Long before Big Foot reached out with his big hairy mitt and grabbed headlines, speculation of a Loch Ness type Monster in Honey Creek made local newspapers.
It all started in 1915, more than 40 years before the first known newspaper account of a Big Foot sighting. The Loudonville papers reported that Shannon Simms found a mastodon tusk in Honey Creek on his farm about five miles north of town. From there, the story grew flippers and took on a life of its own.
Loudonville resident and local historian Sarah England recently shared some newspaper clippings from 1915 and 1927 chronicling the evolution of the Honey Creek Monster.
According to the 1915 articles, Simms’ discovery caused quite a stir. He put the eight-foot long tusk on display in the window of Covert’s Drug Store in Loudonville (now Danner Pharmacy). The spectacle drew a big crowd — and perhaps a windfall for the drug store.
However, mastodon remains were pretty common and the excitement died off just as mastodons had 5,000 years earlier.
Twelve years later, a West Butler chiropractor resurrected the story. While excavating mastodon bones on Simms’ farm, Dr. W.A. Moore claimed to have found evidence that at least one of the giant beasts lurking in the waters of Honey Creek had flippers!
In June 1927, P.J. Bailey reported in the Loudonville Times that Moore’s discovery drew people to the excavation site from as far away as Chicago. Sightseers’ vehicles lined both sides of what is now County Road 2654 for a quarter mile.
In an article dated June 30, 1927, Bailey waxed eloquent, dancing a frantic jig along the fine line between reporting and editorializing.
“It is conjecture that it may have been some sort of creature that formerly inhabited the prehistoric swamps of the Honey Creek region, and which had flippers instead of feet to aid its locomotion through the water and ooze of the vast swamp,” Bailey wrote.
Bailey went on to suggest that Dr. Moore’s discovery of this “prehistoric monster” would likely create a sensation in the scientific world and put Loudonville on the map.
“It is especially fortunate for the people of Ohio that the remains were found conveniently close to the famous Three C Highway, which makes it easy to reach the excavations by automobile after a pleasant drive over splendid roads through the finest scenery in the Middle West.” Bailey wrote.
In spite of the hype, the Honey Creek Monster never lived up to expectations. The story — like the mastodons and whatever it was Dr. Moore claimed to have found — were doomed to extinction.
However, Bailey’s words proved prophetic. It was Dick Frye who put Loudonville on the map in 1961 by founding Ohio’s first canoe livery. Loudonville became the canoe capital of Ohio and Frye’s vision led millions to discover — as Bailey said — that this area boasts the finest scenery in the Middle West.
That’s why folks around here call it, “God’s country.”
You’ve got to admit it has a better ring to it than “Godzilla’s country.”