SUGGESTED BY Emmett A. Conway, Sr., The Olde Forester
The Olde Forester has been called “An Old War-horse” as a result of his persistence in trying to make known the history of the Scioto Salt Springs and associated Ancient Salt Trails to the noted licks at what is now the City of Jackson, Ohio. He first became aware of the prominence of evidence in the 1960's when a practicing forester locating tracts of land in the region. Everywhere in the survey records were references to “The Salt Springs on Salt Lick Creek”. Every deed in the six mile square reserve is identified as “Scioto Salt Reserve, Lot so and so”.
Without a doubt, the Salt Springs was a principle factor in the geography of prehistoric man in Ohio. The springs provided the salt the people and animals needed and the concentration of the game animals provided food.
Other unique natural resources within fifty miles of the springs which played a part in the livelihood of the Indians was the excellent flint sources in Vinton and Jackson Counties, much overlooked by modern anthropologists. Other minerals were available, such as hematite and pipestone, were used by the Indians.
The region surrounding the springs, as Daniel Boone noted, "Was tolerably good farmland, almost as good as his land back in Kentucky". Equally as important to early man was the more rugged landscape northwest of the licks with its cliffs and rock shelters, providing shelter and superb hunting possibilities.
No region in Ohio has the wide distribution of vegetation as is found in the Lake Catherine Nature Preserve and adjoining lands. The timber types range from Southern Appalachian on the south slopes to Canadian on the north and in the shaded gorges. Its variety of plant species is recognized by botanists around the world and have been so distributed by taxonomists like the late Floyd Bartley. Rare plants still exist in the drainage of Salt Lick Creek. The herbarium at Ohio University is named after Floyd Bartley. Jackson County was his favorite collection area.
Favorite tree species of the Indians were maples from which they taught the Europeans to make sugar and basswood from which they made baskets.
The geology, geography, botany and Indian lore, learned by John Wesley Powell when he was a teenager in Jackson under the tutelage of George Crookham, a remarkable select tutor, was, no doubt the principle factor in Powell becoming the outstanding natural scientist of the Nineteenth Century. Powell was further helped by the well trained men of Ohio's First Geological Corp. who flocked to Jackson County because of the important iron, coal, clay and other mineral resources to be found here. These minerals can still be found for educational purposes
Physical archaeological evidence continues to be lost by landfill or other surface disturbance as it has since abandonment of the salt boiling activity in the early Eighteen Hundreds.
The flood plain along Salt Lick Creek absorbed everything dropped by Indians, settlers, and many of the extinct and modern animals mired down and lost. There bones were often discovered by the salt boilers and many must remain under the surface. It is now absorbing trash along the south bank west Broadway Avenue.
Salt boiling camps left evidence in the alluvium. Stanley Baker has recently documented for the Ohio Archaeological Inventory three different salt furnace sites by physical evidence at representative locations: New Jerusalem, on the south edge of Jackson, a furnace site in the Commons across from North Meadow Park, and just east of High Street on the south side of Salt Lick Creek--part of a modern baseball field.
Pete Wilson and Emmett Conway spotted a fording in Salt Lick Creek at about the location shown on the 1798 Plat Map by Elias Langham. This could be the spot of the highest traffic count in Ohio and should produce physical evidence. Stanley Baker plans to examine the site for the record.
The prominent hill top in Jackson was the “Burning Ground” where Native Americans were said to have burned prisoners at the stake. Whether that is true or not we know of no proof. It is the highest point adjacent to the salt springs just below on the flood plain and would have been the center of the Indian Salt Lick Town. Charred tree stumps were in plentiful supply where the courthouse now stands as evidence of possible torture.
Kevin Coleman, student intern, in his Outline of P.A.R.K. files, wrote, “ BURNING STAKE. The earliest settlers at Scioto." Salt Licks found many charred tree trunks still standing in the cleared ground on the ridge which is now occupied by the business part of Jackson. They were so many monuments to white prisoners who had died at the stake.”
