Long before the early settlers moved into the area, the Shawnee lived in the village they called Old Chillicothe. This was their principal home. There were other Chillicothes in Ohio, but this was the oldest of the settlements, hence the “Old.” They liked the area with its gently rolling hills and the proximity to the river which provided water, food, and of course transportation.
It was near this site that the noted Shawnee warrior, Tecumseh, was born. It was here that Simon Kenton, having been captured by the Shawnee for stealing their horses, ran a gauntlet of men lined on both sides with tree limbs and other devices with which to flog him as he ran past. He was able to escape and tell of his adventures when he was an old man.
Here, Daniel Boone and the salt makers were confined and so many more tales about the area are remembered.
A terrible battle was waged in 1779 to secure the land which was occupied by the Shawnee. Col. John Bowman with 264 men under his command marched against Old Chillicothe during the month of May. The troops arrived at night and were determined to wait until daylight to storm the village. Some of the soldiers took it upon themselves to scout the village before the troops could be assigned their various positions, so the Shawnee — alerted — were prepared to fight before daylight. The women and children sought shelter in one of the larger cabins while both sides continued firing. Bowman determined that it would be useless to continue the fight, but several cabins were burned to the ground after taking blankets and silver. The soldiers also rounded up a herd of horses which they took when they retreated. Old Chillicothe was attacked a total of three times before the Shawnee moved away.
After the Shawnee left the area, the settlers moved into the fertile land, planting corn and other crops.
When it was time to select a name for the village, in keeping with the Shawnee tradition of Old Chillicothe, the new village was named Oldtown.
History says the first house was built by William Thorn between 1812 and 1815. The next resident was Amassa Reed followed soon by his twin brother, Abner. Those two were among the first businessmen in the village. They made cabinets and clocks initially. The clocks they made were highly prized and most accurate. In time, the business expanded to include a three-story mill, known as “The Xenia Factory,” where they produced broadcloth, flannel, and blankets as well as satinette. At one time, 20 men were employed full time at the mill. They also provided cloth dressing and carding for local customers.
The original town was platted by Moses Collier in 1839 with six houses. At that time, what is now U.S. 68, was called Sandusky Street. And what is now Brush Road crossed Sandusky and was called Cross Store.
In spite of the fact that the railroad passed through town, the town simply did not grow as expected.
The Methodists decided a church should be constructed in the center of town. The congregation was organized in 1853 and the building completed in 1855. The congregation continues to meet each Sunday for worship. The land on which the church sits was purchased from Abner Reed for $75. The brick used to build the church was made on the premises as the building progressed. The footer was made of quicklime which was poured into a hallow trench.
Typically, the early settlers wanted their children to be educated and a school house was built, a one-room structure which was in use well into the 20th century. When the one- and two-room schools in the county were closed, the students went to Xenia schools and the building became the office for a motel known as “Tecumseh Motel.”
The original school and the motel have been torn down to make way for a new project.
If you have not driven north on U.S. 68 in recent weeks, a trip to Oldtown is a must. Construction is underway for a new Ohio historical site which will tell the story of Old Chillicothe and the Shawnee who once inhabited the village.
This will be a wonderful addition to the history of the county. When completed, the story of the Shawnee of Greene County will be shared with visitors from around the world.
This is not the only project of important history which is happening here in Greene County. Col. Charles Young lived on U.S. 42 North, not far from Wilberforce. His home is now owned by the State of Ohio and is being restored. Young was the third African-American to graduate from the Military Academy at West Point. He served in the 10th Cavalry Regiment and was one of those who fought with Teddy Roosevelt at the Battle of San Juan Hill. In 1894, he became an instructor of military science at Wilberforce University.
When it was suggested that he was no longer fit for military service, he rode his horse from his home in Wilberforce to Washington D.C. (497 miles) in 16 days. He kept his rank. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery and received the rank of general posthumously.
If you would like to know more about the Shawnee of Greene County, William A. Galloway wrote a wonderful book in 1934 titled”Old Chillicothe.” It is available at your local library or the Greene County Historical Society. For an update on the progress at Oldtown, contact Catherine Wilson at the Greene County Historical Society, 937-372-4606.
Remembering Charles ‘Ed’ Dressler
Ed Dressler was best known for being the “father” of paved bike trails in Greene County and southwest Ohio. He retired as the second county parks and recreation director and the first director of the Greene County Park District. During his 22-year employment, he helped acquire 900 acres of parkland, developed more than 1,000 acres, and was a major influence in converting former railroad tracks to paved trails. He was inducted into the Ohio Parks and Recreation Hall of Fame. Parks and trails professionals traveled from as far away as Canada to experience the paved trails network he established.
— Joan Baxter
Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.