History Podcasts

Ohio River

Ohio River

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

The largest tributary of the Mississippi-Missouri, the Ohio River served as an essential link in the exploration and development of America west of the Appalachian Mountains.Formed by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Ohio flows 981 miles to join the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois.It is believed that La Salle traveled down the Ohio to the vicinity of present-day Louisville around 1670. Near there, the French and their Indian allies defeated and killed General Braddock in 1755.The English took the site in 1758 and built their own Fort Pitt. For many years, the Ohio was the main artery bearing settlers into the midwest, although its dominance was impacted by the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. Another result has been flood control.

Ohio River Info and History

of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at the Point in Pittsburgh, PA, and flows 981 miles to join the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois.

The importance of this great river for navigation and trade was recognized first by the 17th century European imperial powers in North America. France claimed the territory drained by La Belle Riviere on the basis of explorations made by La Salle in 1669. England later claimed the same land by a purchase from Native Americans in 1744. Conflict over their colonial possessions drew the two countries into the French and Indian War, which lasted from 1756 to 1763.

The English victory in the war cleared the way for westward expansion from the English colonies of the eastern seaboard, and thousands of settlers began moving into the Ohio country. This immigration was slowed by the American Revolution, but after the war, the great migration into the western lands continued.

In that era of primitive transportation, the Allegheny Mountains posed the greatest barrier to westward expansion. The two principal routes were overland from Baltimore to Redstone on the Monongahela River via the National Road or by the Forbes Road from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. At the end of these two overland treks, the settlers bought or constructed boats and rafts and continued their journey by water.

The flatboat was the cheapest of the many types of boats used and became the standard conveyance for families moving west. All of the boats in this period were hand-powered, with poles or oars for steering, and usually floated with the current. They were not intended for round trips since the settlers used them only to get to their new homes and then broke them up for their lumber.

This situation changed dramatically in 1811 with the launching of the first steamboat on the western waters, the New Orleans, which was built near Pittsburgh. Steamboats made it possible to increase the speed of the trip downriver and made the return trip easier.

Commerce on the rivers increased and by the end of 1835 more than 650 steamboats had been built in the west, including 304 in the vicinity of Pittsburgh. However, the conditions of the rivers made navigation difficult. Shifting sand bars, snags and rocks combined with seasonally fluctuating river depths made river travel dangerous. Mark Twain has immortalized the era of the river pilots who were required to memorize every foot of the river in order to steer the steamboats safely through the many hazards. Even so, boats were wrecked and the increasing amount of trade on the rivers made navigating safely on them of primary importance.

River users demanded the federal government step in and improve the rivers. The first steps were taken in 1824, with an act of Congress authorizing the removal of snags and sandbars from the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was put in charge of this work.

In the year following, hazards were removed from the river and travel became safer, but the problem of low water remained. State and local governments and private companies attempted to solve this problem but they lacked the resources or the jurisdiction to undertake the massive project.

Again Congress acted, and in 1878, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began the first federally built lock and dam on the Ohio at Davis Island about five miles below the Point in Pittsburgh. This lock and dam was completed in 1885. The lock was 110 feet wide and 600 feet long and was the largest lock in the world at that time. The dam was composed of wooden bulkheads hinged on the river bottom which could be lowered when the river flow was high. Boats could then pass without using the lock. When the level of the river began to fall, however, the wooden wickets were raised to catch the water and create a pool behind the dam to maintain the level of the river for boats. These wicket dams were eventually built for the entire length of the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Illinois. The last one, Dam 53 at Cairo, was installed in 1929. It and Dam 52 are the only wicket dams remaining on the Ohio River.

Commercial traffic on the Ohio River has increased over the years with the growth of heavy industry in the tri-state area. In the first year that tonnage records were kept by the Corps (1917), the Ohio River carried about 5 million tons of cargo. Now, commerce is approaching 150 million tons a year. The increase in traffic over the years has been met by improvements and modernization of the navigation facilities.

As the tows on the rivers became larger, the wicket dams with their small lock chambers were inadequate and new facilities were built. Even before the wicket dam system was completed in 1929, some of the old structures were being replaced. The original Davis Island Lock and Dam was removed from the river and replaced in 1922.

The Pittsburgh District now has six modern lock and dams on the Ohio River where once 14 wicket dams were needed. The last of the old dams was removed from the river in 1975 with the completion of Hannibal Lock and Dam.

Markland Lock’s construction started in March 1956. The locks were placed in operation in May 1959. Dam construction started in April 1959 and was completed in June 1964.

Ohio River - History

The Ohio River has a complicated and interesting history full of many historical events. It has been traveled by many explorers and has been use by merchants to trade and transport goods to the west. Many towns have been built and flourished because of the river. Robbers and thieves stole from the people traveling down the river and the Ohio River played a major part in the Civil War.
The Ohio River’s name goes back thousands and thousands of years. It goes back to when the Iroquois Indians lived in and controlled the area of the Ohio River. They named it ohi:yo’, which means “good river.”
In 1669 René-Robert Cavelier and Sieur de La Salle led French fur traders on a expedition down the Ohio River. They were the first Europeans to travel along the Ohio River. A Italian cartographer who traveled with them made the first map of the Ohio River. Their expedition started in Canada and they turned around at the Ohio Falls by modern day Louisville. La Salle claimed the Ohio River Valley for the French on his journey.

(below: Seiur de La Salle on the Ohio River talking to natives)

Ironclads where used along this river. They were steam powered warships plated in iron or steel sheets of metal. The reason for being armoured was so that they could fire and damage the enemy ships but not take a whole bunch of damage from enemy fire. They were used by Union and the Confederate navy during the Civil War.

(below: Ironclad from the Civil War)

The Ohio River played a major role in the Civil War. It formed the boundaries of the southern states, who want to keep slavery, and northern states, who wanted to end it. Many slaves crossed the river to the north to be free.

The Ohio River’s history is very deep in culture, native lifestyles, and much more. It will be for a long time more.

Historic Ohio River Flood of 1937

The record crest along the Ohio River in 1937 surpassed previously- known records by 6 to 9 feet from near Huntington, WV to the confluence near Cairo, IL.

Much of the January 1937 record rainfall fell in just a 12 day period, from January 13-24.

To this day, January 1937 remains the wettest month on record in Cincinnati. This record of wettest month was nearly surpassed in April 2011.

While 2011 would eventually set a record of wettest year on record at Cincinnati (Cheviot Cooperative Observer Station) and several other Ohio Valley/Great Lakes cities .

While 15-20% of the City of Cincinnati itself was water-covered, leaving thousands homeless, much of the city outside of the flooded area was largely paralyzed due to lack of fresh water, electricity and heat.

The Roebling suspension bridge in Cincinnati was the only bridge to remain open for the duration of the flood from Pittsburgh all the way to Cairo, IL.

Along the entire length of the Ohio River, it is estimated that 1 Million were left homeless, with 100,000 in the Cincinnati Tri State area.

While the 1937 flood was particularly deadly in Kentucky, the deadliest disaster in both Ohio and Indiana was yet another disastrous flood, the 1913 flood .

*The 1884 flood crests are not available at Meldahl and Markland, with continuous records not available at that time. Of the communities above, the most complete river history is in Cincinnati:

The 1937 flood affected nearly all of the state of Kentucky, as well as southern Ohio/Indiana. The images below are used by permission from several historical societies and collections. Some communities never fully recovered from this epic disaster, while others enacted flood protection and mitigation measures.

Specific impacts/details of an individual community

Image Courtesy of Northern Kentucky Views

Image Courtesy of Northern Kentucky Views

Image Courtesy of Northern Kentucky Views

Image Courtesy of Northern Kentucky Views

Image Courtesy of the Scioto Historical Collection, Digital History Lab, Clark Memorial Library, Shawnee State University, Portsmouth, Ohio.

Image Courtesy of Northern Kentucky Views

Image Courtesy of the Scioto Historical Collection, Digital History Lab, Clark Memorial Library, Shawnee State University, Portsmouth, Ohio.

Weather and River Responses behind the 1937 Record Flood

Julia Dian-Reed, NWS Wilmington

In January 1937, the Ohio River reached a record crest from near Huntington, WV down to it's confluence with the Mississippi in a flood that remains the flood of records to date. The only exception is the Ohio River at Cairo, IL near the confluence with the Mississippi, where the decades-old 1937 record was surpassed in the flood of May, 2011.

The January 1937 precipitation remains the all-time wettest month in Cincinnati records, at 13.68&rdquo. This record was narrowly missed in 2011, when April 2011 totaled 13.52&rdquo. Average precipitation for the month of January (using records extending back through 1871) is 3.26&rdquo. With no vegetation growth during the month of January, the soil is much more easily saturated, meaning a 13&rdquo rainfall has a greater impact on area rivers. The Ohio River flood was much worse downstream near Louisville and toward Paducah Kentucky, as January 1937 rain totals in central Kentucky ranged from 18 to just over 20 inches.

The &ldquorainfall footprint&rdquo which caused the 1937 flood was similar to other very high floods along the Ohio River, where the heaviest rain was centered right along the axis of the Ohio River itself, thus allowing the runoff to reach the Ohio River without much delay.

