On the evening of Sept. 9, 1775, a solitary figure made camp at the forks of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers.
It was a good place to stop in a dense green wilderness.
Two rivers came together here, and traveling to various parts of what is now Ohio was easier on water than on the nearby Warrior's Path from Lake Erie to the Ohio River.
But it was what frontiersmen also would call "a lonesome place."
Previously, a large village of Native Americans had existed where Northgate Park is today, near the intersection of Spring Street and Neil Avenue.
But that camp was gone -- burned to the ground and its people scattered. That was part of the reason this one man was here, camping confidently by himself in a place that would come to be called "the dark and bloody ground" of the Ohio Valley.
It was a remarkable thing to do. But then, Richard Butler was a remarkable man. Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1743, Butler had journeyed to America with his family when he was 6. His father was a drifter who felt more comfortable away from cities and on the edge of the moving frontier. In time, the Butlers ended up near Fort Pitt in what is now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Richard Butler and his several brothers joined their father in what was known as "the Indian trade." By pack mule and canoe, the Butlers spent most of the late 1750s to the early 1760s offering goods in exchange for furs with the Native American tribes living along the Ohio River and its tributaries.
It was a time of rapid change and frequent confrontation. Many of the local Native American tribes distrusted one another and most of them distrusted European colonists of any sort. They had good reason, since many promises had been made -- especially by the English and the French -- and many of them had been broken.
All that was needed was a spark.
In 1774, that spark came. A Mingo chief called Logan by his many colonial friends was outraged when frontier ruffians brutally murdered most of his family. Taking several trusted friends with him, he launched a series of deadly raids on colonial settlements.
It was a tragedy of unusual assistance to Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia. In the wake of the French and Indian War from 1754 to 1763, American colonists had become increasingly agitated as British taxation and colonial controls increased. Dunmore desperately needed something to take the colonists' minds off taxation -- and an Indian war seemed to be the answer.
Dunmore marched into the Ohio country with more than 2,000 men and camped near what is now Circleville. He welcomed a number of tribes who had fought his forces to make peace. They did, and Dunmore headed for home.
Almost as an afterthought, he ordered Col. William Crawford to take several hundred men and attack what was considered to be a hostile Mingo village 40 miles to the north. In October 1774, Crawford arrived at the forks of the Scioto and Olentangy and attacked. Most of the men were away hunting and the village was filled with women, children, the elderly and some colonial prisoners. The attack was devastating and the village burned to the ground.
One year later, America was at war. Lord Dunmore had fled to Europe. In April 1775, a small line of men had stood their ground at Lexington and Concord and colonial armies were forming to fight the British. Critical to the success of the rebel armies was some assurance that Native Americans in Ohio would at least remain neutral.
Butler traveled west to seek those assurances. He was able to travel alone on this dangerous mission because Native Americans trusted him. He was tough and strong and, unlike many other traders, he was honest. His mission was simple: convince the Ohio tribes to stay neutral, if not friendly to the people fighting the British.
Some of his most difficult tasks were in central Ohio. Pluggy's Town near what is now downtown Delaware was the home of Plukkemehnotee, the fearsome leader of a band of Mingo and other warriors.
Convincing him and others to stay neutral, on Sept. 8, 1775, Butler moved on and made camp at the forks of the Scioto and Olentangy.
We know this because -- unlike many of his friends -- Butler was literate. In his journal, he noted: "Camp at Dark on the bank of the Sciotha Near the Salt Lick town that was destroyed last year." It was and remains one of the earliest written records by anyone of this part of central Ohio.
Butler succeeded in his quest. He fought through the Revolution, was heavily involved in treaty negotiations with Native Americans and died in 1791 in the battle later called the Battle of the Auglaize, or St. Clair's Defeat.
Butler County bears his name.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.