Today this section of Ohio is divided by 2 major interstates. Interstate 71 cuts across the diagonal of southwest Ohio. I-75 is a direct connection between the northern tip of the state up north, coming directly south through Ohio, closely following the route of the old Miami-Erie Canal, that connects Cincinnati with Toledo going south to Miami.
Interstate 71 extends north from Louisville Kentucky and connects to Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. Along this concrete corridor a wide variety of businesses and entertainment venues have developed. As it crosses into Ohio and through the Cincinnati, you might be interested to know that when the freeway goes through a tunnel just east of the Great American Ball Park, you are travelling right underneath where Fort Washington once stood.
It was Fort Washington that gave provided the jump start on this area back in the late 1700s. Native Americans were not happy that Americans were coming into the Ohio Country and they were fighting back with bloody consequences. President Washington wanted to bring peace to the wilderness so he had a fort built here that would provide a base for military expeditions into the Ohio Country. It would take 3 major expeditions from Fort Washington before peace would come.
The southwestern section of Ohio is the area which became developed first in the late 1700s after it was made safe for early settlers coming down the Ohio River to stop. Beyond this point was mostly wilderness with unknown risks. Fort Washington provided protection and was a sign of civilization, which was a sign of safety and opportunity.
The land surrounding this area had been extensively surveyed and could be purchased with some degree of certainty that the deed was legal. In time the area around the old fort became known as Cincinnati, the Queen City of the West. From there, the area began developing rapidly. Not far north of the Queen City, the village of Dayton became the center of industry in Ohio. Early industrial pioneers found the area an ideal location to begin new businesses here because of its location, its people and the variety of transportation modes that crossed here.
Early on Cincinnati's prime industries were metalworking, wood products, and pork packing. By 1835, Cincinnati was the nation's pork packing center. It was even given the nickname Porkopolis. Hundreds of pigs would move through the downtown streets on their way to the slaughterhouse. One of the side industries resulting from so much pork processing, was the manufacturing of candles and soap. One of those industries was Procter and Gamble which started in 1837.
Dayton in the mid to late 1800s became a center of innovation and development. The Wright Brothers who grew up in Dayton, later credited this factor one of the most important aspects of their development that led to them being credited with the first to successfully fly and land a powered aircraft. National Cash Register also changed the face of corporate America as did DELCO which made major developments in the automobile industry.
Long before Chillicothe became the first capital of Ohio, it was a cultural center for long gone civilization known as the Mound Builders who lived here for what evidence is suggesting to be more than a 1000 years. Many centuries after the Mound Builders disappeared from Ohio, Native Americans of a variety of nations came to this area to gather salt. In fact the name Chillicothe was an Indian term for "gathering place."
Overlooking Chillicothe 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. On the Worthington estate, the first Adena-type burial mound was excavated, giving rise to the name "Adena Mound Builders". It was also the view to the east that was the inspiration for the state Seal of Ohio.
Henry Massie, the famous Virginia surveyor, formally laid out Portsmouth in 1803, the year that Ohio became a state. He named the town Portsmouth after Portsmouth, Virginia, his hometown. Portsmouth grew quickly due to the traffic on the rivers and continued to prosper with the construction of the Ohio and Erie Canal during the 1820s and the 1830s.
Portsmouth became one of Ohio's larger river towns and a place where people could stop on their way down or up the Ohio and Scioto Rivers. It would gain popularity when the town was made the county seat of Scioto County.
When the Ohio River flooded in 1937, devasted Portsmouth. More than 60 percent of the town was destroyed. To help protect the town from future flooding a large flood wall was built. In recent years that massive concrete wall was adorned with a series of large mural paintings that attract visitors year round.
Portsmouth is also the southern terminus for the world-famous Tour of the Scioto River Valley bike tour. Each spring 1000s of bikers make this annual bike ride from Columbus to Portsmouth, spend the night here and then turn around and go back to Columbus.
As far as we know today, the Mound Builders were the oldest organized civilization to have lived in the Ohio Country. While their earthworks have been discovered all over the state from Lake Erie to the Ohio River, there was an unusually high concentration of mounds and earthworks in southwestern Ohio including the Chillicothe and Dayton areas. Over the centuries they lived here their culture changed in certain dramatic ways. Some of the oldest earthworks discovered were burial mounds. In time these large burial mounds that were constructed to entomb we suppose were their most important leaders. In time these large conical mounds were supplemented with more geometric walled enclosures. These earthen walls were highly engineered and not just piles of dirt. They were not burial structures, but were strikingly similar to each other.
Then there are the effigy mounds. The most familiar of these is what we call Serpent Mound in Adams County. We call it a serpent because that's what it appears to contemporary eyes. What it meant to the builders will never be known. Like other earthen constructions, this earthwork was not used for burials. There are burial mounds nearby, but not in the structure itself.
The Chillicothe area represented a large cluster of these geometric shapes enclosures. Their purpose is unknown. Some archeologists have interpreted them to be of a religious nature, but that is completely speculative.
The pieces of stone art and shards of pottery bear a strong resemblance to artifacts recovered in and around Mayan cultural centers. Recovered DNA also indicate they may have had familial ancestors.
Two shy boys that grew up in Dayton were responsible for developing the world of aviation. It was through Orville and Wilbur Wright's efforts they created a powered machine that could not only fly, but could stay up for hours, make controlled turns, and land. Once they received the patent for their flying machine, they began the first aircraft manufacturing facility in Dayton. That facility would later become known as Wright Patterson Air Force Base and home to the National Museum of the USAF.