Indians at Lake Vesuvius

Indians – At Lake Vesuvius

Ironton Tribune – March 30, 1966

Submitted by Lorna Marks

A cave lies on the 135-acre tract of land near Lake Vesuvius in Lawrence County Ohio, owned by Harold HANEY. Dr. John HANEY, his brother Buddy, and their father, Clarke, in excavating the cave have found historic relics, which would indicate the presence of these inhabitants.

The Haneys began to explore the overhanging cave-like structure last summer when they found that all the conditions for an archaeological “looting” existed.

Dr. Haney pointed out that the cave structure was one in which Indians of certain eras preferred to make their homes. On the overhanging ledge the Indians lowered hide ropes and placed skins or other protective materials against them to form their walls.

The high and dry “cave” also faced the east, as have most all caves where valuable relics have been found. This kept the inhabitants from most of the harsh weather which comes from the west.

The creek a short distance down the hill furnished the necessary water supply. They found game and other wildlife for their food in the surrounding woods.

In the rocks high above the cave was a lookout point excellent for defending their homes against invaders. Charcoal deposits and red spots of oxidized iron on the “wall” of the cave indicated that an Indian fire may have burned there long ago.

With all of the evidences of the possibilities of a historic find ahead, the Haneys went to work.

One of the first items they found was a dog’s skeleton which had been there several years, and a couple of arrowheads just a few inches beneath the surface. Buddy Haney explained that the arrowheads this close to the surface may have been kicked up by cattle or found by persons who later discarded them.

In the first few feet of digging they found items such as a turtle shell, beaver teeth, human teeth, polished hairpins and needles, a flint scraper and small bird and animal bones. One highly polished needle was probably polished with water between the Indians hands Buddy Haney said. This obviously-unused needle is considered the most important item yet in the find, because of its intact condition.

They have found many animal bones because the Indians made it a habit to bury their refuse and food portions in the corner of the cave or throw them into the fire when they finished them.

Also found at the site was a small cupstone, an item which has been found frequently in the area. A cup stone is a flat stone which has small groves, usually about 1-1/2 inches in diameter, ground out of the stone. Sometimes a cup stone will only have one or two grooves, and others have as many as 140 grooves. The largest cup stone ever found anywhere was found in Ironton and has more than 140 grooves. The interesting element concerning these cup stones is that nobody knows in what way the Indians used them. Guesses have included crushing and mixing herbs, apothecary compartments for medicines or condiments, a pressure stone for a fire stick, or to hold nuts while cracking them.

Another item in the Haney artifact collection is a gaming stone, used by the Indians as a hunting weapon. An Indian who had practiced with the gaming stone could throw it with great precision and speed and kill a large deer.

Mussel shells were found at the cave site and will be taken to Raymond Bailey, an Ohio State University professor who can determine the age of the shells by pits and other characteristics. Mussel shells found at the famous Buffalo, W. Va. Site were determined to be 300 years extinct.

The Haneys and Ray GILLESPIE, who has been helping excavate the site, plan to continue the slow and tedious excavation of their site. They hope to find evidences of the Archaic to Transitional periods within the next few feet of digging. This would set the site back 15,000 years.

Dr. Haney said that some evidences of the period have been found along the Ohio River Valley river bottoms, and that several other local collections contain fragments of artifacts from this era.

Indians of the era usually built their new fireplaces on top of the old burned-out ones. The fact that one fireplace of this type has already been found at the site has made the diggers fairly certain that they will find artifacts from the Archaic to Transitional period. Their present collection includes relics which put the site back to 700 B.C.

The Haneys also hope to find such artifacts as an ammunition cache and a bone fishhook. The Indians made extra arrowheads and flint blanks and stored them as an ammunition dump for security purposes. They also kept chunks of unworked hematite, one of which has already been found at the site, to make plummets and hammer stones.

Buddy Haney considered it rather unusual that no pottery or coins had been found. Evidence of moon shiners was found in other caves at the property, but as yet had not been found at this site.

A “whole den of Lions” was spotted at the site recently when Harold HANEY, who is no relation to the other three Haneys, hosted the Coal Grove Lions Club for their meeting.

They, too, got to ride up the hill to the site on the tractor and wagon that is called the “Chippewa Express.” Other visitors witnessed the replacement of the Indian pony by a trail-bike, which Buddy Haney uses as transportation to the site. A few nervous laughs always seem to be exchanged about the cave being haunted by the Indian spirits, but few note the irony in the Rock Hill High School “Redmen” being “right over the hill.”

During the tedious excavation the Haneys have uncovered artifacts which show that the Shawnees, Sciotos, migrating Mingoes and Guyandotte tribes have used the cave. They plan to excavate other caves in the area “if we ever get this one done.” The find at the present cave site has been described as “an exceptionally good one, with many different ages represented.”

Dr. Haney, president of the newly-organized local Ohio River Valley Basin chapter of the Ohio Archaeological Society and publicity director of the state society, hopes to classify some of his recent findings and put them in a local museum.

No local museum? There soon will be, if the determination of Dr. Haney and other members of the local society materializes.

Dr. Haney said they already are eyeing a local site and have tentative plans for financing the museum. The present plan includes the sale of museum rooms to local industries for their own industrial exhibits. Most industries have some sort of display relating to their functions on their own premises now, and the new museum would consolidate these displays.

Besides industrial displays, the museum will include local history, iron industry history, Indian lore, and gun collections. Dr. Haney, who feels that this area has much historic value, said many such collections are readily available for the museum.

The museum will have office space, a record room, and a library, in which all the contents of the museum will be classified and registered. To be of any worth historically, the items must not only be intact, but must also be registered according to a system. The museum will be governed by a local board of directors.

The idea of such a museum was discussed at a joint Chamber of Commerce-Ironton City Council meeting and the idea was found agreeable. Dr. Haney feels that it can be successful because of the historic nature of the area and excellent representative samples of that history that have already been collected.

Take the centuries of influential and exciting history and Indian Lore. Add the concrete evidence of that history and a lot of determination. These ingredients just may equal a museum for Lawrence County, Ohio.