Native Americans of Wayne County, Ohio

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A Note to Researchers

This page is intended to provide general information on the indigenous peoples who have inhabited Wayne County. Specific information about researching Native American heritage can be found on the page titled Ethnicity of Wayne County, Ohio.

When researching indigenous peoples in general, as well as in Wayne County, it is important to keep in mind the positionality of those who wrote history, as well as the biases of the times in which they lived. Many sources written during the time significant populations of Native Americans inhabited Wayne Co. showed many forms of bias against Native peoples. This ranges from narratives which scapegoat “savages” for the woes of society to the use of derogatory terms and language. Both of these problems have persisted into our own time as has the use of terms such as “they”. Though often necessary to use oppositional terms such as “they” when writing about culture, this inherently places the culture of those described in opposition to the culture of the reader and/or writer. These issues prove problematic for contemporary researchers who must sort out truth from hyperbole in these predominately white, male accounts of indigenous peoples. Additionally, please note that many newer historical resources, including this page, use BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era) rather than B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini). Though they have the same meaning (with BCE/B.C. representing all years before the Christian calendar's year 0, and CE/A.D. representing all years after), it is a set of terms more aware of the diverse methods of time keeping throughout the world. Finally, many early histories and archaeological records (such as those of Douglass and Bowen referenced here) contain apocryphal accounts of artifacts, sites, and cultures. Though still useful as early primary and secondary sources, readers and researchers should be aware of the possible errors in these sources and their subsequent interpretations.

Prehistory in Wayne County, Ohio

The peoples who inhabited Wayne Co. during prehistory left little evidence of their existence for later indigenous groups and settlers to find. However, archaeological surveys of the region have presented numerous notable finds including mounds, burials, settlements, and tools which could have been created as early as 2860 BCE if not before (Prufer and Mckenzie). It should be noted that the people who inhabited Wayne Co. during early prehistory likely had little in common with those who inhabited the region at the onset of Euro-American settler colonialism in the region. According to multiple publications, groups such as the Mohican, Lenni Lenape (sometimes referred to as the Delaware), Shawnee, and Mingoe weren’t originally from the region but were forced into parts of Ohio by conflict with other groups and by the westward expansion of European settlers (Bowen 86-88).

Mounds, Burials, and Settlements

A fair number of mounds, burials, and settlements have been found in Wayne County, and detailed information about them can be found in both Bowen and Douglass’ histories of the county as well as in Mills' Archaeological Atlas of Ohio. All of three these publications can be found in the Genealogy Department’s collections.

Mounds in the county varied in size, with some possibly measuring as much as 600 feet long by 150 feet wide (Douglass 150-151), though the majority of mounds were much smaller than that. Notable mounds were located along the banks of the Killbuck in Canaan Township (149), in farmland near Dalton (ibid.), and an important group of mounds were located within Wooster city limits (ibid.). When excavated this latter group revealed many projectile points and stone tools as well as evidence of a fire, perhaps set for ritual purposes (149-150). There were many other mounds and earthworks in the county (Bowen 88). However, a great number of these were eroded by nature or destroyed by the creation of roads and railways and the plowing of fields.

These mounds likely had a wide number of functions including as ritual sites or burials. Items which could have been used as offerings within indigenous religious systems have been found in and around many mounds throughout the state. These include beads, tools, animal bones, and evidence of fire such as ash and charcoal (Tregillis 14). Mounds in Wayne County sometimes contained one or more sets of human remains along with grave offerings such as jewelry and tools (Bowden 96-97). In addition to these burial mounds, other forms of ritual burial have been found such as cyst graves. These would typically consist of one body in a fetal position surrounded by stone, wood, or earthen walls (Mills 9). More speculative interpretation of mounds suggest they could have been used as temples, observation platforms, or memorials (Tregillis 15-16). In addition to these ritual and mortuary constructions, the Stone Age inhabitants of Wayne County left behind evidence of settlements and earthwork fortifications. However, little information is readily available regarding these other than a map of their location as recorded in the Archaeological Survey of Ohio.

