History is difficult to put into context for upcoming generations who did not experience it firsthand. The way things are now and will be in the future seems more pressing than looking back at what was behind. As we look back to historical facts and the people who made a region what it is, it helps to understand the challenges they faced. The history of Hocking Hills made it what it is now. Let’s take a look at the Indian history of Hocking from another perspective.
Ancient Ohio: Hocking Hills
In Ohio, there is evidence of nomadic hunters living on the land. Let’s not forget about Mound Builders, who developed a social civilization for 1000s of years before disappearing. Ohio country did not have land inhabitants for many hundreds of years. Native Americans began moving into the region during this time. Europeans arrived soon after and traded with Native Americans. Politics and economics drove fighting between North American people and drew Native Americans to these wars. Most Native Americans were forced to leave Ohio Country, many others.
Who Were First Peoples of Ohio?
More than half of Ohio was covered in ice sheets, making it uninhabitable. When the climate warmed, so too did glaciers which slowly receded, leaving room for people to move in. A man may have been in Ohio before the last ice age and long before the Mound Builders arrived. It is hard to know who lived here exactly or what things looked like before the last ice age. Perhaps some civilizations will never be known to us. We look to artifacts to build a historical and geological record that speaks to the people who arrived after the ice age and what they brought to Ohio.
Glacial Kame Culture
Glacial Kame Culture dates back around 10,000 years. These people buried their dead among loose stones. Archaic groups used the stony rises left by retreating glaciers which were kept hidden until the middle of the 19th century. During a boom in the 1800s, railroads were going up across Ohio. Part of the lying down rail involved setting iron rails into gravel beds. Geologists identified glacial kames where gravel could be excavated and used in road construction. More than 300 ancient grave sites were uncovered along with pottery fragments which added to the identity of the people.
Rolling Hills and History
Part of Wayne National Forest in Hocking Hills State Park is located in Hocking County in southern Ohio. Part of the Allegheny Plateau, the land in Hocking Hills Park spans from central New York to the north through Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio to West Virginia in the south. This region was under water (Atlantic Ocean) historically, which planted sand and gravel to form Blackhand sandstone. The rock formations came out of this sandstone and natural features in the region like caves and cliffs were formed. Tree and plant species enjoy damp environments to grow and thrive, which also drew Native peoples to the region. Shawanee, Delaware, and Wyandot tribes hunted and lived here from the 1600s to the 1700s but Indian people may have been there seven thousand years ago. This land was referred to by them as ‘Hockhocking’ or bottleneck river. Hocking became a county in 1818 and settlement expanded with the completion of the Hocking Canal in 1840.
Old Man’s Cave is a famous area visited by thousands of people each year in Hocking Hills State Park. The name comes from 19th-century hermit Richard Rowe, who supposedly lived in the cave in old age. This gave it the name ‘Old Man’s Cave.’ Conkle’s Hollow is a deep gorge featuring cliffs overlooking a gorge. The many rock formations and park destinations grew from the 1800s to the early 1900s. In 1924, the State of Ohio purchased 146 acres of Hocking County. In the early 1970s, the park built a dining hall and log cabins which increased numbers. People went beyond the journey to Hocking Hills to enjoy caves, waterfalls, cliffs, and wildlife that used the park.
The geological and archaeological wonders of the region never cease to amaze. When we know our history, we appreciate what it was, who was here, and how it came to be a place we enjoy so much today.