top of page

Area History

Excerpts are taken from the publication "Through the Years at 4-H Camp Whitewood" written by John P. Parker, Professor Emeritus Ohio State University Extension.


Christ Episcopal Church

Natural History

Besides its scenic beauty, Warner's Hollow is one of the most unique sites for natural history in Northeast Ohio. The gorge itself ranges from 50 to 140 feet. The steep sides of the hollow are the result of soft, erodible shale topped by a layer of harder sandstone. This combination of layers encourages the sides to continually break away, forming sheer cliffs and overhangs. 

Plants found in the hollow are very similar to those in Canada and the Allegheny Mountains. Hemlock trees are abundant, as are yellow birch and mountain maple-all are unusual in this part of Ohio. Because of its variety of habitats, the hollow has long been known for the number of ferns and wild flowers which can be found there. In the spring, the flood plain and lower slopes are covered with trillium, violets, toothwarts, and other blooms. Many of the plants found in the hollow, such as the trailing arbutus, are on the state list of endangered species.

Phelps Creek, which flows through Warner's Hollow, is also more than just a pretty stream. Exceptionally high water and clearness provide an ideal habitat for the twenty eight species of fish which have been collected there. The area in and around the stream is also noted for large numbers of eight different species of salamanders which can be found.

Diversity of the area in and around Warner's Hollow is ideal for numerous birds. Ninety-one species of birds have been found nesting at camp, including eleven that are considered endangered or threatened breeding species in Ohio.

The unique natural history of Camp Whitewood has drawn many students and professional naturalists to study and learn more about the environment of the area. Such study has always been encouraged and the results incorporated in the nature lessons offered to 4-H and other campers.


Native American Tribes 

Historians do not completely agree about the Indian tribes that lived in the 4-H Camp Whitewood area. Early entries suggested that the ancient or pre-historic Eries were the first tribe there, but later information suggests they may have been from Adena or Hopewell stock. They were not nomadic Indians but preferred to live in villages with houses built of saplings and bark or thatch commonly called long houses. Maize, squash, beans and other crops were cultivated with sticks and crude tools. Food was prepared and stored in various types of pottery jars. Evidence suggests that a typical Indian meal consisted of soup made from different plants and animals, and maize as a staple in their diets. 

Early eyewitness accounts, after about 1720, report the presence of various Algonquin and Iroquoian-speaking native American groups in Northeast Ohio. By this time, these groups were refugee tribes displaced from their original homelands by the fur trade wars between Canadian groups and East Coast European Colonies.

By the early 1800's, when settlers started to arrive in Northeast Ohio, most of the organized Indian villages were gone from the area. Ashtabula County was considered choice hunting grounds and a dividing line between Eastern and Western nations of Native Americans. In turn, it was considered a neutral ground. Reports suggest that most of the tribes located in the area at the time were the Massasaugas, of Delaware background. 

They were a religious, harmless people. The great hunters of the time, the Ottawas, Chippewas, Cayugas and Tonawandas, numbering about 500, lived in the Windsor area, probably at the 4-H Camp Whitewood site. These tribes were not farmers and left the area sometime around 1812, ending centuries of Native American life in Ashtabula County. 


The Old Indian Fort

In the shape of an ankle and a foot, what is known as the Indian Fort is a popular spot at 4-H Camp Whitewood. At the top of the ankle were two distinct walls of earthen work built by the pre-historic Indians sometime before 1650. A stone barricade was erected on top of the walls. The entrance from the outside was at the corner adjacent to Grindstone Creek with the inside entrance through the second wall next to Phelps Creek. On the top of the foot is a steep canyon following Phelps Creek. 

At the heel is the juncture of Phelps  and Grindstone Creeks. On the back of the foot-shaped fort, Grindstone Creek forms a gorge providing natural defense. At the head of the gorge is the Cataract Falls, joining the earthenworks at the ankle where the stones laid up by those pre-historic groups were considered to still be visible. 

Researchers at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History indicate that low earthen embankments or enclosures like this Indian fort, situated on high bluffs overlooking major streams and rivers in Northeastern Ohio have for many years been termed "Late Prehistoric fortified villages." Recent archaeological investigations have shown that many of them are not Late Prehistoric in age, not villages, and not erected as fortifications. Test evaluations at Windsor Fort in 1987 failed to yield evidence of a village occupation of any age, and no Late Prehistoric cultural materials were recovered. The cultural materials that were recovered indicated the presence of a modest occupation between A.D. 600 and 900, during the Late Woodland period (i.e. after Hopewell and before Whittlesey). Too little evidence was encountered to say that the site was not a fort, but evidence from similar earthworks in Northeastern Ohio, of similar age, would suggest that the original function of the earthen embankments was of a ritual, rather than a military nature. 


