Aside from the usual types of ghost towns most states have, such as farming, mill, railroad, and mining, Ohio also contains a large number of Atlantis-like underwater towns. Most of them became ghost towns due to flood control projects in the 1900s amidst concerns of another disaster such as The Great Flood Of 1913. Certain towns deemed to be more important or valuable to the state benefited from the construction of dams and reservoirs, while others were doomed to meet a human-made watery demise. Their buildings were usually razed prior to getting submerged. That didn’t always happen though. Atwood Lake in Carroll County, for the most problematic example, had the continual trouble of rooftops and other debris occasionally rising to the surface.
Ohio’s land had long been carved up into ownership, with some families residing for several generations in towns that were intentionally flooded by the control projects. The recreational lakes created by the projects displaced many residents and flooded tens of thousands of acres of historic property. However, the lakes currently have benefits which the land alone couldn’t previously provide. They save vast areas from what would otherwise be a constant threat of flooding, including populated places with a lot of buildings, and large amounts of farmland which far outweigh what has been submerged. They’re awesome locations to visit with modern accommodations and activities among remnants of the past.
Tappan – Franklin Township, Harrison County
Post Office: 1840 – 1939
Location: 40.356972, -81.209802
on US 250 (Cadiz – Dennison Rd) at the intersection of Mill Hill Rd (Township Hwy 215)
Remnants: historical marker about 1/4 of a mile southeast of the GPS coordinates on the southern side of the Tappan Lake Public Launch Ramp, Brownsville (Tappan) Church about 6 miles south of the GPS coordinates at the intersection of County Hwy 2 (Monrovian Trail Rd) and Barber Hill Rd (County Hwy 56), Tappan Cemetery in the woods on the east side of Mill Hill Rd about 500 feet from the intersection
Description: Tappan was platted on March 4, 1837 by War of 1812 veteran John Marshall (1787 – 1877) who was a business man and immigrant from Ireland. He never actually lived in Tappan though. John was buried with relatives in Castor Cemetery on the north side of SR 103 in Delaware Township, Hancock County. The town was originally called Franklin, named after the township, but it had to be changed when the post office was established because there was already another Franklin post office in Ohio. It was renamed after Benjamin Tappan (1773 – 1857) from Massachusetts who was a Harrison County judge from 1816 – 1823 and later a U.S. senator from 1839 – 1845. He was laid to rest with relatives in Union Cemetery at the intersection of SR 43 (Sunset Blvd) and Century Rd in Steubenville, Jefferson County. Tappan only had 4 families in 1840, but quickly grew to its peak population of 171 in 1860. It was simply considered to be a post office town by the state, but in 1875 Tappan also had a steam-powered grist and saw mill, hotel, a school, blacksmith, shoe shop, tannery, a doctor, 2 general stores, and 2 churches, as well as around 50 houses for the residents. In 1933 leaders of the Muskingum River Concervancy Project decided that a dam should be built on Little Stillwater Creek that ran through town. Construction began in 1935 and was completed in 1938. The residents were paid meager amounts of money to move and some didn’t have the resources to relocate all of their belongings before the town met its watery demise. Tappan Cemetery was said to have been moved just north of the lake off of Mill Hill Rd (Local Hwy 215). We were notified that only the remaining gravestones were relocated. The interments were never exhumed, leaving dozens of former residents buried in the graveyard grounds beneath the water. Another nearby town called Laceyville was also submerged. One of Tappan’s churches was saved from destruction and was moved to the south side of the lake in 1941. Today, Lake Tappan is a nice place to visit for a day trip or while on vacation, but it’s sad that the town was considered to be expendable. Tappan wasn’t expendable to the residents who lived there. It was where their homes and lives were. Its plat started just past the water’s edge at the GPS coordinates with the entire site, comprising of approximately 50 to 60 acres, ending up getting submerged. People who have scuba dived at the plat say it’s an extremely eerie experience and you can’t go very far without almost running into a house, mailbox, tractor, barn, and other buildings. The Muskingum River Conservancy District still owns the lake and surrounding land. Written permission is required by them for scuba diving. There’s a historical marker for the town next US 250 in the Tappan Lake Public Launch Ramp parking lot just south of the intersection of Mill Hill Rd and another one for Laceyville on US 250 near the southeast side of the lake. The claim on Tappan’s historical marker which states most of the buildings were moved or demolished prior to the flooding doesn’t appear to be accurate, and we received confirmation by info passed down from former residents and their families who still live in the area declaring that wasn’t the case. There are also a few old homestead foundations and small remnants from Tappan and Laceyville in the woods around the lake. Those sites were never submerged and were abandoned under more normal circumstances.