The Ohio River and the Underground Railroad

The Ross-Gowdy House in New Richmond is one of several Underground Railroad sites in Clermont County.

For many enslaved people the Ohio River was more than a body of water. Crossing it was a huge step on the path to freedom. Serving as natural border between free and slave states, individuals opposed to slavery set up a network of safe houses to assist escaped slaves seeking freedom. This pathway to freedom – the Underground Railroad – had deep connections in Clermont County.

The Mason-Dixon Line

The Mason-Dixon line – a boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland – served as the de facto border between free and slave states. Named for Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon after their 1765 land survey, the line extended to the western border of Pennsylvania. After Pennsylvania abolished slavery in 1781, the Ohio River unofficially became the line of demarcation until the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in 1865.

First stop on the path to freedom

Before Ohio River dams came online in the 1920s – like Lock 34 at Chilo – a much shallower river made crossing easier. One of the most famous conductors on the Underground Railroad was John Rankin. The Presbyterian minister and abolitionist built a house in Ripley overlooking the river after leaving Kentucky in 1818. He and neighbor John Parker assisted slaves crossing the Ohio and hiding them until it was safe for them to travel.

Down river, the Cranston Presbyterian Church in New Richmond served as the meeting place for the Anti-Slavery Society in the 1830s. The abolitionist newspaper The Philanthropist published from New Richmond for a time.

A view of the Ohio River from the Rankin House in Ripley, a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Several historic sites remain, including the Ross-Gowdy Home – home and office for the Clermont County Anti-Slavery Society’s first president, Dr. John Rogers. The National Park Service designated the New Richmond waterfront a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site.

Felicity, Batavia, Moscow, Williamsburg and Bethel also served the Underground Railroad. Today historical sites like the Robert E. Fee and Charles B. Huber homes in those communities remind residents of the fight against injustice.

'That's vinegar:' The Ohio River's history of contamination and progress made

In 1958, researchers from the University of Louisville and the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission gathered at a lock on the Monongahela River for routine collecting, counting and comparing of fish species.

At the time, the best way to accomplish this was what's called lock chamber sampling, or filling a 350-by-56-foot lock with river water, injecting it with cyanide and waiting for the dead fish to float to the top. Archaic, but effective.

On this particular day, researchers opened the chamber to find one fish inside.

It shouldn't have been surprising, said Jerry Schulte, a biologist who managed the source water protection and emergency response team for the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission [ORSANCO] for more than two decades. After all, the steel companies that dotted the region's riverbanks were dumping their contaminated water right into the rivers. The waterways were so acidic that the steel-hulled boats meant to last 20 years rusted out in three and the pH routinely measured less than 4.

"That's vinegar," Schulte said. "It was so polluted, you could see it, smell it and taste it."

By the time Schulte began monitoring fish species in the 1990s, thanks to environmental and industrial regulations like the Clean Water Act, the Ohio River and its major tributaries, including the Mon, had changed. They no longer looked or smelled like open sewers. Mayflies hatched on their surfaces many pollution-intolerant aquatic species returned and lock chamber sampling — done without cyanide — could yield hundreds, even thousands, of fish.

"It's a functioning ecosystem now," Schulte said.

Functioning doesn't mean perfect, however. As recently as 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named the Ohio River one of the country's most polluted. Industrial contaminants, including the "forever chemical" perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), have been detected on long stretches of the river and toxic algal blooms erupt when conditions are just right. Still, most of the time, the majority of the river's 981 miles are ripe for recreation and fit for drinking after proper treatment.

The same can't always be said for the greater Ohio River watershed.

The Ohio River drainage basin is an interconnected web of small rivers and creeks covering 205,000 square miles of largely rural, Applachian landscape and is home to 25 million people, many of whom are among the country's poorest.

In parts of the basin, acid mine drainage turns creeks the color of Orange Crush, agricultural runoff chokes streams with nutrients, and combined sewage and stormwater pipe overflows fill waterways with dangerous bacteria.

Watershed pollution in Appalachia, much of which has been caused by coal mining, is an ongoing environmental hazard that mimics the threat steel once posed to big cities on the Ohio. It threatens aquatic life, endangers people taking part in river recreation and — perhaps most critically — creates water unfit for human consumption.

It started with a slurry

For the past 19 years, BarbiAnn Maynard has been fighting to fix contaminated water in Martin County, Kentucky. The issues began in 2000 when a coal slurry broke through an abandoned mine shaft and dumped sludge into tributaries of the Tug Fork River. (Credit: Curren Sheldon/100 Days in Appalachia)

BarbiAnn Maynard stands on the porch of her home in Huntleyville, Kentucky, (population 188) and points across the two-lane road, where three houses perch on a tree-speckled mountainside.

"That one — dementia. This one — dementia. That one over there — dementia. My dad — dementia," she said. "You can't tell me that's not because of the water."

On Oct. 11, 2000, 300 million gallons of coal slurry broke through a reservoir in Martin County, Kentucky, flooding the abandoned mine shafts below and rushing out into the waters of Wolf Creek and Coldwater Fork.

The black custard coated and killed everything in its path as it slithered for hundreds of miles and shifted into adjoining waterways, including the Tug Fork, Big Sandy and Ohio rivers. In Martin County, sludge crept into yards and across roads, creating pools 5 feet deep.

"It was like mud pie," Maynard said, "only instead of mud and water, it was mud and oil."

The slurry was an unprecedented disaster — 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill more than a decade earlier. It wiped out aquatic life in the creeks and cut off drinking water to nearly 30,000 people.

When water service resumed later that year, bills came stamped with a warning: If you have a severely compromised immune system, have an infant, are pregnant, or are elderly, you may be at increased risk and should seek advice from your health care providers about drinking this water.

The acidic water bubbling up from an abandoned mine in Carbondale, Ohio, gets a dose of alkaline calcium oxide, which neutralizes the water as it makes its way through this concrete channel before dropping into Hewett Fork. (Credit: Curren Sheldon/100 Days in Appalachia)

The first time Maynard received that warning, she was 24 years old and pregnant with her daughter. Nineteen years later, the water in Martin County still comes with warnings.

But the roots of the county's water issues and the fixes are complicated.

The water issues start at the treatment plant, where water pulled from the Tug Fork River is disinfected. Multiple municipal tests over the years show water in Martin County exceeds the maximum contaminant level for trihalomethane and haloacetic acid, both byproducts of the water's treatment and both carcinogenic. Maynard believes her late mother's multiple bouts with cancer are a direct result. But without such treatment to the water, customers could be exposed to harmful bacteria and whatever residual effects of the coal slurry are still present in the waterway.

It's not a good choice, said Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University. Water authorities need to use limited amounts of chemicals to avoid bacteria-causing illness, but too much of those chemicals could put their residents at risk for cancer.

The other problem occurs when water leaves the plant and heads toward homes. Like much of eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia, Martin County has an aging infrastructure problem and little money to fix it. In West Virginia, underfunded treatment plants and straight-line pipes that combine sewage and stormwater have allowed raw sewage to collect in creeks, creating a public health crisis by serving as a breeding ground for bacteria.

In Martin County, the problem is broken pipes. Experts estimate nearly 70% of drinking water is lost while contaminants in the soil and groundwater are allowed to leach into the system. In coal country, Maynard said, who knows what gets in.

Representatives from the Martin County Water District did not return a phone call seeking comment but have said in the past that they are changing the chlorination process to avoid contamination issues and are looking for funds to fix broken water lines.

For residents in Martin County, turning on the tap is always a surprise. Some days, it's cloudy and smells so strongly of chlorine that it burns the eyes. Other days, water is the color of weak tea and sediment settles in toilet bowls and shower drains.

The result, Maynard claims, is that no one in Martin County trusts or drinks the water. Maynard drives 45 minutes to a spring at the Mingo-Logan county line in West Virginia to fill containers with fresh water to drink. She uses antibacterial hand soap as body wash in the shower and cleans her hands with disinfectant wipes rather than running them under the tap.

She'd like nothing more than to follow her now-grown daughters out of the county and leave the water issues behind, but her land along the Tug Fork in Huntleyville has been in the family for five generations and she is her ill father's caretaker. So she came up with another option.

"I figured I could lay down and die or I could fight," Maynard said. "And I'm a fighter."

She's become the face of the Martin County water crisis, both locally and in media outlets as far away as France and Japan. She has a vast and growing collection of water-related public documents, religiously attends municipal meetings and writes letters to the public service commission. Every few months, she drives across the state line to a Tennessee grocery store to pick up pallets of bottled water, which she then distributes to county residents.

But no amount of anger or advocacy can fix the underlying issue plaguing Martin County and others like it: inadequate funds. According to Martin County officials, it will take at least $10 million to address the water issues there.

As of Sept. 5, the county had received two grants — one from an abandoned mine fund and another from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — to improve water supply infrastructure and service. Together, the grants totaled $4 million.

Even with the money, Maynard doesn't trust that the most pressing problems will be addressed. In 2018, several members of the county's water board quit after the state attorney general opened an investigation into mismanagement. After an 11-month investigation, the grand jury returned no charges.

"There's a lot of greed and corruption," Maynard maintained. "And they haven't used common sense."

