Southeast Ohio History Map

    The southeastern region of Ohio is home to many historical events and locations from the Adena people in the area building mounds to the boom of civilization bringing canals and mining and eventually a railroad, even the control of forest fires have added fire towers as a forgotten means of forest protection. The purpose of this project was to collect, preserve and share Southeast Ohio’s unique cultural and natural heritage through the use of interactive mapped locations and photographs. The result below is an online database in the form of a map that pinpoints the locations, provides an image, and a brief depiction of the historical significance of each location.


Click on icons to show location info and images. To see images bigger click on them.


    When settlers first began moving into the Ohio County they discovered thousands of mounds and various earthworks. They didn't have any idea of what they were or who built them. When they asked local Native Americans about them, they too didn't have any idea of who built them or why. This was the beginning of a long process to understand these mysterious mounds that were all over the Ohio County. Some of the mounds were dug into by local settlers just to see what was inside. Most of the conical mounds were mostly dirt. There were a few burial crypts inside others that contained historic artifacts. Many of these were removed and sold. Next came an extensive survey of all the mounds so at least their location, size and description would be preserved for future generations. Around the end of the 19th century archeologists began studying the mounds. From these studies they decided they were looking at three different stages of a culture that existed in Ohio since the time the pyramids in Egypt were being built. The first stage was associated with the people building large conical mounds. The first of these conical mounds to be studied was located on the property of Thomas Worthington in Chillicothe. The name he had given to his estate was "Adena" hence the name Adena was given to those people that had built the large conical shaped mound on his estate. While this particular mound was made by the Adena culture, it is not to suggest that this was their first mound. The Adena culture was wide spread from Indiana to New York and from central Ohio, south, to Kentucky, but southern Ohio seemed to be the center of their culture. The Adena culture was made up of both hunters and gatherers, but they were also Ohio's first farmers. Archeological evidence suggests that they were growing sunflowers, squash, as well as a few other plants. Previous excavations in and around the larger mound groups suggest that perhaps most of the dead were handled by cremating the remains. Yet, other burial mounds elsewhere indicate the dead were buried intact and full skeletal remains were found. The Adena culture appears to be the first ancient people in Ohio to create burial mounds for their honored dead. Most of what we know about this culture comes from examining what was buried with the dead. There has been little recovered evidence of what daily life was like for the Adena culture, but there has been extensive speculation. There are 12 mounds found in the southeastern part of Ohio.


    Beyond the mounds, Southern Ohio had the honor of being the sites of the first major expansion of iron manufacturing in the United States due to the discovery of what was a bonanza of iron ore. The first iron furnace of record consisted of merely a hole in the ground with an opening at the bottom facing the prevailing wind to provide a natural draft. The type of iron made prior to the 14th century A.D. was not the type made in the blast furnaces of the Hanging Rock Iron District of Southern Ohio and Northeastern Kentucky. This earlier iron was called wrought iron. It had properties which allowed it to be put to use for tools and farming. It is very tough and not as brittle as is cast iron. Wrought iron of the earliest type was made directly into a tool. A hammer mill was used to beat the heated mass. Cast iron furnace technology evolved to blast furnaces which produced cast iron. It could be cast into items where toughness was not a problem such as stoves, kettles, skillets, steam engine blocks and flywheels. Cast iron is reworked and modified to make steel. Because blast furnaces produced increased quantities of iron from the ore, the molten iron was cast into bars, called pig iron, for later remanufacturing. The furnaces were built and operated for the purpose of extracting iron from the native iron ores. The objective was to form bars of cold cast iron for transfer to a foundry for later remanufacture. These were made in molds pressed in the very dry sandy floor. A main trench directed the molten iron to a distribution trench from which many side branches were formed. The molten iron was cast into bars called "pigs"; hence, the common name of "pig iron.” The blast furnace knowledge came west with the pioneers. The first charcoal iron furnace in Ohio was built in Poland near Youngstown. Today 13 furnaces can be found in the southeast Ohio valley region. 





Covered Bridge

    Another historic landmark in southeast Ohio includes covered bridges. The history of covered bridges can be traced as far back as 780 B.C. in ancient Babylon. In America the first covered bridge was built in Connecticut in 1804 by Theodore Burr. Named the Waterford Bridge, it spanned the Hudson River in New York and lasted for 105 years. Before there were covered bridges there were ferries to transport horses, passengers and buggies to the other side of the rivers. Many of these were run by merchants holding the monopoly on the local economy with the fees from the ferries. This prompted taxpayers to build bridges that would be free to all travelers after a toll to help offset costs. Early bridges were built for utility. The later ones were also built with appearance in mind. Most of America's covered bridges were built between 1825 and 1875. By the 1870s, most bridges were covered at the time of construction. The original reason for the cover was to protect the bridge's trusses and decks from snow and rain, preventing decay and rot. The cover served other purposes also it kept horses from being spooked by the waters underneath, it was a reprieve from weather to the weary traveler, and it was used for political rallies, religious meetings, a night's sleep for tramps; town meetings, and even rainy-day luncheons took place on the covered bridge. An uncovered bridge would last approximately 20 years but a covered one could last 100 years. Floods washing away the bridges caused the need for redesigning them. Builders began to use a combination of iron and wood trusses. The invention of the automobile encouraged builders to use steel. But with World War I came a shortage of steel and the wood bridges again became the norm. Even now they are being built with windows, laminated floors, asphalt surfaces and interior whitewashing. More than 12,000 covered bridges have dotted the American landscape, with approximately 3,500 in Ohio. However, today in central Ohio covered bridges are very hard to find. All over America concrete and steel have replaced instead of repaired the structures that are so vital to our historical past. Down from 3,500 to approximately 138, the historic covered bridge that Ohioans over the centuries have enjoyed is quickly disappearing. 25 covered bridges can be found in southern Ohio today.



