Ohio's Great Seal
The ideal vision of the best of Ohio scenery and natural abundance looks a lot like Great Seal State Park. This lovely landscape of rolling, forested hills so inspired a trio of Ohio's founding fathers that they captured the image in the Great Seal of the State of Ohio.
The state emblem features a backdrop of the rising sun crowning hilly green peaks which tower over a ribbon of river flowing past a golden cultivated field. This was the early morning view of the Scioto River and the Mount Logan range of Appalachian foothills from the Ross County home of Thomas Worthington (one of Ohio's first U.S. senators), admired by Worthington, Edward Tiffin (Ohio's first governor) and William Creighton (Ohio's first secretary of state) after an all-night meeting in 1802.
In the foreground of the state seal are a bundle of 17 arrows, signifying Ohio?s rank as the seventeenth state to enter the Union, and a sheath of wheat, representing the state?s agricultural strength.
Now the focal point of Great Seal State Park, the Mount Logan range has remained virtually unchanged. Seventeen miles of multiple use trails through the forested hills give modern-day hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers a chance to savor a bit of the wilderness of frontier Ohio. The park also offers picnic facilities and a small primitive campground.
A welcome addition to the recreational offerings here is a brand new disc golf course. A dedication ceremony and tournament are planned for mid-October. See our website for details.
The path carved through the wilderness by herds of buffalo served as a passage linking powerful and mysterious Hopewell burial sites. For later generations of Native Americans, the wellworn trail was dotted with bustling towns of the Shawnee and Mingo tribes. As the Ohio frontier yielded to settlement by the European pioneers, many milestones in the drama of Ohio?s statehood took place along the ancient Scioto Trail.
The Scioto River valley obviously held great spiritual significance for the fascinating and mysterious moundbuilding cultures who inhabited Ohio 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. The Mound City Group, which boasts one of the greatest known concentrations of Hopewell burial mounds, is essentially a city of the dead, built on the west bank of the river around 150 B.C. by the Hopewell culture. Artifacts recovered from the mounds include a wealth of effigy pipes, mica sculptures, pottery and fossilized mammoth tusks.
Today, what has been preserved of the Mound City Group is a National Monument, north of Chillicothe and Scioto Trail State Park, and just a few miles due west of Great Seal State Park. This area was also a favorite of the Adena, an earlier moundbuilding society.
The Adena Mound, namesake of the Adena culture, provided the classic example of the art and architecture of the period, containing artifacts truly representative of the Adena people. The mound was destroyed in 1901, but the nearby Story Mound is strikingly similar. Story Mound, located in a residential neighborhood in modernday Chillicothe, is an Ohio Historical Society site.
In the 1700s, the river and the ancient trail corridor alongside it were named "Scioto" (meaning "deer") by the Shawnee.
The Scioto Trail linked the Shawnee towns in the Ohio homeland to each other, as well as to the hunting grounds of Kentucky. The versatile term "Chillicothe" applied to one of the five septs, or subnations, of Shawnee society, and was also the Shawnee word for the hometown of the tribe's principal chief.
Thus, three Shawnee settlements known as Chillicothe were established in the scenic middle reaches of the Scioto Valley where the fertile plains meet the Appalachian foothills. One of these, located between present day Circleville and modern Chillicothe, served as the hub of Shawnee society in the height of its power, as the struggle to control the Ohio frontier reached its climax.
The great principal chief Cornstalk (Hokolesqua) rallied the Shawnee resistance here for nearly 20 years, as he led his warriors into battle against the British in the French and Indian War in the 1760s, and joined in the plot hatched by the Ottawa chief Pontiac to capture the British forts scattered across the frontier. In the 1770s, Cornstalk responded to the growing numbers of Europeans encroaching on Shawnee lands with raids on pioneer settlements and an attack on Lord Dunmore's Virginia militia at Point Pleasant in 1774.
After retreating from the hard-fought Battle of Point Pleasant, Cornstalk instigated peace, negotiating a treaty with Dunmore at Camp Charlotte, a temporary post set up northeast of Chillicothe.
A few years later, as Cornstalk returned to the fort at Point Pleasant to warn the Virginians that some of his young warriors were planning an attack, the great chief and his son were cruelly murdered to avenge the recent slaying of a local settler by an Indian raiding party.
After Cornstalk?s death, the Shawnee capital moved to the hometown of his successor, Black Fish, on the Little Miami River, near modern-day Xenia. The flourishing Scioto River town took a backseat in Shawnee politics, but the locale would soon become the axis of power and influence for the budding new state.