But even in areas of the river basin where sensical solutions to water pollution have been developed and instituted, the results are still subject to imminent financial threat.

The great irony

Jen Bowman, the director of environmental programs for Ohio University's Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, has been working on acid mine drainage abatement since her days as a graduate student. (Credit: Curren Sheldon/100 Days in Appalachia)

Just off Township Road 1 in the unincorporated community of Carbondale, Ohio, a constant stream of acidic water seeps and sputters out of the abandoned AS-14 mine complex.

Before 2004, that water washed across a field and the road before dumping into Hewett Fork, turning it tangerine. It was so laden with acidity that snow plows had to be called in to scrape the resulting iron off the asphalt, and fish kills became a regular occurrence where Hewett Fork flows into Raccoon Creek.

Today, the water from AS-14 instead flows into a tall green structure — known as the Carbondale doser — and turns a wheel, releasing pinches of powdery calcium oxide from the cylindrical tower above. The calcium oxide neutralizes the acid in the water as it makes its way through a concrete channel and into Hewett Fork.

The upshot of the doser is a rehabilitated waterway. Hewett Fork no longer causes fish kills, and 90 miles of Raccoon Creek, which flows through southeastern Ohio, are now safe for recreation.

This process for remediating acid mine drainage in creeks isn't a perfect one, said Jen Bowman, the director of environmental programs for Ohio University's Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, which worked with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources [ODNR] on the doser project. It takes time for the calcium oxide to dissolve, so a section of Hewett Fork near the doser still runs rusty and lifeless before giving way to clean water.

And the doser is expensive. It cost ODNR nearly $400,000 to install, and the tower must be refilled with calcium oxide every six to eight weeks at a rate of about $40,000 per year, according to Bowman. The money comes from the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation program.

There are other, cheaper ways to prevent abandoned coal mines from harming waterways, and in southeastern Ohio — where a loose loop of 11 villages and unincorporated communities is collectively known as the "Little Cities of Black Diamonds" — they've tried many of them.

Guy Riefler, chair of Ohio University's Russ College of Civil Engineering, shows the color of the paint pigment created by oxidized iron from acid mine drainage. (Credit: Curren Sheldon/100 Days in Appalachia)

A mine near Lake Hope State Park, fewer than 20 miles west of Athens, was sealed off nearly 20 years ago. Doing so prevents pollution from entering the water and creates a prime area for camping and water recreation. Closer to Athens, Bowman and her team at Ohio University [OU] have created a steel slag leach bed system, which uses an alkaline byproduct of steel production to neutralize acidic water.

However, the funding for all of these projects could be in jeopardy.

Since 1977, the federal Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program has doled out money to states in order to soothe the scars of coal mining. But the money for that program is collected from a fee on coal companies that is set to expire in 2021.

This is the great irony of coal: the restoration of abandoned mines hinges on the perpetuation of coal mining.

With the abandoned mine land fund and its resulting projects in peril, university research institutes like Bowman's have been joining environmental nonprofits in entrepreneurial efforts to ensure that remediation continues.

In Ohio, researchers at OU's Russ College Department of Civil Engineering and experts at the nonprofit Rural Action have launched a pilot program that uses acid mine drainage pollution to create paint pigments.

In West Virginia, Ziemkiewicz and his team at the West Virginia Water Research Institute are extracting rare earth elements from acid mine drainage. These elements, which until now have largely been imported from China, are used in dozens of technological products, including cell phones, computers and televisions.

The hope is that these initiatives will eventually generate enough money to cover the remediation and abatement projects that have restored waterways.

"Maybe it gets us out of that vicious cycle of mining coal to fix the legacy of coal mining," Bowman said.

But even if that cycle can be broken, even if paint pigments and rare earth elements turn a profit and remediation projects are funded in perpetuity, that doesn't fix the Ohio River drainage basin.

Because while coal is a dire problem, it is just one of many problems.

Common sense and a willingness to do the right thing

Algae on the Ohio River near California, Kentucky, on Oct. 7. It was later identified as Microcystis, the genus of cyanobacteria that causes harmful algal blooms. (Credit: Christopher N. Lorentz)

Every September since 2007, open-water swimmers have leapt off the Serpentine Wall at Cincinnati's Sawyer Point and into the Ohio River. Their goal is to swim the 450 meters to the Kentucky shore and back again.

This year, it didn't happen. Days before the race was to commence, ORSANCO received reports of algae in the water, and the Kentucky Department for Public Health issued a harmful algae bloom advisory, effectively shutting down river recreation.

It was the second bloom in the month of September. The first erupted near Huntington, West Virginia, and grew 50 miles long before dissipating, according to Youngstrom.

The blooms are a result of rains that wash fertilizer off farmland and into nearby creeks. Those nutrients eventually make their way to the Ohio River, where algae feed on them. That, by itself, wouldn't be such a problem. But long periods without rain cause river flow to slow, allowing sediment to drop out of the water and sunlight to come in, creating the perfect conditions for rapid algae growth.

"Prior to 2015, everyone thought algae blooms were a lake problem," said Greg Youngstrom, an environmental scientist and harmful algae bloom expert at ORSANCO.

That summer, more than 700 square miles of toxic algae grew on the Ohio River in West Virginia and Ohio. River recreation ceased and, as blooms made their way into drinking water intakes, several companies had to switch to alternate water sources.

According to Youngstrom, the increasing frequency of algae blooms is related to the extreme weather conditions brought about by climate change. More intense rainfall followed by long, drought-like stretches are just what algae need to thrive.

There are simple ways to help curb the problem. In Ohio, Bowman is on a mission to create a 50-foot buffer at the edge of area waterways — basically a barrier of untamed grasses, shrubs and trees that would prevent erosion and provide shade from sunlight.

It's a slow process. In rural areas, farmers aren't particularly interested in giving 50 feet of land that could be used for planting. Around Athens, residents have become accustomed to neatly manicured riverfront property and aren't keen to let it go uncut.

"A lot of it is just behavioral change," Bowman said.

The acidic water bubbling up from an abandoned mine in Carbondale, Ohio, gets a dose of alkaline calcium oxide, which neutralizes the water as it makes its way through this concrete channel before dropping into Hewett Fork. (Credit: Curren Sheldon/100 Days in Appalachia)

Ziemkiewicz found that behavioral change was also the solution to a 2008 crisis in the Morgantown, West Virginia, area. That fall, salinity in the Monongahela River spiked, causing problems for public water supplies and eventually leading to a fish kill on Dunkard Creek.

Government and industry argued over responsibility — "Pennsylvania blamed West Virginia, West Virginia blamed Pennsylvania coal companies blamed oil and gas, oil and gas blamed coal companies," Ziemkiewicz said. He and West Virginia Water Research Institute Assistant Director Melissa O'Neal developed a network of watershed groups willing to monitor the total dissolved solids that were causing the rising salinity.

Their findings showed that while the source of total dissolved solids was mine water, the salinity wasn't actually the mine's fault. The weather was especially dry that season, resulting in low flows. They developed a model that showed coal companies how many total dissolved solids could be safely released based on river flow.

"With Melissa's data, a spreadsheet model, some common sense and the willingness of industry to do the right thing, we solved it," Ziemkiewicz said.

It's a lesson he tries to impress upon fellow researchers and scientists because he believes if true progress is to be made in the fight for clean water, it will require an abundance of data and a lack of political agenda, especially as burgeoning industries bring about new water challenges.

"We need to be fair arbiters," Ziemkiewicz said. "If we just sit in our ivory towers and write journal articles and discuss whether the world is moving in the direction we think it should, we aren't fixing the problem."


  • January 5: Water levels began to rise.
  • January 10–18: Numerous flood warnings were issued across much of the region.
  • January 13–24: Near record rainfalls were recorded.
  • January 18: Numerous homes were flooded as the Ohio River started to overflow its banks due to the heavy rains.
  • January 23–24: Martial law was declared in Evansville, Indiana, where the water level was at 54 feet (16 m). [2]
  • January 26: River gauge levels reached 80 feet (24 m) in Cincinnati, the highest level in the city's history. [3]
  • January 27: River gauge reached 57 feet (17 m) in the Louisville area, setting a new record. Seventy percent of the city was under water at that time. [4]
  • February 2: River gauge surpassed 60 feet (18 m) in Paducah, Kentucky. [4]
  • February 5: Water levels fell below the flood stage for the first time in nearly three weeks in several regions.

Media response Edit

A handful of powerhouse radio stations, including WLW Cincinnati and WHAS Louisville, quickly switched to non-stop news coverage, transmitting commercial-free for weeks. These broadcasts consisted mostly of messages being relayed to rescue crews, as many civil agencies had no other means of communication. The Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton was commissioned by The Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspapers to provide sketches depicting the miserable conditions of the flooded areas in the Missouri Bootheel region. [5]

When it became obvious that the river would cut the electric power to radio station WHAS—thus cutting the last radio voice in Louisville—the rival clear channel station in Nashville, WSM, picked up WHAS's broadcast via telephone and broadcast emergency flood reports for three days for the lower Ohio River. Other stations across the country did much the same.

