Before it was home to record-breaking roller coasters or high-flying zip lines, Ohio’s Largest Playground played host to something entirely different: American history. Once an important territory for Native Americans, early pioneers, and even slaves in search of freedom, Warren County now offers its modern-day visitors a unique glimpse into some of the most pivotal periods in our nation’s past.
Fort Ancient Earthworks & Nature Preserve
Nestled deep within the hills of the Little Miami River Valley, Fort Ancient Earthworks & Nature Preserve shares with its guests the incredible story of Ohio’s earliest settlers: the Native Americans. Dating back more than 2,000 years, this nationally recognized landmark chronicles the miraculous history of the Hopewell, a tribe known to have inhabited what is now Southwest Ohio, and the mysterious man-made mounds they constructed on the site so many years ago.
The site’s museum features artifacts and exhibits detailing everything from the first arrival of Native Americans in Ohio to their well-documented encounters with early Europeans. A quick museum visit is both an enjoyable and educational introduction to what awaits, as visitors are free to walk more than 2.5 miles of forested hiking paths to see firsthand the Hopewell earth mounds.
American history doesn’t get much older than Fort Ancient and–speaking as a bit of a history buff–it doesn’t get much cooler either.
Caesar’s Creek Pioneer Village
Just 11 miles down the road from Fort Ancient in the town of Waynesville sits Caesar’s Creek Pioneer Village, home to some of earliest Quaker settlements in all of Ohio. Open daily, with special events taking place throughout the year, this picturesque site features approximately 20 original Quaker homes and buildings, many of which date back to 1793. Quakers played a critical role in the settlement of the Southwestern Ohio Frontier, and the village’s caretakers are more than happy to share educational and entertaining stories that truly bring that Quaker culture to life. Could you have lived comfortably in a Quaker Cabin? There’s only one way to find out!
Be sure to check out more of Caesar Creek while you’re in town, as it’s one of the state’s premier parks and campgrounds.
Springboro Underground Railroad Walking Tour
The era of slavery may have been one of the darkest times in American history, but Ohio once shined bright as a key point of safety for runaway slaves as they traveled toward freedom along the Underground Railroad. Today, a number of safe houses and specially-constructed hiding places still stand for visitors to explore in the historical town of Springboro. Visit the The Wright House Bed & Breakfast, where slaves were once welcomed for some much needed rest along their journeys. Or see an underground tunnel that once served as an escape route. Many of the homes and businesses, which visitors are invited to explore, once belonged to well-documented Underground Railroad conductors–many of whom are buried just down the road at Friends Cemetery.
Shaker Heritage in Lebanon
Lebanon, Ohio is a charming little town worth visiting regardless of your interests, but if you’ve any knack for history it’s an absolute must. In addition to housing the Golden Lamb–Ohio’s oldest hotel and longest continuously operating business–it also features one of the nation’s most outstanding county museums, the Warren County Historical Society & Museum. Home to the single largest display of Shaker artifacts in the United States, the Historical Society & Museum also features paleontology and archaeology exhibits, as well as genealogy archives for those interested in tracing their family roots.
So ride the roller coasters, zip the lines, and enjoy Warren County for what it is today. But do yourself a favor and set aside some time to learn about the region’s past as well. There’s so much amazing history just waiting to be uncovered in Ohio’s Largest Playground.
Read up on all of Warren County’s Historical attractions–and so much more–at OhiosLargestPlayground.com!