By. W. Taylor Moyer Photography by W. Taylor Moyer
The old oak tree standing outside of Texas, Ohio in Henry County was simply known as the Oak Tree. However those in the American Indian community knew this tree as the Odawa Indian Oak Tree. The tree was planted in 1836 in honor of the first white child born in Washington Township, Henry County, Ohio. Martha Edwards, the daughter of early settler David Edwards and Cynthia Ann Meek.
Martha was born on the site on April 1, 1836. At that time the Odawa today most commonly called the Ottawa were residing near the Edward’s family farm on the Ottawa Indian Reservation which extended from outside Maumee, Ohio into Henry County roughly at County Road 4. The Ottawa were forced onto this reservation through the signing of the Treaty of Detroit in 1804. From roughly 1804 through 1839 the Ottawa lived peacefully on their Henry and Lucas County reservation.
The Ottawa made friends with the new settlers in Northwest Ohio including the Edwards family and the Howard family who lived near Grand Rapids, Ohio. When Martha was born in 1836 the Ottawa were already being relocated to reservations in Kansas through President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830. At this time there were 3 Ottawa Chiefs living on the Henry and Lucas County reservation; Oxinoxica, Wauseon, and Myo. Head Chief Oxinoxica was excited about the birth of Martha and in honor of her birth along with some of his band they planted a young oak tree sapling as this was cultural tradition in their tribe.
Oxinoxica and his band also provided gifts to baby Martha and her parents upon her birth. By 1839 the majority of the Ottawa were removed to their reservation in Kansas. A few tribal members stayed in Henry, Lucas, and Wood Counties however they were required to assimilate, have a white family to serve as their care taker, and they had to give up their cultural values, beliefs, and traditions.
One Ottawa tribal member who remained was Tee-Na-Beek who was taken in by the Howard family. Today Tee-Na-Beek is buried in Howard Cemetery in downtown Grand Rapids, Ohio. Today there are residents in Henry County with direct ties to the Ottawa who remained behind. Please do not think that American Indians do not live in Henry County or that none of their descendants remain. In fact there are descendants of the Ottawa, Miami, Cherokee, and more living in Henry County!
For 185 years the old Ottawa Indian Oak Tree stood as a silent witness to history. It saw the going of American Indians from Henry County, the coming of European settlers, the digging of the Miami Erie Canal in 1843, the development of the Indian trail into the wagon root to Texas, Ohio, and eventually the canal was transformed into U.S. Route 24 and then Old U.S. Route 424. After 185 years the tree was cut down and became history. The property recently sold and the new land owners built a home on the site. However the tree also suffered from years of neglect. Farmers cutting to close to the truck, tilling the roots up, natural land erosion, and a lack of maintenance have taken a toll on this historic tree.
Remember trees have a life just like humans and this oak tree has lived a long and storied history. If a home wasn’t being built at the site would the tree remain? Yes it would. But for how long? After calling in two professionals both agreed the tree is dying and could have 5 – 10 years perhaps at best 15 years and would collapse or be blown down. The current land owners have worked diligently with the HCHS and did not want to cut the tree down without working together. The land owners have offered a section of the tree to the HCHS, offered our marker back to us, and have been open in communication. The HCHS has also contact the Wyandot and Ottawa Nations and worked with the Black Swamp Intertribal Foundation.
If you want to photograph the tree, visit the tree, and enjoy this amazing party of Henry County and Northwest Ohio’s American Indian history the tree is slated to be taken down May 15, 2021. EDIT: The tree removal was delayed and was cutdown on June 20, 2021.
The marker was returned to the HCHS and many remains of the tree were collected. The future of those tree pieces is in the works and will be disclosed at a later date.
For more information about the Ottawa please visit either of their websites at the provided links.
Since 1976 the Henry County Historical Society has been an active participant in the festivities during the Henry County Fair. It is a partnership between the Henry County Fair Board and to this day we find is a valuable community asset.
It all began with the donation, move, and restoration of the Nathaniel Hartman Log Home. The 1860s log home was moved to the Henry County Fairgrounds and served as home base for the HCHS during the week of the Henry County Fair. The log home provided the first place for the HCHS to share the love of history and engage with the public in their own community space. (You can read more about the Nathaniel Hartman Log Home under our facilities tab on this website.)
Over the last 50 years the HCHS has expanded our Fairgrounds site to include 4 more historic structures including the 1897 One Room Schoolhouse, Summer Kitchen, Smoke House, and historic Gazebo. The landscape is beautiful including a kitchen herb garden, edged landscape made from original brick of the 3rd Napoleon River Bridge and an original Heller-Aller Windmill located on the corner of St. Rt. 108 and Huddle Road.
The Living History Encampment began in 2003 when Ohio Celebrated the State of Ohio Bi-Centennial. A young group of Junior Historians gathered to start and host the first Living History Encampment during the Henry County Fair. The original founding members included Krystal Donlley Shao, Michele Rebeu Fruth, and Taylor Moyer. The expressed purpose was to provide educational programming that would highlight Northwest Ohio and Henry County’s earliest settlers and American Indians.