Thanks to Lori Kline for providing the lead on Tappan! Her stepfather was born there in his boyhood home in January of 1928 during a bad snow storm. His family had to wait until the weather and roads cleared up 2 weeks later to get to the nearest hospital.
Atwood, OH (Oak Dale) – (early 1800s – 1936 farming and railroad town abandoned during the construction of Atwood Lake)
Classification: ghost town
Location: Monroe Township, Carroll County – On SR 542 (Lodge Rd) at the intersection of Fargo Rd
GPS coordinates: 40.547074, -81.238237
The town was originally called Oak Dale as early as the 1820s, but the name later changed to Atwood. It was never platted or incorporated. During its heyday there was a store, two churches, a blacksmith shop, school, and a town hall. The post office ran from 1888 – 1915 and Atwood had a train station on the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad (Cleveland, Canton, & Southern Railroad). The town was abandoned shortly before the completion of a dam in 1936 that was built for flood control purposes. It also created the reservoir of Atwood Lake.
There is a village dedication plaque at the corner of SR 542 and Fargo Rd. Residents of Atwood were buried at Big Spring (Deep Springs) Cemetery on SR 542 on the north side of the lake and Zion Cemetery on Falls Rd south of SR 542. They are two very old cemeteries and unfortunately both churches are gone. The location of the Big Spring Church is now underwater next to the cemetery on the edge of the lake and Zion Church was lost in a grass fire in 1930.
Elk Lick, OH – (1802 – 1972 farming town destroyed during the Harsha (East Fork) Lake Project)
Classification: ghost town
Location: Tate Township, Clermont County – On Elklick Rd in East Fork State Park
GPS coordinates: 39.007178, -84.138229
Elk Lick was founded in 1802 by Reverend John Collins (1769 – 1845) and Sarah (Blackman) Collins (1776 – 1863). It was named after the abundance of natural salt licks in the area. John built a log cabin church in 1805 called Collin’s Chapel. A wood frame structure was built on the same spot in 1818 and was named Bethel Methodist Church. It was rebuilt in 1867 and still stands today. The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. John and Sarah’s son Richard (1796 – 1855) was a War of 1812 veteran and a wealthy lawyer. He had a 37-room mansion constructed at Elk Lick in the early 1850s. It was considered to be the most prominent house in the county for several decades. Dr. Thomas Pinkham (1802 – 1884) also had a mansion built nearby.
Along with John Collins, Dr. Pinkham attempted to get the county seat moved to Elk Lick as it was quickly becoming an affluent community. However, that never happened and Elk Lick was never incorporated. John and Sarah Collins were buried in the Old Bethel Methodist Cemetery close to the church. Elk Lick had its own school, but it burned down in an arson fire in 1931. Some of the residents attended the Bantam one-room schoolhouse which still stands on Williamsburg – Bantam Rd. Much of the town’s land was later impounded by William H. Harsha (East Fork) Lake which was created by a dam on the East Fork of the Little Miami River. Construction of the flood control project began in 1970 and was completed in 1978.
Richard’s mansion was demolished by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1972 and was located where the lake’s recreational beach currently is. The McGrath family was the last to reside there. Several old dilapidated structures around the area were also razed prior to the lake’s completion. One house was saved from demolition by the Miami Purchase Association for Historic Preservation. It was the home of Ohio politician and U.S. Senator Thomas Morris (1776 – 1844). The back 2-room portion of the house was built in 1818 and the larger front was added in 1840. It presently sits on the grounds of the Heritage Village Museum in Sharon Woods Park off of US 42 (Lebanon Rd) in Sharonville, Hamilton County.
Hope Furnace, OH – (1854 – late 1930s iron furnace and mining town partially destroyed during the construction of Lake Hope State Park)
Classification: semi-ghost town
Location: Brown Township, Vinton County – On SR 278 north of Zaleski
GPS coordinates: 39.332164, -82.340452
Hope Furnace was built by Colonel Douglas Putnam (1806 – 1894), who was a wealthy businessman from Marietta and also managed a furnace in Ashland County. It started operating in 1854 and had a train station on the Big Sand Railroad. Hope also had a general store, a school, and dozens of homes. The town hit its peak population at around 300 citizens in 1870. Many residents left when the furnace stopped production in 1875. Hope’s post ran from 1865 – 1890. More residents moved away before the late 1930s when construction of Lake Hope began. It eventually submerged a large percentage of the town’s land.
The furnace is near the northeast corner of the lake off of SR 278. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and is highlighted by Ohio Historical Marker #1 – 82. It’s also reportedly haunted by the ghost of a night watchman who died on the premises and can supposedly be seen making his rounds with a lantern on stormy nights. The former one-room schoolhouse has been restored and is used as a meeting hall. It sits in the forest off of one of the hiking trails. Hope’s last church is abandoned on Wheelabout Rd south of town off of SR 278. Lake Hope has lots of recreational activities to do.
Coles Mills – Troy Township, Delaware County
Post Office: 1841 – 1856
Location: 40.397626, -83.041113
on the west side of Horseshoe Rd (County Rd 220) along Delaware Lake
Remnants: Marlborough (Marlboro) Church and Cemetery 2 miles south of the GPS coordinates at the intersection of Horseshoe Rd and Leonardsburg Rd (County Rd 221)
Description: The town was founded by Joseph Cole (1775 – 1849) from New York and Mary (Curren) Cole (1778 – 1865) from Ireland. They made the journey to Ohio from Virginia in 1808, were early pioneers in the county, and had a few children. The first Baptist congregation in the county formed in the area in 1810. Joseph became a deacon, holding meetings in the Cole family cabin until 1819 when a log church was constructed with timber from the Cole property. Joseph built the first saw mill in the township in 1820, followed by a grist mill in 1823. They were on the Olentangy River, called Whetstone Creek at the time, just west of the GPS coordinates. The log church was dismantled in 1836 and moved to the Cole farm where it was used as a barn. A new frame church was constructed on the Cole farm near the GPS coordinates and was used until 1873 when a large brick church was built at a cost of $3,300. It was destroyed by a tornado in 1916 and was replaced later that same year by the present frame structure. The location of Marlborough Cemetery was also originally at the old church site. Both the cemetery and church were moved in 1950 by the U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers during construction of the Delaware Dam. It’s uncertain if the exact locations of the saw mill, grist mill, former church and cemetery were submerged by the creation of Delaware Lake in 1951. Some of the land in that area flooded and some was spared from the potential watery demise. Joseph and Mary Cole were buried with many relatives in Marlborough Cemetery, including one of their sons, Hugh Cole (1807 – 1887). Hugh once saved his father from downing at the mill dam site while repairs were being made. Joseph dislocated his right arm after falling off the dam and luckily caught the submerged branches of a sycamore tree through the swiftly moving waters. Hugh rushed in with a dugout canoe to grab Joseph who later stated he wouldn’t have been able to hang on much longer. In 1832, Hugh saved another man named Thomas Willey who capsized over the dam in a dugout along with Nathaniel Cozard. Hugh entered the water on horseback and caught Thomas by his hair as he was going under, likely for the last time. Nathaniel was found dead about a mile downstream.
Pleasant Valley (Licking Valley) – Hopewell, Licking, and Falls Township, Muskingum County
Post Office: 1855 – 1900 and 1900 – 1957
Location: 40.017844, -82.125418
on the east side of Pleasant Valley Rd (Co Hwy 408) partially submerged by Dillon Lake
Remnants: Pleasant Valley Baptist Church and Cemetery on the eastern end of Pleasant Valley Church Rd
Description: The town was originally called Licking Valley and had a train station on the Central Ohio Railroad (later bought by the B&O). Civil War veteran Joseph R. Miller (1832 – 1885) was the first known postmaster. He was buried with relatives in Greenwood Cemetery on Greenwood Ave in Zanesville. Pleasant Valley Baptist Church was built in 1867. The town also had a general store, blacksmith shop, pottery shop, and a grist and saw mill in its early years. The post office name changed to Pleasant Valley in 1900. Construction of Dillion Dam began in 1946, but stopped due to lack of funding and the outbreak of the Korean War. Construction resumed in 1958 and was completed in 1961. As with most of Ohio’s human made lakes, it was for a flood control project and the land where the lake now is was considered to be expendable, despite displacing residents and submerging history. However, the history is what it is and there are also many benefits to the recreational lakes. Dillon State Park offers all of the usual activities, including camping, hiking, fishing, boating, and much more.
