Salt was an indispensable commodity to everyone before people could buy it off the grocery shelf. Salt was used no so much as a seasoning on their French fries, but as a preservative for their foods so that they would be able to have nourishment during times when fresh meat or produce was not readily available.
Areas where salt could easily be collected became important gathering spots that belonged to no particular group. Chillicothe was one of those places.
The name Chillicothe is the English spelling of a common Native American word used by many Native American tribes living in Ohio. The term was used much like we use the term "city". For example, "We're going to the city this fall for salt."
Chillicothe was a popular place, like an old train terminal where people passed through and stopped for a spell. Native Americans would spend a few days or a few weeks at a time here, gathering salt and meeting friends. Many Indian trails led through the area of Chillicothe, meaning in the early days, travel to here from other places without using a canoe was possible.
This area had long been a popular gathering area for not only Native Americans, but for the pre-historic cultures prevalent in Ohio during the past 10,000 years. Today, two of those sites have been set aside as protected land.
Being on the Scioto River meant that early travelers could be transported by boat to the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico as well as all the tributaries associated with the Mississippi River system.
The Scioto River Valley provided excellent land for farming which the prehistoric Native Americans had developed. Long before we had preservatives, salt was used to preserve meat. Plentiful salt deposits made this area a natural gathering place for people of all nations.
The First Capital of Ohio
Early American settlers found the Chillicothe area an important place. Because of the constant revolving population of Native Americans coming and going and the unwritten word that this was a place of peace, the early settlers found an ideal place to build a cabin or two. Over the years the cabins became more plentiful. In time Chillicothe became a regional center where Native Americans and American leaders could talk.
In 1796 Colonel Nathaniel Massie officially founded the village of Chillicothe just up from the traditional Native American gathering spot. When Ohio became a state in 1803, Chillicothe was chosen as the capital because of its central location to travel and population. A small community had been established further north along the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy. But north of here was largely under-populated swamp land inhabited by large groups of Wyandots. However, in a few short years, that would all change.
As plans for statehood progressed, the new Ross County courthouse was selected to serve as the first statehouse. Built on new Public Square in 1801, it was here that Ohio's first constitution was written.
Thomas Worthington, who also built himself a large stone house high above the new town, laid down the foundation for the courthouse, but also for the constitution. In 1803, Ohio's first General Assembly met in the courthouse.
On the day it became known that Ohio had become a state, the bell in the courthouse peeled out the celebration. At left is that bell which is on display in the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus.
Four years later, the Shawnee leader Tecumseh delivered a fiery speech to the statehouse assembly assuring the legislature that a united Native American population would remain friendly with the settlers. Six years later, Tecumseh would die fighting alongside his chosen British allies against the American soldiers.
The courthouse served as the statehouse from 1803 - 1810 and again from 1812 - 1816. From 1810 - 1812, Zanesville became the capital.
When the War of 1812 began, that small community up north, became a large military center as 1000s of men and women came from all over to defend the state from the British and Native Americans that were threatening the western frontier. This large influx of people in Central Ohio and north, forced the Ohio legislature to reconsider the decision to locate the capital in Chillicothe. A bidding process was opened for selection of a new site. The town of Franklinton won the bid by providing not only a new location for the statehouse, but promised the land, the building, a state prison to be built without cost to the state and a brand new city to be called Ohio City, Ohio. That was later changed to Columbus after a little too much drinking at a nearby tavern in Franklinton across the river from the proposed site.
The Ohio-Erie Canal in Chillicothe
Construction of the Ohio-Erie Canal in 1831 made Chillicothe a major canal port. This meant that Ross County farmers could now ship their crops to markets far from southern Ohio. The canal system combined with the construction of the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad attracted many new settlers from Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. One of these settlers was Colonel Daniel Mead, who purchased a paper making plant in 1890 eventually becoming the nationally known Mead Corporation – now NewPage.
Today, just south of Chillicothe on 3 Locks Road, you can still see large portions of the canal in tack. Although this area has not been developed as a tourist destination, it is still interesting to see the path the canal took along the road. Much of the area is dotted with houses and mobile homes.
Chillicothe was Ohio's other capital city. Actually, it was the first and third capital of the state. When Ohio first became a state, the Ross County courthouse became the statehouse.
Ross County Historical Society's Heritage Center: Located on West Fifth Street, the Ross County Historical Society's Heritage Center was originally founded in 1896 to celebrate Chillicothe's centennial. The center is a combination of 3 museums and a library.
The new Heritage Center was completed in 2003 and maintains artifacts and information about prehistoric Ohio, the Northwest Territory, Ohio's early statehood including the founding of the state's first capital in Chillicothe.
