Chillicothe, Ohio

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Chillicothe is a city located in Ross County, Ohio, along the Scioto River. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 21,796. It is the county seat of Ross CountyTemplate:GR.



Image:OHMap-doton-Chillicothe.png Image:Scioto River.jpg

Chillicothe is located at 39°20'11" North, 82°59'2" West (39.336525, -82.983822)Template:GR.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.2 km² (9.7 mi²). 24.7 km² (9.5 mi²) of it is land and 0.5 km² (0.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 2.05% water.


As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there were 21,796 people, 9,481 households, and 5,754 families residing in the city. The population density was 882.1/km² (2,283.7/mi²). There were 10,303 housing units at an average density of 417.0/km² (1,079.5/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 89.21% White, 7.51% African American, 0.34% Native American, 0.56% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.35% from other races, and 2.00% from two or more races. 0.84% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 9,481 households out of which 25.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.5% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.3% were non-families. 34.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.85.

In the city the population was spread out with 22.2% under the age of 18, 8.4% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 24.1% from 45 to 64, and 18.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 88.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,991, and the median income for a family was $42,477. Males had a median income of $35,199 versus $25,010 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,101. 12.4% of the population and 9.3% of families were below the poverty line. 14.3% of those under the age of 18 and 9.3% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.


Chillicothe is governed by a mayor-council structure in which the mayor is elected separately from the members of the city council. Chillicothe's mayor is Joseph P. Sulzer (D). The members of the city council are:

  • Robert L. Shoultz (R) (council president)
  • Cynthia L. Henderson (R) (at large)
  • Bart Henshaw (D) (at large)
  • Joseph D. Herlihy (R) (at large)
  • Thomas E. Trutschel (R) (1st ward)
  • Eric A. "Rick" Rinehart II (R) (2nd ward)
  • Jonathon Schobelock (R) (3rd ward)
  • Jean Malone (D) (4th ward)
  • William J. Bonner II (D) (5th ward)
  • Pat Patrick (R) (6th ward)

Other municipal officials:

  • City council clerk John Fosson
  • Chief of staff Matt Allen
  • Economic Development Director Doug Corcoran
  • Safety and Service Director Mike Pfeifer
  • City Engineer Thomas E. Day
  • Transit System Director Michael Scholl
  • Chief of Police Jeffrey Keener
  • Fire Chief Bruce Vaughan
  • Utilities Director Richard Johnson
  • City Auditor William Morrissey (R)
  • City Law Director Toni L. Eddy (R)
    • Assistant Law Directors:
      • Edward R. Bunstine II (D) (former law director, defeated by his own assistant Eddy in re-election bid)
      • Robert C. Hess
      • Mark A. Preston
      • Michele R. Rout
  • Fair Housing Administrator Tamra Lowe
  • Civil Service Administrator Sharon Maughmer
  • Human Resources Director Nancy McNeely

The officials of the Chillicothe Municipal Court are:

  • Judge Thomas E. Bunch (D)
  • Judge John B. Street (R)
  • Magistrate Jane Spring Martin
  • Clerk Roseanna J. "Jeanie" Strong

People and culture

Fairs and Festivals

Chillicothe, rich in Native American history, hosts the annual Feast of the Flowering Moon Festival. Started in 1984, the May festival draws crowds of approximately 85,000. Yoctangee Park, in the historic downtown, is the setting for this family oriented three-day event featuring Native American music, dancing, traders and exhibits, a mountain men encampment rendezvous with working craftsmen and demonstrations, an extensive arts and crafts show with over 80 crafters and commercial exhibits. The main stage has a schedule of family-friendly entertainment, such as local school bands and performers. The streets become lined with food booths and games/contests. The festival is both recreational with games, contests and food booths that line the streets and also educational. Handicap parking is available from the alley of West Water to Walnut Street. Events are free to the public and typically include: the Laser Light Show (Friday, Saturday & Sunday), Main Stage Entertainment, Kid's Fun Run (Saturday), Senior Citizens Day & Bingo (Friday), Gospel Day (Sunday), Parade, Duck Race (ducks are free at the Hospice Booth), and more.

In June, the streets of Chillicothe near Yoctangee Park are blocked off to accommodate temporary courts for the Gus Macker, three-on-three basketball competition.

