Worth the trek

Miamisburg Mound is a local landmark

By John Hamilton

Photo: The Miamisburg Mound is located at 900 Mound Ave. in Miamisburg

If you take a drive down into little Miamisburg, Ohio, you’ll come across Mound Road. As you drive up the concrete slope, you’ll notice a few places with “mound” in their title, and I’m sure you’ll be wondering, “What’s with the mound motif?”

Before you can finish that question, you’ll notice a great green behemoth inside a little park. Standing over 65-feet tall, that landmark is the Miamisburg Mound, one of the oldest destinations in the Miami Valley.

The history of the Miamisburg Mound dates thousands of years into Ohio’s past—all the way back between 1000 and 200 B.C., when it was constructed by the Adena Native Americans. They slowly constructed the Mound over several hundred years, and it served as a burial area for the tribe. Many people have thought it was originally used as signal mound. Larry Suttman, former curator of the Miamisburg Historical Society, addressed this assumption: “It is very unlikely that the mound was built for that purpose,” Suttman explains, citing the fact that the tools the Adena would have used were primitive, meaning the construction of the mound would have required centuries to complete.

The Adena tribe has long since disappeared from Ohio, with the exact cause remaining a mystery. The possible reasons vary from drought to disease to war waged by rival tribes.

In 1804, a farmer named Jacob Lawes bought the land then let local businessmen look around and excavate. It was after the Civil War, in 1869, when major excavations took place.

The Miamisburg Mound is only one of nearly a thousand Native American earthen mounds located in Ohio. At 68-feet high and 800 feet in circumference, the mound is the biggest of its kind in the state. Originally, there were nearly 10,000 similar mounds located in the state, but as times changed, the mounds began to disappear. The Miamisburg Mound and others like it have managed to survive due to the dedication of private landowners and agencies keeping these landmarks intact.

In 1923, it was made into an official state park. Since then, it has been the site of countless events including a giant Boy Scout jamboree in the 1930s with almost 12,000 attendees. Suttman himself recalls happy memories with the Mound.

“We’d go out there at least five or six times a year and have a picnic,” he remembers.

But it hasn’t been all parties and picnics for the Mound. It has also been the site of countless instances of interference and cropping. In the latter part of the decade, local members of the community started to worry about liability and added a chain link fence around the base and huge iron railings at the top along with the rustic wood hand rails and stone staircase. Suttman was heavily involved with trying to return the Mound to a former glory. “Many were worried that people would fall and break a limb or break their neck,” he says. So Suttman and a colleague decided to do research concerning their worries.

“We decided to go back and scan through every front page of the Dayton newspaper dating back to 1843 to see if anything like that happened,” Suttman says. According to Suttman, there was nothing close to fatal or drastic. “There were some scraps because people used to sled on it and there used to be poison ivy out there, but there was nothing extreme,” he says. But still, the bars and fence remain, much to Suttman’s disappointment: “Nobody likes it. They find it butt-ugly, and it is.”

The Mound has seen its own version of excavating during the 1950s and ’60s, when a citizen beautification committee decided to clear the Mound of trees.

“Someone thought the roots would dig into the ground, and if one were to fall, then it would cause erosion and do heavy damage,” Suttman says, “But after it was done, they thought it looked so bad that they decided not do that to any other mound.”

The relic of Ohio’s ancient heritage is still an important aspect of the state’s history and is still a positive impact on the local economy. The park contains several sheltered picnic tables for families and friends to enjoy. There are also slides and jungle gyms for younger children, and, speaking from personal experience, the Mound offers a splendid view of the area, making the trek to the park worthwhile.

“People who are driving through Ohio and around this area wanting to check out local landmarks, they’re going to want to stop and look at it,” Suttman says. “And with that, people are going to stop and shop at local places and eat at our restaurants. In my mind, the Mound is the most important artifact in the whole state of Ohio.”

Residents and visitors should take a small trip to the Mound to be in a place of such a long history, rooted, literally and figuratively, in Ohio’s lineage.

The Miamisburg Mound is located at 900 Mound Ave. in Miamisburg. For more information, please call Miamisburg Parks and Recreation at 937.866.4532 or visit ohiohistory.org.

Reach DCP freelance writer John Hamilton at JohnHamilton@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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