History of Winchester and Hemlock Falls by A.J. Baughman
 

Richland Co., Ohio

 
 

Historical Information

 
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Winchester and Hemlock Falls

source:  Mansfield News, 08 August 1903

 
 
 

Submitted by Jean and Faye

 

History of Richland County

By A. J. Baughman

CHAPTER XXXV

Winchester and Hemlock Falls.

Winchester was platted on the southwest quarter of section nine, in Worthington Township, March 31, 1845.  The land was owned by Noble Calhoun and the name was suggested by George Hammon, a Virginian, in honor of Winchester, the beautiful town of the Shenandoah valley - a town and valley since made memorable in history and in song by “Sheridan’s Ride” and other incidents of the civil war.

The Winchester site is on the left bank of the Clearfork of the Mohican, about half-way between Butler and Newville.  The principal reason for the founding of the town was on account of the mills, and the industries which had gathered around them.  The site is near the center of the township and Newville is near the north line, and as the elections were held there, many voters had to go five miles to their polling place; and the idea of a town near to the center of the township became quite popular with many people.

David Herring built mills at this point late in the “thirties.”  There were a grist mill, a saw mill and a woolen mill.  The grist mill was the largest in the county at that time and the building stands intact today.  There were three set of buhrs, two for custom and one for merchant work.  A number of buildings were erected in the vicinity of the mills, and a store of general merchandise and other lines of trade were conducted and business seemed to increase and require more facilities  And a town was platted upon the opposite side of the river on account of that being the more desirable site.  Lots were sold and dwellings were built and soon the place contained eight or ten families.  But ere the village got fairly started, the town of Butler - first called Independence - was laid out upon the line of the railroad then being built from Mansfield to Newark and as the railroad town was within two miles of Winchester, the rest of the story needs not be told, further than to state that where Winchester once stood, there are now fields of waving grain, and the fine old structure that was once a grist mill, is now used for a barn.  By becoming surety for friends, David Herring became financially embarrassed and finally lost all.  He died in 1872 and his widow, Mrs. Hannah L. Herring now resides at No. 15 North Walnut street, Mansfield.

In the erection of the Herring grist mill, a beam fell, crushing a man to death and, the blood stain remains upon the timber until this day.

The Clearfork flows through an alluvial valley, bordered with hills of modified drift, generally sandy, in places composed of coarse, water-worn pebbles and boulders.  A freshet of this stream, locally known as the “great flood,” occurred on Jun 28, 1838, the day of Queen Victoria’s coronation.  And when the flood was at its height, a Miss Duncan was rescued from the island in a canoe and declining a seat, stood with one foot upon each side of the little shallop, and from a bottle drank to the health of the crowd upon the shore.

The “island” is above the mills and there, near the cabin, which for years stood between the head race and the river, is where a legend claims a “pot of gold” is buried, and for which considerable search has been made.  And there lights are seen to glimmer as though to indicate the place where the treasure is hidden.

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Hemlock falls is usually associated with Newville, but the place is more properly connected with Winchester.  The falls is two miles south of Newville and two miles east of Winchester, making the distance relatively the same.  But the geological and other features for which the falls locality is noted, begin at Winchester and extend down to and around the falls, making the two places bound together by chains of rock ribbed ridges and everlasting hills.  The falls is about a mile - as the road goes - south of the Clearfork, and the water is a spring run that leaps over a ledge of rocks that extends for a mile or more along the east side of a vale which is a spur of the main valley.  The little stream which here leaps over the precipice first runs over slanting rocks for perhaps 50 feet, then plunges over and down, making a direct leap of 25 feet into a basin below.  Like other streams, this is not nearly so large as it was when the country was first settled, but even now whenever there is a freshet, the altisonant roar of the water fall can be heard more than a mile away with a sigh and moan like that of distress.

Hemlock falls is interesting in its rough, wild beauty and in the geological formations and physical features of its ledge of rocks, especially those south of the falls, where here and there grotesque grottos, curious corridors and capacious caverns abound.  It was in a cave beneath the falls, as McGaw states, were Philip Seymour first saw Lilly Pipe, and of which meeting he gives such a graphic description.  The parties had taken shelter there from a terrific storm, one of the most violent that ever visited that part of the country.

In viewing these massive rocks, innumerable marks and indentations are seen upon their otherwise smooth surface, which are clearly wave marks, made by the surging waters of a lake that was, but is not.

“What are the sad waves saying?” can here be changed to what have they here written in the centuries agone, when the valley lying west was a lake, as was, perhaps, the entire valley of the Clearfork.

The surface of this part of Ohio was once covered with ice.  The origin of this condition was in the continual accumulation of snow over the glacial region in excess of the melting power of the summer sun.  The extent of the glacial region is now pretty accurately known.  In America the glacial sheet extended to the south of New England and southwestward from New York to the Mississippi.  In Ohio, the line of its southern boundary entered the state in Columbiana county, and ran nearly due west to the vicinity of Loudonville, in Ashland county; thence south, bearing a little west, to a point not far from Lancaster; thence southwest, leaving the state in Clermont county, about 20 miles above Cincinnati.  To this limit the ice of the glacial period extended in its southern movement and as it withdrew, the ice in melting left the material it had picked up in its long journey from the north, to mark its former presence.