Around January 18, Huntington, WV radio station WSAZ (1190 AM) began hourly broadcasts of flood related news. On January 22, the station received permission from the Federal Communications Committee to broadcast around the clock. The studios and offices in the downtown Keith-Albee Theatre Building became a regional communications center. They established direct telephonic communication with the city's general relief headquarters in City Hall with Red Cross, the Naval Reserve, the American Legion, the police and fire departments, and the Coast Guard. Messages of inquiry concerning the safety of friends and relatives, warnings of rising gasoline-covered waters, appeals for help from marooned victims, orders to relief agencies and workers poured into the cramped studios and quickly broadcast. Staff and local volunteers stayed on the air and provided information and support for nine days until 8:00 o'clock the following Sunday night, Jan. 31, when the station's regular schedule was resumed. [6]

Government response Edit

In January 1937, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, District Engineer, MAJ Bernard Smith dispatched an entire fleet down the Cumberland River for rescue and relief work in response to the severe flooding. The bridges were too low to allow the vessels to pass under, so the vessels were forced to steam across farmland and bridge approaches, dodging telephone and power lines. [7]

The federal government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent thousands of area WPA workers to the affected cities to aid in rescue and recovery. It also sent supplies for food and temporary housing, and millions of dollars in aid after the floodwaters receded.

The scale of the 1937 flood was so unprecedented that civic and industrial groups lobbied national authorities to create a comprehensive plan for flood control. The plan involved creating more than seventy storage reservoirs to reduce Ohio River flood heights. Not fully completed by the Army Corps of Engineers until the early 1940s, the new facilities have drastically reduced flood damages since.

In the 1930s, the Tennessee Valley Authority sought to create a continuous minimum 9-foot (2.7 m) channel along the entirety of the Tennessee River from Paducah to Knoxville. The Authority also sought to help control flooding on the lower Mississippi River, especially in the aftermath of the Ohio River flood of 1937, as research had shown that 4% of the water in the lower Mississippi River originates in the Tennessee River watershed. TVA surveyed the lower part of the river and considered the Aurora Landing site, but eventually settled on the present site at river mile 22.4. The Kentucky Dam project was authorized on May 23, 1938, and construction began July 1, 1938. [8]

Much of the work of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the Tennessee River basin was strongly supported by the majority of the citizens in western Kentucky and their representatives in the United States Congress. U.S. Sen. Alben W. Barkley of Paducah and U.S. Rep. William Gregory from Mayfield and his brother U.S. Rep. Noble Gregory from Mayfield who succeeded him in office strongly supported the funding of TVA and its role in addressing flood control, soil conservation, family relocation, recreation, production of electricity, and economic development. [9]

Ohio Edit

Six to 12 inches (300 mm) of rain fell in Ohio during January 13–25, 1937, totals never before or since equaled over such a large area of Ohio. January 1937 remains as the wettest month ever recorded in Cincinnati. [10]

One hundred thousand people in Cincinnati were left homeless, as the flood affected the city from January 18 to February 5. The river reached its peak on January 26, at 79.9 feet (24.4 m), more than 25 feet (7.6 m) higher than flood stage. [11] Ohio River levels on January 26–27 were the highest known from Gallipolis downstream past Cincinnati. Crests were 20 to 28 feet (8.5 m) above flood stage and 4 to 9 feet (2.7 m) above the previous record of 1884. 12 square miles (31 km 2 ) of the city's area was flooded, [12] the water supply was cut, and streetcar service was curtailed. Among the flooded structures was Crosley Field, home field of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. Additionally, the amusement park Coney Island was submerged, causing pieces of carousel horses to float away, which were recovered as far downriver as Paducah. [13]

According the several local historians, the town of Gallipolis was completely submerged as high as the mound hill cemetery overlook, and many rumors regarding the curse of Lafayette's Gold Treasure buried by slaves on Gallipolis Island began to surface around the town.

At Portsmouth, the rising river threatened to top the flood wall, erected 10 feet (3.0 m) above flood stage. City officials deliberately opened the flood gates and allowed river water to flood the business district 8 to 10 feet (3.0 m) deep, thus preventing a catastrophic breaching of the flood wall. The Ohio River eventually crested 14 feet (4.3 m) over the top of the flood wall. Ten people died, many fewer than the 467 killed in the floods of March 1913.

Indiana Edit

The river rose to a record 53.74 feet (16.38 m), which was 19 feet (5.8 m) above flood stage, and sent water over the six-month-old riverfront plaza in Evansville. The city and state declared martial law on January 24 and the federal government sent 4,000 WPA workers to the city to assist rescue operations. [14] Residents were rapidly evacuated from river towns by train and bus in the early stages of the flood, making Indiana the only state to avoid drowning fatalities. More than 100,000 persons were left homeless by the disaster.

The WPA workers led the cleanup of the city. The Evansville Merchants Retail Bureau took out newspaper ads to praise their work: [2]

Before and during the flood these men of WPA were active in salvaging property and saving lives, and immediately afterward they handled the cleanup job with such efficiency that many visitors were amazed that there was practically no evidence of the flood left throughout our entire city. All honor and gratitude is due to the rank and file of the WPA for their often almost super-human efforts, always giving their best in the interest of humanity.

The Red Cross and federal government spent the equivalent of $11 million in today's money in aid to the city. The Indiana State Flood Commission was created in response, and it established the Evansville-Vanderburgh Levee Authority District, which built a system of earth levees, concrete walls, and pumping stations to protect the city. [14]

Jeffersonville welcomed the 1,000 WPA workers who came to rescue that city's residents. The federal government spent $500,000 in aid there, and $70,000 in New Albany. [2] The Pennsylvania Railroad evacuated many area residents by train from its depot in Jeffersonville. Several small riverside towns, such as Mauckport and New Amsterdam, were so devastated that they never recovered.

Illinois Edit

Harrisburg suffered flooding from the Ohio River in 1883–1884 and again in 1913. Much of the city, except "Crusoes' Island", a downtown orbit that encircled the town square, was underwater. High water had reached 30 miles (48 km) from the river, and the city was flooded in its position among tributary lowlands of the Saline River. [15] Floodwaters reached nearly 30 miles (50 km) inland and Harrisburg was nearly destroyed. 4,000 within Harrisburg were left homeless and 80% of the city was inundated. [16] Many flooded mines were deemed condemned which left the local economy crippled. In 1938, the state of Illinois had completed one of the largest operations of its kind ever attempted in the United States, the removal of more than two and a half billion gallons of flood water from Sahara mine No. 3 near downtown Harrisburg. [17] By the time the flood waters had receded, 4000 were left homeless. [16] Between Gallatin County and Harrisburg, about 25 miles (40 km) of Illinois Route 13 was covered by 8.0 to 14.0 feet (2.4 to 4.3 m) of water motorboats navigated the entire distance to rescue marooned families. [18] National guard boats were the means of transportation in the city, and several thousand people were transported daily from temporary island to island. [19] According to the Sanborn Map Company, Harrisburg in October 1925 had a population of 15,000, and in a revised version by January 1937 the population had fallen to 13,000. Afterwards, the Army Corps of Engineers erected a levee north and east of the city to protect it from future floods. The levee has become the official northern and eastern border of the town.

Rural Pulaski County was functionally left an island by the rising portions of the Cache River, which near its mouth flowed in reverse as the Ohio floodwaters forced their way along the Cache to the Mississippi River above Cairo. [20] : 46 The majority of county residents were driven from their homes, [20] : 48 while the riverside county seat, Mound City, was entirely flooded, with the shallowest locations still lying under 12 feet (3.7 m) of water. Cairo itself was saved only by low water levels on the Mississippi River, which rose only to the highest spots on the levees without surmounting them. [20] : 47 The historic city of Shawneetown was completely inundated and the residents were forced to move to a tent city on the outskirts. Property damages in the southern Illinois region amounted to more than $75 million ($1.2 billion in 2015). Over three hundred bridges were smashed, six schools were ruined, and twelve hundred submerged homes. Flood waters were recorded at 65.4 feet (19.9 m). Damage in Shawneetown was so cataclysmic the town relocated three miles inland to higher ground.

Kentucky Edit

Several businesses in the Louisville area were devastated, especially the famed Rose Island amusement park (on the Indiana side of the river near Charlestown), which never rebuilt. As a result of the flood, newer development in Louisville was directed to the east out of the flood plain. The east end has since benefited by a long-term concentration of wealth among residents and businesses which located away from the older central and western areas of the city.

At Paducah, the Ohio River rose above its 50-foot (15 m) flood stage on January 21, cresting at 60.8 feet (18.5 m) on February 2 and receding again to 50 feet (15 m) on February 15. For nearly three weeks, 27,000 residents were forced to flee to stay with friends and relatives in higher ground in McCracken County or in other counties. Some shelters were provided by the American Red Cross and local churches. Buildings in downtown Paducah bear historic plaques that note the high-water marks, and at least one historic marker indicates the farthest inland extent of flood waters in the city.

With 18 inches (460 mm) of rainfall in 16 days, along with sheets of swiftly moving ice, the '37 flood was the worst natural disaster in Paducah's history. Because Paducah's earthen levee was ineffective against this flood, the United States Army Corps of Engineers was commissioned to build the flood wall that now protects the city.

