Sunday, August 19, 2007


There was a time when part of Ohio was under a sheet of ice as thick as the height of any mountains existing today in the Eastern United States. The Earth began to warm and since there was, to my knowledge, no Pleistocene Al Gore to warn of the impending doom the ice melted leaving Western Ohio covered with swamps. Life, as it had been known, was changed and would never again be the same.

About two miles from my home along the Old Fort Recovery Trace near the intersection of State Route 49 and the Elroy-Ansonia Road is an ancient peat bog that formed from a chunk of that melted glacier. It is known to local residents simply as the “Sinkhole”. Over the years, often near Halloween, generations of Darke County children have been told stories about strange lights, sounds, and the cries of people rising from the bog. The most remembered story involves the derailment and sinking of a locomotive along with its train of cars from the tracks that pass through.

Often legends have a foundation on which they were built. It is a verified fact that the bog was a “killsite” that claimed the lives of many victims, however most were several thousand years ago. In the adjacent marsh area have been found the bones of mastodons, deer, sloths, moose, giant beaver and numerous other animals including fish such as perch and muskie. It is also a fact that the United States Army under the command of General Arthur St. Clair did lose a cannon to the bog in November of 1791 when they passed through on their way to be slaughtered beside the Wabash. Over 200 years later in 1995, a group of Kentucky archaeologists recovered the gun with its caisson 90 percent intact from under five feet of soil. Other peculiar events have been recorded such as in 1872, during a particularly dry spell, large areas of the bog burst into flame.

Today the rail-tracks are solid but that wasn’t always the case. It was in 1850, that the Teegarden family, who owned a farm nearby, contracted with the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and St. Louis Railroad (Big Four) to build a roadbed over what was thought to be dry loam. When the work was almost done it began sinking. Reportedly a 10 acre tract of timber had to be cut and added as fill along with 3,000 car loads of hardpan soil. Yet for decades the bed continued to sink and would have to be built up annually. In the 1880s, a 55 foot piling was driven and went 50 feet before it struck the timber that had been used years earlier.

By the way, that locomotive actually did go into the bog but it wasn’t by accident. The railroad sank an old engine along with four cars filled with gavel intentionally to help stabilize the bed. In regards to ghosts, the Old Teegarden Cemetery is located just a few hundred feet away. RMB

No comments: