Search This Blog

Saturday, September 29, 2012


                                          THE PETROGLYPHS OF THE UPPER OHIO VALLEY


            The age-old adage regarding art says that every picture tells a story, but regarding the Indian Rock art of the Upper Ohio Valley, every picture portrays a mystery.
            The native American representations are called petroglyphs, which are crude images of wildlife, humans and symbols scratched or pecked into the surface of large flat sandstones lining the shores of the Ohio River and other sites across the country.  Some of the more renowned local petroglyph sites include Smith’s Ferry, Babb’s Island, old Dam Number Eight and the head of Brown’s Island, although evidence suggests, the two-mile mid-water flood plain could have centered four different petroglyph sites.
            “Rock Art chronicles the long histories, the hunting ceremonies, and the religions of diverse native peoples, “wrote James D. Keyser and Michael Klasser in Plains Indian Rock Art.  “They reveal their relationships with the spirit world and record their interaction with traditional enemies and the earliest Europeans.”
            Native Americans considered boulders prominent features of the landscape, and the Ohio, itself a Native American name, meaning river with whitecaps, or just simply beautiful stream, was a major route of transportation and trade centuries before the first Europeans arrived.
            Archaeologists have often calculated the time periods when the Native Americans etched their work in rock, ancient peoples ranging from Hopewell, Adenas, woodland and modern Indians, but often have been left with only educated guesses of the true artists as in the case of the late James L. Swauger of Ohio State University, who studied the local petroglyph sites in 1969.
            “Babb’s Island is the only site investigated in Ohio which holds water bird figures,” Swauger wrote in Petroglyphs of Ohio.  “It’s affinities are with Brown’s Island in W.V. and Smith’s Ferry in Pa.  The generally more sophisticated artistry of the carvings on these sites, as well as their common possession of water bird figures suggest a ‘school’ of petroglyph artists working along this 30-mile stretch of river.”
Swauger also theorized that the local rock art could be attributed to Mongahela Man, also called proto-Shawnees from 1200 a.d. to 1750 a.d.
Work by Charles Whittlesley suggests otherwise.  Or perhaps he knew of a site other than the Brown’s Island one, recorded in the archaeological ledgers as site 46HK8.  Whittlesley noted in the American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal that Newburgh founding father Michael Myers “saw from the south shore of the river, opposite the head of Brown’s Island, an Indian at work on the flat rocks.  He shot the Indian, and, getting to the island on a raft, he saw effigies of animals, among them that of a deer which the Indian had partly executed.”
Using the Deer Rock incident as conclusive evidence, Whittlesley went on to write.  “It is nearly demonstrated that they are not the work of the Mound Builders unless that race and the historical Indian are one.”
Indeed, on the last page of Dr. E. R. Giesly’s epic poem about Myers, Stalwart Auver, is a drawing of a boulder with 1797 on top, and below this date are several crude drawn images.  What they represent is indistinguishable because of the poor quality of print.
One petroglyph site overlooked by Swauger was thought by antiquarian James McBride to be situated above the old Half Moon Farm on the West Virginia side.  On July 4, 1838, McBride crossed the river from Cable’s Eddy, present day Pottery Addition.
“We found the rock lying on the Virginia side of the river.  It lies about three feet above low water mark, having a flat surface of about nine feet by seven inclining a little toward water.  It is of hard stone, and all over the surface are various figures cut and sunk into the hard rock.  Amongst these figures are rude representations of the human form, tracks of human feet representing the bare foot and print of toes as if made in soft mud, tracks of horses, turkeys and a rabbit.  Several figures of snakes, a turtle and other figures not understood.”
During that period existed another landmark bearing the title “half moon,” a wing dam opposite the head of present-day Hancock County and perhaps the petroglyph about which McBride wrote sat farther north than the farm on the big bend of the river.
“One (carving) represents a wild turkey and is about life size,” wrote Joseph B. Doyle in History of Jefferson County.  “Stretched across its neck, apparently in flight, is a wild goose with neck extended at full length.  The heart of the goose is indicated by a small circle, with a line extending to the head.”
Other figures carved into this rock included a fox, a bear and some outlines of feet.  Doyle wrote that the rock bearing these figures stood at the upper entrance of Holliday’s Cove, now downtown Weirton.
One of the prominent Indian carvings upon the Brown’s Island site that James L. Swauger had investigated were two sand hill cranes approximately four meters square.  Curiously, like one goose at the Half Moon site, the heart of one crane is represented by a small circle with three lines running to the neck.
Petroglyphs at Smith's Ferry, Pennsylvania.  These flat rocks abounded on shoreline before submerged by modern dams.
Sandhill cranes petroglyph of Brown's island.
Could this petroglyph site and the other three be one and the same or four separate sites?  Perhaps even archaeologists will never know because these sites and the others along this 30-mile stretch of history have probably been permanently submerged with the erection of the modern high-rise dams.