After much success the Living History Encampment has grown to become Henry County’s largest living history event and a major part of the festivities during the Henry County Fair! Over the years the event has hosted re-enactors and living historians from Greenville, Defiance, Toledo, Haskins, Liberty Center, Wooster, Waterville, Perrysburg, and Bowling Green, Ohio. The event has grown to include participants from Indiana and Michigan as well. What once began with 3 reenactors has grown to upwards of 50 or more!
The Living History Encampment typically spans Ohio history from the 1770s through the American Civil War 1860-1865. There are times the timeline has been expanded into the 1870s. This timeline is most often selected as it fits the era of Statehood and fits in nicely with our period structures. The event has also been geared at providing diverse histories including that of women, American Indians, and the every day common Henry County resident. The event works to provide a variety of historical perspectives representing both sides of conflicts from Union and Confederate soldiers, to British, Americans, French, and American Indians.
Programming includes historic and period encampments with historic tents and campsites. Cooking demonstrations, sewing, bead working, basket making, musket demonstrations, blacksmithing, and more are an exciting family friendly opportunity for everyone to enjoy.
The Living History Encampment is open August 11-14 from 11:00am.-dusk admission is FREE with ticketed gate admission into the Fairgrounds. Children are required to be accompanied by and adult at all times and there is NO smoking on the museum grounds.
Fairground & Living History Encampment Committee Superintendent: Taylor Moyer Superintendent: Jean Keller Assistant: Tyler Burg Committee: Allison Repass Committee: Abbie Stevenson Committee: Ashley Lawson Committee: Cathy Hefflinger Committee: Roger Hefflinger Grounds: Peggy Johnson Grounds: Phil Johnson Grounds: Lois Hanna Grounds: Brian Tilse
Sponsors & Partnerships Henry County Fair Board Henry County Chamber of Commerce WNDH 103.1 – Napoleon Black Swamp Intertribal Foundation 68th O.V.I. More to come. . .
American Indians played an important role in shaping the history of both Ohio and the nation. Ohio served as a leading center of trade and commerce for early American Indians during the prehistoric era (a period for which there are no surviving written records), and as the battleground of the frontier during the 18th and early 19th centuries. Ohio can lay claim to many of the most influential early American Indian leaders, including Tecumseh (Shawnee), Little Turtle (Miami), and Blue Jacket (Shawnee). The state was an important staging point for the conflict between the United States, Great Britain, France and the local inhabitants or American Indians. Ohio’s native peoples played a vital role in shaping the policy of the U.S. government toward the settlement of land west of the Allegheny Mountains, and in its treatment of the land’s indigenous peoples. They left their mark in the place names, landscape, and culture of Ohio.
Ohio had a particularly rich and thriving community of American Indians during the prehistoric era, beginning with Paleoindian nomadic hunters who arrived in the area around 15,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age. The subsequent Archaic cultures (8000-500 BC) continued a hunting and gathering lifestyle, although the environment in which they were living had changed with hardwood forests and modern game animals replacing the Ice Age species.
Beginning around 800 BC, some American Indian groups began to cultivate crops such as squash and sunflowers and, since they were beginning to settle down near their gardens, started to make pottery for food storage and cooking. Archaeologists refer to these groups as the Woodland cultures, and they continued to occupy much of Ohio until at least AD 1200. The Adena people constituted one Early Woodland (800 BC-AD 100) group. They are particularly well-known for the conical burial mounds they constructed throughout central and southern Ohio, and their name comes from the Adena estate of Thomas Worthington in Chillicothe, on which was located a mound where archaeologists first found evidence of their culture. The Middle Woodland Hopewell Indians (100 BC-AD 500) continued to build burial mounds. However, they also constructed large earthen enclosures in geometric shapes (circles, squares, and octagons) to mark where their people gathered periodically to participate in many social and ceremonial events. Some of these sites were quite large—the Newark Earthworks complex spreads over an area of four square miles. The Hopewell people also maintained a large trade network extending as far as the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, the Florida coast and Appalachians, and northern Lake Superior. For reasons that archaeologists are still trying to fathom, the Late Woodland Indians (AD 500-1200) discontinued the building of mounds and earthworks. However, they lived in larger settlements than those of the earlier Woodland people, perhaps in part because they began to cultivate corn, along with their other crops.
Beginning around AD 900 in some parts of Ohio, Late Prehistoric groups established permanent villages occupied by as many as 100-200 people each, in locations conducive to growing corn. These groups included the Fort Ancient people in southern Ohio, the Sandusky people in northwestern Ohio, the Whittlesey people in the northeast, and the Monongahla people in the eastern part of the state. These cultures existed until around AD 1600. The events between the end of the prehistoric period and the earliest European explorations in the early 1700s are not clear. The spread of European diseases and intertribal warfare may have caused the people who survived these onslaughts to move out of the Ohio area. The tribes known from the historic period—the Shawnee, Lenape (Delaware), Miami (Myaamia), Seneca-Cayuga, Wyandot, and others—moved into this region from farther east, north, south, and west. However, some scholars believe that the Fort Ancient people were the ancestors of the Shawnee.
