PREHISTORY OF ASHTABULA
Darrell E. Hamilton
Mound builders were probably the first human inhabitants in
Ashtabula. Even though the Hopewell mound builders of South Central Ohio were better known, the mound builders of Ashta-
bula County left earth works all over Ashtabula County. The
mound builders of Ashtabula County built mounds for several
different reasons. Not only just for burial, the mound builders
of Ashtabula built earthworks for defensive fortifications, food
storage and fortification against nature. Most mounds in Ashta-
bula County were built near streams or near a river gorge. Edge-
wood and Chestnut Grove Cemeteries are two locations where
mounds were built. Chestnut Grove mounds were apparently
built for defensive purposes, however; Edgewood Cemetery
mounds were apparently built as burial mounds. When pioneer
Peleg Sweet gave land to the township for the Edgewood Cem-
etery, nearly a thousand graves were found when the land was
The mound builders of Ashtabula were probably fairly peace
living inhabitants. No one knows exactly who the mound build-
ers of Ashtabula were or what happened to them. It's been theo-rized that with the advent of modern Woodland Indians into the
area in the late 1500's, the Mound Builders were either killed off,
ran off or absorbed into the Woodland Indians tribes. More than likely it was a combination of all three.
The Erie Indians, (also know as the Cat Nation), were probably
the first Woodland Indian s to inhabit the Ashtabula area. The Erie lived more like the modern Indians that the early settlers knew. They have been said to have numbered nearly 15,000 stretching from Northern Ohio to nearly Buffalo, New York.
However, the Erie meet the same fate that the mound builders
of Ashtabula meet. By 1635 the Erie Indians were being forced eastward and inland from Lake Erie by the Iroquois Indians. By 1650, the Erie Indian territory had shrunk to an area east of
the Cuyahoga River. From 1653 to 1657, the two Indian tribes were engaged in a war in which the ferocious Iroquois Indians annihilated the Erie Indians.The Iroquois Indians were supplied muskets and other supplies by the Dutch and English settlers and later on by the French. By the time the war had ended, be-tween 500-600 Erie Indians remained. The ones who remained were mostly women and children that were absorbed into the Iroquois tribes.
For over a hundred years no Indian settlements were in Ashta-
bula County. Ashtabula became a hunting ground for various In-dian tribes. French explores were known to have explored the area but no attempt was made to settle the area. In the late 1700's, a few Indian tribes would settle in Ashtabula County as temporary settlements or camps. The Massasaugas Indians were
of Delaware origin that were subdued by the ferocious Iroquois Indians. The Massasaugas were said to be harmless people, wandering hunters who never aspired to be warriors. They were said to be very religious, observing rituals which included danc-
ing and feasting. This would be a plus for the early settlement of Ashtabula by settlers from the East.
Many different explores would touch the shores of Lake Erie
and sometimes venture into the river gorges. Most of these ex-plores were Dutch, English or French. None of these explorers made any attempt or at least any great attempt to settle the area. The earliest explorers to the area were probably Norsemen. Some experts had believed that Norsemen may have made their way down through the Great Lakes and quite possibly to the shores of Lake Erie of Ashtabula. Remnants of tools and weap-
ons were found by early settlers of that time that would have been used by earlier explorers.