Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Olde Coleraine

A replica of Dunlap's Station mentioned in a book.
I had to e-mail some folks to get find its location next to
this coat rack in a closet.
When people in Cincinnati think of Colerain, I'm sure many think of the sea of cars and signs that clog the main drag of the cluttered and overgrown retail area. It's really hard to imagine now but this older suburb of Cincinnati has a rich past of pioneer settlements and prehistoric Indian villages. This older history is largely forgotten or has vanished completely since no physical reminders remain. At least further to the West of Colerain Avenue, there remains open spaces and a few reminders of this community's interesting origins.

Sometimes referred to as Fort Dunlap, Dunlap's Station, or Fort Coleraine this pioneer settlement was founded at the horseshoe bend of the Great Miami River by an Irish immigrant named John Dunlap in 1790. He named the settlement after his birthplace of Coleraine, Ireland.
Today this is the location of Heritage Park where the Boy Scouts have placed a marker commemorating the settlement.

you may have sped right by this informative sign
There were about 40 of these small forts called "Stations" in the late 1700s around the Cincinnati area. This particular Station was significant because it was attacked by the famous Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket and 500 warriors along with the renegade ally Simon Girty, a white man who sided with the local Indians and British against the Americans.
It was nearly impossible for Indians to overtake a Station since they were not equipped with any sort of artillery. The British who sometimes instigated these attacks and provided intelligence rarely lent direct assistance since there was no formal declaration of war at this time with the US. The Native Americans had to resort to intimidation, surprise attacks or just burning stuff down.

Dunlap's Station Marker in Heritage Park
The Siege of Dunlap's Station lasted from January 8th until January 11th, 1791. Two settlers (Sloan and Cunningham) were killed in this attack including one unfortunate man named Abner Hunt. He was held hostage and tortured in full view of the terrified and barricaded residents in an effort to intimidate a surrender from Lieutenant Kingsbury and the Station's defenders.  This tactic proved unsuccessful and the Indian forces finally withdrew after more US military support arrived from nearby Fort Washington in Cincinnati. However, this really wasn't much of a win. These settlers didn't have clear title to the land they purchased from John Dunlap and likely never would. Red tape existed in the 18th century too. All their hard work might be for nothing if they stayed. Added to this was the ever-increasing hostilities with the Indians after St Clairs Defeat later that year. The settlement was soon abandoned.
Settlers returned in 1794 when the area was made more secure after the American win over the Ohio area Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers and some of the legal hassles were sorted out.

There is a scaled down replica of the station in the Colerain Township Administrative building. I have since learned that there are plans to build a full-sized replica of Dunlap's Station somewhere in the area as a museum but funding is an issue so the plans are on hold for now. I already let them know that I would love to help build it! I also promised not to attack it.

my kids and I made this grossly inaccurate re-enactment
of the Siege of Dunlap's Station
Hedges Pioneer Cemetery a stone's throw from Dunlap
Next to the park and former location of Dunlap's Station is Hedges Cemetery, a combined graveyard of two old cemeteries where several Revolutionary War veterans are buried along with people who were killed in the 1791 attack, including poor old Abner.

When Heritage Park was being planned in the early 2000's, they ran some ground radar over the area looking for any remnants of Dunlap's Station and they claimed to have found none. The Great Miami River has, in fact, changed course in this area several times, so what little remained is likely to have been washed away over the years.
What they did uncover in the radar survey was more evidence of an ancient 95-acre Indian village that little was known about previously. Rumor has it that the information was hushed to keep the park project on target.  Frisbee golf has a higher priority than history.

Adena Mound atop the hill at River & Dunlap Roads
This 100 BCE Indian village was a prehistoric Hopewell settlement referred to by archaeologists as Colerain Earthworks. There is an 1836 mapped survey of it here. It was located partially on the property of Heritage Park and partially on the private property of Southwestern Ohio Water Works to the north.  An archaeological survey was done recently and the earthen walls appeared as slightly darker lines as compared to the surrounding soil. This confirmed the earlier radar survey and the late 1800s description of  "8 foot walls and 10 foot observation mounds" prior to it being turned into farmland. One of the walls even went right through Hedges Cemetery but just like nearby Northgate Mall no useful features remain.

Adena mound with a house on top
There are also several older 800 BCE Adena Mounds in this area, one is on private property at the top of a hill on private property across from Heritage Park at Dunlap and East Miami River Road.
The other Adena mound is 4 miles away near the Colerain Township Administration building and visible from the road. What is especially odd about this mound is that some time in the 1920's a Tudor style home was built right on top of it. You can still make out the shape of the mound. This home is now used as a garage for the newer home next to it.

Oh, and what happened to the "E" in ColerainE? No one is really sure. Sometimes things just fade away over time and I think they just liked extra E's in words in ye olde days.

sources: for Hedges cemetery - specifically, entries for Cunningham
Sloanand Hunt who died at the Siege of Dunlap's Station


  1. The "E" in Coleraine is there because John Dunlap came from Coleraine in Ireland. The "E" was just dropped as people tried to Americanize the name. I think that Abner Hunt was the only American killed in the attack on Fort Colerain, although at least one other man was badly wounded. Why did the settlement change from being called Dunlap's Station to Fort Coleraine? I believe that after the settlement was initially built, Lt. Kingsbury and 14 soldiers were stationed at the fort for its protection. Since there were soldiers there, they must have considered it to be an actual fort, and so people started calling it Fort Coleraine. They also had one cannon. Woo hoo.

  2. thanks for the comments! I believe another man by the name of Cunningham was killed first at the time Abner Hunt was captured and eventually killed