History Park & Local area

Pleasant Hill Park & Dam (1938-2018)

Pleasant Hill Lake is a 783-acre man-made lake located near Perrysville and between Ashland and Richland counties in Ohio. Dedicated  January 28, 1938, Pleasant Hill Dam was built on the Clear Fork of the Mohican River. The dam which forms the lake is a 113 ft (34 m) tall earth-fill dam. It is located in Ashland but the lake extends into Richland. The lake, constructed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, was built for the purpose of flood control. See video link below for historical footage:

Surrounding Mohican Area History

The erosional forces of the last glacial meltwaters 12,000 years ago hastened the carving of the narrow gorge of the Clear Fork of the Mohican River. This gorge cuts into the sandstone bedrock exposing huge outcroppings and creating steep cliff walls. The gorge is more than one thousand feet wide at the top and over three hundred feet deep. The striking Clearfork Gorge with its towering hemlocks and stands of old-growth white pine are of national significance. The National Park Service has thus dedicated the area as a Registered National Natural Landmark.

The Mohican State Park area was once the hunting grounds of the Delawares, whose more famous warriors included Janacake, Bill Montour, Thomas Lyon, and James Smith, who was the first white man to come to this area. Smith was captured by the Indians and later adopted into their tribe. Several Delaware villages were located in the Mohican vicinity.

Settlement began at the turn of the nineteenth century, but settlement did not increase until the Indians were driven from the area during the War of 1812. John Chapman, immortalized as Johnny Appleseed, frequented the region during the 1800s, caring for his apple tree nurseries. His name and the date, carved in the wall of Lyons Falls, were an attraction for years. Unfortunately, the etchings have been obliterated with the passage of time.

Mohican State Park was originally called Clear Fork State Park when the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was created in 1949 and the park was created from Ohio Division of Forestry lands. In 1966, the name of the park was changed to Mohican to alleviate confusion between Clear Fork Reservoir in Mansfield, Ohio and the state park.

Historical Construction Photos ( 1936-1938)


 Morning Glory Spillway 1937 Construction         Control Gate Tower Construction  1937

   Assorted Video Clips


Morning glory spillway overflow at Berryessa Lake in California ( Same design as Pleasant Hill Spillway)

Pleasant Hill's Spillways has never overflowed to date.


Historical Books on Pleasant Hill Dam & Lake Park


The Dam and 50 Years Beyond                Pleasant Hill Lake Park Making Memories- 1938-2018

                                                                     and Beyond

By Lee Cavin                                               By Louis M. Andres & Irv Oslin

Book $5.00         Published 1988                Paperback Book $10.00        Published  2018

Both Books are available for sale through the Park Office, Copies available at local libraries

All proceeds benefit the Pleasant Hill Park Education/Recreation Foundation Account

 Historical Photos of Pleasant  Hill  Park    


Cabin Area 1948                                                               Boat Launch & Marina area 1940's


Boat Concession Building                                            Village of Newville before lake impoundment


MWCD Fire Patrol Plane 1940's                                Paradise Queen Paddle Boat 1960's

 Historical News Clippings 


  1952 News articles

    Historical Map 1915 Mohican River Valley


 Newville Iron Bridge Photo  1937 

Covered Bridge Predecessor, Approximately 1913-1938 – What would become Ashland County Road 3006 crossed Clear Fork north of where the dam was built. The original bridge that spanned the river was likely rebuilt or replaced after the 1913 flood. The bridge — an iron truss span — can be seen in a dam construction photo taken around 1937 or 1938, when work was pretty far along. The bridge was dismantled and moved downstream to Mohican State Park near the primitive campground. It was replaced in 1967 by Mohican’s iconic covered bridge.

The iron "Newville" bridge next to the construction of the new Mohican Covered bridge circa1967 (photo below)


The original swinging footbridge over Clear Fork in Mohican State Park downstream from Pleasant Hill dam was built so gas company workers could access gas lines & wellheads in the forest. It was dismantled after being damaged by a flood in 1969 some bridge support pieces remain along the river shoreline. In 2020, the Mohican Trails Club completed restoration of the Civilian Conservation Corps trail descending from the Clear Fork Gorge Overlook to the river. CCC workers blazed the original trail in the early 1930s. The restoration of this trail provided foot access from the overlook to the river & cleared the way for the bridge to be replaced. Once completed in 2021 the cable bridge will enable visitors to venture across the river & access the overlook on foot. Once across, they will have the option of taking a long, gradual climb to the west or a short steep climb to the east. Article by Irv Oslin

