Sunday, July 12, 2009

Following the Ludlow Line to the Top of Ohio

The boundaries of the Virginia Military District, between the Scioto and Little Miami rivers north of the Ohio, left open the question of how to "close the survey", since the fourth "side" was left open.

The Virginia Military District's boundary would be closed by surveying a line between the sources of the boundary rivers. Conceptually simple except that the Scioto was considerably longer, and its northern course turned west, extending past the source of the Little Miami.



The first attempt to run a survey closing the VMD was by Israel Ludlow, platter of both Dayton and Cincinnati, and namesake of Ludlow Street in downtown Dayton. His survey was the Ludlow Line, and can still be traced through the modern landscape.

The lands of the VMD did not extend all the way north to the source of the Scioto at first. The Greenville Treaty Line of 1795 marked the end of US and state lands, because north of the line was "indian country". Aboriginal title would finally be extinguished north of the Greenville Treaty Line in the early 1800s, permitting this last piece of the VMD to be claimed and surveyed.

At the time of the Ludlow survey the source of the Scioto was thought to be a large swampland called the Scioto Marsh. The discovery that the headwaters extended beyond the swamp led to a second survey, the Roberts Line. This survey ran at a sharper north by northwest angle, terminating north of what is today Indian Lake (but was then yet another swamp) and then via right angle to the Scioto headwaters.

The Roberts Line was accepted by the Federal government, but the Feds bought out the Viriginia claims between the two lines, resulting in the Ludlow Line remaining the boundary of the VMD south of the Greenville Treaty Line. North of the treaty line the Roberts boundary was used, as shown on the map below. Also shown is a modern map, demonstrating how these 18th century survey lines are still visible in the modern landscape, usually as country roads and fence lines. And that the irregular metes and bounds surveys generate erratic road patterns compared to the gridded landscape west of the Ludlow Line.


The red cross marks Campbell Hill, at 1529 feet the highest point in Ohio. This is the "top of Ohio".

The countryside around Campbell Hill is noticeably different, too. While the surrouning area is the flat Midwestern plain the vicinity of Campbell Hill, particularly to the east and south, is rather hilly, with wooded, steep slopes and flat valleys and bottoms. It almost looks like it was missed by the glaciers (like southwest Wisconisn), but this is not the case.

If one starts at Deeds Point in downtown Dayton and follows the Mad River north one will end up in these valleys, because this is the headwaters country of the Mad.


The Ludlow Line is just visible on the left side of the map, shooting into the county seat of Bellefontaine, pronounced 'Bell-'Fountain by the locals (and everyone in Dayton, too).

The cultural landscape is as interesting as the geological one. NearbyLink are the two Piatt Castles, built by a notable political family of 19th century Ohio, who relocated here from Cincinnati in the 1820s. The castles (large mansions) are from the 1860s and 1870s, though.

Campbell Hill itself is not as impressive as the countryside to the south, being a large rise rather than a true hill or peak, yet one does have a slight feeling of the land dropping away to the the west; perhaps the horizon is a bit lower. This effect is more noticeable in the winter.
Campbell Hill has a modern historic signifigance as a Cold War relic. The Air Force built a radar warning site here in the 1950s, complete with a military housing area. All that's left are the radar and radio towers, visible above, and some of the housing.

A few pix of the countryside in the vicinity of Zanesfield, in the center of the hill and valley country southeast of Campbell Hill.

A suprising connection between this countryside to the Dayton scene is the annual Southwind Music Festival, held on the grounds of the Zane Shawnee Cavern, owned by a remnant band of the Shawnee (descendents of Indians who stayed behind when the tribes were relocated west). Southwind is a project of local music scene folks (check out the "freinds" section at the link) bringing bands one would ordinarily hear late at night in a downtown bar to a a sunny summer outdoors setting. This festival is part of the larger jam band/festival scene best exemplified by the Bonnaroo event down in Tennessee.

This country was long home to the native Americans. One of the last reservations in Ohio was the Shawnee/Seneca reservation between what is now Indian Lake and the Greenville Treaty line. The indians retained this land until the 1830s, when they were finally moved west.

Indian Lake itself is a major feature of the region. This lake is the headwaters of the Great Miami, but it's not a natural lake like the glacial lakes of Michigan and northern Indiana. Indian Lake was once a big swamp akin to the Scioto Marsh, but was turned into a resevoir in the 1830s and 40s to feed the Miami and Erie canal


With the rise of free time and recreation the lake became a resort area in the 20th century, and still is popular with fishermen and as a vacation home site.

As was noted the difficulty in determining sources of the Scioto led two boundary surveys of the VMD. So the Scioto Marsh countryside north of Indian Lake is the "last of Virginia" in Ohio.


The red line in the above map is the end of the Roberts Line and the blue line would have been Ludlows survey ending in the lower reaches of the Scioto Marsh.

The Last of Virigina: the end of the VMD survey at the headwaters of the Scioto, as expressed in field boundaries and country roads:
The heart-shaped Scioto Marsh was rather large. It is all drained today, yet the rich black soil is still visible in aeriel photographs of freshly tilled fields, as one can see here. The Scioto has been channelized in this area, but one can still the contrast in the north-south orientation of the fields west and north of the river vs the angled field to the south, probably based on surveys run off the old Ludlow line or Greenville Treaty Line.
The (drained) Scioto Marsh: flat as a board yet near the top of Ohio. The Scioto Marsh apparently warrants a historical marker, and it does have a history. The place was not typical wesern Ohio farm country, but relied heavily on hired hands imported from Appalachia, who organized and went on strike in 1934 (discussed in the old WPA Federal Writers Project Ohio Guide).

A modern book is out on the marsh: Unearthing the Land, The Story of Ohio's Scioto Marsh.
which discusses the strike, but also the natural history of the marsh and its subsequent draining and cultivation.

So, the Top of Ohio. Where the generic Midwest gets interesting. Perhaps even an example of a subltle American Heimat?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fascinating info. Thanks for this!