the Mouth of Turkey Creek, next to the United Methodist Church in Friendship, Ohio. How old the tree is is hard to determine, but it could date to pioneer times. Captain Larkin…