East Liverpool Historical Society

14 ) All of the scrolls that Barth made were dated with tags showing the date and location.

15 ) The carvings were filled with sand or plaster and painted with printers ink. A sheet of plain paper was then laid over the wet ink and an imprint was made of that particular carving.

16 ) Another imprint done at Smiths Ferry.

17 ) Smiths Ferry imprint.

18 ) Probably the strangest carving at that site is this one.

19) A letter in the Barth collection from the Smithsonian addressing the Petroglyphs at Smiths Ferry.It was addressed to R.C. Leaf a Beaver county engineer and a local photographer that recorded the carvings at the Smiths Ferry site.



Cleveland Plain Dealer. Pictorical Magazine, March 7, 1948.

Because it is a little blurry we decided to duplicate the text below:

It was only by the greatest good luck that we saw those mysterious ancient carvings and when they'll be visible again, goodness only knows. We were in East Liverpool visiting in W. H. Vodrey's law office. He has a famous collection of original Ohio law documents that go back to the first ordinances that governed the Northwest territory, long before there was an Ohio. We were looking at them, my next-door neighbor, who had driven down with me, and I, when news got about the office that petroglyphs could be seen. I didn't know what they were talking about, but I listened.

The petroglyphs, I learned, are Indian drawings of animals, birds and human figures pecked out on rocks beside the Ohio River in the neighborhood of East Liverpool. Their age is a matter of conjecture, though the oldest traditions of the neighborhood referred to them, and all Indian lore. Archaeologists are cautious about fixing dates, but agreed that the drawings are symbolic picture messages of great antiquity, tribes of Indians wishing to acquaint relatives or other tribes of their doings. Navigation dams were built early in the 1900s, and since then the rocks have been submerged most the time under about five feet of water. At periods of extreme cold, like the week of our visit, the river freezes, lowering the water line, and the carvings appear. The last time this happened was 1940.

Of course we wanted to see them. Mr. Vodrey's son, W. H. Vodrey, Jr. also a lawyer, decided he too, would go a long. While the party was assembling, in came Rev. C. F. Kennyweg, a United Presbyterian minister, and Max Gard, a stamp collector and Ohioana enthusiast. Bob had come from Lisbon.

So the party started off in two cars, drove East out of East Liverpool to the Pennsylvania line. At the spot near Smith's Ferry our guides stopped their cars deciding that "this was it".

We were beside two railroads, with the Ohio River beyond, down a steep embankment thicket lined. We crossed one track, waited for fast train to whiz past on the second track, and started down to the ice choked, wide river. There was a path of a sort, for news had spread that the carvings were visible and there had been little groups of adventurous some curious ahead of us.

We climbed over boulders, picked our way through snow drifts underfoot and head high brambly bushes, slithered now and then over muddy stretches. Eventually we arrived at the river edge, and to the petroglyphs! There they were, great flat slabs of reddish-brown stone lying like a decorated floor at the foot of the cliffs. Between them and the narrow strip of open river were ridges of churned up ice.

Boy Scouts, we were told had been there the day before and swept a good bit of the rocks of their snow and ice covering, though there were long stretches of the carvings buried completely by winter time's accumulation. There are great many all along the riverbank though here, as many as three acres of them.

The pictures we could see were crude to modern eyes, and so big it was hard to grasp them in their entirety. Also it was frightfully cold with the wind whipping off the icy waters. You didn't feel too much like standing there examining what the Indians had left. But it was plain that some queer animals have been etched on the rocks, and rough outlines of human beings. There was a small carving of a canoe and a hatchet that look different from the other drawings, and which we were told later were some of the disfacements that had been added with a chisel a few years ago by mischievous boys hoping to fool with historians. The Indians used flint, and possibly hard horn implements.

On our return to East Liverpool, we hunted up Harold Barth at the Historical Museum in the public library. Mr. Barth, we had been told was the authority on the petroglyphs. And soon we understood why. He pulled out roll after roll of facsimiles of the carvings which he had made through a lifetime of study of those rocks. With gigantic sheets of paper applied to the carvings previously outlined with printers ink, he had taken off the drawings. Up and down the riverbank he had gone with any helpers he could manage to interest in this project. He started in years ago, fortunately, before the dams raised the water. For years he moved to the East Liverpool Museum, of which he is one of the curators.

