Skip to comments.Ohio's Mysteries: The Old Stone Fort
Posted on 07/24/2012 5:51:29 PM PDT by Pharmboy
It's believed to be the oldest building in Ohio, and possibly the Midwest. But the mystery remains: who built it and why?
COSHOCTON, Ohio -- It's believed to be the oldest building in Ohio, and possibly the Midwest built nearly a century before the American Revolution. But the mystery remains: who built the Old Stone Fort and why?
On an ordinary plot of farm land on County Road 254 in eastern Coshocton County sits what is arguably one of the most important buildings in Ohio history.
It is believed that the Old Stone Fort was built sometime around 1679.
As important as it is, however, hardly anything is known about the Old Stone Fort.
For example, no one knows who built the fort or why.
It's generally believed that it was built by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville.
He was a French Canadian and brother of the founder of New Orleans.
It's believed that he traveled the nearby Tuscarawas River and built the fort to guard against the English in the fur trade battles.
Then, there's the George Croghan scenario.
He was an Irish fur trader working for England who moved into the Native American territories to trade furs with the Delaware tribe.
He was not born until 1718, which would mean that if built by Croghan, the fort isn't as old as presumed.
There's also the theory that the fort was built by unknown settlers as a way to defend themselves against the native tribes.
There are rifle ports on all sides, and archaeological digs have found evidence of a stockade.
Then, there's yet another theory.
"I'm going to get tarred and feathered and ran out of Coshocton, because I don't think it was a fort," said Margaret Lowe.
Lowe has studied the fort all her life and said she believes it was not nearly as historic as a fort or outpost, but it may have just been part of a farm.
"I think it was probably, and again, this is written during one version, that it was used as a spring house. Another version was that it was used for a meat house," Lowe said.
Could it have been all of the theories over the years?
In the French Canadian version, the fort was built nearly 100 years before the American Revolution, and oral history handed down over generations say it was built as early as 1800.
In 1918, a farmer dug up a French compass while plowing near the fort. In 1880, there was a tornado in the closest town of Evansburg, destroying the town, but the fort survived.
The town, named after the people who lived there, was never rebuilt.
Over the centuries, the fort was rebuilt after falling into disrepair.
Part of the doorway is preserved at the local museum, and the wood looks ancient.
It is only 14 square feet inside, and doesn't appear to have been used as living quarters.
At one time there was a ladder heading up to a second floor, but now the fort is boarded up.
What the Old Stone Fort has given the neighbors is a sense of wonder.
"I would have loved to have seen the stockade around it," said Dan Markley, a local historian. "This fort, everybody has a different opinion as why it was here and it's just a mystery. If you could find just one person, somewhere along the line who could give you a true answer."
Another mystery surrounding the fort is the owner. It's not clear who owns the building today.
Locals want to know the history, but likely will take their theories to the grave, never having an answer.
Wait until the History Channel gets a hold of this...they’ll make a 1-hour program dedicated to aliens landing in Ohio and building the fort.
14 square feet inside? Wow, how thick are those walls? Or did they really me 14 feet square?
14 square feet inside? Wow, how thick are those walls? Or did they really mean 14 feet square?
My first thought was - doesn’t look like a fort.
I have a good idea....but I have to look up the map and name.
Well, they found remains of the stockade, so I imagine that’s what’s driving the ‘fort’ designation. It does have gun ports...I guess that’s why it’s a mystery.
How is this gentleman, who is thought to be the builder, French Canadian?
He may have been French, but he certainly wasn’t Canadian. :)
Interesting. Thanks for posting.
Whoever built that fort didn’t build it.
They can relocate it to my yard and the mystery will be solved- it will be my Man Cave
Looks to me to be what they used to call an “Indian House,” where a family could retreat to during an Indian raid. One of my ancestors built one near his log home in the wilds of western Virginia in the 1780s.
Ding ding ding!! We have a winner! Post o’ the day!!
I’m sure this will get me thrown out of the “Aliens Built it” Fan Club. But when I saw the picture it reminded me of some of the stone buildings the Vikings built in Greenland.
