West Liberty is gearing up for the Labor Day Festival this weekend at Lions Park. Something for everyone!
John Enoch spent eighteen years prospecting for gold before heading to the Miami Valley in the year 1815. It isn't known if he was hoping to strike gold but apparently what he did discover was well worth the trip. He was one of the early pioneers to settle in the valley, building a home then a gristmill which was powered by the Mad River and the Mac-O-Cheek Creek.
The settlement was known as Enoch's Mill until being founded in 1817, and then it was named West Liberty. In 1834 West Liberty was incorporated and vying for the main town in Logan County. Bellefontaine was more centrally located so they won the county seat.
In the late 1880's Enoch's Mill was owned by Jacob Anstine and an additional service of providing electricity when a dynamo was connected to the water wheel. Since there were no meters at each home each user were trusted to use no more than five bulbs at once. The mill had a long history until it burned in a fire in 1962. Since it was not cost effective to rebuild, the mill was torn down.
In the Memoirs of the Miami Valley, published in 1920, it states, “West Liberty is a pretty town and shines where it stands against the background of its green hill, with the waters of the Mad River and the “babbling Mac-O-Cheek” silvering the plain at its edge.”
Ask anyone today why West Liberty is special to them you will get a myriad of answers. James Fraley, “Getting a nickel from Ross McIlvain for being a good boy and sitting still for your haircut, and got a nickel form Doc. Mikesell for not crying when I got a shot.” Nina May says, “Because Michael's Pizza has the absolute best Taco Pizza!” “Large enough to enjoy a variety of activity and people, small enough to care for one another,” says Ellen Vitt. Joyce Hilyer, formally of West Liberty says, “West Liberty is in my heart to stay.”
So it's the size, people, memories, favorite restaurant, home town, and birth place for some, heart, spirit and more, all rolled into a great place to live. John Enoch must have agreed since he lived the remainder of his life in West Liberty. He may not have struck gold but he did hit the mother lode when he found such a beautiful valley in which to call home.
Sources- Memoirs of the Miami Valley
Historic West Liberty Ohio Sesquicentennial Booklet
The fascinating events of the past helped shape the Mac-O-Chee Valley into the great place it is today. Tom Corwin, former Governor of Ohio, 1840-1842, said these words, “If there is a line where Mac-O-Chee ends and Heaven begins, it is imperceptible- the easiest place to live in and die in, I ever saw.”
Long before I made West Liberty my home, the valley was home to the Shawnee Indians. There were three Indian villages close to the area where West Liberty would be located years later. Mac-O-Chee was east of town, Pigeon Town was 3 ½ miles northwest and Wapotomica was below Zanesfield.
The Mac-O-Chee villagers were the ones who gave the valley its name, “Macachack” which translated means “Smiling Valley.” The Indian village was located on top of a hill overlooking a section of the Mac-A-Cheek Creek. As the creek wound through the valley it curved around the hill on which the Indians lived. When the Shawnee people looked down at the creek it appeared to be smiling at them, thus the name, Smiling Valley. The Mac-O-Chee village was the headquarters of Chief Moluntha, Great Sachem of the assembled tribes.
It was after the Revolutionary War that the white man began encroaching on Shawnee Indian territory. In 1875, a peace treaty was made with several tribes but the Shawnee refused to agree.
In the fall of 1876, Colonel Benjamin Logan was commissioned by General Rogers Clark to attack the Mac-O-Chee towns. Logan sent Colonel Robert Patterson and Colonel Thomas Kennedy to the left and right wing, while he commanded the central division, with Colonel Daniel Boone and Major Simon Kenton leading the ranks.
The Indians were warned but not soon enough because most warriors were hunting and the ones that weren’t were either killed or taken prisoner. Chief Moluntha surrendered along with three of his wives, one of which was known as the Grenadier Squaw, the sister of Chief Cornstalk, and several children.
