When Columbus was established as Ohio's capital city in 1812, there was no town or village on the "high banks opposite Franklinton at the forks of the Scioto." The new capital was created from scratch.
Descriptions of what the riverbanks looked like in those days are few and far between. Many of the first settlers in central Ohio were illiterate, and the people who were reasonably well-educated often had more on their minds -- survival, for example -- to leave behind much in the way of descriptive prose about their new homes.
Later letter-writers such as Betsy Green Deshler would send detailed accounts of their families and their town.
But by the 1820s, much of the original landscape on the higher ground had changed.
It would become the task of later writers to try to create in the mind's eye the appearance of that early frontier.
One of the people who did it best was A.A. Graham.
With a longtime interest in state and local history, Graham decided in 1885 to try to describe what travelers might have seen as they rowed up the Scioto River by canoe in 1812.
It is a description worth repeating in part:
"On his left hand was a broad plain, bounded on the west by a low range of wooded hills, now in part a waving cornfield, in part a grassy meadow.
"Along the water's edge grew many wild plum trees whose blossoms filled the air with a pleasant perfume.
"Beyond the meadow and the corn, the busy town of Franklinton appeared in the distance, guarded on the east and north by the river, whose thread of water was lost in the forest above.
"On the right bank of the river rose a sharply inclined bluff, covered by a sturdy growth of native forest timber.
"The abruptness of this bluff gradually declined as the voyager ascended the stream.
"As he came up the river he would have seen, south of the Indian mound, from which Mound Street took its name, a small cleared field, in which was the pioneer home of John McGowan, who then cultivated a farm which he afterwards, in 1814, laid out as McGowan's Addition to Columbus.
"On the incline of the bluff, not far from the present crossing of Front and State Streets, stood a round log cabin, surrounded by a small clearing, and occupied by a man ... and his family.
"He was probably a squatter and was secure in his home as long as the rightful owner did not claim possession.
"His small garden, his rifle and his traps furnished him an abundant frontier living, and if he could live free of many of the comforts of civilized life, he was also free of many of its cares.
"Farther north (where the U.S. District Court is today), on the banks of a small stream were the ruins of an old sawmill, built about 1800, by Robert Balentine, a citizen of Franklinton.
"Near it were also the ruins of a distillery, built by Benjamin White about the same time. They were now in decay and almost covered by small trees and underbrush.
"Near the site (now the Arena District) stood the cabin of John Brickell, who for many years had been a captive among the Indians ...
"Had the canoeist moored his birch bark vessel and ascended the bluff, he would have found himself in a forest of oak, beech, maple, walnut and other trees common to the uplands of Ohio. ... Wild turkeys were plenty, deers not strange, and a still more formidable but not less valuable game, bears, not uncommon.
"About the great trunks of the trees, huge grape vines were here and there entwined, whose abundant blossoms promised a rich repast in the autumn. Smaller fruits such as hawberries, huckleberries, wild plums, and wild blackberries, were everywhere.
"The Ohio forest was here in all its native grandeur and native beauty. ...
"Had he noticed the topography of the city's home, he would have seen a gradual incline from the north toward its center, a more decided one from the west and a level one towards the south; eastward, the plateau slightly declined, while northward was a 'prairie,' as it was afterwards called, in which he would have found many springs whose outlet was a small stream which found its way westward to the river he had left (where Spring Street is today).
"Excepting the cabins previously mentioned, not a human habitation occupied the site of the future city.
"Where are now the 'busy haunts of man' was a western forest, whose life consisted only in that of bird and beast, whose home it had been for ages past."
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.