Grove City author Janet Shailer pens book on central Ohio Native American history, artifacts

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group
Janet Shailer of Grove City has written a book titled "Trouble on Scioto's Waters: Soldiers, Frontiermen, & Native Americans, 1725-1815."

History is all about studying the facts of the past.

But it also encourages the history buff to use imagination.

When Janet Shailer and her husband were moving into a house on Hiner Road in Jackson Township in 1974, they found evidence of people who had lived, or at least camped, on the site many years in the past.

"We found an arrowhead in the front yard," Shailer said. "There was a little creek that ran behind our house, and I would think about all the Native American people who used that creek to travel and to hunt.

"That's really what started me on my journey" of learning more about Native Americans who had lived in Ohio, she said.

Shailer, who grew up in and still lives in Grove City, has written her fourth book, "Trouble on Scioto's Waters: Soldiers, Frontiersman, & Native Americans, 1725-1815."

She spent three years researching Native American artifacts found in the area between the Scioto River and the Big Darby.

Shailer is on the executive board of the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum and is a member of the Ohio History Connection. She also serves as the president of the Southwest Public Libraries board of trustees for 2021 and is the head writer of the Grove City  Writers' Group.

This is a rare red-slate winged bannerstone used as a counterweight for an atlatl by the Native Americans. It was found along Big Darby Creek.

"Very little history about the prehistoric and Woodland Indians is taught in school," Shailer said. "The last of the Woodland Indians left in 1843, and there are no reservations. I believe to understand the history of those peoples, we need to study them and walk the ground they lived on.

"I'm hoping my book can serve as a guidebook to encourage people to do their own exploration of the Native American sites around central Ohio and other parts of the state," she said.

Shailer's book provides some of the history of the prehistoric (before written records) Native Americans tribes who had come to Ohio between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago.

"For reasons that are still not really known, they had left the territory in what is now Ohio by the 17th century," Shailer said. 

Eastern Woodland Indians – primarily members of the Miami, Shawnee and Wyandotte tribes – began moving into Ohio territory in the 1720s as they looked for new lands in which to hunt, she said.

That led to the period that Shailer covers in her book, a time of frequent conflicts between the Native American tribes and the French, English and later Americans who also occupied the territory.

"It's hard to realize now with all the development that's occurred, but Ohio was truly a wilderness in the 18th and 19th centuries," Shailer said. 

The Scioto River served as a major transportation hub for the Native American tribes, she said.

"When I look out at the Scioto, it fires my imagination to think about the people who traveled in their canoes up and down the Scioto and its tributaries, which served as transportation arteries for them," Shailer said.

Shailer, 71, said it wasn't uncommon for Native American artifacts to be found in the Grove City area.

"A lot of the area was still farmland," she said. "I had friends who would walk along and find arrowheads.

"It's harder to find those things now because so much of the land has been developed."

As part of her research for the book, Shailer consulted with Linda Pansing, an archeologist with the Ohio History Collection.

"I met with her and got to see up close some of the artifacts that were found near the intersection of Stringtown Road and state Route 104," she said. "(Linda) told me that some of the lanceolate points found in that area may be at least 6,000 years old. It's kind of mind boggling."

Many of the artifacts that make up what is called the Stringtown Collection were found in the early 1950s by a Grove City couple, Ernest and Dorothy Good, as they walked the area near the Stringtown-Route 104 intersection, Shailer said.

Lanceolate points were used for hunting weapons, and the artifacts recovered by the Goods represent the largest collection of Plano points in Ohio, she said.

"Many people think the location was some sort of ceremonial site," Shailer said. "When I think about that, it gives me the chills.

"There were other items found at that location, including an Adena pipe and a piece of a Hopewell platform pipe. What that indicates is that people representing a number of cultures probably used the Stringtown site as an encampment."

The Ohio State Archeological and Historical Society in 1900 estimated that there were once 10,000 mounds in Ohio, Shailer said.

Only 10 still are visible in the Columbus area, she said.

"One of the best ones you can still see and walk along is on the West side on McKinley Avenue in Campbell Park," Shailer said. 

The Shrum Mound is a cone-shaped burial mound built by the people of the Adena culture (800 B.C. to 100 A.D.), she said.

The Waller Mound is on Clayton Court off Shawnee Street in the Indian Trails subdivision in Grove City.

"When the developer was building the first homes in Indian Trails in the 1960s, they decided to leave the mound in place," Shailer said. "That's unusual. Usually, mounds get bulldozed in the interest of progress."

Other central Ohio sites Shailer recommends visiting include Battelle-Darby Metro Park, where a trail along the Darby Creek leads to a reconstructed Fort Ancient Indian mound called the Voss Mound.

"You can walk along the creek and imagine the people who traveled down the creek and, of course, they  have buffalo there that you can see just as the Native Americans once saw."

When the pandemic lifts and the park's nature center is open to the public, visitors will be able to view a collection of artifacts recovered in the park, Shailer said.

"Outside of the Columbus area, everyone should visit the Serpent Mound in Adams County, Fort Ancient (near Oregonia) and the Hopewell Cultural National Historical Park in Chillicothe if they have the chance," she said. 

A list of sites in central Ohio once occupied by Native Americans is included in Shailer's book.

Chapters also are devoted to some of the notable people who had traveled along the Scioto and other waterways, including Shawnee war chief Blue Jacket, Jonathan Alder, Simon Girty, Col. William Crawford and Tecumseh.

George Washington served as a mentor to the young Crawford, and the pair worked together as surveyors.

Crawford led a group of militia in 1782 in a campaign fighting Native American and British soldiers along the Sandusky River in one of the final operations of the Revolutionary War. The campaign was mounted in an attempt to end Indian attacks on settlers.

Crawford was captured and handed over to the Wyandotte tribe, Shailer said. He was tortured and burned at a stake, she said.

"It's just about the most horrible death you can imagine," she said.

Tecumseh is "a man that I marvel at – all the things he accomplished," Shailer said. "He settled a new village at Deer Creek and later at other places.

"Here was a man who set up a confederacy in the early 1800s and traveled all the way to the deep south and up to Detroit and Canada trying to strengthen that confederacy and stand up to American settlers coming onto what had been Indian land."

"Trouble on Scioto's Waters" is published by Orange Frazer Press. The book can be purchased at Amazon and at orangefrazer.com.

afroman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAfroman