History of the Area
This region was wilderness to early man. Indians and settlers both found the
land, especially in the valleys, to be rich and fertile. Many different Indian
tribes contributed to its history. From about 200 B.C. to 500 A.D., the Hopewell
inhabited the area. This culture left burial mounds that can still be seen.
Later both the Shawnee and Mingo claimed the area as hunting grounds.
In 1796, Nathaniel Massie platted a town on the Scioto River just north of
the mouth of Paint Creek which he named Chillicothe. One hundred of the first
lots were offered free to the first settlers. Farm lots in the area were sold
for one or two dollars an acre, in 100- to 200-acre tracts. The area attracted
many Kentuckians and Virginians. In 1803, Chillicothe became the state capital.
For a time, the ridges to the east of Chillicothe remained wilderness because
the hills were too steep to farm. But as the pressure for land and lumber
increased, the hills of Tar Hollow were gradually cleared and inhabited by
marginal farms. Life was difficult and settlers took advantage of every resource
available. The region derives its name from pine tar, an essential commodity in
early Ohio households. It was taken from the knots and heartwood of the native
Pitch Pine tree to be used in the home manufacture of balms, animal liniments,
and lubricants for pioneer wagons and equipment.
In the 1930s, the Tar Hollow region was purchased for conservation purposes
under a New Deal program, the Ross-Hocking Land Utilization Project. People were
given a new financial start in life and were encouraged to move to the cities.
Most, however, bought more poor ground outside the park and continued to live as
they always had.
During the Depression years, recreation facilities including the 15-acre Pine
Lake and group camp were built by the WPA and NYA programs. In 1939, the Ohio
Division of Forestry accepted operational control of the land which was then
known as Tar Hollow Forest-Park.
When the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was created in 1949, the
Division of Parks and Recreation accepted land of several state agencies
including the old Division of Forestry. Tar Hollow State Park was developed from
the earlier forest. The park, today, is bordered by Tar Hollow State Forest --
Ohio's third largest state forest.
At one time, Ohio was covered by a warm, shallow sea. As land
rose to the east, sand and gravel were washed westward into
Ohio's waters. Southeastern Ohio's sandstone was formed from
this sediment. These sandstone hills are covered with a rich,
diverse forest. Oak and hickory prefer the dry ridge tops of the
area, while sycamore, black willow, buckeye and silver maple
line the stream valleys. The forest not only supports a variety
of hardwoods but also contains a vast array of ferns, mosses,
mushrooms and wildflowers. Bloodroot, wild geranium, cardinal
flower and Solomon's seal are typical wildflowers found in the
Surrounded by the rugged foothills of the Appalachian
Plateau, Tar Hollow State Park and surrounding state forest are
characteristic of the wilderness that blanketed Ohio in the days
of early settlers. It is a stronghold for many exciting species
of wildlife. Numerous reptiles and amphibians, colorful game
birds, songbirds and secretive mammals can be found here. The
timber rattlesnake, dwindling in Ohio due to deforestation,
holds on in Tar Hollow's forest. The five-lined skink,
distinguished by its brilliant blue tail, is found in the area
along with the elusive fence lizard. Painted turtles can be seen
along the shores of Pine Lake while the lumbering box turtle
inhabits the dry land. Salamanders such as the red-backed,
dusky, long-tailed and northern two-lined thrive on the cool,
moist forest floor. In spring, the wooded hollows echo with the
gobbling of wild turkey and the drumming of the ruffed grouse.
Rare sightings of bobcat have been reported in this unique, wild