MOHICAN MEMORIAL STATE FOREST FIRE TOWER-The 86 feet steel fire tower still exists today and rehabilitation is planned for the summer of 2021.  However, the wood tower has long been missing and the only known picture of it is in one of the many hand drawings made by Joe D. Jesensky when he was the park's chief architect in the 1930s.  The tower is in the bottom left-hand corner.  Notice in the legend on this drawing that a circle with a dot in the middle identifies the location of both towers, including the one on the north side

J.D. Jesensky, Chief Architect drew maps (pictured below 1938) showing the road to the large shelter house drawn differently from how it is today, and on this map, the pole tower is on the west side of the road leading to the large shelter.  The latter topo map has the tower inside the one-way roads.  The topo map is the first map I have found where Jesensky uses a map that apparently was prepared by surveyors and includes contour lines and accurate roads.  It appears Joe then added proposed trails and a location for the “proposed” steel fire tower in the south park.   The proposed steel fire tower site was apparently moved as was the nature trail.  Joe told us the reason the nature trail was moved - it was on private property (assuming the Stevenson property). 

The point here is that these maps were used for planning purposes and the final location of the park’s features could have been different from this plan.   The location of the pole tower inside the one-way roads may have been changed before the tower was constructed because of gas wells. 

Around 1915 gas wells became unproductive in this area and were being converted to storage wells.  The pole fire tower site inside of the one-way roads has had a storage wellhead which may have prohibited the construction of a fire tower there. 

A fire tower of this size would require a foundation, and no foundation could be located inside the one-way roads.  The storage wellhead was removed during this process, no foundations could be located.  The foundation on the ridge behind the small shelter house is the most likely place to have been built.  From this ridge, there is an excellent view of the river gorge where there are four distinct concrete blocks.   

Pleasant Hill Lake Park Airstrip Photo 1970's

 Original Airstrip, 1956-1979 – Pleasant Hill was the only Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District lake with an airstrip. In 1979, MWCD closed it due to safety concerns. There had been numerous plane crashes, plus the airstrip went right down to the shore at a busy part of the lake — near the campground, public boat ramp, and marina. In 1981, MWCD opened a new airstrip in a farm field west of the original. It was about 1,000 feet longer. That strip was abandoned in 1994


Gold Mining Sluice operation along Dead Mans Run in 1905 (Clear Fork River)

Bellville was well known for being part of the Ohio gold rush. In 1853 Gold was discovered at Bellville, Ohio 10 miles north of Pleasant Hill Lake on the Clear Fork River. Leases were taken on all the land and mining was carried on in a small way & continues even today. The first gold was panned on Dead Man's Run, which caused people from all over to come to pan for gold. The gold was discovered by James C. Lee. Even though the gold that was found was almost pure, little more was discovered. Dead Mans Run, adjacent to Bellville Road, north of Bellville and Wildcat Hollow, 1 mile west of Butler.

The Swank Claim is located on Gatton Rocks and Cutnaw Rd. in Bellville, Ohio. It covers approximately 1 mile of the Clear Fork River on the upper claim and 1 mile of Clear Fork River on the lower claim. This claim is known for burgundy colored garnets and fine flour gold. This claim has also produced, two quartz rocks with gold nuggets layered in them. One valued at $50,000.These claims are located on private property and are only open to GPAA members and during MWCD sponsored special public events. 


Johnny Appleseed Historical Byway

 Whether you are a resident, guest to our area, or just passing through, the Johnny Appleseed Historic Byway will enhance your experience. Although John “Appleseed” Chapman was born in Massachusetts on September 26, 1774, and died in Indiana on March 18, 1845, he spent a large portion of his adult life in and throughout north central Ohio. Today, Ohio State Routes 39 and 603 passes many of Appleseed’s land holdings, apple tree nursery sites, and other significant historical locations associated with Appleseed’s heroic life and deeds.



Numerous commemorative monuments and historical markers already identify locations where Appleseed lived and worked. More are planned. The route passes within sight of former homes of those with whom Appleseed associated: Jedediah Smith, mountain man and fur trader; Rosella Rice, Perrysville author of national renown in the 1800s; and Delaware Indians from Greentown, who played such an important role in the area’s early history during the War of 1812. But, the Johnny Appleseed Historic Byway weaves through more than the past. Today, the route offers access to Ohio’s canoe capitol— Mohican Country, Mohican State Forest, and Park, Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center and Amphitheater, Malabar Farm, Amish country and some of the prettiest farms and scenery in Ohio.