Fire Tower

    The foothills of southeast Ohio are adorned by vast wood forests, which are a natural commodity worthy of protection. That protection began with a network of some 39 fire towers that once studded the highest of hills. The towers afforded the broadest, longest views by fire watchers who kept a lookout for smokes, those first plumes that signaled a potential forest fire. The towers arose in the 1920s from a need for wild land fire suppression. Ohio’s southeast forests were recovering then, regrowing from having been harvested for charcoal and used in iron production in the mid-to-late 19th century. The federal government’s Resettlement Administration facilitated the removal of families off of small, failed farms where folks were scratching out a living in hollows. Those condemned lands came back into the public domain, where they are now managed by the ODNR or the U.S. Forest Service’s Wayne National Forest. Part of the growing conservation concern then was detection and suppressing of wildfires. The Civil Conservation Corps (CCC) was deployed to the foothills. The CCC put young men to work in public-works projects across the country. Not only did they plant trees, but they built roads and lodges and bridges. In an 18-month period between 1933 and 1934, the CCC built 11 steel-frame fire towers in southeast Ohio. They constructed another eight from 1934 until the CCC was disbanded in 1942. But the rise of airplanes and other technology eventually supplanted the need for towers. Since it was cheaper to fly predetermined routes over the forests on the watch for smoke than to maintain and staff towers, the ODNR opted for aerial surveys during fire season. The last of the fire watchers, Marion Sanders, walked out of a Pike County fire tower for the last time in 1978, and over time, the towers fell into disrepair. Fortunately, some have been saved, preserved, and even relocated for public viewing; the Armintrout tower is on permanent display in the ODNR area of the state fairgrounds. Fire towers, though no longer needed, they are a symbol of forest conservation. Only a few fire towers can be found in the southeastern part of Ohio.


   The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was the first common carrier railroad and the oldest railroad in the United States, with its first section opening in 1830. At first the B&O was located entirely in the state of Maryland, its original line extending from the port of Baltimore west to Sandy Hook. Because of competition with the Chesapeake & Ohio canal for trade with coal fields in western Maryland, it could not use the C&O right of way. Thus, to continue westward while minimizing high-cost track through the Appalachian Mountains, the B&O chose to cross the Potomac River into Virginia now West Virginia, near the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. From there the track continued through Virginia from Harpers Ferry to a point just west of the junction of Patterson Creek and the North Branch Potomac River, where it crossed back into Maryland to reach Cumberland, the terminus of the National Road. From there the B&O extended to the Ohio River at Wheeling and a few years later also to Parkersburg, West Virginia, below rapids, which made navigation difficult during parts of the year. It proved crucial to Union success during the American Civil War, although the conflict also caused considerable damage and repair costs. After the war's end, the B&O consolidated several feeder lines in Virginia and West Virginia, as well as expanded westward into Ohio including a junction at Portsmouth. B&O advertising later carried the motto: "Linking 13 Great States with the Nation.” After several mergers, the B&O became part of the CSX Transportation network. At the end of 1970, the B&O operated 5,552 miles of road and 10,449 miles of track. Some of the lines are still in use as if 2020 while others have been transformed into Hocking Adena Bikeway. On the southeast Ohio rail lines many bridges and  tunnels can be found along the tracks.


    The Hocking Canal was a small 19th century canal in southern Ohio that once linked Athens to Lancaster and the Ohio and Erie Canal, but it was destroyed by flooding and never rebuilt. It paralleled the Hocking River. In 1829, southern Ohio private investors interested in transporting salt and other products to the marketplace quickly decided to construct a branch canal from the Ohio and Erie Canal at Carroll, Ohio, southward towards Lancaster. Excavation on the "Lancaster Lateral" began in 1831. This portion of the Canal was completed September 4, 1838. In the same year the Lancaster Lateral was purchased by the state. Ohio subsequently contracted to extend the canal from Lancaster to Logan, Nelsonville, Chauncey, and Athens, fifty-three miles from Carroll. The 56-mile canal was completed in 1843, although much of it was officially opened two years earlier. Salt, coal, pork products, wool and lumber were shipped out, and furniture and iron products were brought into Athens and Hocking counties via the canal. It had 26 locks, 7 culverts, and an aqueduct crossing Monday Creek south of Nelsonville. Operation of the canal never proved profitable, least of all the 15-mile stretch between Nelsonville and Athens, where a number of salt works were located. Their owners, frustrated by the slow pace of 4 miles per hour canal boats, and the unavailability of the canal in the winter when it often froze, began construction of the Columbus and Hocking Valley Railroad, which by 1857 competed with the canal for cargo. 

This project was produced in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Arts from the School of Visual Communication in the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University. 

This work was produced for educational purposes and is not for resale. All rights reserved.