Dr. William Haubrich writes of his memories of Alum Creek as he remembers the area. Yes, a creek does run through Bexley, and it has an interesting and varied history. The headwaters for Alum Creek are in mid-Morrow County. It then meanders 51.5 miles south where it eventually joins with the waters from both Blacklick and Big Walnut Creeks.
Native Americans: Edie Mae Herrel, in her book Bexley Images, describes the ancient Indian mounds discovered along the creek’s edge.
“Can you imagine what life would have been like along Alum Creek in 1 AD? The finding of a skull established with certainty that human life did exist there in the first century and perhaps even before. On a rise of ground just east of Alum Creek, between what is now East Broad and Main Streets, an Indian mound was discovered by Mr. A.E. McAlla on his farm in 1880. On opening this mound, Mr. McAlla found a number of artifacts now housed at the Ohio Historical Society. The skull has been indentified and dated through radiocarbon tests to be that of a male Adena Indian about forty years of age with death dated about 1 AD. … (The Adenas) hunted, fished and gathered wild plants for food.”1
Edie Mae also tells about the Wyandots and their life along Alum Creek. We know other Native Americans such as the Delaware Indians, also lived in this area.
“…Indians of the Wyandot tribe had an encampment in the early settlement of the township on Alum Creek. They hunted in the surrounding region, …”2
Underground Railroad: Prior to the Civil War, the Alum Creek area became a main artery of Central Ohio’s Underground Railroad. Slaves walked in the water of the creek so their scent was lost to pursuing dogs.3 One trail the escaping slaves used was named the Sycamore Trail. The ghostly white bark of the Sycamore tree, native to the creek’s floodplain area, was used as guide posts for the slaves.4
Another Bexley Story About Alum Creek: The Bexley Historical Society has conducted interviews through their Wise Elder Program with some of the area’s older residents. One interview was with Dr. William H. Lehmann.
At the date of the interview, July 28, 1971, Dr. Lehmann was 102 years old. As a young child, Dr. Lehmann moved with his family to Bexley, as his fater was president of Capital University. Dr. Lehmann describes the move from Columbus to Bexley …
“Well, I remember coming out here with the college. My father was president of the college and I remember … he had built a home where the Lutheran Seminary is now standing … on the corner of College and Friend Street. (Note: Friend Street later became Main Street) When my father moved out here, of course you had to have a horse and buggy, and he had a, well, he didn’t have a buggy – he had one of those sedans with … yes, a surrey with the fringe on top. Well, when we got out to the river, they were tearing down the old wooden bridge. We had to ford the creek.”
And we think present day orange barrels are an obstacle!
The Flood of 1959: On January 22, 1959, Alum Creek broke free of its channel and within hours Hanford was underwater.
Hanford, founded in 1900 on the west side of the creek across from Bexley, was the only African-American town in Franklin County – incorporated with its own government. Now, only a few homes remain in the Hanford area as most were torn down to make way for I-70.5
By January 1960, plans were made for a dam to be built for flood control. Alum Creek Reservoir was completed in 1974.
Now: The Columbus Recreation and Parks Department has developed the Alum Creek multi-use trail system from Westerville to Three Creeks Park – an 18 mile trail.6
The Friends of Alum Creek and Tributaries is an organization committed to finding ways to preserve and protect Alum Creek as a natural area while providing citizen access for environmentally responsible recreation, educational opportunities and citizen enjoyment at many levels. For more information about this group, visit www.friendsofalumcreek.org.7
Adapted from article By Nancy Beck
Bexley Historical Society Board Member
Originally published in Historical Herald, November 2003
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1 Edith Mae Hamilton Herrel and Lavada Kuhn Hogg, Bexley Images (Bexley: Bexley Historical Society, 1978), p 19.
2 Ibid., p. 20.
3 Wildernet-Alum Creek: www.areas.wildernet.com; October 2003.
4 Ohio Department of Natural Resources; www.dnr.state.oh.us/parks/alum.htm; July 24, 2003.
5 Maag, Chris “Creek ride.” Columbs Monthly, July 2002, pp.137.
6 Department of Recreation & Parks; www.columbusrecparks.com; Alum Creek Multi-Use Trail; October 2003.
7 Alum Creek Fact Sheets; Friends of Alum Creek and Tributaries; Vol. 4, Issue III; September 2003; p. 2.