Indian History of Guernsey County Ohio

In August 1831, the first treaty for the removal of the Indians from Ohio was made, and in September 1832, the first removals were made by David Robb and H. A. Workman. The tribes removed were the Shawnees and Senecas. David Robb had been a former prominent citizen and official of Guernsey County, serving as a sheriff, senator, and representative in the Legislature, and he was appointed Indian agent by President Jackson.

David Robb published an interesting history of his connection with the Indians as an agent in The Belle Fountain Republican, including his several overland journeys with them to their new “hunting grounds” west of the Mississippi River.

The last Indian tribe to be removed from Ohio was the Wyandottes. Rev. James B. Finley of the Methodist Episcopal Church was a missionary among the Wyandottes and recorded many interesting incidents of his connection with this tribe in his autobiography.

The Indians who lived in and fished in what are now the bounds of Guernsey County were the Delawares, Shawnees, Senecas, and Mingos. These tribes had towns at the forks of the Muskingum. It is incorrect to say that there were no Indian towns in Guernsey County. There were at least five: Old Town, located above Byesville, one at the Fish Basket, north of Cambridge, one on Salt Fork Creek, one on Indian Camp Run, and one on Bird’s Run. Many of the tribes referred to resorted to Guernsey waters because of the fish they contained and the riffles where they could securely set their “fish baskets.”

Not all of the Indians took kindly to the wish of General Jackson, the then “Great Father,” that they give up their hunting grounds in Ohio in exchange for hunting grounds west of the Mississippi River, and roving bands of peaceful but dissatisfied red men moved about through the state. In September 1834, one of these bands visited Cambridge. The Guernsey Times, then published by Hersh and McPherson, reported that “a band of Indians are in camp near this town.” An eyewitness, who was then young, completed this report of 1834.

The Indian camp was located south of Gaston Avenue on the site now known as “Silver Cliff.” At that time, the ridge was covered with oak and beech trees. The water for the camp was obtained from a spring in the old Asher-Williams lot. There were approximately 100 men, women, and children, who remained in camp for ten days or more. When they wore anything (for it was warm and pleasant weather), the men and women wore the usual Indian dress of blankets and breech-clouts. The men were peaceful and quiet, except when they had been presented with too much alcohol. They had no weapons except bows and arrows and tomahawks. The women had Indian trinkets, which they sold around the town. The men spent most of the daytime shooting with their bows and arrows at “fips and levies,” set up in split sticks driven in the ground. Their principal shooting place was in the street west of the Hutchison tavern, and the prizes for the shooters who hit the mark were the “fips and levies” stuck in the splits. The mothers, with their pappooses tied to boards and hung on their backs or set up against the houses, stood around and enjoyed the sport, and cheered the lucky Indian who took the prize.

Edward Rogers and G.W. Mulholland, who were a silversmith and a tailor, respectively, had shops in the town and were strong Jacksonians. They tried to make the Indian chiefs understand that the “Great Father” in Washington City would deal justly with the Indians, but these Indians were on a strike against the “Great Father,” and they only grunted in response to the praise given by these Democratic followers of the “Great Father.” These Indians were a mixture of tribes, including the Delawares, Shawnees, Wyandottes, and Senecas. They came to Cambridge from the south, crossing Wills Creek below the old Gomber-Moore mill. They had a few old wagons and carts, and the tent poles and many of the trappings were tied around the necks of the ponies and horses and dragged upon the ground. The females had charge of the train, and, according to Indian custom, did most of the work, while the big, lazy “bucks” rode horses, and the children who were big enough to ride rode the ponies. The older men and women and the small children rode in the wagons and carts. Some of the women rode on ponies, two to each, and some rode side-saddle and some astride. It may have been that these rovers were visiting their old hunting and fishing grounds on Wills Creek.

When they broke camp, they moved towards the north. To the writer then and in a backward view now, it was a better “wild west” parade than “Buffalo Bill” ever made at Cambridge. It was a parade of pure, unadulterated “Ingen,” without spangles, feathers, or paint. With the tribe were two white women who had been captured in infancy, who had lost all trace of their white ancestry and were apparently the happy wives of two big, lazy “bucks.”

There were in 1805 five Indian families residing in this vicinity. Two brothers, named Jim and Bill Lyons, who had their huts up the bottom where William Tedrick’s house now stands; Joseph Sky, who lived at the mouth of Brushy fork, near where Lynn’s mill now is; one Doughty, who had a hut between Mrs. Culbertson’s and Newman Lake’s, who had two wives; and one named Hunter, who didn’t have any wife.

Doughty’s extra wife was an encumbrance, however, being one of Simon Girty’s, which he and the Lyons brothers were under obligations to support for some service Girty had rendered their fathers. She was exceedingly ill-favored and very intemperate.

These Indians hunted in that neighborhood during the summer, and when winter came, they would pack up and move off to Big Stillwater, where they had a sort of Indian town. They were, however, very friendly and not troublesome.

Jim Lyons had a white wife, a girl that his father had taken prisoner when a child; having adopted and raised her, his son married her. In her dress, appearance, and manner, she was as much an Indian as any of them and could not have been distinguished had it not been for her hair, which was fairer than that of the Indians and inclined to be wavy. She was very reserved in her manner towards the whites, seemed to avoid their society, and was never known to speak to a white person or in their presence. In one respect, the Lyons brothers were an exception among Indians—they didn’t like whiskey; and as Girty’s old “wife” wouldn’t do without it, she lived most of her time at Doughty’s hut and would get drunk whenever she could get enough liquor and swear, tear around, and quarrel, and behave poorly, equal to any of the “white trash.”


Sarchet, Cyrus P. B. (Cyrus Parkinson Beatty). History of Guernsey County, Ohio. Vol. 1, B.F. Bowen & Company, 1911.

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