History & Heritage
Darke County’s Contribution to America’s History
In the 1700’s, the Western portion of the Ohio Territory was a fertile land of forests, prairies, waterways, swamps and plentiful wildlife. The area was inhabited by various tribes of Native Americans.
As white settlers began to advance into the Ohio territory, they cleared the land and the Native Americans began to realize the threat to their hunting grounds and way of life. Thus began the clash of the two cultures and the unrest on the western frontier.
President George Washington wanted to settle the problems with the Native Americans and open the territory to white settlers. He sent General “Mad” Anthony Wayne to the Ohio territory to handle the uprisings. General Anthony Wayne constructed the second official settlement in Darke County, GreeneVille, in 1793 along Greenville Creek. This military headquarters was the largest log fortified structure ever built, encompassing 55+ acres of land enclosed by wooden stockades and surrounded by 8 blockhouses. The fort stood for six years and was partially rebuilt during the War of 1812.
In August of 1794, the Legion of the United States, under the command of General Wayne engaged the Native Americans in northern Ohio at the “Battle of Fallen Timbers.” This decisive battle brought an end to some of the hostilities, and treaty negotiations soon began.
In this monumental fort, the famous Treaty of GreeneVille (also named the Wyandot Peace and Friendship Treaty) was signed by Wayne and chiefs from the Woodland tribes on August 3, 1795.This treaty eventually opened the Northwest Territory to white settlers and was instrumental to Ohio becoming a state in 1803.
William Henry Harrison, General Wayne’s aide de camp, signed the 1795 Treaty. Harrison returned to sign another Treaty at GreeneVille in 1814, after Ohio had become the 17th state. Harrison said, “I will sign this treaty on the exact same spot of the first treaty so that generations to come will not forget where these treaties were signed.” Harrison campaigned in GreeneVille for the Presidency and was elected in 1840.
The most famous friendship to develop in GreeneVille was between Lewis and Clark. William Clark was stationed at GreeneVille and was a principal contributor to Anthony Wayne’s Fallen Timbers campaign.
In 1794, young Meriwether Lewis re-enlisted and joined the Second Sub-Legion of the regular army. He was sent to GreeneVille in time to be present at the signing of the Great 1795 Treaty.
Lewis was later assigned to an elite group of sharpshooters commanded by William Clark. Thus began the lifelong friendship between Lewis and Clark. These gentlemen are most known for their expedition (The Corps of Discovery) across America to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean.
Darke County is the only county in the United States named “Darke.” The county was named after Lt. Col. William Darke, a Revolutionary war officer.
For more information on the history of Darke County, please visit the Garst Museum in Greenville.
Darke County’s Most Legendary Daughter
Annie Oakley was born Phoebe Ann Moses near Willowdell, Ohio, on August 13, 1860.
Annie supported her family by shooting and selling game to restaurants and grocers in Greenville and neighboring towns. The game she sold was highly desirable in that it had little damage because her aim was so precise.
She adopted the stage name of “Annie Oakley” after she met and married sharpshooter Frank Butler. For 17 years, Annie and Frank traveled with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.
Annie met many famous people during her career. One of them was Chief Sitting Bull who felt a closeness with Annie as she reminded him of his deceased daughter. Sitting Bull adopted Annie and gave her the name Watanya Cecila or “Little Sure Shot.”
Annie also met Queen Victoria in 1887, when the Wild West sailed to England for her majesty’s 50th anniversary.
Another member of a royal family that Annie met was Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany. Legend says that Annie shot a cigar out of the Prince’s mouth; however, this story holds more lore than truth, according to the Annie Oakley Foundation.
Annie’s career with the Wild West came to an abrupt end with a train crash in 1901. After the accident, she performed in exhibitions and gave shooting lessons to women, both for sport and for protection.
During World War I, Annie took on another project, which was to raise money for the Red Cross with her dog, Dave. She also donated money to orphanages and helped as many as 20 young women pay for a college education.
Both Annie and Frank died in 1926, within just 18 days of each other. Annie perished from pernicious anemia, a blood disorder. Frank died of senility. Annie’s body was cremated and her ashes were put into a trophy cup. After Frank’s funeral, his body and Annie’s ashes were buried side by side in Brock Cemetery.
In the summer of 2000, the State of Ohio renamed the US127 highway “Annie Oakley Memorial Pike” as a tribute to Darke County’s distinguished native. Annie’s motto was “Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second time and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally, you’ll hit the bull’s-eye of success.” Excerpts taken from Sue Macy’s book, “Bull’s-Eye: A Photo-biography of Annie Oakley.”
For more information on Annie Oakley, please visit the National Annie Oakley Center at Garst Museum in Greenville.
Darke County’s Famous Sons
The name Lowell Thomas evokes a number of images: adventurer, explorer, world traveler, author. However, he was probably best remembered as a radio news commentator for CBS during WWII. Mr. Thomas was born near Woodington in 1892.
Zachary Lansdowne was the Commander of the Navy dirigible, U.S.S. Shenandoah, which crashed in September 1925 in Noble County. He was born in Greenville.
Norman Vincent Peale, the father of “Power of Positive Thinking” and famous lecturer spent a few of his boyhood years in Greenville where his father served as a minister in the Methodist Church.