There is no doubt that great changes have taken place in this valley since the pre-glacial period, but what they have been can only be learned through geology.  The date of the close of the glacial period has been approximately estimated as not far from ten thousand years.

A theory in explanation of the wave-marks upon the rocks at Hemlock Falls is that a post glacial gorge between the hills, dammed up the river, thus inundating the valleys above.  The waves of the lake may have surged and tossed against these Hemlock Falls rocks for centuries, leaving their marks as wave-prints of time.

At least the gorge gave away, gradually perhaps, but more likely broke suddenly through and tore the dam from its summit to its base to make a passage, and the rocks lying here and there down the river were thus strewed by the flood which was precipitated down the valley on account of the disruption and avulsion of the gorge.

Names have been given to a number of the rocks of the locality of the Falls.  One is called Threshing Floor, and rises perpendicularly three hundred feet above the river.  The top is about forty feet square and is nearly upon a level of the surface of the land upon the east.  In the pioneer times the top of this rock was used as a floor upon which to tramp out wheat.  There is a story that one of the horses used to tread out the grain, fell over the rocks, whereupon the owner of the beast remarked, jokingly, “Well, that ‘hoss’ will never fall again.”

Eagle Nest is a rock which rises to a perpendicular height of seventy-five feet, and an eagle had a nest there for a number of seasons.

Slanting rock is a detached sandstone rock, thirty feet in thickness, forty feet in width and eighty feet in length.  This rock stands upon an end, with another pointing upward of about forty-five degrees.  This rock seems to have been torn from the ledge by some avulsion.  But what and when are matters of conjecture.  There are other detached rocks, some larger, some smaller.

Weeping Rock is on the Watts Hill, and is about one hundred feet in circumference, and fifteen feet in height.  It is isolated and is moss-grown.  From this rock the water drips like a copious flow of tears - hence the name.

Names are also given to certain places, as Indian Hill, Watt’s Hill, Prospect Hill, etc.

Indian Hill is the eastern extremity of the ledge, and from its top, fine views are obtained of Newville and of the Clearfork and Slater’s Run valleys.

Watt’s Hill is on the opposite side of the river from the Falls.  This Watt’s farm is now owned by Mr. Bemiller.  And there is Camp Bemiller, where a Mansfield party is now enjoying an outing.

Prospect Hill is in the fork between the Clearfork and the Hemlock Falls valleys, and is the highest point of land in Worthington Township, and the view from its summit takes in the country for miles around.

Along the side of Prospect Hill, facing the river, are caverns and caves of more or less note, the principal being Fountain Cavern, so named from the stream of cold water that flows from its depth, and which supplies the water in the water-trough by the roadside at the base of the cliff.

The entrance to this cavern is somewhat difficult to find and is what miners call a “drift.”  The passage at first is only about four feet in height, but as the explorer advances, in a short distance the ceiling is sufficiently high for a man to walk erect, but even then the exploerer must be careful, and no one should enter without having a rope around his body and held by stalwart men outside.  By aid of a lantern light one can walk along a gallery extending along the right side of the cavern, while upon the left is a yawning chasm of “black despair” whose depths have never yet been sounded, except, when, a stone was cast into its unexplored abyss, and after several moments it was heard to splash into water, seemingly far into the bowels of the earth.  Lights have been lowered but were extinguished at a depth of three hundred feet, and the end was not then reached.  Other caves, chasms and fissures, of smaller size have been explored to some extent.

Caves and cavern were created by the fracture and dislocation consequent upon the upheaval of strata of rocks and earth by water or other causes, forming caverns in the course of streams, as well as along the coast line of the sea.

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 The first pioneer meeting in the county was held at Hemlock Falls the first Saturday in September, 1836. William B. Carpenter, now a resident of Mansfield, presided, and the late Dr. J. P. Henderson was the marshal of the day.  The principal speakers were Gen R. Brinkerhoff and the Rev. James F. McGraw.  Mr. McGraw is now deceased.  He was the author of “Philip Seymour, or pioneer Life in Richland County,” and his writings had brought the Hemlock Falls locality into note. It was resolved then to hold annual meetings there, and the next was addressed by the Hon. John Sherman, then a representative in congress.  These gatherings were soon diverted from their original purpose, and after a few years they ceased being held. 

Hemlock Falls is interesting in its physical geography and in its historical associations.  There is a fascination in its picturesque, rugged beauty that charms the eye, while it both interests and instructs the student of nature. 

“Under the Hemlock wild flowers grow,
And the green banks slope to the stream below.”

There are writers who seem to think that truth is not as interesting to the reader as are some fancies of their own brain which they give forth to the public as legends and traditions.  Why not give the facts of history - why not tell the truth?

“Tis strange - but true; for truth is always strange. 
Stranger than fiction.”

And truth can be as entreatingly written and can be clothed in as fine a garb as can any fiction that the most visionary romancer can invent.


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