Pipe's Cliff

Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Information

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Pipe's Cliff

source:  Semi-Weekly News (Mansfield):  16 August 1898, Vol. 14, No. 68


Submitted by Amy


Pipe's Cliff is in Monroe Township, nine miles southeast of Mansfield, on the Pleasant Valley road, a short distance from the Douglass homestead.  The Douglass farm had been in the possession of the family for three generations and is now owned by S.M. and A. Douglass, sons of the late John J. Douglass.  The former is a judge of the circuit court and is well qualified to fill the position.  The latter served at prosecuting attorney for two terms and of his success at the bar it can be said that "Gus gets there with the best of them".

The Douglass family is of Scotch-Irish descent, and the lineage may come down from the Douglass whose Highland clansman crossed blades with Stirling's knight at Coltantagle's ford.  Samuel Douglass, the father of the late John J. Douglass, bought the Pleasant Valley farm in 1829, and ever afterwards made it his home, and there his son and grandsons were born.

Pipe's Cliff is named for Capt. Pipe, an Indian chieftain of pioneer times, from the fact that his sister (Onalaska) was killed upon the summit of those rocks.  As the story goes, Capt. Pipe's sister was married to a young warrior named Round Head, and that after the massacre of the Indians at Gnadenhutten (1781), Round Head with his wife and child in company with several other Indians, left their Muskingum village home for the Sandusky country.  The party encamped for a rest from their journey on the ledge of rocks, now known as Pipe's Cliff, and while there were fired upon by a squad of soldiers, killing Onalaska and her child, and wounding two others of the party.  It is stated that the squaw was standing upon a perpendicular rock at the south end of the ledge, with her child in her arms, and that when shot, she fell from the cliff and that her body was buried at its base.  When viewed from the road, this rock presents a monumental appearance, but can best be seen when the leaves are off the trees.  This rock is called "Onalaska's Tower" in commemoration of her tragic death.

The squad of troops who fired upon this party belonged to Col. Broadhead's expedition against the villages of the forks of the Muskingum, known in the history as the "Coshocton campaign" and the soldiers were scouts and could not see through the thick foliage that they fired upon a woman.  But, as the warriors of the party were enemies, Onalaska had to share the consequences of war with her friends with whom she was encamped.

Among the names given to different parts of Pipe's Cliff are "Dragon's Mouth", "Hanging Rock", "The Porch", "Altar Rock", "Frowning Cliff", etc.  The cliff rises to a height of 100 feet above the valley and commands a fine view of the surrounding country.  Around the base and sides of this ledge of rocks are caves and caverns, whose depths and lengths have never been explored.  There is historical authority to confirm, in the main, the traditions of the valley concerning the death of Onalaska, as above described.

But, in the case of Lily Pipe, it is different.  History mentions her not, and the name is not connected even with the tradition of that period.  The first known of Lily Pipe was when the romance of "Philip Seymour" appeared in print in 1857.  It is a romantic story depicting pioneer life and was entertainingly written by the gifted author, Rev. James F. McGaw.  A number of the pioneers then living did not take kindly to the interposition of a fictitious character, as future generations might be unable to eliminate the fiction from the facts.  But the work only claims to be "founded on facts" and was written as a historical novel.  It is complimentary to the author's ability that he made characters so real that people believe in the verity of their existence.

Philip Zimmer (or Seymour) married a Miss Elizabeth Ballantine, of Pickaway County, at the close of the war, and she was never in this part of the state, and she was the only wife Philip ever had.  Muniments on file attest this statement.

McGaw needed a character with which to embellish his story, and that of Lilly Pipe was his creation and served well its purpose.  But, Lilly Pipe, was a myth, a myth of composite parts created to represent certain characteristics and condition.

Braving the dread of being called an iconoclast, make the further statement that the name of Martin Ruffner's "bound boy" was not "Billy Bunting", but Levi Berkinhiger and that McGaw changed not only the name, but gave to the character "a lisping, stammering tongue", which the boy did not possess.

Old Capt. Pipe never lived in Richland County.  His home was at Jeromesville from 1795 to 1812 -- a period between the signing of the treaty of Greenville and the War of 1812.

There was a young Capt. Pipe said to have been a son of the old captain.  The younger Pipe lived at Greentown a year or two, then went to Pipestown, Wyandot County, then later to Kansas, where he died.

Old Capt. Pipe was last seen in these parts at the great feast at Greentown in 1811, the meaning of which was never explained to the white settlers, but which is now understood to have portended the war of 1812, which soon followed.

Switzer's Run has its source in Washington Township and runs in a southeast course, entering Monroe Township about midway along its western border, and follows in the same southeast direction at an angle for a distance of about five miles until it enters the Clear Fork of the Mohican near the south line of the township, a mile and a half below the town of Newville, and near to the old site of Helltown.  Like other streams, Switzer's Run is not so large in the volume of its water as formerly, for since the country has been so generally cleared of timber all streams have shrunken in size.  But the run, even yet, supplies water power for two mills.

Passing along Pleasant Valley (appropriately named) farmers can be seen at work in their fields.  The harvest is just passed and the rattle of the reaper has been succeeded by the whistle of the steam thresher, and after the breaking of the golden sheaf, the prudent husbandman will begin to plow the soil for a future crop.  And next, the frost will be on the pumpkin and the fodder all shocked and after the ripened ears are husked and garnered there will follow a season of holiday and rest for those who till the soil.  But with printers all seasons are busy seasons, and rest only comes when the final "30" is on the hook.

T.B. Wiles, George W. Swigart, Lemuel Craig, Edward Huston, John Ohler, Marion Schrack, Eli Berry, George Tarres, James V. Thompson and other well-to-do farmers live in Pleasant Valley and upward the upland adjoining within a mile or two of the cliff and an aspect of general prosperity abounds in that locality.

The Douglass farm contains about 200 acres.  Across the valley from the old homestead is "Green Gables" the summer outing resort of the Douglass brothers.  The "Gables" is a log cabin with modern improvements, and sits at the base of a forest covered hill, and near by a spring sends forth cool, healthful water.  Here the judge can lay aside his ermine and the practitioner his cases and take their recreation upon their native heath.  And it is a charming spot, where even upon the hottest August days, cool breezes are wont to come down the valley and coy around in the sylvan shades.

The Douglass brothers keep the farm, so doubt, largely for the associations that cluster around the old homestead.  In appreciating old homes and log cabins one is wont to listen to stories of the old settlers.  The actual pioneers are all gone.  The oldest residents are merely links that connect the present with the past.  People seldom tire of hearing stories of the pioneers, for over their manner of life hangs a veil of romance.  Their conflicts with the red men of the forest and the savage wild beasts that roamed the woods;  the transforming of the wilderness under their sturdy strokes;  the rude conditions under which they labored and the grand work they did, all form an interesting chapter in American history.

-- A.J. Baughman

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