Saturday, May 4, 2013

Prairie Des Mascoutins

Historical Marker on Trail at Junction of
US Route 24 and State Route 109
Photo Provided by Bob Morrison 
As I hike along the Old Towpath Trail- now known as the Buckeye Trail and The National Park Service’s North Country Trail- in Henry County Ohio, I am continually immersed in the scenic beauty of the natural surroundings. The glimpses of the State Scenic River, the bare woods, the musty scent of the damp earth finally unlocked from its frozen state, and the sounds of twigs and leaves snapping and crunching underfoot makes me appreciate winter’s yielding, and the promise of springtime emerging. Warmer temperatures ride the southern breezes that rattle and shake the barren timber canopy overhead, as if to say: “Wake you trees from your silent winter slumber!”

As I continue my hike, and appreciate the natural beauty of the Trail, I have also come to appreciate the rich history surrounding the Tow Path Trail, as teamsters once drew canal boats through the Miami & Erie Canal here with their teams of mules and Oxen. I can visualize Nineteenth Century life here that was centered on transportation and commerce around these canals- the “super highways” of their time.

Occasionally, I am reminded of more history which even predates the Canals! It is documented that the French were the first Europeans to explore this area. The Maumee River was a historical Trade Route used by the French. As the French traders and trappers explored this part of the continent in the 1600 and 1700’s, they came to discover that this river was part of a water transportation route connecting their settlements in Quebec with their settlements on the Gulf of Mexico- including New Orleans.

Traveling from Quebec by boat west up the St Lawrence River to Lake Ontario. Thence to Portage up Niagara Escarpment and around the Falls, all the way to the western end of Lake Erie. Thence entering the Maumee River (Miami of the Erie) and ascending it all the way to its headwaters near Kekionga- an Indian town (present day Fort Wayne, Indiana) Thence a brief five mile portage to the headwaters of the Wabash River. From here, traveling downriver clear until it empties into the Ohio River, then into the Mississippi River, and down to New Orleans. The entire distance by water- save 2 land portages totaling less than 50 miles!
Historical Marker at Junction of
US Route 24 and State Route 109
Photo Provided by Bob Morrison
So it is not a surprise that French and Native American settlements occurred here along the Trade Route known as The Maumee River. One such settlement was named “Prairie Des Mascoutins”. As I read the text on the front of the historical marker, I am so amazed to contemplate the events of those days, and the fact that here I stand over 250 years later on the same piece of ground! The text on the rear of the marker tells a yet more recent history as much armed conflict and strife occurred here as European settlement of the Maumee Valley unfolded. It was not a peaceful process, as the Native Americans, The French, The British, the New American Continental forces engaged in many conflicts in both the French & Indian Wars, and finally the second war of independence- The War of 1812. Not until the conclusion of the War of 1812 did the North Coast of the United States, and our Northern border become established. The Historical Marker here at this site bears witness to much of what happened here! Click here to
Read the Text of the Markers.

Contained in The Henry County Historical Society's Oral History Collection, is a transcript told by Genevieve Eicher- a Wyandotte Indian Decendant- as to the location of this settlement. Click Here to Read the Transcript of the Oral History narrative.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Butterflies on the Trail

The afternoon is oppressively warm and sultry; the air heavy with moisture- such as this late summer afternoon in August. The sun drentches my skin as I walk along the trail. There- up ahead in the shaded canopy of the giant trees- I  stop for a sip of water to quench my thirst and my parched disposition; a refreshing hydration. I wipe away the sweat from my brow. As I regain my composure from the exertion of walking in this heat, I gaze about.

Near the trail I see a small flower garden. In the flower garden are many beautiful annuals in full bloom. In all that blooming bounty, my view is filled with a sea of color as I marvel at all the beauty. In my admiration of all the floral wonders, I can't help but notice a visitor fluttering amongst all the fauna. I could tell the butterfly was excited to have found this delightful garden. She excitedly fluttered and floated from flower to flower. As she did, she feasted on the sweet nectar that each one had to offer. Landing on one flower and sampling it, then fluttering in indecision as she finally chose the next, and the next- a butterfly buffet!

Eventually she had received her fill, and decided to move on. What a treat to have shared a few brief moments with this visitor. I can't help but wonder if she so noticed my presence, as I noticed hers. I suspect not, but I cannot begin to know the cognitive nature of my fluttering friend. In any case, I reflected on my enigmatic encounter with this strange creature as I continued my late summer hike. Such a beautiful butterfly as I watched her flutter by.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kayaking the Maumee

Bob and Lou Ann Limbird of Napoleon, Ohio paddling around the north side of Girty's Island.