Tools and Other Cultural Artifacts

During the 19th and early 20th centuries many sites in Wayne Co. associated with indigenous peoples were excavated and their contents recorded. However, few of these were professionally excavated following modern archaeological methods, thus destroying much of the context and scholarly value of these items. Additionally, many artifacts were donated to The University of Wooster (now known as The College of Wooster) and lost when the main campus building was destroyed by fire in 1901 (Bowden 90-95; Notestein 229). Other artifacts were repurposed by settlers for their own purposes, this included re-tooling flint arrowheads to serve as gun flints (Doddridge 26). However, even at this time, some were calling for the preservation of all indigenous mounds and artifacts. One memoir of a Western Pennsylvanian contains this poignant sentiment,

”We justly blame the Turks for burning the fine marble columns of ancient Greece into lime; but do we display a juster taste, with regard to the only relics which our country is honored?When those relics shall have disappeared, and nothing but their history shall remain, will not future generations pronounce us barbarians for having demolished them? Those venerable sepulchral mounds ought to be religiously preserved.. but what is to be their fate? If in fields... they are plowed down. If within the limits of a town, demolished... while walls which enclosed the town or fort of the ancients are made into brick. Such is man! Such are the enlightened Americans!”(Doddridge 39).

Some of the best recorded artifacts left behind by early indigenous peoples were tools, jewelry and ritual items. Early historians of the region categorized these in three groups based on their material and creation method (Bowen 89-90) For a more up to date interpretation of these categories, please see the Glossary in the Additional Resources section below.

  • Flint
  • Flint tools excavated in the county consisted mainly of projectile points and knives. Though made of stone these were highly sophisticated and finely worked to produce razor sharp surfaces. Smaller chips and flakes could also be worked into useful tools such as hide scrapers.
  • Pecked and Polished
  • Harder stones were often slowly chiseled away and then polished in order to form tools such as axes, mauls, chisels, hammers, and celts (Tregillis 23).
  • Slate
  • Slate was primarily used for jewelry, rituals, or decorative purposes due to the ability to inscribe designs into the stone's thin layers( Bowen 89-90).

Though less common than other artifacts, evidence of pottery has been found throughout the county, including the notable discovery of an intact bowl at the site of the current cemetery (Bowen 96). Other unusual artifacts from the state such as copper jewelry, clay pipes, and textile fragments were exhibited at the 1907 Jamestown Exposition, a catalog of which can be found in the Genealogy Department (Mills 10-43).

Early Encounters with Native Americans

Early Euro-Americans who pushed into the region to trade, trap, evangelize, and homestead had a significant impact on indigenous peoples. As observed by contemporary anthropologists in other parts of the world, people readily adopt new tools and techniques which they gain through trade with other groups. This was almost certainly the case for Wayne County’s indigenous populations when they began to trade with Euro-Americans. Traditional garments began to incorporate machine made cloth, shell jewelry began to be made with manufactured beads, and bone needles and hooks began to be replaced by European steel (Tregillis 2-5). However, this trade was not the only impact of contact between colonizers and indigenous peoples.

”Their whole nature and manhood, from environment and association with the white man, had been warped from the original; they had been harassed by the Iroquois, cheated by the Dutch, filled with whisky [sic] by the English, and scourged from their hunting grounds by the psalm-singing Puritans… Such acts, with many others recorded in history would blur the fair face of nature and make hell shudderingly ashamed ” (Bowen 86-87).

Unsurprisingly, many accounts indicate that Native Americans of the region were acutely aware of the exploitation and displacement caused by Euro-American settlers. Two such accounts of the mistreatment and scapegoating of Native Americans of Wayne Co. are recorded below.

Robinson’s Hill Massacre

After a group of 5 settlers were killed along the Ohio River, Captain George Fulkes and a group of 30 men tracked the alleged perpetrators to the area which is now Wooster. Under cover of night, Captain Fulkes spotted the fires of the indigenous encampment at the point near what would later be the intersection of South Bever and Madison Avenue. The Fulkes' group soon surrounded the camp and murdered all 15 of its occupants in an ambush. Hearing the commotion at the campsite, a 16th indigenous person returned from where traps had been set near the river, only to be killed as well. The sixteen were buried in a shallow grave near the site of their deaths. It is unknown exactly when this occurred, however it was likely in the first few decades of the 19th century, if not earlier. A lengthy account of the massacre may be found from pages 169 to 171 of Douglass’ 1878 history of the county and on pages 52-54 of Bowden's history of the county. A modern interpretation of it was published by the Daily Record in 2008.

Stibbs’ Mill Explosion

Attached to an early mill constructed by Joseph Stibbs was a small store operated by Michael Switzer. This store sold basic goods to settlers and Native Americans, including gunpowder. According to contemporary sources, ”In the store was William Smith, Hugh Moore, Jesse Richards, J. H. Larwill, and five or six Indians [sic]. Switzer was in the act of weighing out some powder from an eighteen-pound keg, while the Indians were quietly smoking from their pipes… when a puff of wind coming in the window, blew a spark from one of their pipes into the powder. A great explosion ensued… Switzer died in a few minutes; Smith was blown through the partition into the mill and badly injured; Richards and the Indians were also hurt and all somewhat burned. Larwill, who happened to be standing against the chimney, escaped with very little harm, except having, like the rest, his face well blackened, and being knocked down by the shock. The Indians, fearful that they might be accused of doing it intentionally, some days after called a council of citizens” (Douglass 170-171). Following the blast, Joseph Stibbs recovered a clay pipe from the ruins, possibly one of the pipes being smoked by those at the scene of the accident. This now resides in the collection of the Wayne County Historical Society. A photograph of the pipe, further description of the incident, and information about the Historical Society may be found here.

