William Hewitt

William Hewitt
    Photo from Pike County News Watchman & Jim Henry's article

 Wm. Hewitt, the Hermit, occupied this cave fourteen years, while all was a wilderness around him.  He died in 1834 aged 70 years.

 William Hewitt lived in what is now Alma and was closely associated with Pike County History.  Many people have asked me to feature Hewitt "the Hermit" so here is a short article.
     Hewitt came to Ohio territory and settled in Jackson County about 1785 from Virginia.  He lived by himself and around the Indians who respected him because he respected the rights of others.  While there a creek and a post office were named for him.  When the War of 1812 began he volunteered for the Army of Ohio and severed well as a scout.
     When Jackson County became too settled for his liking, he moved West to his final home where he had found an opening between two ledges of rock near George Hollow and Yoakum's Trace now US 23 (between Waverly, Ohio and Chillicothe, Ohio.)  He used rocks and closed in a room with a hand hewed oaken door.  The room was about eight feet by eight feet by the description I read.
     Hewitt was a big man - six feet, two-inches, broad and deep chest, weighing over two-hundred pounds, strong and active.  He was born in 1764 and moved to the cave around 1820.  He wore buckskin (leather) from head to toe, Cap - hunting shirt, leggings and moccasins.  He was always armed with a gun, tomahawk and knife but was always courteous and harmless.
     When he settled in his cave there was very little traffic by his door.  He planted an orchard nearby and killed animals for his own use and traded skins for what he needed.  He met James Emmitt on nearby Divide Hill when Jim was a teamster and needed help getting over the steep hill.  Hewitt came out and would chock the wagon wheel whenever Jim made a little head way.  They became good friends from then on.  Jim would always check on him and when he found out he was very sick, Hewitt was taken to Waverly and tended by Dr. Blackstone but a week later passed away and was buried in Waverly cemetery (where the city building are now).  This was in 1834 and the Portsmouth to Columbus turnpike was opened in 1840.  In 1842 the president of the road, Felix Renick, had a monument constructed and erected over the cave.  The inscriptions read "Wm. Hewitt, the Hermit, occupied this cave fourteen years, while all was a wilderness around him.  He died in 1834 aged 70 years.
     This monument stood there until the highway was widened to four lanes about 1952 - then I read that it was moved to Chillicothe at the State Highway Garage and later to Divide Hill, where you can see it now at the intersection of Scioto Trail Park Road and US 23.

The following is an
Newspaper article dated January 4, 2006:

While researching the July 6, 1939 issue of the Republican Herald (on microfilm in the research room of our public library in Waverly) I found more information about Hewitt there Hermit by E. S. Wenis.  many stories have been told Hewitt the Hermit who lived in a cave alongside U. S. 23, just past George Hollow Road on the right going north, past Alma.

This former native of Virginia, who took up his abode in the wilderness of newly opened Virginia Military District (land between the Scioto and Miami Rivers) of the Northwest Territory, gives that region a bit of anecdotes are continually arising with him as a central figure.

However, it does seem strange that Hewitt, who died and was buried near Waverly, should have become the victim after death, of the scientific eagerness of clinical records research on the part of an early medic, who practiced in Waverly at the time of Hewitt's death.

This early doctor was one U. S. Blackstone, who besides other characteristic as a scientific man, was also a friend of the persecuted Negro race in Pike County.

Dr. Blackstone, it has been discovered, dug up the remains of Hewitt and dissected the cadaver and boiled the meat from the bones and used them as a means of further study of the body structure of mankind, until many years afterward, long after Dr. Blackstone had removed from Waverly to Circleville, and succeeded by a nephew, Dr. Thomas Blackstone.

Some human bones had been discovered in the cellar of a home, formerly occupied by the late Dr. Blackstone in Waverly in 1852 by a stone mason of Waverly, and while it was thought they were really Hewitt's bones, there was no certainly until back in 1883, the Circleville Blackstone wrote a letter enclosing more bones and explained that they were given him by his uncle, who told him they had been part of a cadaver of what in life was Hewitt, the Hermit.

The return of the bones of the Hermit permitted the rest of the skeleton remains of Hewitt to be gathered into one place and reinterred was eminently proper for one who had occupied such a very prominent place in early Ohio history and that part of Ross County and later Pike County.

The monument is now located in Scioto Rails State Park off U. S. 23 at Divide Hill.  Drive on east to the park entrance and headquarters, turn left and drive until you see the restored log cabin church and there is the stone.

The photos (above) show the monument around 1900 looking south at a horse and buggy on the then dirt Scioto Trail, later U. S. 23.  In the early 1950"S the highway was widened into four lanes.  the monument was then moved to the park entrance on Divide Hill; then later to the park itself.

This is dedicated to "Bucky" Downing, a classmate who lives near the original cave site.

By Jim Henry, Author Pike's Past
The Pike County News Watchman
January 2006

Copyright © 2006
Pike Co. Genealogy Society a Chapter of O.G.S.
P. O. Box 224, Waverly, Ohio 45690     

Back to photo index