On a quiet country road in Logan County, Ohio, a humble marker notes the site of tragic encounter, the place of massacre and displacement, the trailhead of one people’s Trail of Tears.
Passersby hardly notice the isolated and mostly forgotten forested hill, once the location of a Shawnee village that, according to a news report from the Ohio Historical Society, “is considered the most significant site of Shawnee history in Ohio.” Now owned by the state and closed to public access, the village had been the political center of the Shawnee people in the eighteenth century and the site of several intertribal councils. Wapatomica’s importance ended, however, in the autumn of 1786 when a military expedition led by Revolutionary War veteran and Ohio Indian fighter Benjamin Logan destroyed the native village along with several other nearby settlements. The murder and plunder of Shawnee people forced a series of relocations in the coming decades that involved their own experience of a Trail of Tears.
In 2007, members of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe, now residing in Oklahoma, returned to Ohio to visit the auspicious places of their tribal past, including the site of their former village. Their arrival marked the first time Shawnee people had been there in more than two centuries.
Today, this memory-place obscures its violent past beneath a pastoral calm. I happened across it in the Ohio springtime with the last blooms of dogwood hanging amidst a forest of green, with grasses filling in beside fields already planted. A quiet gray morning revealed nothing of the pained echoes of cries set adrift by Logan’s torches. The centuries of suffering remain buried in the charred soil atop this silent hill. ♨
[Revised version of May, 2014 post on tsbremer.com]