West Virginia Edit

Huntington, WV, a city in the tri-state area that was built as a link between steamboat and railway commerce, experienced some of the worst flooding, with a crest of 69.45 ft (19 feet above sea level). [21] First responders, volunteers, and the Army Corps of Engineers navigated the city via rowboats and helped citizens to reach the relief shelters set up in undamaged churches and schools. Like other communities in the Ohio River Valley, Huntington was regularly visited by damaging floods, and business owners and community members would quietly roll up their sleeves to clean up the damage afterward. After the unprecedented damage of the 1937 flood, however, community and business leaders decided that more substantive preventative measures were necessary. Immediately following the flood, the Chamber of Commerce pushed for the construction of a floodwall that would protect Huntington and the surrounding areas. [21]

After a prolonged fight and a legal battle that made it to the West Virginia Supreme Court, the flood wall was approved, and the project was taken on by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Since its completion in 1943, the Huntington floodwall has prevented an estimated 238.8 million in flood damage. [21]

Other areas of West Virginia were devastated by the flood as well. The Wheeling island had to be evacuated, as it was completely submerged when the flood crested at 47 feet. In Parkersburg, the river reached a crest of 55 feet. [22]

Ohio Valley

OHIO VALLEY. Since prehistoric times the Ohio River and its tributaries have served as a major conduit for human migration, linking the Atlantic seaboard and Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi valley. Human occupation in the Ohio valley began over sixteen thousand years ago, and the region was home to a series of cultures: Paleo-Indian (before 9500 b.c.e.), Archaic (9500–3000 b.c.e.), late Archaic–early Woodland (3000–200 b.c.e.), middle Woodland (200 b.c.e.–500 c.e.), late Woodland (500–1600 c.e.), and late Prehistoric (c. 1400–1600). The middle Woodland Hopewell culture, centered in southern Ohio and characterized by earthworks, elaborate burial practices, and long-distance trade, is notable, as is the Fort Ancient culture (1400–1600), located in southern Ohio, northern Kentucky, and eastern Indiana. The valley was occupied by a number of protohistoric and historic Native American societies, some indigenous to the river drainage basin and others who migrated westward, displaced by European colonization in the east. The Native American societies included the Iroquois (especially Seneca, Erie [to 1656], and Mingo) in western Pennsylvania the Delaware and Seneca in southern Pennsylvania and West Virginia the Delaware, Miami, Ottawa, Shawnee, Seneca, and Wyandot in Ohio the Miami in Indiana and the Delaware and Shawnee in northern Kentucky. The Ohio takes it name from the Iroquois language and means "Great River."

Reputedly the first European to view the Allegheny and Ohio rivers was Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, in 1669–1670, but the evidence is questionable. Maps of the region frequently were created on the basis of secondhand data, notably Louis Jolliet's (Joliet's) rendition of 1674 and Jean-Baptiste Franquelin's map of 1682, which depicted the Ohio flowing into the Mississippi. The French called the Ohio "La Belle Rivière," and the explorer Pierre Joseph Céloron de Blainville made a historic trip down the Allegheny and Ohio to the Miami River in 1749, placing lead plates at the junctions of major tributaries that claimed the region for France. From 1744 to 1754 traders and land agents from Pennsylvania, such as Joseph Conrad Weiser and George Croghan, came into the Ohio valley, and Christopher Gist explored the region for the Virginia-based Ohio Company in 1750–1751. The strategic significance of the Ohio became evident during the contest between Britain and France for control of the interior of North America in the 1750s. The French built forts on the upper Ohio in Pennsylvania—Presque Isle (Erie), Le Boeuf (Waterford), Venango, and Duquesne at the Forks of the Ohio (Pittsburgh)—precipitating war in 1754. Fort Duquesne was taken by the British in 1758 and was renamed Fort Pitt. The French and Indian War (Seven Years' War) was ended by the Treaty of Paris in 1763, and the British gained control of the Ohio valley.

The American military leader George Rogers Clark led an expedition down the Ohio in 1778 and wrested control of British settlements in what are now Indiana and Illinois. The 1783 Treaty of Paris established the Ohio River as a major American Indian boundary, but Jay's Treaty of 1794 ceded the Ohio valley to the Americans. General Anthony Wayne's victory at Fallen Timbers in 1794 diminished Indian attacks. A majority of settlers entered the Ohio valley through the river's headwaters, and the river became the major transportation route to the west during the first half of the nineteenth century. During the War of 1812(1812–1815) settlers from the Ohio valley and Atlantic colonies united against the British and Indians. Increased commercial traffic on the Ohio led to the dynamic growth of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Louisville, but the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 slightly diminished the river as a commercial artery. By the 1840s the Ohio had become a dividing line between free and slave states. Steamboat transportation diminished as railroads became the primary means of transporting raw materials, general cargo, and passengers. Because of shipping accidents a U.S. Coast Guard station was established in Louisville at the treacherous Falls of the Ohio in 1881. Major flood control projects were initiated because of serious floods in 1847, 1884, 1913, and 1937. The river remains a major transportation artery, a distinct sectional dividing line in the United States, and a source of recreation and tourism.

Ohio River - History

Cleveland, Ohio, July 1871
Historical and Archaeological Tracts
Number Six

Submitted by Peggy Thompson

An article appeared in the Cleveland HERALD in the spring of 1871 announcing the receipt by the Historical Society from the Department of State at Washington of valuable transcripts of letters and documents. They have now been examined and are highly interesting, relating as most of them do, to settlements and attempted settlements northwest of the Ohio River prior to that of Marietta in the spring of 1788.

The announcement of this discovery has attracted the attention of students in history, particularly of those who reside in the States formed out of that vast region, the old Northwestern Territory as defined by the ordinance of 1787. These disclosures have nowhere excited more attention than at Marietta, so long regarded as the first formed, first named, and first peopled settlement by the English race in Ohio.

It has hitherto been supposed that with the exception of traders and missionaries and the occupation by the military under Colonel Harmar during the existence of the Confederation no attempts had been made prior to 1788 at permanent occupation for the purpose of cultivating the soil. I do not here propose to enter into a discussion of this point, preferring first to present the material in our possession.

A brief reference to some of the early occupants both French and English will not however be out of place. As early as the year 1745 English traders penetrated as far as Sandusky or "St. Dusky" and established a post on the North side of the Bay near the carrying place or portage from the Portage River across the Peninsula. They were driven away by the French probably in 1748 or 1749. During this period a celebrated Indian trader from Pennsylvania by the well known name of George Croghan had a station at or near the mouth of the Cayahaga then known as the Cayahaga, and sometimes as Hioga. In 1750 or 1751 the English Post at Pickawillany was established at a town of the Miamies or Tawixtawes near the mouth of Loramie's Creek, in Shelby county Ohio. The French and Indians destroyed this post in June 1752. In 1761 Frederick Post, a Moravian missionary established a mission on the Tuscarawas near Bolivar on the line between Stark and Tuscarawas counties, Ohio. Until the cession made to the United States by Virginia of her claims on the northern bank of the Ohio river, her citizens regarded Ohio as a part of the old Dominion and undertook to locate their land certificates here. Before the war of the revolution Great Britian had great difficulty in confining her adventurous colonists to the southern side of the Ohio. At a Congress of the Colonies held at Albany in 1754, Benjamin Franklin presented the draft of an English Confederation very much like the one now adopted for Canada. The plan was adopted by the Congress but declined by England. A part of this scheme was the establishment of a colony at the mouth of the Cuyahoga protected by a fort and another on the Ohio River. Colonel Brodhead, was the military commander at Pittsburg during the early part of the war of the Revolution whose letters we now proceed to give so far as they relate to the settlers north of the Ohio. The salt spring in Weathersfield, Trumbull county, was well known to the English in 1754, and also the existence of bituminous coal and petroleum springs in Ohio. The correspondence which is quite fragmentary is presented in the order of dates as near as practicable.

PITTSBURG, OCT. 26, 1779

SIR - Since I did myself the honor to address you by a former letter, some of the inhabitants from Youghaginia and Ohio counties have been hardy enough to cross the Ohio River and make small improvements on the Indian lands from the river Muskingum to Fort McIntosh and thirty miles up some of the branches of the Ohio River. As soon as I received information of the trespass, I detached a party of sixty men under command of Capt. Clarke, to apprehend the trespassers and destroy their huts, which they have in a great measure effected and likewise dispatched a runner to the Chiefs of the Delawares at Cooshoeking to prevent their attacking the innocent inhabitants, but as yet have received no answer from them. Capt. Clarke informs me that the trespassers has returned and that the trespass appeared to have been committed upwards of a month ago. It is hard to determine what effect this impudent conduct may have on the minds of the Delaware chiefs and warriors, but I hope a favorable answer to the speech I sent them. I presume a line from your Excellency to the Governor and Council of Virginia will tend to prevent a future trespass and the murder of many innocent families on this frontier.

I have the honor to be with perfect respect
Your Excellency's most obt. And most
H'ble Serv't
D. Brodhead
Col. Command'g W. D.
His Excellency Jno. Jay, Esq.