On the Friday and Saturday after Labor day in September, Chillicothe hosts the annual Southern Ohio Storytelling Festival. The festival features indoor concert performances by several highly acclaimed and award-winning storytellers. Storytelling concerts are held throughout the day on both Friday and Saturday. Venues have included the Majestic Theatre and auditoriums/gymasiums at the Chillicothe branch of Ohio University.

The Fall Harvest Festival is held in Chillicothe's Yoctangee Park the first weekend in October. The festival has entertainment, crafts, flea market and more.


Long before white settlers came to the region, it was home to prehistoric civilizations and historic Native Americans. During the early years of settlement, numerous mounds and earthworks of the Adenas and Hopewells dotted the landscape. The Shawnee was the predominant tribe to inhabit the area before the arrival of the white settlers.

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Chillicothe, the county seat, was founded in 1796 by Nathaniel Massie, a Virginian who was a surveyor and land speculator. He was the principal surveyor of the Virginia Military District, which was located between the Scioto and Little Miami rivers. The district contained lands set aside by Virginia to be given to soldiers from the state who fought in the Revolutionary War.

While surveying Ohio lands in the Northwest Territory between 1793 and 1795, Massie found the rich, fertile valley lying between the Scioto River and Paint Creek and claimed it as his own for a future town site. Hostilities with the Indians made the interior region unsafe for settlement at that time. This did not become possible until the tribes were defeated in the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 and the Treaty of Greenville was signed the following year. Between those two events, Massie and his surveying party fought the last battle against the Indians in the Scioto Valley at Reeves’ Crossing near the present Ross County village of Bainbridge.

Massie and a party of 39 men laid out his town in the summer of 1796. When it was completed, he called it “Chillicothe,” a name derived from the Shawnee word “Chalagwatha,” which means town or gathering place. He then advertised his town lots and lands he had surveyed for sale in Virginia and Kentucky newspapers. Congress also authorized the sale of the government-owned lands on the east side of the river. In 1797, Zane's Trace, a federally funded road, was constructed through Chillicothe, providing an overland route to the east and southwest. The area grew rapidly and by the summer of 1798, the population was sufficient to warrant the formation of a new county. In August, Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, created the county of Ross, naming it for his good friend from Pennsylvania, Senator James Ross.

Image:Northwest-territory-usa-1787.png Among the Virginians Massie attracted to his settlement were Thomas Worthington and Edward Tiffin. They played dominant roles in the political development of the Ohio Country and made Chillicothe the political center. They led the faction opposed to Governor St. Clair and his Federalist allies who believed in a strong central government which would regulate the development of the country’s frontier. Those supporting Worthington and Tiffin thought the people should have a degree of self-determination. The two men knew this was possible only through statehood and concentrated their efforts towards that goal.

Worthington and Tiffin were successful in their efforts. A constitutional convention was held in November 1802 in Chillicothe. The town had been made the seat of government for the eastern division of the Northwest Territory when it was divided in 1800. Congress approved the constitution, and the government for the state of Ohio was organized at Chillicothe, the capital, on March 1, 1803. Edward Tiffin had been unanimously elected governor in January, and Worthington was selected by the general assembly to serve as one of Ohio’s first two U. S. senators.

Chillicothe served as the capital of Ohio from the beginning of statehood in 1803 until 1809 when Zanesville became the capital for three years. The capital moved to Zanesville as part of a deal to get a bill passed in the House of Representatives and the Senate. In 1812 the capital moved back to Chillicothe until 1816 when the capital moved to Columbus. Columbus became the capital because of the desire to have the capital in the middle of the state. (Ohio Historical Society)

Thomas Worthington, who has become known as the “Father of Ohio Statehood,” was elected as the state’s sixth governor in 1814. Other Chillicotheans who served as Ohio’s chief executive were Duncan McArthur, the eleventh governor, and William Allen who served from 1874 to 1876. Chillicothe was the state capital until 1810, at which time it was removed to Zanesville. It was returned in 1812 to remain there until 1816, when the new permanent capital at Columbus would be occupied. The Great Seal of Ohio is a constant reminder of Chillicothe’s place in the history of the state. As described by the legislative act creating the seal, its background is a representation of Mount Logan to the east of the city as viewed from Adena, Thomas Worthington’s home.

Chillicothe was the seat of government during the War of 1812, a conflict that was fought on Ohio’s borders. The city became an “army town” when the 19th U. S. Regiment of Infantry was stationed there. Hundreds of soldiers were encamped in the vicinity. Chillicothe was on the line of march for those troops from the South and East going to and from the theater of war. Almost every family was affected by the war as thousands of Ross countians volunteered to fight the enemy threatening their state’s frontier.