The Knoles Log House, originally built in the 1820s, features many artifacts from early life on the frontier including household tools and furniture.
The Franklin House is dedicated to women's history. Designed by Ohio's favorite architect, Frank Packard in 1907, the house became part of the Ross County Historical Society in 1972. This original home, remains as it was originally designed and features 19th & 20th Century clothing, quilts and furniture.
The Heritage Center has seasonal hours. Please check their website (http://www.rosscountyhistorical.org/) for details as to admission and hours.
45 West Fifth Street
Chillicothe, Ohio 45601
Pump House Center for the Arts: Located on Enderlin Circle in beautiful Yoctangee Park. The Art Center has art shows and exhibits throughout the year and a beautiful gift shop open year-round. The 1882 historical brick building offers tours and rentals. Free Admission.
Chillicothe Railroad Museum: A unique railroad museum housed in 2 restored B&O Cabooses, one of which has been restored to its original 1927 condition. Tour each of the B&O cabooses, one a C-2115 and the other a C-3893, which contain various artifacts and items related to railroad history. Displays include a model train with a village set up, a 1900 B&O railroad map, a B&O engine bell and morse code equipment.
Majestic Theatre: The Majestic Theatre has been in continuous operation since 1853. The Majestic offers theatrical productions, concerts, special events and movies. Tours of the theatre are available through advance notice. The theatre is also available for rent.
45 East 2nd Street
Chillicothe, Ohio 45601
Lucy Hayes Birthplace: She was Ohio's first lady as her husband served 3 terms as Ohio's governor. Her husband's military comrades called her Mother Lucy. The press called her Lemonade Lucy, and the world recognized her by the title First Lady for the first time in American history. Her name was Lucy Webb before she married Rutherford B. Hayes, who would later become the 19th President of the United States. See where the first woman to be called First Lady, was born. After serving as First Lady, she also garnered another nickname: Lemonade Lucy because she refused to serve alcohol at social affairs while in the Whitehouse.
Nearby attractions include:
Hopewell Indian Mounds: This National Park is dedicated to the ancient culture of the Hopewell Indians and allows visitors to walk around the historic Indian Mounds.
16062 State Rt. 104
Chillicothe, Ohio 45601
Adena Mansion and State Memorial: This is the estate of Thomas Worthington, one of the first United States Senators from Ohio and an early founder of Ohio. Thomas and his wife Eleanor, raised 10 children on the Adena hilltop that overlooks the Scioto River Valley. The house has 20 rooms, 3 large halls and 16 fireplaces. It was on the Worthington estate, that the first Adena-type burial mound was excavated, giving rise to the name "Adena Mound Builders".
847 Adena Road
Chillicothe, Ohio 45601
Seip Mound: The Hopewell Indians (100 BC-AD 500) built Seip Mound for burials. This culture had a highly developed craft industry, as is evidenced by artifacts found with bodies in the burial site. Seip Mound is located southwest of Chillicothe on US50.
Tecumseh Historical Drama: during summer months, the Tecumseh Historical Drama tells the story of Tecumseh, a charismatic Shawnee leader that played a major role in Ohio's early development. Although he gave Thomas Worthington a ceremonial peace pipe, Tecumseh took up arms against Ohio during the War of 1812 and was killed during that conflict. The play helps to dramatically bring his life and times more real. Suitable for all ages.
The play is held at the Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheater from early June to Labor Day (Monday's - Saturday) and show time is at 8:00 p.m.
5968 Marietta Road
Chillicothe, Ohio 45601
Great Seal State Park
The Great Seal State Park is located about 5 miles northeast of Chillicothe on Marietta Pike. The park is about 1,864 acres in size.
The fire of 2006
It was July 17th 2006 when the fire trucks rolled into historic downtown Chillicothe. A fire was already ravaging the historic buildings at 29 and 33 East 2nd Street. The buildings had been built in 1892. The fire department worked at saving what was possible, The Majestic Theater was next door.
When it was over, the Historic Theater had been spared but the outer structures of the other 2 buildings were all that was standing. During the next month a decision was made that the damaged buildings would need to come down.
By the end of August, demolition had begun and to everyone's surprise a Mail Pouch chewing tobacco ad appeared as the brick walls came down.
The historic sign, which has long been seen on barns throughout southern Ohio, had been painted on the side of the 25 E. Second Street building some time between 1880 and 1892. When the building at 29 E. Second was built, the sign was sealed off. The owner, Wilbur Poole stood in the charred bricks that had been his building and looking up at the newly uncovered sign and said “There’s more history in that (sign) than there ever was in these two buildings.”
The old mural was cleaned and sealed, preserving it for other generations to enjoy and appreciate a piece of Americana tradition.