Ohio’s Underwater Towns
Aside from the usual types of ghost towns most states have, such as farming, mill, railroad, & 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 late-1800s to mid-1900s. The recreational lakes created by the projects displaced many residents & flooded historic properties. However, the lakes currently have benefits which the land alone couldn’t previously provide. They’re awesome locations to visit with their modern accommodations & activities among remnants of the past.
Tappan, OH (Franklin) – (1837 – 1938 farming, mill, & post office town submerged by Lake Tappan during the Muskingum Conservancy Project)
Classification: ghost town
Location: Franklin Township, Harrison County – On US 250 south of the intersection with Mill Hill Rd (Local Hwy 215)
Tappan was platted on March 4, 1837 by John Marshall (1787 – 1877) who was a business man & immigrant from Ireland. He never lived in Tappan though & died in Hancock County. The town was originally called Franklin, named after the township, but it had to be changed when the post office was established in 1840 because there was already another Franklin post office in Ohio. It was renamed Tappan after Benjamin Tappan who was a Harrison County judge from 1816 – 1823 & then a U.S. Senator from 1839 – 1845. 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 & saw mill, hotel, a school, blacksmith, shoe shop, tannery, a doctor, two general stores, & two 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 & was completed in 1938. The residents of Tappan were paid small amounts of money to move, & some didn’t have enough time or funds to move all of their belongings before the town met its watery demise & was submerged by Lake Tappan in 1938. A couple of other nearby towns were also submerged, including Laceyville & another town that was founded by freed slaves who traveled north after the Civil War.
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 while larger towns that had railroads on the north & south sides of the lake were spared. Tappan wasn’t expendable to the residents that lived there. It was where their homes & lives were. Tappan Cemetery was said to have been moved just north of the lake on Mill Hill Rd (Local Hwy 215), but findagrave.com only has one know interment listed there. We suspect scores of residents are still buried in the old Tappan Cemetery beneath the waters of Lake Tappan, as the town existed for over a hundred years. People who scuba dive in the lake these days say it’s an extremely eerie experience & you can’t go very far without almost running into a house, mailbox, tractor, barn, & other buildings.
The Muskingum River Conservancy District still owns the lake & surrounding land. There’s a historical marker for the town on the Tappan – Monrovian Trails Scenic Byway (US 250) in a parking lot just south of the intersection of Mill Hill Rd & another one for Laceyville on US 250 near the southeast side of the lake. There are also a few old homestead foundations & remnants from the former towns in the woods around the lake. Tappan is like the Atlantis of Ohio, & despite being underwater, might be one of the most well preserved ghost towns in the state.
Thanks to Lori Kline for providing the lead on Tappan! Her stepfather was born there in his boyhood home in January, 1928 during a bad snow storm. His family had to wait until the weather & roads cleared up two weeks later to get to the nearest hospital.
Atwood, OH (Oak Dale) – (early 1800s – 1936 farming & 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
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, blacksmith shop, school, & a town hall. The post office ran from 1888 – 1915 & 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’s a village dedication plaque at the corner of SR 542 & Fargo Rd. Residents of Atwood were buried at Big Spring (Deep Springs) Cemetery on SR 542 on the north side of the lake & Zion Cemetery on Falls Rd south of SR 542. They are two very old cemeteries & 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 & 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
Elk Lick was founded in 1802 by Reverend John Collins (1769 – 1845) & Sarah (Blackman) Collins (1776 – 1863) & 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 & named Bethel Methodist Church. It was rebuilt in 1867 & still stands today. John & Sarah’s son Richard (1796 – 1855) was a War Of 1812 veteran & wealthy lawyer. He had a 37 room mansion constructed at Elk Lick. It was demolished in 1972 when the William Harsha (East Fork) Lake project began development. 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 & Elk Lick was never incorporated.
John & 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 & the site was flooded by East Fork Lake along with a good portion of the rest of the town. There’s also the Bantam one room schoolhouse less than a mile away on Williamsburg – Bantam Rd though, which some of the residents of Elk Lick attended.
Hope Furnace, OH – (1854 – late 1930s iron furnace & 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
Hope Furnace was built by Colonel Douglas Putnam (1806 – 1894), who was a wealthy businessman from Marietta & also managed a furnace in Ashland County. It started operating in 1854 & had a train station on the Big Sand Railroad. Hope also had a general store, a school & 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 & 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 & can supposedly be seen making his rounds with a lantern on stormy nights. The former one room schoolhouse has been restored & 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 & Cemetery 2 miles south of the GPS coordinates at the intersection of Horseshoe Rd & Leonardsburg Rd (County Rd 221)
Description: The town was founded by Joseph Cole (1775 – 1849) from New York & Mary (Curren) Cole (1778 – 1865) from Ireland. They made the journey to Ohio from Virginia in 1808, were early pioneers in the county, & 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. The were on the Olentangy River, called Whetstone Creek at the time, just west of the GPS coordinates. The log church was dismantled in 1836 & 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 & 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 & 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 & 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 & cemetery were submerged by the creation of Delaware Lake in 1951. Some of the land in that area flooded & some was spared from the potential watery demise. Joseph & 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 & 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 & 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, & Falls Township, Muskingum County
Post Office: 1855 – 1900 & 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 & Cemetery on the eastern end of Pleasant Valley Church Rd
Description: The town was originally called Licking Valley & 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, & a grist & 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 & the outbreak of the Korean War. Construction resumed in 1958 & was completed in 1961. As with most of Ohio’s human made lakes, it was for a flood control project & the land where the lake now is was considered to be expendable, despite displacing residents & submerging history. However, the history is what it is & there are also many benefits to the recreational lakes. Dillon State Park offers all of the usual activities, including camping, hiking, fishing, boating, & 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 & Anna (Hoyt) Lacey (1802 – 1885) from New York. They married in Ohio in 1820 & had 9 children. John served as sheriff & treasurer of Harrison County. After living in Cadiz for a couple of decades, John & Anna moved to Stock Township & built a new house in 1842. They operated a hotel & tavern which became an important stagecoach stop. The town grew around the the hotel & had a general store, school, blacksmith shop, & 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 & Anna’s sons, Civil War veteran Captain Robert Stinson Lacey (1832 – 1915). He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Another one of John & 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 & 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 & 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) & 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 & a school on the south side of House Craft Rd between the lake & 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 & 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 & 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) & 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, & a grist & saw mill built by the Armstrong family. John Armstrong & Susannah (Henderson) Armstrong (1788 – 1870) moved to Ohio from Pennsylvania in 1813 & became pioneers of the county. Their children & grandchildren continued with farming & 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 & 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 & 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 & Roxanna New Burlington Rd
New Burlington is a farming & mill town first settled by Aaron Jenkins (1750 – 1807) who came from Tennessee in 1799. He donated land for the cemetery & 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, & a train station on the Columbus, Washington, & Cincinnati Railroad (Grasshopper) from 1878 – 1933. It also had several grocery & 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 & two 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 & 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 & 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 & a nickel hinge from an ice box in a decaying parking lot in the woods. Lawrence Mitchner (1886 – 1973) & 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.