PITTSBURG, OCT. 26, 1779

DEAR GEN'L - Immediately after I had closed by last (of the 9th of this instant) I rec'd a letter from col. Shepherd, Lieut. Of Ohio County, informing me that a certain Decker, Cox & Comp'y with others had crossed the Ohio River and committed trespasses on Indian lands wherefore I ordered sixty rank and file to be equipped, and Capt. Clarke of the 8th Penn. Reg't proceeded with this party to Wheeling with orders to cross the river at that pass, and to apphrend some of the principal trespassers, but destroy their huts. He returned without finding any of the trespassers, but destroyed some huts. He writes me the inhabitants have made small improvements all the way from the Muskingum River to Fort McIntosh and thirty miles up some of the Branches. I sent a runner to the Delaware Council at Coohoching to inform them of the trespass, and assure them it was committed by some foolish people, and requested them to rely on my doing them justice and punishing the offenders, but as yet have not received an answer.

I have the honor to be with perfect regard and esteem, your Excellency's most
Ob't H'ble Serv't
D. Brodhead
His Excellency Gen. Washington

Brodhead to Major Taylor
Headquarters, Pittsburgh
Nov. 21, 1779

Dear Sir - I am glad to hear of Capt. Vance's return, but I sincerely wish he had taken under guard some of those fellows who, by their unlicensed encroachments on the Indian's Hunting grounds, seem determined to provoke new calamities to the already much distressed inhabitants of the frontier and as I consider it a duty not to be dispensed with, I desire you will send a party equal to that under the command of Captain Vance, to go in search of those disturbers of the general tranquility, and give them orders to apprehend any white man who may be found hunting: or encamped on the Indians' lands, and use all possible means for that purpose
The party cannot render more essential services to the country, than by apprehending silly people in order that proper examples may be made, and the effusion of blood (consequent) be prevented.

I am with great regard
Your Most Humble Servent
Dan'l Brodhead
Col Commanding W.D.
Major Richard Taylor


During the revolutionary war a party of settlers from Fort Pitt built a number of cabins at the Salt Springs, in what is now the township of Weathersfield, Trumbull county. Here they lived in peace and security, tilled the land, and made salt which they sold to the Moravian Indians. How many congregated there is not known, but from the reports of Colonel Harmar it is judged there were ten or more families. These had been located at the springs by Pennsylvania traders, who claimed the land by reason of purchases from the Indians. Harmar sent Ensign Armstrong in May 1785, and after dispossessing the inhabitants, burnt their cabins and destroyed all improvements about the Springs. The land was afterwards purchased by General Samuel H. Parsons and Jonathan Heart of Connecticut.

On the 30th of November, 1782, a preliminary treaty of peace between the United States and Great Britain was signed at Paris, and a definitive treaty was signed at the same place by American and English Commissioners, on the 3d of September 1783. By that treaty the United States became a free and independent nation. Under its provisions the English evacuated New York on the 25th of November 1783, when the acknowledgement of our sovereignty as a nation became a reality, for no foreign soldier was from that day in power on the territory of the thirteen colonies. The government of the United States claimed that by the terms of the treaty of Paris, all the territory Northwest of the Ohio to the Mississippi, was, surrendered to the United States, but Great Britain refused to acknowledge the claim until 1796, when all their posts within the tract referred to were delivered to the United States.

On the 21st of January, 1785, a treaty was concluded at Fort McIntosh, between George Rogers Clarke, Richard Butler and Arthur Lee as Commissioners for the United States, and the representatives of the Wyandot, Delaware, Chippewa and Ottawa Nations, with this clause:

"If any citizen of the United States, or other person, not being an Indian, shall attempt to settle on any of the lands allotted to the Wyandot and Delaware Nations in this Treaty, excepting the lands reserved to the United States in the preceding article, such person shall forfeit the protection of the United States, and the Indians may punish him as they please."

The treaty made at Fort Finney. at the mouth of the Great Miami, January 31, 1786, between George Rogers Clarke, Richard Butler, and Samuel H. Parsons, Commissioners on the part of the United States, I and the chiefs and warriors of the Shawanees, provided in article VII:

"If any citizen or citizens of the United States shall presume to settle upon the lands allotted to the Shawanees of this Treaty, he or thev shall be put out of the protection of the United States."

THE INDIAN COMMISSIONERS TO COL. HARMAR, 1785 "Surveying or settling the lands not within the limits of any particular State being forbid by the United States in Congress assembled, the commandant will employ such force as he may deem necessary in driving off persons attempting to settle on the lands of the United States."

Given at Fort McIntosh, this 34th day of January, 1785.
G. R. CLARK, Richard Butler, Arthur Lee.

Owing to the small force under his command, it was impossible at that time for Colonel Harmar to carry into effect the orders of the Commissioners. Even had the number of troops been sufficient, Colonel Harmar, in his discretion as commander, would have long hesitated before driving from their houses in midwinter in a wilderness, those who had settled on the public lands. As it was, he waited until he obtained further instructions from the government, then vested in Congress. In a note to Harmar the Hon. Richard Henry Lee, President of Congress, approved of the orders of the Commissioners, and directed them to be carried into execution. This was in March. Toward the latter end of the month, the following instructions were given to Ensign John Armstrong.

FORT MCINTOSH, March 29, 1785. To Ensign John Armstrong,

SIR: Having received intelligence that several persons in defiance of the orders of Congress, have presumed, to settle on the lands of the United States, on the western side of the Ohio, about forty or fifty miles from hence, you are hereby ordered to proceed with your party as far down as opposite Wheeling, and dispossess the said settlers. At Wheeling you will leave copies of the above instructions which I received from the honorable, tbe Commissioners for Indian Affairs, and of these your orders, in order that all persons may be fully acquainted therewith.

I am Sir, your humble servt, Jos. HARMAR, Lt. Col. Comd.

Ensign Armstrong left on his mission on the 31st of March. His operations are fully detailed in the following official reports.

FORT MCINTOSH, 12th April, 1785. Sir: Agreeable to your orders, I proceeded with my party early on the 31st of March down the river Ohio. On the 1st instant, we crossed little Beaver and dispossessed one family. Four miles from there we found three families living in sheds, but they having no raft to transport their effects, I thought proper to give till the 12th inst., at which time they promised to demolish their sheds and move to the east side of the river.

At Yellow Creek I dispossessed two families and destroyed their buildings. The 2d being stormy, no business could be done. The 3d we dispossessed eight families. The 4th we arrived at Mingo Bottom, or Old Town. I read my instructions to the prisoner Ross, who declared they never came from Congress, for he had late accounts from that Honorable body, who he was well convinced gave no such instructions to the Commissioners. Neither did he care from whom, they came, for he was determined to hold his possession, and if I should destroy his house he would build six more in the course of a week. He also cast many reflections on the Honorable, the Congress, the Commissioners, and the commanding officer. I conceived him to be a dangerous man, and sent him, under guard to Wheeling. Finding most of the settlers in this place were tenants under the prisoner I gave them a few days at which time they promised to move to the eastern side of the Ohio, and that they would demolish their buildings. On the evening of the 4th, Charles Norris, with a party of armed men, came to my quarters in a hostile manner and demanded my instructions. After conversing with them for some time and showing my instructions, the warmth with which they first expressed themselves appeared to abate, and from some motive lodged their arms with me till morning.

I learnt from the conversation of the party that at NorrisesTown (by them so called) eleven miles further down the river a party of seventy or eighty men were assembled with a determi-nation to oppose me.

Finding Norris to be a man of influence in that country I conceived it to my interest to make use of him as an instrument which I effected by informing him it was my intention to treat any armed party I saw as enemies to my country, and would fire on them if they did not disperse.

On the 5th when I arrived within two miles of the town or place where I expected to meet with opposition, I ordered my men to load their arms in presence of Norris and then desired him to go to the party and inform them of my instructions.

I then proceeded on with caution but had not got far before the paper No. 1 was handed me by one of the party, to which I replied I should treat with no party, but intended to execute my orders.

When I arrived at the town there were about forty men assembled who had deposited their arms. After I had read to them my instructions they agreed to move off by the 19th inst. This indulgence I thought proper to grant, the weather being too severe to turn them out of doors. The 6th I proceeded to Haglins or Mercer's Town, where I was presented with paper No. 2, and from the humble and peaceable disposition of the people, and the impossibility of their moving off immediately, I gave them to the 19th, and believe they will generally leave the settlement at that time.

At that place I was informed that Charles Norris and John Carpenter had been by the people elected Justices of the Peace, that they had, I found, precepts, and decided thereon.

I then proceeded on till opposite Wheeling, where I dispossessed one family, and destroyed their buildings.

I hope, Sir, the indulgence granted to some of the inhabitants will meet your approbation. The paper No. 3 is an advertisement, a copy of which is posted up in almost every settlement on the western side of the Ohio.

Three of my party being lamed, I left them about forty miles from this place, under the care of a Corporal. The remainder I have ordered to gain their respective companies and the prisoner I have delivered to the care of the garrison guard.

I am sir with every respect, your obedient servt, JOHN ARMSTRONG, Ensign.

To Colonel Harmar, or the chiefest in command at Fort Mclntosh.

