The River: The Tuscarawas River has not changed much in three hundred years. The scenery is breathtaking. Seventy-five percent of it is wilderness with very few structures along the way. The canoeist can view deer, squirrels, great blue herons and many more wildlife inhabitants.
The Indian Trails: It is possible to believe that in the earliest times the Native Americans traveled only on rivers and lakes. When they turned inland we can be practically sure that they found, ready-made and deeply-worn, the very routes of travel which have since borne their name.
For the beginning of the history of roadmaking in this central west, we must go back two centuries, when the buffalo, urged by his need of change of climate and newer feeding grounds, first found his way through the forests. These roads first came to white man's knowledge as buffalo "traces", and later became Indian trails.
"The Great Trail" followed the Tuscarawas River through the northern Tuscarawas Valley. This original east-west Indian trail was the most important trail of the central west, the main thoroughfare from Fort Pitt to Fort Detroit. It was the western extension of the continental route from the seaboard to the northwest.
In 1778 the first Ohio fort was built on the banks of the Tuscarawas River just south of "The Great Trail Crossing". The crossing was located where the Big Sandy meets the Tuscarawas River. The Great Trail, running east-west, crossed The Muskingum Trail, running north-south.
The Greenville Treaty was signed in 1795 just north of The Great Trail Crossing. With the signing of this treaty the Native Americans were once again driven from their land.
The Indian trails of the old Ohio were the keys to the central west. They opened a way for men to come to know and exploit it.
The Native Americans: The Delaware were the first people known to inhabit the Tuscarawas Valley. The Delaware first lived in the west, beyond the Mississippi River. Most of them moved east and settled in New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. There were three main Delaware Tribes; the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Turkey. For many years they were very powerful and were feared by all the other Indian tribes. In time, however, the Iroquois, being more crafty and cunning, weakened their power and made "squaws" of the Delaware. They were told where and how to live and driven west to the Tuscarawas Valley around 1740.
The Delaware Village of Tuscarawi (Oldtown) was located close to where 1-77 crosses the Tuscarawas River north of Bolivar. This was a large village with a population of about four hundred.
The First Explorers: The French were the first to extensively travel and explore Ohio. They traveled Ohio's rivers by canoe and were called Voyageurs. Most of their routes led from the Great Lakes to the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers by the most direct and convenient tributary streams. These canoes were carried by the Voyageurs across the shortest portages between the headwaters of approaching streams and launched at well known landing places, thus providing the simplest, swiftest and most effective means of travel known to primitive man.
The Tuscarawas River was a major trade route through Ohio. This historic route follows the Cuyahoga, Tuscarawas and Muskingum Rivers from Lake Erie, at Cleveland, south to the Ohio at Marietta.
The First White Man’s Cabin: A missionary, Christian Frederick Post, built the first white man's cabin in Ohio. This cabin was built in 1761 near the Delaware Village of Tuscarawi. Legend has it the Delaware, wanting to discourage Post from building a cabin, told him the cabin could be no larger than a buffalo's hide. Post took a hide and cut it in thin strips then laid it end to end. This made a fairly large cabin from one buffalo hide. The Delaware must have had a sense of humor because they allowed the cabin to stay.
The Canal: 1830 marked the beginning of another "Great Trail". This trail followed the original trail closely. These new trails were the canal systems of Ohio. The Ohio-Erie Canal flowed north-south and followed the old Muskingum Trail. The Sandy-Beaver flowed east-west, much as the Great Trail did. These canals met where the Big Sandy meets the Tuscarawas River (The Great Trail Crossing).
The canal projects were abandoned when the railroads came to the valley around 1850, but now live on as The Ohio & Erie Canal Corridor.