Euro-American Settlement in Wayne County, Ohio

At the time Euro-American settlers began to arrive in Wayne County, the major groups in the area were the Shawnee, the Wyandot, and the Lenni Lenape. These three cultures comprised approximately 6,000 persons around the time of the Revolutionary War and early Euro-American settlement of the county (The Wayne County History Book Committee 6). Of the three, the Lenni Lenape were the first to be displaced by Euro-Americans. In 1795 the majority of the Lenni Lenape were pushed to Wabash Co., Indiana where they remained until being again displaced westward in 1819. The Wyandots were first moved to Upper Sandusky, Ohio in 1817 and then moved West of the Mississippi River in 1842. Few early accounts recorded detailed information about the Shawnee of Wayne Co. and their fate (Douglass 162-166). In Ben Douglass’ History of Wayne County, Ohio the author indicates that fragments of the Lenni Lenape, Shawnee, and Wyandots were the chief groups in Wayne County, OH (161). Indigenous peoples congregated in the largest numbers in Clinton, East Union, Franklin and Chippewa townships (166). However, few indigenous people permenantly inhabited the region and Wayne County was used primarily for its hunting grounds and trials (Williams 1-3). For example, a journal kept by Major Robert Rogers during his return from Detroit at the end of the French and Indian War records that many trails ran through what is now Wayne County and that game was abundant outside of the small scattered villages of the region (ibid.). Euro-American settlers often incorporated indigenous constructions into new towns and counties. For example, "Indian Trails" in the Wooster area were expanded and served as the basis for roads that later became sections of US 250, US 30, and SR 585, among others (The Wayne County History Book Committee 6).On page 52 of The Native Tribes of Old Ohio, there is an excerpt from an 1831 issue of The Ohio Gazetteer. According to this article, there were five indigenous groups in Ohio by 1830. They included the following: Wyandots (527), Senecas (520), Lenni Lenape (76), Shawnees (500), and Ottawas (377). The Senecas were made up of the following groups: Cayugas (157), Mohawks (46), Oneidas (48), Onondagas (7), and Senecas (262). This article also included the population and number of acres owned by each group.

  • Wyandots, 527 people, 163,000 acres
  • Shawnees, 500 people, 117,000 acres
  • Senecas, 520 people, 117,000 acres
  • Lenni Lenape, 76 people, 5,760 acres
  • Ottawas, 377 people, 50,581 acres

In addition to these lands, reservation lands comprised 16,200 acres. The newspaper reported that the national government paid considerable yearly annuities to these five groups.

Additional Resources

External Links

The Ohio History Connection website has multiple pages devoted to the past and ongoing contributions of indigenous peoples to the wider state. They also provide an interactive digital exhibit of indigenous peoples from the first settlement of Ohio through the time of Euro-American settler colonialism.

For genealogical researchers, the National Archives has an easy to use site with detailed information about how to search for Native American ancestors by utilizing Federal records such as past census data, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) records, and military records. These also include Dawes Enrollment cards.


Below is a list of technical terms referenced above which may require further definitions or explanations.

Euro-American: term used to encompass all non-indigenous settlers of European and/or American descent
Flint Tools: originally classified by some as flint tools (and now known as Flaked tools), these include other stones such as obsidian which can be flaked to form fine, razor sharp blades
Indigenous Peoples: widely accepted term for peoples sometimes refered to as Native Americans, American Indians, or simply Indians
Lenni Lenape: modern term for the indigenous peoples formerly referred to as the Delaware
Pecked and Polished: older term referring to stone tools made either by chipping (or pecking) away material to form the desired shape, or by grinding away material
Positionality: a persons experience and views as informed by their position within the hegemonic structure (religious, political, and social system) of their culture
Projectile Points: commonly used archaeological term referring to the stone points of spears, arrows, and other weapons. Colloquially known as arrowheads
Settler Colonialism: a form of colonial domination based on the removal of indigenous peoples from their lands and the reformation of those lands into Euro-American style settlements. This can often extend to the dispossession of language, material culture, and more.
Slate: though important slate artifacts have been found throughout Ohio, the intricately shaped Mica artifacts of the Woodland period are also worthy of consideration

Timeline of Ohio's Indigenous History

The below timeline shows major periods in Ohio's indigenous history, as categorized by anthropologists and archaeologists. Adapted from Ohio History Central. Please note, all dates are approximate.