Monday, May 7, 2012


                                   TORONTO, OHIO LAYS CLAIM TO THIS DISTINCTION




            Despite its Canadian name, Toronto, Ohio has always been a city of patriotism and fierce national pride as currently displayed by its array of American flags lining its streets.  But never was Toronto’s patriotism more fervid than when it unveiled the nation’s first monument dedicated to the American soldiers and sailors who had fought in World War I.
            It was November 11, 1919, Armistice Day, one year after hostilities of the great war had ended that as many as an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people amassed in Toronto streets, which were decorated with patriotic colors from one end of the river-edged town to the other.  These spectators watched a parade of 3,000 marchers, led by 250 soldiers, sailors and marines, trailed by the Toronto band, various civic organizations, as well as 800 school children all carrying tiny American flags.
            After the paraded concluded, the soldiers marched to town square where the War Commission awarded the servicemen bronze medals and made a few speeches, and then the honored defenders and public dignitaries crossed Market Street to the First Presbyterian Church where they ate a chicken diner prepared under the direction of Mrs. Mary Hanna and assisted and sponsored by the Daughters of America.
            After diner, the servicemen stepped outside under mild mid-autumn weather across to town square as the shadow of the five-ton statue canted eastward under the two-o’clock sun.  A large white cross now loomed on a platform before the veiled monument and standing before it were eleven girls clad in white, clasping a red rose, each girl representing the ten fallen sons and one fallen daughter of the Toronto area.
            The crowd of 3,000, settled and quiet, watched with eager anticipation a Miss McClean draw the cord encasing the ten-foot high monument that many of them had personally contributed to financially.  As Miss McClean swept her arm toward the glistening bronze statue, the crowd erupted into resounding applause.
            Present at the unveiling was Guiesseppe Moretti, whom the Toronto War Board had commissioned to sculpt the monument, of which the artist stated, “It represents the glorious liberty with the American soldiers and sailors by her side.”
            Moretti, 62 years of age at the ceremonies, was an Italian √©migr√© who had gained fame in America for his public monuments cast in bronze and marble, most notably his work “Vulcan” in Birmingham, Alabama, still the largest cast iron statue in the world.  Other important works of his included the Stephen Collins Foster memorial and the entrance to Highland Park in Pittsburgh, where he had resided much of his life.
            Moretti was known as an eclectic personality who always wore a green tie.  Undoubtedly he was wearing his trademark color as he stepped off the podium, standing before the towering five-ton memorial he had completed in just six months.
            Next United States Congressman Benjamin Frank Murphy took the platform.  Murphy, a Republican representing the district, won election for six successive terms.  He gave a brief speech of welcome to the crowd and servicemen and then introduced keynote speaker William D. Upshaw, recently elected by Georgia voters to Congress.
            A son of a Confederate soldier and a staunch Southern Baptist, Upshaw was a strong supporter of the temperance movement, so much, in fact, he was known as the “driest of drys.”  Prior to his election to Congress, Upshaw served as vice president for the Anti-Saloon League and was instrumental with making prohibition a Georgia law by 1907.
            Upshaw, suffering from a spinal injury that occurred at age 18, and now 52, leaned upon crutches as he addressed the crowd with his passionate deep Southern drawl.  “I congratulate Toronto, Ohio on being the first community in America to erect and dedicate a monument to the glory of the living and the memory of the dead who fought for the safety of America and for the living of the world.”
            After several minutes of continued praise for the town’s patriotism and for its being a role model as an American melting pot, Upshaw segued into sermonizing upon the other war that was threatening the individual’s freedom.  “…in order that America may be kept clean for them—for those who come back to us in buoyant manhood or stagger back to us maimed or blind, reaching out their hands for encouragement from the nation for which they offered their all.  We have learned that if it required a sober citizen to live well and teaching this vital lesson to the nations now new-born in their freedom from autocracy, but still shackled by the slavery of drink, is America’s new mission to the peoples who have been set free.”
            Ironically, Upshaw’s visit to the Gem City failed to influence the citizens’ attitude toward consumption of alcoholic beverages because a little more than 50 years later in 1970, a poll conducted by “Time Magazine” listed Toronto the city consuming the most alcohol per capita in the United States.
            In 1932, Upshaw ran as presidential candidate for the Prohibition Party against Franklin D. Roosevelt, who favored the repeal of prohibition, and was overwhelmingly defeated.
William D. Upshaw
Lamplight Assisted Living Coming to Toronto soon.
            In 2004, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument was restored by the Toronto Beautification Committee and accepted in the National Register of Historic Places.