Saturday, April 21, 2012

Wellsville's Indian Head

There’s been some interest expressed lately on Face Book about the Indian head that use to be in the hillside in the east end of Wellsville where Route 7 now passes through town. Shown here is a photo that is in the archives at the River Museum and is noted to be “the last picture” of the rock formation. There’s a section on that web site entitled “You Know You’re From Wellsville If You Remember…” It’s devoted to historical facts & trivia about our village.

Someone inquired if the Indian was a natural formation or was it actually carved out of the hillside. That sent us to the files and the answer we found is that it is a little bit of both. When it was decided to make Route 7 into a four lane highway along the hillside in the mid to late 1960s there were many casualties to that part of the city. Along with Buckeye Avenue, Acme Craft Pottery and half of Lisbon Street the Indian head was slated to be taken out.

It was a very contested issue at the time, according to newspaper accounts. Committees were formed, petitions were circulated and politicians were beseeched to intercede with the Ohio Department of Transportation. The drive to save the monument even reached the Nation’s capital when U.S. Congressman Wayne L. Hayes promised to ask President Nixon to intervene.

The Indian head profile use to sit along the hillside near MacDonald Hts. It was across Wells Ave. midway up on the hillside from where Huntington Bank now sits. The late Mrs. Galen Lewis was born and raised in that area. Her family roots dated back to Alexander MacBeth, a Scottish immigrant, who settled in Wellsville in 1833. She wrote a letter to the then Evening Review documenting the history of the Indian head. MacBeth was Mrs. Lewis’s great-grandfather and he was a stonecutter. He had built a small frame house along Little Yellow Creek where the floodwall now sits. There was a chestnut grove & stone quarry on the hillside adjacent to the MacBeth house. Mrs. Lewis’ maiden name was Kellaway, whose childhood home sat on the hillside behind the MacBeth house.

According to Mrs. Lewis’ letter her father told her many times the story of the Indian head. It was sometime between 1875 and 1902 the head was formed when rock fell away during quarry operations. After cutting some stone out of the hillside the Indian head appeared when the stone fell away. She contended in her letter that, until the time it was demolished, drill holes could be seen in the formation. We’re speculating that those are the “foot holds” we have been told was there.

Unfortunately this unique monument was sacrificed in the name of economy. ODOT officials reported that it would cost $3 to $4 million to reroute the road even after being promised all the land needed to do so for free. On August 21, 1972 at 2:35 PM the Indian head was blasted out of existance.

In one of the articles it was mentioned that former Wellsville Press editor Ed Pugh named the Indian head “Chief Logan Profile Rock”. As we can now see it was only a tribute to one of Wellsville’s earliest area residents.

So in answer to the question it was sort of man made. May the old Indian rest in peace…

As radio commentator Paul Harvey use to say “now you know the rest of the story”…

ole nib


JRMorrow said...

Good post. Very informative.

Jeff said...

Great Story! Thanks so much for researching!

DREAMER said...

My cousin was running on top of the Indian Head and couldn't stop in time. He ran right off the top of the head. Needless to say, he had several bruises but was able to walk home. I have heard this story on several occassions but it continues to make me laugh.
Boys will be boys!

************* said...

Dreamer - that had to be a sight to see. Thank goodness he wasn't seriously hurt. From what we're remembering that was pretty high up.

Thanks for the compliments folks. We really enjoy getting into the 'ville's history. Grandma Sophie moved here in the late 70s from Pittsburgh. It was the first time she had heard of the Indian Head.


juanital said...

Greatly appreciated the time researching-read & history! Pretty neat to see history unfold!

Phil L. said...

Thanks for the history. I didn't show up in Wellsville until well after the Indian Head was gone - but heard stories about it over the years. However, I didn't know about the quarry work that revealed it.

Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Well written and researched article. Thanks for taking the time and sharing it with us Wellsville folks.

************* said...

Phil - that makes at least two of us that weren't aware of the quarry work or for that matter, that there was once a quarry in that area.

Many of the stone walls in Wellsville may have originated from that area. How many basements have sand stone walls in town? It's make you wonder.


Phil L. said...

The basement of the house I lived in had sandstone walls (if I recall correctly, I was told it was built in the early 1900s). I also recall questioning that material: It was soft enough that you could rub sand off of it easily, and the joints were porous enough that water seeped through. It helped that we coated it with a waterproof paint - that later started to peel off of the soft stone surface.

Oh well - it was the material they had available at the time!

Anonymous said...

In our old house we had those sand stone walls. Of course they were painted with whitewash type of paint. Makes you wonder if they were from the quarry.