American Indians and Early America
The first historical records of American Indians in Ohio come from French missionaries who entered into the region in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. From these missionaries, historians know that six major groups settled in Ohio and its neighboring states: the Shawnee (in southern Ohio), Seneca-Cayuga (in central and northwest Ohio), Lenape (in eastern Ohio), Wyandot (in northern Ohio), Ottawa (in northwest Ohio), and Myaamia (in western Ohio). French land surveyors and fur traders had contact with American Indians for many years, trading guns and weapons for furs and other supplies to send back to Europe. Yet France never had firm control over the Ohio territory and had no permanent settlers attempting to farm and live in Ohio. As a result, the French traders and American Indians lived more or less peacefully for decades.
In the mid-18th century, however, the British began to compete with French traders for commercial supremacy. British surveyors began to move into what would become Ohio and Kentucky, and to threaten American Indian land much more aggressively than the French had. There were many struggles between France and Britain leading to the Seven Years War, known in North America as the French and Indian War (1754-1763). The American Indians, though disenchanted with the French, preferred them to the more forceful British land agents. The British won the French and Indian War, and assumed control over all former French lands east of the Mississippi River. Consequently, treatment of American Indians in Ohio began to change for the worse.
British imperial policy reflected a desire to restrain settlers from moving into these new lands, but these efforts were largely unsuccessful. American colonists began to move into the western lands, provoking a series of wars that eventually pushed American Indians further west. The first of these was Lord Dunmore’s War (1774), led by the forces of Virginia’s Royal Governor John Murray, Earl of Dunmore. His army invaded Shawnee settlements in present-day West Virginia and pursued Shawnee armies across the Ohio River to modern Pickaway County, Ohio. There, in 1775, he signed a treaty with the Shawnee in which they agreed that they would not cross the Ohio River. Chief Logan, a Seneca-Cayuga chief from Ohio involved in Lord Dunmore’s War, lamented in a well-known speech that, as a result of the violence and bloodshed of this era, “Who is left to mourn for Logan? Not one.”
At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War (1765-1783), American Indians supported the British, hoping that they could restrain land-grabbing colonists. The British attempted to lead a western campaign from Detroit, but were thwarted by American forces under George Rogers Clark. Repeatedly, American Indians were punished for their support of the British. Chief Cornstalk of the Shawnee was killed when he attempted to lead a peace mission to the Americans, and, most notably, seventy-eight innocent men, women, and children of the Christian Indians at Gnadenhutten were massacred by the forces of Colonel David Williamson because they were suspected of aiding the British.
After the Revolutionary War ended, and the Northwest Territory was organized under General Arthur St. Clair, the trend of forcibly moving American Indians continued. In 1785, the Delaware and Wyandot tribes were forced to sign the Treaty of Fort McIntosh, acknowledging their allegiance to the United States and limiting their movements to the northeast part of the territory. With British assistance, American Indians tried to fight the Americans to retain possession of their land. Governor St. Clair decided to use military force against them, but was soundly defeated on November 4, 1791, by a confederation of the Wyandot, Shawnee, Delaware and Miami under the leadership of Miami War Chief Little Turtle and Shawnee War Chief Blue Jacket. The defeat prompted the U.S. government to send General “Mad” Anthony Wayne to conquer the confederation. He succeeded by trouncing them at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in August of 1794. American Indians then signed the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, which limited all Ohio Indians to the northern portion of what would eight years later become the state of Ohio.
The American Indians, however, tried one last time during the War of 1812 to regain their land. Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa, with many others, mounted an American Indian revival, which led to fighting not only in Ohio, but throughout the west, in the hopes of defeating American settlers. William Henry Harrison defeated American Indian forces at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, and a combined army of Indians and British soldiers at the Battle of the Thames in 1813. These defeats spelled the end of Indian resistance in the Northwest; the remnants of Ohio’s tribes signed the treaties of Maumee Rapids (1817) and St. Mary’s (1818) limiting their land even further. By 1842, the remaining members of the Wyandot and Miami were forced to leave their reservation and move west across the Mississippi River.
Hundreds of tribes of American Indians have lived in North America. The United States government recognized 593 different tribes within the United States in 2005. Numerous tribal groups have either lived in Ohio or claimed land in the state. Among the Historic Indian Tribes occupying or claiming land in Ohio were the Shawnee Tribe, the Ojibwa Tribe (also called the Chippewa Tribe), the Delaware Tribe, the Wyandot Tribe, the Eel River Tribe, the Kaskaskia Tribe, the Iroquois Tribe, the Miami Tribe, the Munsee Tribe, the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe, the Ottawa Tribe, the Piankashaw Tribe, the Sauk Tribe, the Potawatomi Tribe, the Seneca Tribe, and the Wea Tribe.
For additional information on the specific tribes that occupied Ohio and the American Indian lifestyle, please consult the Ohio History Connections website and utilize the search tab on their website.