His records are priceless. Not only are the picture rocks hidden underwater most the time now, but the effects of this water and its ice has been to dim the markings. Soon they will be completely lost, except for Mr. Barth's reproductions of them. He explained to us that each rock picture meant a definite thing in the language of the Indians. Similar carvings are found in many areas, such as along the Susquehanna River in Michigan and the far West. Human figures were meant to be the likeness of the Chiefs and were their signatures. Animals like deer, bear and Fox signified particular tribes. The rock writings thought to be communications from Indians on the move. Foot marks are carved in the stone, to indicate the direction taken, which was usually North. Mr. Barth said that very clear images are discernible of paw prints of all kinds of wild animals as well as the human foot, one of which we saw. We tried to press Mr. Barth to fix the age of the carvi ngs. All he would say was that they were made not by the so-called "modern" Indians known by white settlers but by tribes who roamed Ohio long before them.



20 ) This is what part of Smiths Ferry looks like today. Much different with the barges docked at the marina. The area is now covered with at least 10 feet of mill slag and stone. It is also under 12 feet of water . The 3 acres of petroglyphs stretch from Smiths Ferry up river towards the island at Midland.



[The following pictures were photographed by Jeff Langdon at the Museum of Ceramics and posted here with permission of said Museum. All rights retained and reserved by the Museum of Ceramics.- ELHS WebMaster]

In the East Liverpool area have been found along the shore where Dam # 8 was constructed, along the shore near Babbs Island and just east of where the Little Beaver Creek empties into the Ohio River.

The Petroglyphs of Babb's Island

By Jeff Langdon

Smiths Ferry is probably one of the most publicized areas on the web and in print but there are other sites up and down the river that are not as well known. Those would be the Half Moon site near Steubenville, the sites at Wellsville near the old dam number 8, one carving found near midland, and a site briefly mentioned by Barth near Newell. Although this site has never been documented. The most overlooked site has to be at Babb's Island.

Babb's Island is kind of a mystery. It was never well noted through the various stages of low water on the river during the era before the dams. It was always overshadowed by the sheer size and popularity of the Smiths Ferry site. None the less there are over 50 carvings noted at this site by Barth. The site itself really is closer to the Broadway wharf than Babb's Island. All of the carvings were found on a sandstone shelf that ran out into the river. The only times that it was viewed by Barth was in 1908 and 1909. Harold Barth took inked copies of the petroglyphs and made several sketches. In 1940 the river again froze while the water table was at an all time low. Barth took pictures of the partially revealed sandstone shelf and the general area of the site. James Swauger used all of Barth's data and drawings in his two books on the local petroglyphs. The carvings here are every bit as strange as any along the Ohio. There is probably a small chance that the site is preserved under water. There are many barges docked over the site and lots of brick and pottery shards along the bottom.

Some of the best and first petroglyphs in the country were found here. They certainly were the most documented. Some of the only known carvings of waterfowl are found here along with strange carvings of humans and many different images of animals. Long before this area was known for it's pottery it seemed to be a hub of other cultures and peoples.

January 31st 1940 picture of Barth standing at the beginning of the Petroglyphs. The carvings started here and continued down the shoreline.

1940 picture of Barth. Notice the kilns behind him near River road.

A view from the end of the carvings. This is pretty close to the Broadway Wharf. Notice TS&T across the river.

Barth standing near one of the ledges on the shoreline where the Petroglyphs are located.

This is line drawings of the carvings at the Babb's Island site. This was taken from the book "Petroglyphs Of Ohio" by James Swauger.

Another drawing.

These are pictures of the negatives that were in the folders of the Barth collection. Probably the photos were of the inked canvass that was made in 1908. The pictures were taken sometime after 1908.

There were no original pictures of this site in 1908 only the inked canvass copies and some photos of some plaster casts.

Another negative.

This is a photo of a plaster cast made of a carving of what appears to be human feet. Many carvings of animal tracks including wolves and bears can be found at all of the sites. There are also other tracks that can not be identified with absolute certainty as to what they could have been.

Indian Mounds & Petroglyphs 3


This site is the property of the East Liverpool Historical Society.
Regular linking, i.e. providing the URL of the East Liverpool Historical Society web site for viewers to click on and be taken to the East Liverpool Historical Society entry portal or to any specific article on the website is legally permitted.
Hyperlinking, or as it is also called framing, without permission is not permitted.
Legally speaking framing is still in a murky area of the law though there have been court cases in which framing has been seen as violation of copyright law. Many cases that were taken to court ended up settling out-of-court with the one doing the framing agreeing to cease framing and to just use a regular link to the other site.
The East Liverpool Historical Society pays fees to keep their site online. A person framing the Society site is effectively presenting the entire East Liverpool Historical Society web site as his own site and doing it at no cost to himself, i.e. stealing the site.
The East Liverpool Historical Society reserves the right to charge such an individual a fee for the use of the Society’s material.