Stone Quarries

One of the main industries in the Windsor area, started in the late 1860's, was that of stone quarrying. Numerous quarries were opened in the western part of Windsor, several North of US Route 322, one just West of the covered bridge and one located along the bank adjacent to the path in front of the girl's cabins. The quarries were referred to as the Windsor Mills Quarry and the Stoneville Quarry, located about one and a half miles Northwest of Windsor Mills. At the Windsor Mills Quarry, the stone was sawed into slabs for sidewalks and others were turned into grindstones. They were opened in the early 1870's by Gus Warner and operated for 20 years. 

The old B & O Railroad built a line from Burton Station to the Windsor Mills Quarry but did not operate long. People in the Windsor area reported that sandstone in the area had a defect of hard iron-like material which made it useless commercially. The stone was considered for building purposes but the same imperfection limited its use. Many homes in the area had foundations made from stone from the various quarries which suggested this was one of its principle uses. The advent of cement in the late 1800's proved to be stiff competition for stone quarries. 


Virgin Forest

The virgin timber along the rough and rock cliffs was the last to be cut in the area with the largest cutting taking place between 1910 and 1914. Black Walnut trees, over four feet in diameter and 50 feet to the first limbs, were common. Other species found were Hemlock, Tulip Poplar (whitewood), Chestnut, Basswood, Ash, Oak, hard Maples and beech. Logging trails that were used can be seen today and are used for nature trails. Horses were used to drag the logs up the steep banks. Some people also suggest these logging trails might have been established by early Indian tribes. In one area, logs were floated down Phelps Creek during spring rains to a point opposite the picnic grounds, where a steam winch was used to lift logs up the steep banks to a place where two-horse teams hitched in tandem could drag them up another logging trail. One small area of virgin timber, thinned by some selective cutting of mature trees, remains at the lower end of camp property. The entire camp area is managed with good forestry practices in order to preserve the resources for use in future years for education forestry and nature purposes. 


Early Settlers

Most early settlers came to the Windsor area from Connecticut. How they traveled is not known, but perhaps some came through the dense forests by oxcart and teams, or perhaps some of them walked or rode horses to Buffalo, then came by lake to Cleveland and blazed a trail down into Southern Ashtabula County. 

Early records indicate that some of these settlers crossed what is known as Phelps Creek and came onto the farm that is now part of Camp Whitewood and built a log cabin on a site on the east side of Wiswell Road, just North of Camp. This cabin was destroyed by fire, but as late as 1942, remains of an old well could still be seen. 

In 1799, George Phelps and family migrated from Connecticut and settled in Windsor Township along Phelps Creek. His home was apparently on Route 534 South of Windsor where an octagon house now stands. 

Warner's Hollow was named after a man by the name of "Warner" who had a carding mill, sawmill and some believe, even a woolen mill near the hollow. These buildings were probably located on land at the eastern end of the hollow. Information from the 1940's indicate that an old wheel pit could be seen and parts of the race that took the water from the stream was evident at the time. 

Edward Wiswell came to Windsor from Connecticut in 1830 with his brother, James. They were shoemakers. Edward settled on Phelps Creek, about one and a half miles South of Windsor Mills at the present location of 4-H Camp Whitewood. The Wiswells chose this location because of the hemlock forests in the area, since the hemlock bark was used for tanning leather. A building, now gone, on the East side of the road across from the camp Executive Director's property, was an original tannery used by the Wiswells. This building was also a shoe factory and workshop. The tannery pond remains and can still be seen North of camp, located just a little South and East of the old building site. 

Edward Wiswell apparently built two houses on the East side of the road. Both of these burned, the original in 1887, the second somewhat later. Roland Wiswell, son of Edward, built the large house now used by the 4-H camp on the West side of Wiswell Road. He cut and seasoned the lumber and completed the home in 1892. 

Another building, once located on the West side of the road just South of the camp Executive Director's residence, but now gone, was built in 1839 originally for a school house. Records suggest, however, that it never had been used for this purpose. The school was to have been started by Eliza Griswald Phelps March, the first white child born in Windsor. However, she died at an early date and there is some question about whether the building was used as a school. 

An old horse block, now located at the front of the 4-H camp Director's home, was originally placed on the East side of the road. This block was made by Augustus Warner, father of Mrs. Roland Wiswell. He was a stone mason and at one time worked at the quarry in Windsor Mills. The designs on the horse block have no particular significance and are not considered a coat of arms. 

The Wiswell farm, now owned by 4-H Camp Whitewood, was in the family for over 100 years. Mr. Tom L. White purchased the property in 1927 and sold it to the 4-H Camp Corporation in the early 1960's. Purchase of the land by the camp preserved the property for use by 4-H members and other educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service and was made possible through the assistance of Mr. White. 

Christ Episcopal Church, located on Route 322 North of the camp, was first organized in March, 1817. The church was completed and consecrated on October 1, 1833. After many years of decay and use as a farm building, the church was purchased by the Ashtabula County Historical Society, restored by them, and is viewed by 4-H campers and others as one of the outstanding historical sites in the area. 


bottom of page