I’m sure though that when it comes to field stone buildings there are really only a couple of ways to build them. So they would all look similar after awhile.
More like a trading post....I’d say French....They had a whole line of forts along the Ohio
There’s an 1750’s stone/brick house north of Winston-Salem, NC built when the area was still subject to Indian attacks. There are several gun ports built into the walls.
This one was probably as much fort as it was trading house.
Booze and manufactured items plus food to trade for skins, pelts, etc. The buildings could be buttoned down if things got ugly.
I think you guys nailed it...
I hope so - 14 square feet is about 3.75 feet by 3.75 feet. Our ancestors were smaller - but not THAT small.
They probably meant 140 ft^2.
It looks like it could be 10 by 14 on the inside.
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Thanks Hegemony Cricket for the ping, and PB for the topic.
I wonder if it could be an ice house.
No way that thing is 14 square feet inside unless the walls are 10 feet thick. I suspect this should read "14 feet square" which would make it 196 square feet and would fit the pictured building.
The term blockhouse might be a more accurate description.
As late as 1717 DesIsles, the official French cartographer in Paris, was not drawing in anything South of what is now the Indiana/Michigan/Ohio state line as a French claim.
That area was still claimed by Spain and no matter what they tell you about Spanish cessions and French claims and discoveries, the Spanish had not only claimed everything South to the Gulf and north to the Great Lakes, numerous explorers and traders had penetrated AND settled in many places throughout what is now the Mid-South and the Lower MIdWest.
Old times were not forgotten, though, and when George Rogers Clark showed up in the Illinois country the Spanish milita at Cahokia joined the Revolutionary militia under Clark and moved North all the way to the St Joseph River and claimed Fort St. Joseph for Spain ~ under their own Spanish flag.
I"ve been looking for small towns all through the area between the MIssissippi and the East Coast that are laid out in accordance with the Spanish Law of the Indies.
No, there are not a lot of them, but there are several dozen ~ one is even obviously named La Villa Real ~ which denotes it as a Spanish headquarters town of some sort.
GOOGLE EARTH makes this possible.
The "OLD FORT" here is probably on a piece of land that was first sold under the authority of the American government to someone with an arguably Spanish surname.
It's a stone fort, or stone home, with ports for an an Arquibus ~
It may even have housed an arquebus à croc, a heavier gauge wagon mounted firearm ~ predecessor to more modern artillery in later centuries.
These things were used in the 15th, 16th and 17th century, and out on the Spanish frontier probably even longer.
Take a look at Newcomerstown ~ Main Street ~ see that early village laid out different than anthing else ~ ? That's what you want to look for. On a river navigable with a canoe or piroque, onto another river that could handle a larger boat, and on down to the Ohio
When you go downstream on the Ohio back in the 1500s or 1600s, you get off on the Miami and go North to a portage area of a few miles that takes you over to the East Fork of the White River somewhere, or to the Muscatatuck bottoms. You go downstream to the Wabash, and then come back out onto the Ohio West of Evansville. That way you bypass the exceedingly warlike Shawnee who'd had an iron grip on the Falls on the Ohio for generations.
This little facility was probably a safe house for the local Spanish goldminers and millers who ran a still that made alcoholic beverages to trade to the Indians for products such as smoked ham and smoked venison.
There are probably the remains of mill stone segments around there, and probably some sort of gold sluice. I suspect they found some gold. With the safe house some of the Spaniards probably ended up as serious traders and suppliers in the region and when American surveys were made, they bought their titles to their own land immediately. They will be in the deed books somewhere (if they still exist).
I"ve found that pattern repeated in many other areas. Typical of most American immigrants, when the new guys came in they didn't leave.
The one group I haven't covered is the Iroquois. They were very busy in the 1500/1600 period clearing much of the Ohio Valley of troublesome tribes who would not pay tribute. They sent permanent tax collectors into the region and could move troops from Central New York on regular warrior paths in a short period, so you either paid or they ran you off (or killed you).
They never succeeded in driving off the Shawnee ~ and until the French came in with a major force some time in the early 1700s to set up a saw mill to cut rough furniture pieces to ship to France for Louis' furniture factory the Shawnee forced everybody else going up and down the river to that Northern detour I described.