Following the Revolutionary War, the area lying between the Scioto and Little Miami rivers (encompassing all or part of 21 Ohio counties) was declared part of the Virginia Military District, and tracts of land were promised to Revolutionary War veterans with a desire to settle in the Ohio country. During the 1790s, surveyor Nathaniel Massie combed the area, measuring and marking for settlement. In 1796, Massie selected a scenic spot above the confluence of Paint Creek and the Scioto River and founded the new city of Chillicothe, named in honor of the rich Native American legacy of the area.
Melody Olaker is proud to be part of the dynamic Scioto Trail/Great Seal park team. In addition to managing the office, Melody is constantly involved in park projects that draw on her numerous talents and diverse background in maintenance, computers, wildlife rehabilitation and interpretive programming.
A Ross County native, Melody has been a fan of these secluded parks since childhood, and relishes the opportunity to bring these undiscovered gems the attention they deserve.
Thanks to Melody's ingenuity and the resourcefulness of the park maintenance staff, Scioto Trail's spartan "Old Log Church" (built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a replica of one the first churches in the Northwest Territory) is now a well-appointed new nature center.
Melody played a key role in establishing the park's new camp store, and has helped with other recent park improvements, including a new amphitheater and stage, and a new swimming beach and boat ramp on Caldwell Lake.
Melody devotes much of her precious spare time to a menagerie of injured and orphaned animals. As a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, she cares for all types of critters, from wounded hawks to litters of baby raccoons and orphaned fawns. Melody often brings her wild charges to the park for nature programs with an important theme?keep them wild.
No denying they are adorable, but for Melody, the best part of working with the animals is setting them free.
The population boomed as the veterans, including a number of prominent Virginians who played key roles in the struggle for independence, flocked here.
One of those Virginians was Thomas Worthington, credited as the "Father of Ohio Statehood" for his political maneuvers to expedite the declaration of statehood and draw the state boundaries as we know them today.
When it came to selecting the new state capital in 1803, Chillicothe was a natural choice, thanks to the clout of its citizens, as well as its central location and strategic position on the well-worn Scioto Trail. As comfortable and efficient transportation to and from the bustling capital city became a priority, stagecoaches began to clog the old trail. Eventually, the old path was diverted from its original, direct route as rural property owners protested the traffic cutting across their squared-off farm fields. Politics remained volatile in the first decades of Ohio statehood, and after a temporary move to Zanesville, the state capital was permanently relocated in 1816 to Columbus, the site of a former Mingo Indian village in the Scioto River Valley along the Scioto Trail. Eventually, politics yielded to paper manufacturing and agriculture as the most compatible enterprises to take advantage of the abundant water supply and fertile ground of the mid-Scioto Valley.
Outside the bustle of the city, the trail became home to an eccentric character whose strange ways made him a legend. Ironically, it was William Hewitt's love of solitude that brought him fame as the hermit of Scioto Trail. Upset by family quarrels over the disposition of his deceased father's estate, Hewitt left the comforts of home to find a simpler life. Around 1815, he arrived in the Chillicothe area and took up residence in a rock overhang cave off the trail near what is now Scioto Trail State Park.
For nearly 20 years, Hewitt roamed the trail and occasionally ventured into town dressed like a frontier woodsman, with leather leggings and moccasins, flowing hair and beard, and a rifle and tomahawk slung over his shoulder. As Chillicothe grew more urbane, Hewitt's unkempt, old-fashioned appearance seemed increasingly out-of-place and startling.
Hewitt died in 1834 at the age of 70, and a monument was erected near his cave in 1842. The cave was later destroyed when U.S. Route 23 was widened, but the monument has been moved, and can still be seen today near the park?s old log church.
As part of Ohio's forest conservation movement in the 1920s, nearly 10,000 acres of undeveloped woodlands in southern Ross County were purchased to create Scioto Trail State Forest Park. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps built roads and trails through the forest and made other improvements for recreational use, including the construction of Stewart Lake and Caldwell Lake.
When the Ohio State Park system was created in 1949, the recreational facilities near the lakes were designated as state park areas, and the surrounding woodlands remained state forest. Today's Scioto Trail State Park features a scenic family campground with a number of electrical sites, along with a more rustic walk-in camp.
Twelve miles of hiking trails wind through the park areas, while 20 miles of multiple use trails for hikers and horseback riders weave through the state forest, offering breathtaking vistas.
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