State park receives praise from DeWines


XENIA TOWNSHIP — Gov. Mike DeWine was hoping Ohio’s 76th state park would be a special place that told the story of the Shawnees.

Mission accomplished.

DeWine — with First Lady Fran DeWine and grandchildren Parker and Addi DeWine — toured the Great Council State Park on U.S. 68 North in Xenia Township Monday and was beaming with pride. Located in what used to be called “Old Chillicothe,” a vibrant Shawnee town founded in the 1770s and led by Chief Blackfish, the state park pays tribute to the 1,000 Native Americans who once called the area home.

“It’s exciting,” said Gov. DeWine, who grew up in nearby Yellow Springs. “I think it exceeds our expectations. It’s an attempt, and I think it’s done very well, to tell part of the Ohio story.”

That story includes the connection to the state’s Native American and pioneer past. Much of that history took place in nearby Oldtown, one of the largest-known Shawnee settlements in Ohio. It’s also believed by many to be the birthplace of famous Shawnee leader Tecumseh.

“I’ve looked over here and saw the (Tecumseh) motel,” DeWine said. “And of course had heard the different stories over the years. Our goal was to kind of bring this all together not just for the people of Greene County but for anybody who comes in here, (they) will have the opportunity to learn about what we think is an exciting period of time, a very impactful period of time. It’s a snapshot in time.”

Although it represents a short period in time, visitors to the 12,000 square-foot building — that has it’s grand opening Friday morning — will get a big-picture of how the Shawnee and early settlers lived in the 1770s. It includes a living stream with native aquatic life and myriad exhibits that depict what life was like. Outside is a native plant prairie and a half-mile loop. Visitors can also walk to the Little Miami River at the edge of the property and in the future a bridge will cross U.S. 68 from the bike path.

“This area has been special,” Fran DeWine said.

Her mother, Mary (Hawkins) Struewing, was born a couple miles away near the county fairgrounds and four generations before that, the Hawkins family came to the area from Virginia in 1814.

“I’ve always known and loved, and our family has always shared the stories here,” Fran DeWine said.

The three federally recognized Shawnee nations (The Shawnee Tribe, Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, and the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma) were consulted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to ensure Great Council State Park conveyed an accurate and authentic record of life in the 1770s.

“We were very mindful when we set out to do this to be working with the Shawnee,” Gov. DeWine said. “We have now had interaction with them a lot.”

And on Friday, members of the public will be able to interact via the state park.

Reach Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

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