Helltown or Hell Town?

A tale of two cities – or something like it

In researching ghost towns of the Mohican River, I discovered that there had been two Helltowns.

I set out to find information on the Native American settlement known as Helltown. From what I could learn, it had been on a bluff overlooking Clear Fork of the Mohican River, opposite the Switzer Creek confluence.

(For those interested in the big picture, that’s somewhere between Butler and Perrysville. Or, if you’re not familiar with either of those places, it’s in the middle of nowhere, halfway between Cleveland and Columbus.)

The natives abandoned Helltown in 1782 after they learned that members of Ohio’s militia had massacred more than 100 Native Americans whom they had converted to Christianity. That occurred in Gnaddenhutton, along the Tuscarawas River. So strong was the faith of these converts that most allowed themselves to be bludgeoned to death, believing that they would awaken in Heaven.

Adding insult to injury, the settlers later looted their burial grounds and plowed them under to grow crops.

A Google search of Helltown and Ohio turned up links to another Hell Town in the state. In fact, the search yielded more links to that Hell Town than the one I was looking for.

Like Helltown the Native American village, the other Hell Town was also a ghost town. The latter by virtue of eminent domain for the establishment of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The other Hell Town, in portions of Boston Township, Summit County, lies on land taken by eminent domain for Cuyahoga Valley National Park — spawning folklore that it was haunted or a haven for Satanic practices. The government purchased the homes in 1974 and they were left intact for many years, giving rise to the folklore.

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That includes stories about the site being closed by the government in connection with chemical contamination — complete with obligatory cover-up mythology. There may be something to that as, in 1985, a hiker became ill after coming into contact with the contents of a drum at the Krejci Dump Site.

This year it was reported that $60 million site remediation has been a big success. It was a typical American success story in which someone profits from pollution and the taxpayers are stuck with the bill for mitigating the damage.

Ironically, a researcher named Jim Willis found graffiti inside one of the abandoned houses equating eminent domain with genocide.

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These illustrations are part of my PowerPoint presentation entitled Ghost Towns of the Mohican River. I plan to research them further and expand on that.



What We Learned from Dad

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Irvin R. Oslin Sr., 1928-2015

I wrote this for my father’s celebration of life ceremony, which took place this morning in Cleveland. It was but a small part of a fitting tribute to a man who served as a mentor and a role model for a lot of people — including many he never knew. Thanks to all who participated in this morning’s ceremony and particularly to my siblings who really rocked it. (Yes, that includes you, Connie.)

What We Learned from Dad

We learned to work hard.

A few months after I started working at the Ashland Times-Gazette, I was eating breakfast at a little ma-and-pa joint around the corner from the County Courthouse. It was early and the only other customer was an old man seated at the end of the counter. I sensed that he was sizing me up. Finally, he sidled over to me and said, “I know your father.” I thought he was just blowing smoke. Then he said, “Your father once told me that, if you want something done, find the busiest guy in the room and ask him to do it.” There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that he knew my father.

We learned to play hard.

Playing catch in the street and pickup games at Buckley Playground were part of our daily routine. Dad often joined us. Sometimes I’d get jealous when he’d throw the ball to other kids or pay more attention to them than he did to me. But I realized that some of those kids didn’t have fathers. And none of them had a father like ours.

We learned that vacation time was sacred.

Dad insisted that we take a vacation every year no matter what. For many years, that meant spending a couple of weeks at East Harbor — fishing, hanging out at the beach or playing ball in a big open field by the shower house. Sometimes I’d get up early in the morning, before anyone else, and go exploring. I still do that.

We learned the value of travel.

When Judy and I were teenagers, we all piled into the van and headed out west. We camped along the way and, if memory serves me, we made it as far west as Utah. It was a life-changing experience. It was our first taste of the endless opportunities that life had to offer. Although we did vow never to return to Kansas.

We learned patience.

Right after dad died, a weird thought crossed my mind. I remembered he once told me, “I hadn’t planned on living forever anyway.” That was during my first driving lesson. Through this and countless other examples, dad taught us the importance of patience. Patience and a healthy sense of humor.

We learned empathy.

Growing up on the West Side of Cleveland, we often heard the “N-word” from other kids in school or on the playground. One night, I made the mistake of repeating it at the supper table. Dad shut me down on the spot with a simple question. He asked, “How did you come to chose what color you were born?”

We learned about freedom.

In the past month or so, dad talked a lot about his childhood. He grew up in a broken home during the Great Depression. His fondest memories were of the farmhouse in Solon where he lived with his siblings, cousins and assorted adults. Dad said he and the other kids never considered themselves poor because they were allowed to roam free.

We learned about the real meaning of family.

In the final weeks of his life, Dad brought this family together as never before. He took comfort in the continuous outpouring of love — but even more so in the opportunity to return it.