I had mentioned back in my original post about the Harrison Military Road marker that it had been the subject of an article that I wrote for The Black Swamp Trader & Firelands Gazette
. Well, below is the article as it appeared in the publication's Fall 2012 issue.
Oberlin’s War of 1812 Monument Gone But Not Forgotten
By Dan Brady
With the 200th Anniversary of the beginning of the War of
1812 comes renewed interest in the important events of the war. Here in Ohio,
the scene of much of the fighting, there are a variety of historical sites,
markers and monuments for those that are interested. In Oberlin, just west of
town, there was a historical marker – a huge granite boulder with a plaque –
that had been there since 1914. But it’s gone now, and what the marker
commemorated – a crossing of the Harrison Military Road – is sadly forgotten.
Here, then is the story of that road, as well as the marker and its rocky fate.
General William Henry Harrison (later the ninth President of
the United States) had been put in command of the Army of the Northwest after
the disastrous loss of Detroit to the British in August 1812. Harrison realized
that the ability to move troops and supplies around Ohio was of critical
importance to win the war. Thus he ordered the construction of various military
roads by the troops.
|General William Henry Harrison|
The main “Harrison Military Road” passed through Fremont and
was used to get to and from Ft. Meigs. But Harrison also had several small
tributary military roads constructed through the thick forests that covered
Ohio. One of them went from Wooster to what is now Ashland, and it was
determined that the route be extended north to Lake Erie.
It was this road connecting Ashland to Lake Erie and passing
through Oberlin that would later be honored with a marker.
It was sometimes called the Moonsinger Road, since Colonel
Moonsinger and his troops built it under orders from General Harrison. From
Ashland, it went north through Wellington, Pittsfield and just west of Oberlin.
Then, it followed along the line of Beaver Creek to Amherst, before connecting
with Lake Erie just west of Lorain at Oak Point.
Although the road had no special significance during the
War, it was used for the movement of troops in protecting the lakeshore and
forts west, as well as a supply route.
After the War of 1812, the road through the forest continued
to be used for a period of approximately twenty years before falling into
disuse and becoming covered with underbrush. But the still-visible road’s
crossing through Oberlin attracted the attention of an Oberlin student who realized
what it was and recognized its historical significance.
|Dr. George Frederick Wright|
That student would later be well known as Dr. George
Frederick Wright (1838-1921), an American geologist with an interest in history
who became a professor at Oberlin Theological Seminary. Years later, Wright
also became President of the Ohio State Historical Society, and apparently
would use his influence to make sure the military road passing through Oberlin
was not forgotten.
One hundred years after the end of the War of 1812, the
Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) in Ohio decided to honor the old
military road, as well as Wright’s discovery of it. The dedication of a large
granite boulder (believed to be more than 10,000 years old) containing a plaque
was to be the highlight of the 16th Annual Conference of the Ohio D.A.R. held
in Oberlin in late October 1914.
The marker was placed on the south side of West Lorain
Street, approximately a mile and a half west of Oberlin. The plaque had the
CROSSING OF HARRISON MILITARY ROAD
CUT THROUGH DENSE FOREST BY COLONEL MOONSINGER
OAK POINT TO ASHLAND 1813
LOCATED BY G. F. WRIGHT, PRESIDENT
OHIO STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
TABLET ERECTED BY OBERLIN CHAPTER
DAUGHTERS OF AMERICAN REVOLUTION 1914
The dedication ceremony took place on the old Reamer farm
west of town.
|Closeup of the tablet|
Dr. Wright spoke at the marker’s unveiling of the road’s
importance, and the work involved in its construction. Wright stated “It was
one of the numerous roads made by Gen. Harrison by way of precaution. At the
same time the significance is great because of the labor involved in its
construction. The whole country was then covered with a dense forest of large,
tall trees, many of which had to be cut down and the stumps removed to clear
the way. Numerous bog holes, also, had to be made passable by corduroy roads,
some of which are still remembered by our oldest citizens. Thus the road is a
witness to the seriousness of the military situation in northern Ohio after
Hull’s surrender of Detroit in 1812.”
He also noted, “The work of the D.A.R. in marking the place
where this crossed one of the principal roads of Lorain County will serve to
recall to the citizens of the county the toil which was expended and the
hardships which were endured during the War of 1812 to preserve those
institutions which now insure the peace and prosperity so abundantly enjoyed.
It is hoped that other crossing places in other towns will in due time be
marked in a similar manner.”
For many years, the marker stood on what was later designated
Ohio State Route 10, approximately 300 yards west of the railroad tracks. By
the late 1950s, however, it was largely ignored. The Lorain Journal in July
1959 observed, “Hundreds of motorists daily pass a large boulder on Rt. 10,
just west of Oberlin, but most of them fail to notice it and perhaps only
occasionally will some curious individual stop to read the inscription on the
plaque attached to the huge rock.”
The newspaper noted that a few years earlier, the local
D.A.R. chapter cleaned the plaque and planted evergreens on either side of the
concrete base of the boulder. A rail fence and some shrubbery also created a
tidy “park” setting.
In July of 1969, the marker received some publicity. It was
the photographic subject of the “This is Oberlin” regular feature in The
Oberlin News-Tribune. The simple photo caption read, “Col. Moonsinger was here
in 1813, says plaque west of town.”
Perhaps the marker would have been better off if it had
continued to be ignored. According to the book Pictorial Memories of Oberlin,
vandals removed the tablet in 1969. Today, there is no evidence that the marker
was ever there in its former location on what is now Ohio State Route 511.
An observation by The Lorain Journal in its 1959 article
highlighting the marker is sadly ironic in view of its final fate. As the paper
noted, “Mortals make history, but often their deeds would be forgotten but for
the monuments left by thoughtful individuals and organizations to kept the
present forever linked with the past.”
After I was made aware that the tablet had been vandalized and removed, I spent a lot of time driving up and down Route 511 trying to see if perhaps the boulder to which the tablet was attached, or maybe its base, was still out there. (Why? Just curious, I guess.)
Here (below) is the stretch of today's Route 511 west of Oberlin city limits along which the tablet was located. To get your bearing, the top of the photo is north.
You can see the trail bed of the now removed railroad tracks at the extreme right of the photo. If the marker's location was truly "300 yards west of the railroad," that would put it just to the left of the farms and on the south side of the road, close to the highway.
Photos of the marker show it seemingly in the middle of a field, so I guess that's where it was – somewhere.
Special thanks to the Black Swamp Trader & Firelands Gazette for permission to reproduce this article.