Dillon State Park Info – http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/dillon
Laceyville – Stock Township, Harrison County
Post Office: 1850 – 1907
Location: 40.322099, -81.131677
on US 250 (Cadiz – Dennison Rd) at the intersection of Lower Clearfork Rd (County Hwy 22) along Tappan Lake
Remnants: historical marker about 1/3 mile southeast of the GPS coordinates in a gravel lot on the north side of Tappan Lake
Description: Laceyville was founded by War of 1812 veteran Major John Stinson Lacey (1793 – 1873) from Sussex County, Delaware and Anna (Hoyt) Lacey (1802 – 1885) from New York. They married in Ohio in 1820 and had 9 children. John served as sheriff and treasurer of Harrison County. After living in Cadiz for a couple of decades, John and Anna moved to Stock Township and built a new house in 1842. They operated a hotel and tavern which became an important stagecoach stop. The town grew around the the hotel and had a general store, school, blacksmith shop, and a shoe shop, along with a few other small businesses over the years. It also had a baseball team that competed with other teams around the region. The first postmaster was one of John and Anna’s sons, Civil War veteran Captain Robert Stinson Lacey (1832 – 1915). He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Another one of John and Anna’s sons, Civil War veteran Major Henry Brush Lacey (1828 – 1902), operated the hotel for several years after his father retired. Aside from some nice farms remaining in the area and the old hotel, Laceyville had nearly disappeared by the time construction of Tappan Lake began in 1935. Much of its land was submerged by the waters in 1938. The hotel was demolished in the early 1940s. John and Anna were buried with relatives, including Henry, in Pleasant Valley Cemetery about 1 1/2 miles northwest of the GPS coordinates on the east side of US 250.
Motts Corners – Mecca Township, Trumbull County
Location: 41.364478, -80.766707
on House Craft Rd at its eastern end at Mosquito Creek Lake
Remnants: none known
Description: The original proprietors were John Mott (1774 – 1846) and Harriett Mott (1795 – 1847). It was a small farming town with a steam-powered saw mill on the east side of Hoagland Blackstub Rd north of House Craft Rd and a school on the south side of House Craft Rd between the lake and Hoagland Blackstub Rd. The eastern half of what was once Motts Corners was submerged by the creation of Mosquito Creek Lake, including the entire portion of Durst Colebrook Rd (Co Hwy 195) which formerly stretched through the middle of the township. John and Harriett Mott were buried with relatives in South Mecca Cemetery on Crawford Rd off of SR 46 north of Cortland on the east side of the lake. Some of their descendants and later town proprietors were buried in Hillside Cemetery on Youngstown Kingsville Rd NE, also on the east side of the lake in Cortland. The Hoagland (from New Jersey) and Mott families were related by marriage.
Clio – Jefferson Township, Guernsey County
Post Office: 1882 – 1905
Location: 40.081182, -81.504563
on R-25 in Salt Fork State Park
Remnants: Pleasant Hill Cemetery on Candy Rd
Description: The town had a school, grocery store, doctor, and a grist and saw mill built by the Armstrong family. John Armstrong and Susannah (Henderson) Armstrong (1788 – 1870) moved to Ohio from Pennsylvania in 1813 and became pioneers of the county. Their children and grandchildren continued with farming and milling in the area. Much of Clio’s land was submerged by Salt Fork Lake. What remained dry on the east side is now woods and a campsite. The Armstrongs were buried with relatives in Pleasant Hill Cemetery on the west side of the lake.
New Burlington, OH – (1803 – 1971 partially abandoned during the Caesar Creek Lake flood control project)
Classification: small town
Location: Chester Township, Clinton County and Spring Valley Township, Greene County – In Caesar Creek State Park on a gravel road (the old main street) just north of the intersection of SR 380 and Roxanna New Burlington Rd
GPS coordinates: 39.568328, -83.966736
New Burlington was first settled by Aaron Jenkins (1750 – 1807) who came from Tennessee in 1799. He donated land for the cemetery and was the first person buried there. New Burlington hit its peak population around 400 residents in 1880. The town had a few churches, a post office that ran from 1837 – 1971, and a train station on the Columbus, Washington, & Cincinnati Railroad (Grasshopper) from 1878 – 1933. It also had several grocery and general stores over the years as well as everything else the town needed at any given time, including a shoe shop, tailor, tannery, blacksmith, saw mill, planning mill, school, and 2 doctors in the late 1800s.
The last grocery store that existed was located across from where a small set of concrete steps still stand, about 10 feet from the right side of the old main street. The gravel road turns into a concrete road and the main street bridge is the next sight to see. There are plenty of parking spots on the other side.
Some barely visible foundations are in the area and occasionally other objects left behind can be found. During one of our expeditions, we came across a very old 7 ounce soda bottle made by the Star City Bottling Co. of Miamisburg, OH and a nickel hinge from an ice box in a decaying parking lot in the woods. Lawrence Mitchner (1886 – 1973) and Ethel (Compton) Mitchner (1894 – 1964) were the last remaining residents who wouldn’t sell off their land in town before the flood control project began. They are also buried in the cemetery. New Burlington is still a populated area but its center has moved south a bit.