By 1977 The Olde Forester had acquired enough knowledge of the history of the salt springs and trails leading to them that he was asked by Burgess & Niple engineers, with the approval of the Ohio Historical Society Preservation Office, to make a documentary study of the noted licks as a prerequisite for approval of use of federal funds for modernization of the Waste Treatment Plant in the northwest part of the city.
The primary archaeological survey for the sewage plant project improvement was made by Rodney Riggs, an approved anthropological investigator, employed by Cincinnati Museum of Natural History.
Both Riggs’ report and Emmett Conway’s were submitted to Burgess &
Niple engineers and the Ohio Preservation Office on July 20, 1977, resulting
in disapproval of having part of the new plant obscure the noted Boone
Rocks Site--an atrocious idea.
The list of people who recently admitted that they had never heard of nor realized the importance of the Scioto Salt Licks includes: Gary Ness, Director, Ohio Historical Society; Dr. Bradley Lepper, Archaeologist, OHS;, Dr. Paul S. Gardner, Midwest Regional Director, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL CONSERVANCY; and Pete Wilson, Editor THE JACKSON-HERALD and lifelong resident of Jackson. Each said that they would like to know more.
We mention their names, not to embarrass them, but to emphasize how totally forgotten this site is to the history of The State of Ohio and the United States. It is part of the document authorizing the State of Ohio. With the Bicentennial coming up, you would think it would receive some official recognition.
Add to this group the children of Jackson and surrounding areas and the travelers through this most ancient of crossroads of THE GREAT INDIAN WARPATH, THE STANDING STONE TRAIL TO PRESENT LANCASTER, THE TRAIL FROM THE MOUTH OF THE SCIOTO TO THE MOUTH OF THE MUSKINGUM, AND SEVERAL OTHERS--STILL BEARING THE FOOTPRINTS OF MAMMOTHS, BISON, THE PEOPLE AND OTHER TRAVELERS.
METHOD OF DISTRIBUTION OF INFORMATION
1. The sign at the city limit shown in the opening of the Olde Forester's web site on “SCIOTO SALT SPRINGS ON SALT LICK CREEK” disappeared when U. S. 35 was made into a divided highway and is in a warehouse somewhere, evidently. Let's find it and stand it on the Powell Memorial Site beside the courthouse.
2. Computer accessibility of documents and maps explaining background information and historic sites to be visited. P.A.R.K. files.
3. Printed information available at the John Wesley Powell Memorial building on the Courthouse Square.
4. A GUIDED TOUR PROGRAM for the high tourist season, walking and/or driving to prime sites with interpretive lectures. Properly promoted, people would pay for this service.
5. Restoration of a SALT FURNACE CAMP in North Meadow Park with all the tools and appurtenances, including pack horses. A goal of expanding this into a museum of artifacts and bones of extinct animals attracted to the licks.
6. MCKITTERICK EARTHWORKS: Acquisition, research and an interpretive program to explain the function of the Indian rectangular earthworks north of Boone Rock Shelter. This site might well have been an astronomical observatory for agricultural guidance. It most certainly was no fort. It is in a good position for observing the rising and setting of the sun and moon.
7. A SALT LICK TRAIL SYSTEM FOR HIKERS. Remembering from the original notes of the surveyors, "A blazed way leads to the Salt Springs on Salt Lick Creek", relocate accurately the ancient trails to the licks as recorded on the original survey plats. Provide access and directions with interpretive literature or signing for walking these worn down footpaths of the mammoths, mastodons, bison, Indians and explorers, including the Lewis Wetzel rock shelter where he carved his name.
These ancient footpaths extend across all of Southeastern Ohio and cross many state forests and game preserves; as well as, the Wayne National Forest. Private lands are sparsely populated, often industrially owned where right-of-ways could be obtained for long distance hiking.
Great events occurred along these ancient paths. For example, General Lewis' army camped at the Salt Springs after the Battle of Point Pleasant in October, 1774, while on their way to Lower Shawnee Town below Circleville.
8. EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND CONFERENCES. No region of Ohio, to
my knowledge, is as gifted in resources for the study of the ecosystem
and anthropology. Support for this is stated in my opening paragraphs of
PLEA ON THE WWW FROM THE OLDE FORESTER
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