“The first Indian tribe known to have occupied the Stark County region were the Delawares, driven by the British and hostile Indian tribes from their old region around Delaware Bay and along the Delaware River, between 1750 and 1768,” wrote historian E.T. Heald in the introduction to the “The McKinley Era” volume of his history, “The Stark County Story.”
If you overlook residents of the prehistoric variety — Paleo-Indians, museum exhibits call them — the first people to inhabit Stark County were the Delaware Indians.
“The first Indian tribe known to have occupied the Stark County region were the Delawares, driven by the British and hostile Indian tribes from their old region around Delaware Bay and along the Delaware River, between 1750 and 1768,” wrote historian E.T. Heald in the introduction to the “The McKinley Era” volume of his history, “The Stark County Story.” “They extended from Stark County down the Tuscarawas and Muskingum headwaters to their capital at Coshocton.
The Delawares would be brought to a faith by Moravian missionaries from Pennsylvania, wrote Heald. Indeed, the first to journey to this area, the Rev. Charles Frederick Post, married a Delaware woman.
Christianized Delawares would become “helpless pawns and then the tragic victims of contending forces in the Revolutionary War,” recorded Heald.
Additional tribes that inhabited the Stark County area are named in an exhibit, “Ohio People Prior to Contact,” in the lobby of “The Stark County Story” gallery at the Wm. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum.
“Prior to European settlement, the eastern Ohio area was home to the Wyandot, Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Miami, Eel River, Wea, Kickapoo, Piankeshaw, Kaskaskia, Muncie, Erie and Iroquois,” according to exhibit notes.
A painting of a fenced-in Indian village is displayed beside the text. Below it is a case full of arrowheads that were found in Stark County. Above the exhibit hangs the remnants of a dugout canoe discovered near Congress Lake in Lake Township.
“Although nearly half of it is missing, several details tell of its design and use,” additional text notes. “The 90-degree angles and uniform flatness of the interior indicate that it was created with iron tools such as a flat adz and an ax. ... Although the canoe is probably of American Indian design, it may have been constructed by early European fur traders.”
The manner of travel for the Indians — and groups of people, such as the traders who would replace the tribes — gives a glimpse into the movements of the native Americans and early settlers. It wasn’t always by water.
“Attracted by the temperate climate, indigenous peoples established villages and maintained contact through intricate transportation systems,” the McKinley museum exhibit notes. “Three land routes passed in or near Stark County. The most well-known was an east-west route that connected New England and the Atlantic Coast with the Great Lakes.”
“The Cuyahoga-Muskingum Trail ran north and south through the western part of Stark County,” the exhibit explains, “while the north-south Mahoning Trail went through the eastern part of the county.”
The trails, of course, not only made travel easier for the Indians. They provided ready routes for settlers who came to unseat the tribes.
Page 2 of 2 - “Contact between Native and non-Native people brought new users to these transportation routes,” the McKinley Museum’s exhibit continues. “Fur traders, armies, and settlers used them and they, doubtless, helped bring early visitors to the Stark County area.”
Those new inhabitants of the area wanted land.
Through treaties, American Indians of Ohio sold that land — lots of it.
“In the Treaty of Greenville (1795) representatives of most area tribes ceded large amounts of land in what would become the state of Ohio,” the McKinley museum exhibit says, providing a map showing the Greenville Treaty line running just south of Stark County.
Land above the line remained with the Indians — but not for long.
“On July 4, 1805, area tribes signed the Treaty of Fort Industry,” the exhibit text explains. “Through it, they ceded 1 million acres south of Lake Erie and west of the Cuyahoga River. This cession included land north of the Greenville Treaty line and land that was part of the Connecticut Western Reserve.”
Heald’s writing notes that Bezaleel Wells bought land in 1805 in Columbiana County and what would become Stark County. On one of the sections Wells purchased, he laid out Canton.
From 1805 to 1825, “settlers came in by foot or horseback or wagon,” Heald wrote in his history.
“During this period, 11 permanent villages and towns were founded in 11 years, beginning with Canton.”
During the ensuing canal and stage coach years, Stark County would be turned over to settlers — first from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, and then from New York, New Jersey, and New England states.
The days of the native Americans in Stark County essentially were over.