Once the Shawnee figured out that all the French furniture makers wanted were trees and a place for their mill they let them stay ~ but there was not a lot of contact. NOTE: Louis built Versailles. Nobles were required to rent apartments there. They were further required to buy furniture from Louis to furnish those apartments. That furniture was finished off in Paris from rough cut pieces made in America from Kentucky and Indiana hardwoods.
***It is only 14 square feet inside, and doesn’t appear to have been used as living quarters. ***
Possibly a powder magazine for a wooden fort.
At Fort Gibson Oklahoma there is a stone powder magazine at their wooden walled fort.
I think they did, too.
My oldest ancester in America immigrated from Eng. in 1700. He was the Commander of one unit in the French wars and was commissioned to map all of the Virginia territory about 1750. I’ll bet he saw a lot of these.
One of his soldiers was a 22 y.o. young man by the name of George Washington. When Grandpa Joshua died in a fall from a horse in 1750, young George took over the command, his first.
Joshua Frye. A very interesting man.
You might be interested in looking up Joshua Frye. It’s on Google.
14 foot square...14 square feet.
Hey, I’m a journalist. You say to-mah-toe, I say to-may-toe. What’s the diff?
I didn’t know any of that. Are you going to publish a list of the towns laid out in accordance with the Spanish Law of the Indies?
Looks like a barn to me. What makes it a fort?
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Josh Frye, Little Miami (Morrow, Ohio), OL, Senior, 5’9”, 285
Thanks for the post, Pharmboy!
PING to a friend who grew up in Ohio.
In the middle of farm country- I’d suggest it was built as a “blockhouse”, to provide safe haven for field workers, trappers, traders, and a few families to flee for safety in case of an Indian attack. Guns and powder could have been stored there in case they were needed
The stockade could have been added later
Just guessing on the function, based on structures mentioned in my western PA family history, one blockhouse (Lochry’s, dating from about 1773) of which still actually exists in Latrobe PA in a preservation area funded by Arnold Palmer in memory of his late wife Winnie
There is a lot of history there.
The oldest building still remaining in the original Connecticut Western Reserve is in my home town.
If it dates to 1679, it was surely French.
The Newly formed America did not settle the area until the late 1770s.
There was no “farm country” back in the day.
From here, the war of 1812 would be won.
I’m thinking local tavern/trading post/inn.
The only thing that does not make sense as a last resort fighting place, is the ground level door.
The slotted window (guns) and the small widow (guns) make sense and the large second level entrance makes sense if the ladder for egress can be retracted.
which is why my hunch is this structure dates from the late 1700’s (post Rev) or very early 1800’s, when settlers were moving into Ohio and were still vulnerable to attacks into the 1790’s (or later into the 1800’s? Ohio historians?)
someone was settled on this land enough to build a stone structure -
just wonder if they have investigated whether the stone is encasing or replaced an older log structure, as has been suggested occurred with some of the original log blockhouses in pre-Rev war PA that are contained within later built homes
That is where they found my ancestor Lochry’s 1774 blockhouse- within a farmhouse built over it
There are some other very interesting sites in Ohio. In Independence, out side of Cleveland, A friend’s Great Grandmother owned a farm on the North East corner of Valley View and Rockside roads, This farm pre-dated the Firelands era, There was an ancient family cemetery right up close to Rockside. The farm was in the Cuyahoga River Valley. On a tall hill on the South East side were the remains of what was rumored to be a fort, and that quite a battle had taken place there, with Indians. When we explored there as kids, all that was left were large sandstone blocks.
The area is now all office and light industrial. I went into the office building that was built over the family graveyard, and asked them if they ever had strange things happening. I told them that i had witnessed the construction of their building, and that I had watched the old family graveyard just plowed under. Some of the people I talked to were quite disturbed by that news.
I have seen similar structures in Apache areas in Az that were small with slotted windows for fighting the indians as a last resort.
Larger wooden structures were built around them over the years and the old “safe” place was a place of last resort for security within the wooden building but not fighting.
Over the ages the wooden structures were lost and only the old hidey hole remains.