Colonel Hugh McGary defied orders to leave the Indians who surrendered unharmed, and in thinking he fought against the Chief at Blue Licks took the ax from the Grenadier Squaw and in a rage killed Chief Moluntha. It is said the remaining Shawnees left the area and established settlements in Blanchard Fork located in North West Ohio.
My dad, Rev. Lee Birt Jr loved the early history of the area and explored West Liberty when he was a youngster. During a visit to St. Elizabeth’s Chapel and Cemetery he found a rock with Chief Moluntha’s name on it in the left section of the cemetery kept to bury people who were not family. Unfortunately, nothing remains of this section of the cemetery. There are headstones of beloved family members but you have to walk up the hill to see them. Only the two mausoleums can be seen from the road. The chapel still stood at this time but later burned down.
Even though the Mac-O-Chee Village is no longer in existence, the legend of Squaw Rock remains and has been handed down, in stories and on paper, for many generations. During the raid on Mac-O-Chee led by Colonel Benjamin Logan, one of the soldiers spotted someone hiding behind a large rock (possibly where meetings were held) at the edge of the village and thinking it was a brave warrior he took aim and shot. Upon checking his target he found he had killed a squaw and upon closer inspection he found a baby boy lying beside her. He was so filled with remorse that he buried the squaw at the base of the rock and took the baby home with him to raise him as his own.
The soldier also had a young daughter and the two children grew up happily together. As they got older they became great friends and fell in love with each other. However, the young girl was worried about what others thought about her marrying an Indian so she married a rich white suitor instead. The day after the couples were married they were found murdered in their cabin and the Indian boy was never seen again.
Squaw Rock still stands on the hill overlooking Smiling Valley even though that section of the Mac-O-Cheek Creek is no more. It is a reminder that this land was special to those who lived here before in the beautiful Smiling Valley. West Liberty is our own little piece of heaven on earth, then and now.
By Tami Wenger
Mac-O-Chee Valley by Miss Karen Jane Gaumer, Urbana
William Mac-A-Cheek Piatt ll Memorial Archive
Memories of the Miami Valley
The 53rd Annual West Liberty Labor Day Festival starts at the end of the month. Watch the video below to learn more about the 2018 festival's schedule of events, or click here to learn more!
Today was the West Liberty Business Association meeting at the Liberty Gathering Place restaurant. I walked in and after saying hi to a couple of friends, the owner Cindy asked if I wanted sweet tea. After saying yes, I added toast to my order and headed to the restroom before sitting down. When I came out to the room, there sat my sweet tea in my usual spot. That made me smile and is a sign of a great business owner who knows her customers and makes them feel right at home. This is West Liberty small town hospitality, and we hope you will stop by and experience it for yourself!
When you think of West Liberty what is the first picture that comes to mind? It didn’t take long when I asked this question on the Facebook Group, “Growing up in West Liberty, Ohio.” My friends shared many wonderful thoughts and memories.
Remembering businesses like Thoman’s IGA, Yoder’s, Marie’s Candies, Ohio Caverns, Piatt Castles, Craig’s elevator, and both ice cream stores to name a few. Playing ball at the ball parks or fishing and wading in Mac-A-Cheek Creek or Mad River.
A special place such as Grandma’s house, the house they grew up in, the old schools on the hill; the long time friendships, loving family, and the friendliness of the village.
They also recalled attending events at the Town Hall Opera House, Labor Day Festival and Parade, the Sesquicentennial and Bicentennial Celebrations.
It’s feeling proud of our town, sledding down Adriel Hill, where everyone knows each other, the Town Christmas tree shining brightly at the annual tree lighting and the Christmas Star on top of the elevator.
Whether you live in West Liberty, moved away or have been here to visit, you take special memories with you and keep them close to your heart. If you haven’t visited our little hamlet yet or been home for a visit lately, stop by and say hello! We would love to see you and you can make new memories!
Rev. Tami Wenger
The Village of West Liberty is Ohio's best kept secret travel destination. Come stay awhile in this quintessential Midwestern small town in the heart of the Buckeye State!