Link to more information on Johnny Appleseed and the Historical Byway



Northern Ohio was once the hunting ground of the Erie Indians, who were decimated and scattered about 1656 by the Iroquois of Northern New York state. The Leni-Lenape, or “Delaware” Indians then successfully petitioned the Iroquois Nation of six tribes for permission to move into the former Erie lands, and subsequently paid an annual tribute to remain. Arriving settlers found this area sparsely populated by immigrant bands of Delaware, Chippewa, Shawnee, and Mingo. The Delaware Indian village of Hell town sat overlooking the Clearfork River was abandoned in 1782, it remained a hunting camp until 1812, the land now part of Pleasant Hill Lake Park. The Treaty of Fort Industry (Toledo) in 1805 extinguished Indian claims north of the Greenville Treaty line, which is at the southern boundary of Richland County, and south of the 41st parallel. This land, known as the New Purchase lands were surveyed and sectioned off in 1806-07. James Hedges, surveyor of the New Purchase, laid out the town of Mansfield in 1808. The county of Richland was established in 1808 and organized in 1813. Between 1845-1847 land was taken from “Old Richland” to form parts of Crawford, Ashland, and Morrow Counties, leaving the boundaries as we know them today.  


                   Delaware Indian Lodge   (outside)  


                   Delaware Indian Lodge (inside)


Jedediah Smith Mountain Man 

Jedediah Smith is probably the most famous of all "Mountain Men" -- those fur-clad, grizzled individuals who were first to explore the American West in search of pelts and adventure. He was the first American to cross west over the Continental Divide, rediscovering South Pass, and the first American to traverse California's rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains. He was also first to open the coastal trade route from California to Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River.

But few realized that among his greatest exploits were Jedediah Smith's trail-blazing expeditions across the deserts of the American West. In fact, Jedediah was the first American to enter California overland from the east (across the forbidding Mojave Desert) and the first to cross the enormous Great Basin Desert and return east, overland from California.

Jedediah Smith was born June 24, 1798, at Bainbridge, New York. While still in his teens, Jedediah joined a fur-trading expedition to the Rocky Mountains, becoming one of the original "Ashley Men," trappers under the command of William Ashley. He continued in the Rocky Mountain fur trade for more than a decade.

Jedediah and his party of trappers spent the winter of 1823-24 with a band of Crow Indians who told him how to reach Utah's Green River. In mid-March 1824, his company rediscovered the South Pass -- a passage to the Northwest through present-day Wyoming -- and descended into the Green River area for the spring hunt.

In July 1825, Jedediah attended the first Mountain Man Rendezvous at Henry's Fork then accompanied William Ashley back to St. Louis with the season's bounty of furs. En route downriver, Ashley took Jedediah as a partner to replace the retiring Andrew Henry.

In the spring of 1826, Jedediah went ahead of the company's westbound pack train to arrange for that year's Mountain Man Rendezvous, to be held in Cache Valley. That August, he led 17 men to appraise the trapping potential of the region south and west of the Great Salt Lake.

This expedition took him along the route of present-day Interstate 15, the entire length of Utah, to the Virgin River and its eventual confluence with the Colorado River. He followed the Colorado south to the villages of Mojave Indians, then turned his band westward across the Mojave Desert. When he and his band arrived at San Gabriel Mission near present-day Los Angeles, they became the first Americans to cross overland to California, entering from the east.

Blocked by the suspicious Mexican governor of California, Jedediah changed his plans to explore Oregon and journeyed to the American River near Sacramento instead. In the spring of 1827, he left his party on the Stanislaus River, and taking two trappers, traversed the Sierra Nevada Mountains over Border Ruffian Pass. He then crossed the Great Basin Desert through Nevada, roughly following the route of present-day US Highway 6.

His band reached the Utah-Nevada border near present Grandy, Utah, continued on to Skull Valley and reached the southern tip of the Great Salt Lake two days later. By the time they arrived at the 1827 Mountain Man Rendezvous at present-day Laketown, they had become the first Americans to return from California by an overland route.

Later in 1827 Jedediah, with 18 men, retraced his steps from the Great Salt Lake to Southern California. But this time, Mojave Indians attacked his party while crossing the Colorado River, killing 10 men and capturing all the horses. The remainder made their way to California and into the clutches of Mexican officials waiting to incarcerate them.

Legal issues finally resolved, his band spent the winter of 1827-28 in the San Francisco Bay area. In the spring of 1828, after traveling north up the coast to Oregon, their encampment was attacked by Kelawatset Indians near Smith's Fork on the Umpqua River. The four survivors of the attack, including Smith, finally reached Canada's Fort Vancouver in mid-August 1828, where they spent the following winter.

In March of 1829, Jedediah journeyed east, arriving in August at Pierre's Hole, site of that year's Mountain Man Rendezvous. At the following year's 1830 Rendezvous on the Wind River, Jedediah and his two partners sold their trapping interests to the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and became involved in the Santa Fe fur trade.

On May 27, 1831, while en route to Santa Fe, Jedediah Smith was surrounded and killed by Comanche Indians at a water hole near the Cimarron River. His body was never found.



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