Native Americans of Knox County

The First Farmers of Knox County: The Adena Indians

Native Americans first appeared in Knox County around 11,000 B.C. It was not until the time of the Adena culture, around 1,000 B.C., that agriculture was introduced to the area. The Adena Indians used tools made of stone, animal bones and tortoise shell to grow crops of squash, pumpkins, gourds, sunflowers, and maize.

Indians Kenyon Professor, Nick Kardulias, describes Adenan farming practices:
What they depended on were a variety of native plants that provided relatively small seeds; chenopodium and a variety of amaranth and other things like that. And sunflower. And they planted these things in what we assume were relatively small gardens and harvested those things on a regular basis. They were situating themselves in a location where they could do farming but also would be able to go up into the hills to take some wild game and probably also a variety of different plants that would be available.
The White Oak Inn, which was once the homestead of the Crise family, and is now a bed and breakfast, helps to preserve the farming history of Knox County. Located in the notheast corner of Butler Township, the Inn is now owned by Ian and Yvonne Martin. The Inn is located next to an official archeological site, which shows evidence of occupation by Native American farmers dating back to prehistoric times. The White Oak Inn reminds people not only of the inhabitants of the past century, but also of the Americans who worked the land long before the first European settlers in Ohio.


The Last Native Americans in Knox County

The agriculture practiced by the Ohio Native Americans of the 18th century combined methods conceived by the Adena culture, as well as new aspects which were products of white. White settlers were amazed by the high rate of cultivation on the farms of these people. This was particularly remarkable considering the hardships which they endured -constant displacement due to incoming waves of white settlers demanding the land.

Men and women worked together to clear the land by girdling trees. This process included cutting through the bark and then leaving the trees to stand until later years when they would die and could then be easily cleared.

The tribes would abandon the land they were on every five to ten years despite the difficulties of land clearing, because they believed that overuse of land would cause soil exhaustion. This method is perhaps the first form of rotational farming in the area. This already cleared and abandoned land attracted many of the first white settlers.

Corn was the largest crop of the Ohio Indians. They planted their corn in May, corresponding with the blooming of the hazels. The Indians first soaked the kernels in water, and then planted them in holes three of four feet apart. The corn was stored in caches in the earth. Other crops included beans, nuts, and wild fruits.

Prior to the arrival of white settlers, the only tools which the Indians of this area had were stone hatchets, pointed sticks, and bone shovels and hoes. After the settlers arrived the Indians quickly began to adopt their tools.

By 1825, many of the Indians had been removed from Knox County and by 1842 they were almost entirely pushed out of the area.

artwork credits: William M. Cary, Paul Frenzeny

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