  • Pre-Clovis Culture (13000 BCE to 9500 BCE)
  • The Pre-Clovis encompasses the earliest people to continuously inhabit parts of the Americas, including at significant sites in places including Pennsylvania and Chile.
  • Clovis Culture (9500 BCE to 8000 BCE)
  • The Clovis is one of the oldest identified periods in Ohio History, distinguished by the unique Clovis style projectile points left behind.
  • Plano Culture (8000 BCE to 7000 BCE)
  • Plano period settlements are similarly identified by their distinctive projectile point style and were widely distributed.
  • Glacial Kame/Red Ocher Cultures (3000 BCE to 500 BCE)
  • Glacial Kame period cultures often buried their deceased in glacial mounds, or kames, such as those found in Ohio and Ontario. Red Ocher period cultures are identified by the prevalence of red ocher in mortuary practices and a distinctive projectile point resembling a turkey's tail.
  • Adena Culture (800 BCE to First Century CE)
  • The Adena Cultural Period is distinguished by semi-mobile groups of individuals who domesticated crops, built burial mounds, and began producing clay vessels.
  • Hopewell Culture (200 BCE to 400 CE)
  • Ohio was the epicenter of the wide reaching Hopewell Culture which is identified by large scale trade networks, mica cutouts, large earthworks, and agricultural settlements.
  • Fort Ancient Culture (1000 CE to 1650 CE)
  • Settlements belonging to the Fort Ancient period are distinguished by the diminishing use of burial mounds and the construction of permanent agricultural villages around central plazas.
  • Sandusky Culture (1200 CE to 1650 CE)
  • The Sandusky culture predominately occupied sites in northwestern Ohio and produced a distinctive style of pottery.
  • Whittlesey Culture (1000 CE to 1600 CE)
  • Whittlesey Culturesettled sites in northeastern Ohio which were intended to be highly defensible. They are also distinguished by their distinctive pottery.
  • Monongahela Culture (1000 CE to 1650 CE)
  • Distinctive villages of 100-150 people surrounded by circular earthworks are used to identify settlements from the Monongahela Culture as are distinctive pieces of pottery.
  • Historic Period (1650 CE to Present Day)
  • The Historic Period is simply defined by the date at which indigenous peoples began to come into prolonged contact with Euro-Americans. This is also when indigenous histories began to be recorded in written documents rather than oral traditions.


The following resources were consulted in the creation of this page and may prove useful for researchers interested in Wayne County, Ohio’s indigenous peoples. This is by no means a comprehensive list of available resources but should provide both easily accessible reference and a good starting point for more in-depth study, particularly for WCPL patrons.

Dancey, William S. (ed.) The First Discovery of America:Arcaheological Evidence of the Early Inhabitants of the Ohio Area.Columbus, Ohio: The Ohio Archaeological Council, 1994.

Doddridge, Joseph and Narcissa Doddridge. Notes on the Settlement and Indian Wars. Pittsburgh, PA.: John S. Ritenour and Wm. T. Lindsey, 1912.

Douglass, Ben. History of Wayne County, Ohio. Indianapolis, Ind. : Robert Douglas, Publisher, 1878.

Haglock, Henry C. Moravians and Mound Builders (Undated lose-leaf clippings from Dover Daily Reporter)

History of Wayne County Ohio. Vol. 1. Indianapolis, Indiana : B. F. Bowen & Company, 1910.

Levison, Mary Eileen Schuler. Ohio Was Their Home.Richard County Genealogical Society, 2008.

Mills, William C. Archaeological Atlas of Ohio: Showing the Distribution of the Various Classes of Prehistoric Remains in the State With a Map of The Principal Indian Trails and Towns. Columbus: The Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society & Fred J. Heer, 1914.

Mills, William C. Ohio Archaeological Exhibit at The Jamestown Exposition (1907). Columbus, Ohio: F. J. Heer.

Notestein, Lucy Lillian. Wooster of the Middle West. Kent State University Press, 1971.

Prufer, Olaf F., and Douglas McKenzie. Studies in Ohio Archaeology. Kent State University Press, 1975.

Tregillis, Helen Cox. The Native Tribes of Old Ohio. Westminster, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc. , 2007.

The Wayne County History Book Committee. A History of Wayne County, Ohio. Dallas, Texas: Taylor Publishing Company, 1987.

Williams, Lindsey Wilger. Old Paths in the New Purchase. Wooster, Ohio: Atkinson Printing, 1983.