New state park in Greene County to honor Tecumseh and ‘a major piece of history’

A Greene County site will soon be a new state park educating people about Tecumseh and the Shawnee Indian tribe during their time spent in the area.

Ohio has agreed to buy about 0.7 acres of land for $260,000 that currently houses the Tecumseh Motel on U.S. 68 north of Xenia. The state is buying the motel from Vijay Patel, according to Greene County property records.

ExplorePHOTOS: New state park to honor Tecumseh, Shawnee nation

The sale should be final some time in March. The motel will be demolished this spring, said ODNR Director Mary Mertz.

Oldtown Twp., formerly called Old Chillicothe, is widely believed to be the birthplace of Tecumseh in 1768. Catherine Wilson, director of the Greene County Historical Society said that the site was an old Shawnee village. Behind where the Tecumseh Motel sits is where the village’s council house was located, she said. There are some markers in front of the motel that flag the site as historical.

The motel was a one room school house until about 1950. It became a motel some time in the ’60s, Wilson said.

“I’m very excited about this. This is something I’ve wanted to see, frankly, for many, many years,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine told the Dayton Daily News.

DeWine said his interest in this site started because he grew up in the area.

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“I’m not sure I appreciated it as a young child, but it is a major piece of history,” he said. “It’s Greene County history, but it’s also Ohio history and U.S. history. And it’s a story that has not really been told as well as it should have been told.”

DeWine said he finds that period in time “fascinating.”

Mertz said there will be a 2,000 to 3,000-square-foot building they’re calling an interpretive center as the focal point of the state park. The center would highlight the history of the area and the Shawnee tribe that used to call that land home. There will also be Shawnee artifacts and other local items on display.

ODNR has smaller historical sites all over the state, Mertz said, like the Marblehead Light House, which shares information about the role the lighthouse played in boat rescues. This Greene County site will be the state’s 76th state park. There has been one other state park created in the past five years, Jesse Owens State Park in Morgan County, Ohio, ODNR said.

“This is a unique opportunity,” Mertz said. “We want to spark people’s curiosity.”

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DeWine and Mertz said they toured several sites in the area to evaluate where to build a park that would honor Tecumseh and the Shawnee heritage in the area.

“We just kept coming back to this place,” DeWine said.

The new state park will tell the story of the Native Americans who were in the area when white settlers first got to Greene County, DeWine said. The park will also tell the story of Tecumseh and the Shawnee tribe. Tecumseh intersects directly with some of the “mythical and historical figures of the frontier,” DeWine said, like Daniel Boone, who was held captive in Oldtown for a period of time.

“This is a fascinating time in our history and this will give us the chance to tell more of the history and tell it in the place where the Shawnee village was for a number of years,” DeWine said.

The state is working with the Ohio History Connection and their contacts with the three Shawnee tribes, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Shawnee Tribe and the Absentee Shawnee, to preserve the site.

DeWine said he hopes when the interpretive center is built, people will be able to walk down to the river and walk where the village used to be. Mertz said ODNR will have a page with updates on the progress of the park, like the progress page it has for the new lodge in Hocking Hills State Park.