SIR: Agreeably to the order we have Received for Removing off the lands to the West of the Ohio, we are preparing to execute the utmost diligence but find it will be impracticable to entirely clear off the place. According to our engagements with Ensign Armstrong when we received the orders, which, if you will condescend to take under your consideration, we make no doubt you will Readily Grant, for we have neither houses nor lands to move too have every Necessary to Procure by our Labour, for the Support of our families and stocks, for we have no money. Therefore if you Can Consistant with your Honor allow us a few Weeks more to move off and prepare Dwellings to move to, we shall Greatly Acknowledge the favour.

We have sent a full Representation of our distressed circumstances by way of Petition to Congress, and whatever Orders and Regulations they in their wisdom may think proper to prescribe we shall as in duty bound obey.

Therefore the furtherest time we request is till we know the resolutions of Congress in regard to our petition, which if you grant, we request the favour of you to send us your pleasure and directions by the Bearer, Mr. James Cochran, which will be gratefully acknowledged by your humble Serv'ts, the Subscribers :

Thomas Tilton, James Clark,
John Nixon, his
Henry Cassill, Adam house,
John Nowles, mark
John Tiiton, Thomas Johnson,
John Fizpatrick, Hanamet Davis,
Daniel Menser, William Wallace,
Zephenia Dunn, Jos. Reburn,
John McDonald, Jon. Mapins,
Henry Froggs, William Mann,
Wiland Hoagland, William Kerr,
Michael Rawlings, Daniel Duff,
Thomas Dawsson, Joseph Ross,
William Shift, James Watson,
Solomon Delong, Abertions Bailey,
Charles Ward. Charles Chambers,
Fred'k Lamb,' Robert Hill,
John Rigdon, James Pauf,
George Atchinson, William McNees
Hanes Plley Archibald Harbson,
Walter Cain, William Bailey,
Jacob Light, Jonas Amspoker,
James Weleams, Nicholas Decker,
Jesse Edgerton, John Platt.
Nathanial Parremore, Benjamin Reed,
Jesse Parremore, Joseph Godard,
Jacob Clark, Henry Conrod,
John Custer, William Carpenter,
Thomas McDonald, John Godard,
James Noyes, George Reno,
JohnCasstleman John Buchanan,
Daniel Mathews.

FORT MCINTOSH, 13TH April 1785.

Sir: As the following- information through you, to the honorable the Congress, may be of some service, I trust you'd not be displeased therewith. It is the opinion of many honorable men (with whom I conversed on my return from Wheeling) that if the Honorable the Congress don't fall on some speedy method to prevent people from settling on the Lands of the United States, west of the Ohio, that country will soon be inhabited by bandits whose actions are a disgrace to human nature.
You will in a few days receive an address from the Magistracy of Ohio County through which most of those people pass, many of whom are flying from justice.
I have Sir taken some pains to distribute copies of your instructions, with those from the honorable, the Commissioners for Indian Affairs into almost every settlement west of the Ohio, and had them posted up at most public places on the east side of the river, in the neighborhood through which those people pass. Notwithstanding they have saw and read those Instructions they are moving to the unsettled country by forties and fifties.

From the best information I could receive there are at the falls of Hawk Hawkins [Hockhocking], upwards of three hundred families. At Muskinegum a number equal.

At the [word illegible] Towns there are several families and more than fifteen hundred on the rivers Miame & Siota. From Wheeling to that place there is scarcely one Bottom on the river but has one or more families, living thereon.

In consequence of the Advertisement by John Amberson I am aprised meetings will be held at the times therein mentioned.

That at mengons and Haglins Town mentioned in my report of yesterday, the Inhabitants had come to a resolution to comply with the requestion of the Advertisement.

The supposed distance from this place to Wheeling pursuing the river, is seventy miles.

I am Sir with due respect.
Your most Obedient Servant. John Armstrong

To Col. Harmar.
Fort McIntosh, April 2, 1785

To all those persons who have settled on the Lands of the United States, westward of the Ohio River contrary to the Orders of Congress.

I have received your Representation by James Cochran and must inform you that my instructions are positive in driving off by force all persons who presume to settle upon or survey the Lands of the United States.

As you inform me that you have sent on a petition to Congress upon the subject, and upon a consideration of your present distressed circumstances, according to your own account, I am induced to forbear sending any troops for one month from this date to dispossess you, or until further orders from authority.

At the same time you must be as expeditious as possible in preparing to remove yourselves as I am very confident that the Honorable body the Congress, will not grant the prayer of your petition, in which case I shall be under the necessity of executing my orders.

Jos. Harmar
Lt. Col. Com'd.

The Indian commissioners were men of character and distinction, in whom the public had full confidence. Arthur Lee was a native of Virginia and a man of fine talents. During the revolution he represented this country at the Court of Versailles, and in 1784 was selected by Congress to treat with Western Indians. Mr. Lee died December 14, 1792, aged 52 years.

George Rogers Clark has been called "The Washington, of the West." A Virginian by birth he rendered invaluable services to America during the War for Independence. His appointment as Indian Commissioner was a happy selection, for he was a man of great nerve, indomitable will and energy, whose voice was potential among the Savage nations.

Fort McIntosh.
May 1st, 1785.

Sir. In obedience to the instructions received from the honorable, the Commissioners for Indian Affairs, upon their departure from this post, I have to inform your Excellency, that I detached Ensign Armstrong "with a party of twenty men" furnished with fifteen days provisions, on the 31st of March last, to dispossess sundry persons who had presumed to settle on the lands of the United States on the Western side of the Ohio River.

The enclosed copy of the instructions together with his orders were posted up at Wheeling and distributed throughout the different parts of the country, in order that all persons might be fully acquainted therewith.

Ensign Armstrong having marched with his party as far down as opposite Wheeling, which is about seventy from hence, pursueing the course of the river, and executing his orders (except in a few indulgences granted on account of the weather), returned on the 12th ulto.

I have the honor of enclosing to your Excellency, his report with sundry petitions, handed him by the settlers, likewise the opinion of some reputable inhabitants on the Eastern side of the river, with respect to them.

On the 20th ult. I received the enclosed representation signed, by 66 of them praying for a further indulgence of time, and informing me that they had sent on a petition to Congress upon the subject.

In answer to which I thought it most expedient to grant them one month from the 21st ulto to remove themselves, at the expiration of which time, parties will be detached to drive off all settlers within the distance of one hundred, and fifty miles from the garrison, which in my present situation is ail that is practicable. The number of settlers lower down the river is very considerable, and from all accounts daily increasing:

I would therefore (before I proceed farther in the business beg to know the pleasure of your Excellency, and your particular order upon the subject.

I have the Honor to be with the highest esteem and respect,
your Excellency's
Most humble and obt. servant,
Jos. HARMAR, Lt. Col. Comd. 1st Amer. Regt.

His Excellency
Richard Henry Lee, President of Congress.

It is possible that papers exist which will determine the exact location of the various settlements mentioned in Ensign Armstrong's report From the distances given by him, we are enabled to fix the localities as follows:

1st. The settlers on or near the Little Beaver were in what is now Columbiana county, Ohio.
2d. Those four miles from the Little Beaver were also in Columbiana county.
3d. That at Yellow Creek was near Wellsville, Columbiana county.
4th. The eight families between Yellow Creek and Mingo Bottom were in Jefferson county.
5th. The settlement at Mingo Bottom was in Jefferson county, three miles below Steubenville on farms formerly belonging to J. H. Hallock and Daniel Potter.
6th. The place called Norris' Town, was in Jefferson county, fourteen miles below Steubenville.
7th. Haglin's or Mercer's Town, between Norris' Town and opposite Wheeling, was in Belmont county.
8th. The settlement opposite Wheeling was in what is now Pease Township, Belmont county.
In many parts of the State after the permanent settlers became located, tracts were found which had been partially cleared and a new growth of timber formed. Especially was this the case along the Ohio, on the same ground passed over by Ensign Armstrong.

The Congressional Committee, consisting of Mr. Howell, Mr. Grayson, Mr. McHenry, Mr. Pettit and Mr. King, to whom was referred a letter of the first of May, 1785, from Col. J. Harmar, Report

That Congress approve of the conduct of Colonel Harmar in carrying into execution the order given him by the Commissioners for removing intruders from the lands of the United States.

That he be authorized to remove the troops under his command, and to take post at any place on or near the River Ohio, between Muskingum and the great Miami, which he shall conceive most advisable for farther carrying into effect the before mentioned order.

That the Board of Treasury advance Colonel Harmar six hundred dollars on account and for the purpose of transporting the said troops and their baggage to such place as he shall deem proper for the advance of the public service.

June 24, 1785 Ordered. That the first and second paragraphs be referred to the Secretaries at War to-take order. That the third paragraph be referred to the Board of Treasury to take order.

FORT MCINTOSH, June 15, 1785.

Sir: I have already sent you a copy of Ensign Armstrong's report, from which you will have learned the extent and character of the settlements west of the river. Most of those engaged in this business are shiftless fellows from Pennsylvania and Virginia, though I have seen and conversed with a few who appear to be intelligent and honest in their purposes. A few days after Ensign Armstrong returned, I dispatched him with a small force to Salt Springs towards the Lakes, to dispossess a number of adventurers who had located there. This he accomplished without serious difficulty.

The force under my command, would not warrant the sending a detachment to the Scioto or Miami, but I have sent written notices by trustworthy Indians to all who have settled there. Be assured Sir, I shall make every effort within my means for carrying out jour orders, and those of the honorable, the Congress.

I am, your very obedient servant,
Jos HARMAR. Hon'abie
Major General Knox.

FORT MCINTOSH, June 21. 1785.

DEAR JOHNSTON : The natons down The river have killed and scalped several adventurers who have settled on their lands.

Josiah Harmar.

Col. Francis Johnston.
Fort McIntosh, June 1. 1785.

Sir: The Shawanese make great professions of peace. The Cherokees are hostile, and have killed and scalped seven people near the mouth of the Scioto, about three hundred and seventy miles from hence.

Your most obt servt,
Josiah Harmar. Maj. Genl. Knox, Sec. at War.

Fort McIntosh, June 25. 1785.

Dear General: The Indians down the river, viz.: the Shawanese, Miaims, Cherokees and Kickapoos have killed and scalped several adventurers-settlers on their lands.

Josiah Harmar. Gen. Thos. Mifflin

The following extracts from letters written by Jonathan Heart, a captain in Harmar's corps, relate to the subject under consideration. Heart afterward became Major and was killed at St. Clair's defeat, November 4, 1791.

FORT HARMAR, 8th January, 1786.
Farmington, Conn.

DEAR SIR : Agreeable to established customs in this country, cutting down a few trees, planting three hills of corn and fencing them. gives a right of soil to 400 acres and a pre-emption to 400 more contormable to this custom every valuable situation on the grant is located. Congress in their wisdom to prevent this improper mode of possession have forbid such locations and we have actually burnt, destroyed and turned oft great numbers of inhabitants holding under this tenure, and unless Congress put a full and final stop to this mode of settlement the whole Federal territory will not raise one thousand pounds.

Your most obedient humble servt,

FORT HARMAR, 7th February, 1786
Farmington, Conn.

Sir: The extent of the territory proposed will furnish lands for all people Wishing to remove into new countries for five years, and some of the conditions as to mode and manner of settlement are very exceptionable, particularly that allowing a pre-emption to all persons claiming lands by possession or improvements, for custom in the country has established the rule, that cutting a few trees and fencing in as much land as your length of rails will encompass and planting the hills of corn, gives possession to 400 acres and a right to purchase 400 more. In conformity to this idea possession has been taken of every extensive bottom, beautiful situation, or advantageous place over the whole extent, and little more than broken ground, narrow strips of such lands as from situation or some circumstance are of little value, will be left for the peti-tioners. Congress acquainted with this circumstance as to mode of settlement have positively forbid all such settlements and ordered off such settlers holding lands on that tenure this was absolutely necessary, for while this mode was admitted, no man would give 400 dollars for a farm which one days work would secure,

Your most obt. And humble serv't,


In the first volume of William's American Pioneer, page 56, the late George Corwin of Portsmouth (1842) gave his recollections of the first attempt to settle there. It was probably not on the present site of the town but on the west side of the old mouth of the River Scioto near where the village of Alexandria is located.

Until the Ohio canal was constructed and an artificial cut made at Portsmouth no water discharged there from the Scioto at its ordinary stage. The site of Alexandria was very attractive, but the ground between it and Portsmouth is most of it subject to inundation. The late Robert B. McAfee of Kentucky stated to F. C. Cleveland of Alexandria , who was an engineer on the Ohio canal forty years since that there were whites on the Kentucky side of the Ohio opposite Scioto in 1773. Mr. Cleveland said there was a space of about forty acres at Alexandria which had been chopped, and when the early settlers came this space was coveted with a second growth of trees, standing among the stumps.

This was probably the work of the parties referred to by Mr. Corwin. The four families who attempted to settle at the mouth of the Sciota in 1785, came from Redstone, Pa. "They commenced clearing the ground to plant seeds for a crop to support their families, hoping that the red men of the forest would suffer them to remain and improve the soil."

The four heads of the families,-only one of whose names has been preserved went up the Sciota on a tour of exploration as far as Pee Pee Creek and encamped. Peter Patrick, one of the party, cut his initials upon a beech tree. Here they were surprised by Indians and two of them killed. Two of them escaped across the country to the mouth of the Little Sciota, just in time to meet a boat descending the Ohio for Post Vincent. This boat took the survivors from their intended home to Maysville, where the settlement was large enough to protect itself against their red enemies.

From a letter dated Fort Mclntosh, June 1st, 1785, written by General Josiah Harmar to General Knox, Secretary at War, we take it there must have been another settlement on the Scioto, other than that referred to by Mr. Corwin. General Harmar says: "The Shawanese make great professions of peace. The Cherokees are hostile, and have killed and scalped seven people near the mouth of the Scioto, about three hundred and seventy miles from hence."

In a letter to Col. Francis Johnston of Philadelphia, dated Fort Mclntosh, June 21,1785, General Harmar refers to the same event in these words : "'The nations down the river have killed and scalped several adventurers who have settled on their lands."


While the number of inhabitants on the Miami is no doubt extravagantly estimated, there were operations going on along that river by white adventurers at the time mentioned. Four years prior to the landing of John Cleves Symmes at the Miami, almost the whole bottom of that river as far north as the site of Hamilton, in Butler county, had been explored, and openings made with a view to pre-empting the best localities under the laws of "Congress." This was by a party from Washington county, Pennsylvania, one of whom named Hindman was living as late as 1846, a few miles from Hillsborough Highland county. In the Cincinnati Miscellany, edited by Charles Cist, we find a short narrative of Mr. Hindman relating to the subject. He says :

"My father, John Hindman was a native and resident of Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, where I was born in 1760, and at the age of twenty left that neighborhood for Washington county, where I remained four years. In the month of March, 1785, I left the state of Pennsylvania taking water at the mouth of Buffalo creek with a party consisting: of Wm. West, John Simous. John Sept, .and old Mr. Carlin and their families.

We reached Limestone point, now Maysville, in safety, where we laid by two weeks. The next landing we made was at the mouth of the Big Miami. We were the first company that had landed at that place. The Indians had left two or three days before we landed. We found two Indians buried as they were laid on the ground, a pen of poles built around them, and a new blanket spread over each one. The first we found was near the bank of the Ohio, and the second near the mouth of White Water.

Soon after we landed, the Ohio raised seas to overflow all the bottoms at the mouth of the Big Miami. We went over therefore to the Kentucky side, and cleared thirty of forty acres on a claim of a man by the name of Tanner, whose son was killed by the Indians some time afterward on a creek which now bears his name. Some time in May or June we started to go up the Big Miami, to make what we called improvements, so as to secure a portion of the lands which we selected out of the best and broadest bottoms between the mouth of the river and where Hamilton now stands.

We started a north course to White Water, supposing it to be the Miami we proceed up the creek, but Joseph Robinson who started from the mouth of the Miami with our party, and who knew something of the country from having been taken prisoner with Col. Langhery and carried through it, giving it as his opinion, that we were not at the main river, we made a raft and crossed the stream, having the misfortune to lose all our guns in the passage We proceeded up where Hamilton now is, and made improvements wherever we found bottoms firmer than the rest, all the way down to the mouth of the Miami. I then went up the Ohio again to Buffalo, but returned the same fall, and found Gens. Clarke, Butler and Parsons at the mouth of the Big Miami, as Commissioners to treat with the Indians. Major Finney was there also. I was in company with Symmes when he was engaged in taking the meanders of the Miami river at the time John Filson was killed by the Indians."

There is one mistake in Mr. Hindman's statement that referring to the murder of young Tanner by the Indians. He was not killed, but taken prisoner, and afterwards published an interesting narrative of his captivity.

Ohio River - History

The Ohio River is formed by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at modern-day Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. It ends approximately 900 miles downstream at Cairo, Illinois, where it flows into the Mississippi River. It received its English name from the Iroquois word, “O-Y-O,” meaning “the great river“.

Below are several resources that can help you investigate and understand the rivers history.

OYO: an ohio river anthology Don Wallis editor, Harlan Hubbard illustrator.

Volume 1: Movement and Place, 1987, OYO press, Yellow Springs, Ohio

Volume II: River Journeys, 1988, OYO press, Yellow Springs, Ohio

Volume III: River Lives, 1990, OYO press, Yellow Springs, Ohio

Shantyboat: A River Way of Life – Hubbard, Harlan. Published by University Press of Kentucky (1977)

The Original Boatload of Knowledge Down the Ohio River: William Maclure’s and Robert Owen’s Transfer of Science and Education to the Midwest, 1825-1826

A “Boatload of Knowledge”: New Ideas in a Would-Be Utopia

Payne Hollow: Life on the Fringe of Society, Hubbard, Harlan Published by Gnomon Distribution (1985)

Watch the video: Ποταμός Αρις (July 2022).


  1. Percy

    I consider, that you commit an error. I suggest it to discuss. Write to me in PM, we will communicate.

  2. Odayle

    He is definitely wrong

  3. Takasa

    Good day! I do not see the terms of use of the information. Is it possible to copy the text you write to your site if you link to this page?

  4. Scott

    You are making a mistake. I can defend my position. Email me at PM, we will talk.

Write a message