An increasing number of people are kayaking in the Maumee River. Kayakers can be seen along the Maumee River from the Henry County Park's Miami Wabash and Erie Canal Hiking Trail.  The canal was used from 1843 until 1913.  Kayakers can gain access to the Maumee river at Independence Dam State Park, Florida Ohio (at Independence Dam State Parks Parking lot next to the Florida Bridge), Napoleon Ohio's Meyerholtz Park and the boat docks at Ritter Park, as well as, Ohio's Mary Jane Thurston State Park's North Turkeyfoot Access just east of Henry County Road 6C.
Bob and Lou Ann Limbird on their Way from
Florida, Ohio to the Boat Docks at Napoleon's Ritter Park.
In 2006 the 21st Annual Maumee Valley Tri-Adventure race (sponsored by The Volunteer Connection of Northwest Ohio and The Naturalist Scouts) used the canal for a kayak/canoe race.  The 50-mile race consists of a 6-mile paddle, an 8-mile hike carrying 20 percent of a participate's body weight and ended a 35-mile bike ride.  Because of high water in 2006 the Maumee was not useable for the paddle canoe/kayak leg of the race.  The sponsors instead used the Miami Wabash and Eric Canal.  Competitors paddled from lock #13 at Independence Dam State Park to Gessner Park in the Villiage of Florida, Ohio.  The blogger at reported high water in the canal made the use of the canal possible for the event.  Dead logs, vegetation and sandbars would have to be removed from the canal before canoes and kayaks could easily use the waterway. Share your kayak photos and stories on Facebook at Henry County Parks.  What is the make of your kayak?  Describe your kayak.  Where did you enter and exit the Maumee?  Any photos of your trip?  Be apart of the conversation.

Two kayaks racked on top and one inside the SUV leaving Napoleon Ohio's Meyerholtz Park river access

This article and photos submitted by Bob Morrison, Napoleon, Ohio

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Underground Railroad On the Trail

Robert and Nancy Cole Newell home
Florida, Ohio

As you are walking or biking along the Miami Wabash and Erie Canal Tow Path Trail through Florida Ohio you will notice a greek revival house built between 1834 and 1838.   This site served as an  Underground Railroad Station.

Robert and Nancy Cole Newell bought the land in 1834.  Friends of  Freedom Society, Inc. and Ohio Underground Railroad Association say  the Newell's built their house around 1838.  It served as a trading  post and traveler's inn.  A jail was attached to the rear of the building.  Robert Newell had a blacksmith shop next to the home.  The home was an Underground Railroad Station for runaway slaves.  The fugitives were housed in the jail or, when the cells were full, were  sent across the street to the home of Dr. George Patterson or Dr. Parry.

Served as a trading post and traveler's inn

Nancy Newell often rode rode with the wagon driver when transporting  the fugitives.  The Miami, Wabash and Erie Canal was in operation  from 1843 until 1913. Occasionally Robert Newell would make arrangements with a canal boat captain to help transport the fugitives to Maumee. Robert often paid the fugitives to help him in the blacksmith shop. Nancy married Robert's cousin, Heman Newell after Robert's death.  They moved to Richland Township in Defiance County Ohio where they  also ran an Underground Railroad Station.  For more information and  photos go to

Article and Photos submitted by Bob Morrison, Napoleon, Ohio

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Historic Precht Bridge

While Hiking along through Mary Jane Thurston State Park, North Turkeyfoot Creek Area, you will discover the Historic Precht Bridge. This is an old bridge which crosses the North Turkeyfoot Creek. It was from an old farm road from times long past. Legend has it that on old farmer named William Precht died here in a tractor accident. The old barn still stands on the north side of the creek. It is a great place to take a break from a long hike. Crossing the bridge from the North to the South, you can continue on the trail and eventually end up on the banks of the Maumee River.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ice House

Hiking the Buckeye Trail in Henry County Ohio I noticed a building at the edge of the Wabash, Miami and Erie Canal. It's probably an Ice House from about the early 1900's.  This  structure is between Florida and Napoleon, Ohio across the road from a turn of the century farm house. The first commercial ice household refrigerator wasn't available
until 1913 and then you had to have

By the 1930s nearly  90 percent of the urban dwellers had electricity but only 10 percent of rural residents had access.
The Rural Electrification Act of 1936 provided federal loans for the installation of electrical distribution systems in rural areas.  The  Henry County REMC was incorporated in the spring of 1936.  
Nationally, within 2 years 1.5 million farms through 350 rural  cooperatives in 45 of the 48 states had electricity.

Before electrification, other people would have to buy their ice from commercial companies.   Jim Blount writes, "by 1811 their were 17 companies operating icehouse along the along the Miami and Erie Canal between LeSourdsville in Lemon Township and Port Union in West Chester Township north of Cincinnati".  One Cincinnati ice company owned 6 canal boats paying $30,000 in canal tolls in 1882.  Workers 
would saw ice block in canal retention ponds.  The ice was shipped by railroad, canal boat and paddle wheel boats.
 In a good winter blocks of ice stacked in an ice house could last a family ten or eleven months.  Straw and saw dust were layered between  the blocks of ice.

Click on the Facebook icon, "Henry County Parks"  and add your 
comments, stories or photos.

Photos and Narrative submitted by Bob Morrison, Napoleon, Ohio.