A brief history of the Hocking Hills

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

The history of the Hocking Hills is as fascinating as the caves are beautiful. The sandstones and shales tell the story. The natural features of the region known as the Hocking Hills are comprised mostly of blackhand sandstone. Uplift and erosion created its awesome beauty.

The bedrock and sandstone cliffs reveal a time more than 350-million years ago, when rivers flowed into a shallow sea covering all of Ohio. Over time, the land rose and small streams cut through the rock leaving the spectacular cliffs and waterfalls of today.

Although the glaciers never reached the park areas, their influence is still seen in the form of the vegetation growing in the gorges. The glaciers changed the climate of Ohio to a moist, cool environment. Upon their retreat, this condition persisted only in a few places such as the deep gorges of Hocking County. Therefore the towering eastern hemlocks, the Canada yew and the yellow and black birch tell of a cool period 10,000 years ago.

The hollows and caves of the Hocking Hills have long attracted the people to Ohio. Evidence of the ancient Adena culture illustrates man first inhabited the recesses more then 7,000 years ago.

In the mid 1700s several Indian tribes traveled through or lived in the Hocking Hills, including the Wyandotte, Delaware and Shawnee. Their name for the river from which the area gets its name was Hockhocking or "bottle river." The name comes from the bottle-shaped valley of the Hocking River whose formation is due to its one-time blockage by glacial ice.

These early Hocking Hills inhabitants found the area rich in fertile farmland and a great hunting land. The area provided plenty of buffalo, elk, deer, wild turkey and small animals for hunting and farming.

Hocking County was incorporated in 1818, and the city of Logan was established in 1816 and was named for the Mingo Chief, James John Logan who was well known at first for his friendship with settlers and later for his bitter animosity toward them following the murder of his entire tribe by a frontier trapper named Greathouse.

The area prospered and in 1924 the first land purchase by the state was made to preserve the scenic features. Today, the Hocking Hills is home to seven state parks, two state forests and a national forest.

The parcel of 146 acres includes one of the Hocking Hills' top attractions, Old Man's Cave. The cave areas were well known as scenic attractions as early as 1870. While many see the caves of the Hocking Hills as the beautiful work of Mother Nature, the caves were also hideouts for early bank robbers and criminals and home to others.

Visitors love the story of the old hermit, Richard Rowe, who called the caves home. The Eastern mountain man was known for his reclusive lifestyle of hunting and trapping. Many say the ghost of the old hermit still haunts his namesake, Old Man's Cave.