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"The Smiling Valley"
The historic village of West Liberty is located within an hours' drive of Columbus, Lima, and Dayton. The village is positioned midway between Bellefontaine and Urbana, on U.S. 68, in the heart of the "Simon Kenton Corridor".
The hills and valleys surrounding West Liberty echo with the spirit of Ohio history. This peaceful village on the Mad River in Mac-o-Chee Valley, (meaning "Smiling Valley" in the language of the Shawnee), was once the stomping ground of such colorful historical figures as the frontiersmen, General Simon Kenton, Daniel Boone, Isaac Zane, Col. Alexander McKee, and the renegade Simon Girty. Feared Indian chiefs such as Blue Jacket, Moluntha, Tarhe, Tecumseh, Blackhoof and Chief Cornstalk's sister, the Grenadier Squaw, made this area their home.
The Shawnee settlements along the Mad River, included Wapatomica, the capital of the Shawnee nation and the Seven Tribes. It was to this location that captives were brought to be tortured and to run the gauntlet. General Simon Kenton, after being captured by the Shawnee was brought here and ran the gauntlet an unprecedented nine times! During one of the runs a warrior's steel tomahawk broke off after embedding itself in Kenton's skull. He carried that souvenir in his skull the rest of his days. Seeing that they could not kill Kenton, the Shawnee decided to burn him at the stake, but he was rescued at the last moment by his friend Simon Girty. All told, they attempted to burn Simon Kenton at the stake three times, but each time circumstances resulted in his escape!
The Shawnee Indians were supplied by British forces at Ft. Detroit and encouraged to conduct raids against the squatter frontier settlements in Kentucky by the British agent Col. Alexander McKee from the British Blockhouse and Trading Post in McKeestown located six miles north of present day West Liberty on U.S. 68. In retaliation for these raids, General George Rogers Clark commissioned Col. Benjamin Logan of the Kentucky Militia, to attack the Mac-o-Chee Valley villages of the Shawnee along the Mad River in the autumn of 1786 (Lord Dunmore's War).
Col. Benjamin Logan, (after which Logan County is named), accompanied by units under the command of Col. Daniel Boone and General Simon Kenton assaulted the Shawnee villages which were located just east of the present Village of West Liberty. The troops destroyed the fields, burnt the crops and villages, killed many of the Shawnee, murdering the spiritual leader of the Shawnee Nation, Molunth, after he had surrendered.
During the War of 1812, General Hull, following Indian trails, left his camp in Urbana, (eight miles to the south of present day West Liberty), and cut his way through the forest, laying a corridor road, (known as "Hull's Trace"), northward over which his army could march on the way to the ill fated attempt to hold Ft. Detroit from the British. The army crossed the Mad River about twenty feet west of the present bridge on U.S. 68 on the southern edge of town. Part of this road became the Main Street of West Liberty.
Judge Benjamin Piatt, a Cincinnati Circuit Judge and Quarter Master General in the War of 1812, bought 1,700 acres of land in the Mac-o-Chee Valley after the close of the conflict. In 1828, the Judge, accompanied by 50 immigrant families settled in the valley. They built a Catholic Church and several mills and businesses, including Benjamin Piatt's seventeen room log cabin that today is know as, "The Pioneer House", which became a station on the "Underground Railroad", and the boyhood home of Civil War General A.S. Piatt. There were many other "Underground Railroad Stations" in the West Liberty area, including a home on West Newell Street, which today is owned and operated by Adriel School, known as "Sycamore House." West Liberty itself, once the site of a village of the Shawnee Sacum Moluntha, claiming over 2,000 Braves! Several British and French Trading Posts were also located along the river.
After the burning of the villages, a settlement was begun known as Enoch's Mill, centering around the establishment of a gristmill on the Mad River. Pioneers from miles around brought their grain to the mill to be ground. Soon afterwards, a store arose just north of the mill. This store grew to house a hotel and the town post office. In 1817, West Liberty was founded as a Village and later incorporated in 1834.
After the Civil War, General A.S. Piatt returned home in 1864 to build his thirty room Norman-French style Chateau located just west of town, known as Mac-o-Cheek Castle. His brother, Civil War Col. Donald Piatt built his Flemish style Chateau, Mac-o-Chee, next to the Pioneer House in 1879.
On Thursday, May 13, 1880 the majority of the downtown business district you see today was lost to what will long be remembered as "the day of the fire." The blaze began in the stable of Mrs. Lyman Cook and soon spread to the main part of town. This event is remembered in May when West Liberty marks this occurrence with a village wide garage and sidewalk sale, known as "The Annual Fire Sale".
In the fields south of town, across the river and to the east, was the site of Camp West Liberty, a military recruitment depot and training center for the Spanish American War and World War I. Today this scenic, peaceful setting offers a blend of both the present and those cherished days gone by.
West Liberty presents a wealth of year-round pleasures for visitors; antique shopping, art and gift boutiques, a farmer's market, and even homemade candy. Ancient caverns and castles, downhill skiing, horseback riding, camping, canoeing and fishing in one of Ohio's few freshwater trout streams, is located just minutes away.