Following Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s defeat of the British fleet on Lake Erie on September 10, 1813, the 300 seamen he captured were marched to Chillicothe for confinement. A stockade, which was called Camp Bull, was erected north of town to house them. They spent ten months in the prison camp. A few days before the prisoners of war began the march back to the lake to be exchanged, they witnessed the execution by firing squad of six American soldiers who had been found guilty of desertion.

The town continued to grow and flourish after its years of political influence were over. Settlements in the county—Bainbridge, Frankfort, Kingston, Clarksburg, Londonderry, Hallsville, Richmond Dale, Yellow Bud and others—also prospered. The Ohio-Erie Canal in 1831 and the railroad in 1851 made economic growth possible, and the city and county exported a large variety of agricultural and manufactured goods.

During the Civil War, young men from the county enlisted in the many regiments organized in this part of the state. The 73rd regiment was organized and trained at Chillicothe. Among its members was Ross County farmer George Nixon III, who was killed during the Battle of Gettysburg. He was the great-grandfather of President Richard M. Nixon.

The county had its share of heroes. Brigadier General Joshua W. Sill, a West Point graduate, was killed at the Battle of Stones River on December 31, 1862. His friend General Philip Sheridan named Fort Sill in Oklahoma in his honor. Henry Walke, a career Navy man who rose to the rank of rear admiral, was said to have seen more naval action during the war than any other officer in the navy. While commanding the riverboat Carondolet, he was successful in ending the Confederate’s blockade of the Mississippi River. Five men from the county were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroic action.

On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. As the country did not have a peacetime army large enough to fight the war, the draft was instituted to fill the ranks. Additional training facilities were needed to prepare the men. Word reached Chillicothe that the government was searching for sites for military camps. Recognizing the economic impact a military camp would have on Chillicothe and Ross County, John A. Poland, Chillicothe attorney and president of the Chamber of Commerce, aggressively sought the location of an army base in the area.

It was announced on June 8, 1917, that Chillicothe had been chosen for a training camp. The site lay north of town, along the Scioto River. The government leased the land—approximately 2,000 acres—from the farm owners, and on June 29, construction began. Within two and a half months, the work force that ultimately numbered more than 14,000, had erected a camp for 40,000 men and 12,000 horses and mules. Upon completion, there were 2,000 buildings; the cost of construction was $4,000,000. The camp was named for Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman.

The first draftees and recruits from Ohio and surrounding states arrived at Camp Sherman on September 5. By the time the war ended, 123,581 men had received training there. The 83rd Division was the first to complete its training and left for the front June 19, 1918. The 84th Division was trained with that new military weapon—the fighter airplane. Two planes were brought in for that purpose. The 95th and 96th were on their way to becoming fighting units, but the war ended before they could be deployed. The influx of construction workers and military trainees and personnel had a tremendous impact on Chillicothe. The population was increased from 16,000 to 60,000. There was a flurry of housing construction and opening of new businesses. The community made the soldiers and their visiting families welcome.

Two hundred German sailors were confined as prisoners of war at Camp Sherman from July 1918 until September 1919. There was quite a scare in the community when twenty-one of the prisoners escaped. Nineteen of them were captured almost immediately; the remaining two were soon found and returned to the camp.

The Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918 reached Camp Sherman in September of that year. More than 8,000 soldiers and personnel were infected and of those, nearly 1100 died. Almost 2,000 cases were reported in the city, resulting in thirty-one deaths.

The Ross County economy continues to rely on industry and agriculture. Paper is the leading manufactured product, and the Mead Corporation has been a presence in the community for over a hundred years. Tourism is also important to the region, and there are many attractions for people wanting to know more about the birthplace of Ohio. These include Hopewell Culture National Historic Park, formerly known as Mound City; the Ross County Historical Society’s museum, Franklin House, Knoles Log House and McKell Library; the Lucy Webb Hayes Heritage Center, the house in which the wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes was born; the Pump House Center for the Arts; and the Scioto Society’s outdoor drama, Tecumseh!

Chillicothe in the Arts

  • In the novel Laughing Gas by P.G. Wodehouse, Chillicothe is mentioned several times as the home of child star Joey Cooley. Joey desires escape the constant scrutiny of life in Hollywood and return to his home in Chillicothe where he can eat whatever he likes.


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