Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bullskin Trace

The Bullskin Trace was one of the most significant roads in the Northwest Territory and most of it is still in use today.

The trail was first created by migrating buffalo and other animals on their way to the salt licks in Kentucky. The Trace then followed a progression of development through the years. It became an Indian trail, and then a pioneer route, was an Underground Railroad conduit, and finally became a part of modern highway systems. The path provided access from the Ohio River north to Detroit Michigan.

As an Indian trail The Bullskin Trace was used by such famous people as Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, and Tecumseh. From a British Fort in Detroit the British and Indians followed it south to attack the Kentucky settlements.

Later it became a pioneer route. Roads were important to the settlers because rivers in the area were difficult to maneuver with anything larger than a canoe. Going upstream against the current was almost impossible for flatboats.

However, flatboats coming down the Ohio River could pull off at a wide valley where Bullskin Creek emptied into the Ohio River. There pioneers would unload in a protected, easily accessible area, and continue traveling overland on the Bullskin Trace.

On February 4, 1807 part of The Trace became one of the first Ohio public highways. It was then named Xenia State Road. It was widened to 20 feet and had a right-of-way of about 60 feet. Marshy spots were covered with halved logs laid side by side producing a corduroy road. The state paid $700.00 for these improvements with money obtained by the sale of public lands.

During the War of 1812 the road was used to get supplies and troops from the Ohio River to the Great Lakes. On one occasion a group of fifteen supply wagons bumped up its rough surface.

The trail was used by run away slaves on the Underground Railroad. Some Xenia and other Greene County residents ran stations on this clandestine route.

Looking at a modern day road atlas one can see the route the Bullskin Trace followed. It began in Clermont County at the Ohio River near Chilo and headed north, following what is now Ohio 133. It passed through Warren County, where near Clarksville it jogged on to old Ohio 380 and followed it into Xenia. The Bullskin Trace continued on through Old Chillicothe, a former Shawnee village which is now called Oldtown. From Xenia to Detroit it followed the path of US 68, then Ohio 25, and finally US 24.

How the Trace got its name has various explanations. M. A. Broadstone in his History of Greene County Ohio says, “It was given its name because of the fact that it started from an Indian village of this name on the Ohio River.” While the book, Greene County 1803-1908 says, “It. extended from a village and ferry on the Ohio River called Bullskin, from which the road took its name…”

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