“Indian Ridge Museum from Old to New” Celebrating 15 Years of Preservation and Education!
Indian Ridge Museum, Elyria, Ohio where 12,000 years of history were on parade from 1930-1995. The door to the museum is now preserved at the New Indian Ridge Museum, founded in 2000. Col. Vietzen used the facade of a 1920s filing station as the front of his museum. Photo courtesy New Indian Ridge Museum, donated by Col. Ron Sauer.
Colonel Raymond Charles Vietzen was born in 1907 on West Ridge Road in Elyria, Ohio on the Vietzen family homestead. Raymond was the seventh of eight children. His mother’s maiden name was Von Zimmerman. She had wanted him to become a Lutheran minister; instead Col. Vietzen’s interest in prehistoric man led him to become an archaeologist, anthropologist, and an auto mechanic for GMC trucks. His original auto shop was located at 227 Temple Court in Elyria until it burned. He then relocated the business to his home (8714 West Ridge Road, Elyria, Ohio). Colonel Vietzen was very much a student of archaeology and anthropology. He was also a prominent writer (17 books published on archaeology) and a prolific artist (executed several hundred paintings).
With the help of Dr. Leon Kramer, LaDow Johnston, Dr. W. V. Sprague, Hubert Wachtel, and Frank Burdett, Colonel Vietzen founded the Archaeological Society of Ohio (A.S.O.). At the time of its founding the ASO was called the Ohio Indian Relic Collectors Society (O.I.R.C.S.). The fee for one membership was one dollar, and then was raised to two dollars. The society quickly grew to 100 members and is now the largest state archaeological society in the United States. Col. Vietzen’s wife, Ruth (Bliss) Vietzen was the first female officer of the society. They were married in 1931. Col. Vietzen was elected secretary and treasurer; he also served as president for a term.
He later focused his efforts on the Lorain County Historical Society and his Indian Ridge Museum, working to preserve local history. He served as the first Vice President of the Lorain County Historical Society. The early meetings of the Archaeological Society were held at the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Museum, now the Ohio Historical Society. At that time, it was located on High Street in Columbus, Ohio. Erwin Zepp was the curator and a good friend of Col. Vietzen. The Ohio Historical Society is presently located on Velma Avenue in Columbus, Ohio.
Colonel Vietzen opened Indian Ridge Museum in 1930 on part of the Vietzen homestead which he had purchased from his parents. The homestead was settled by his grandparents. The museum was originally part of the local archaeological society and was called The Elyria Archeological Society Museum. His home was on the same part of the property as the museum, both of which he and his wife built. The home was of the Western Reserve Style. They also brought in trees and landscaped the property, as the land was only a plowed field. This property was located at the corner of West Ridge and Fowl Roads in Elyria, Ohio. The land itself was actually an American Indian site where Col. Vietzen found evidence of the existence of prehistoric man.
Colonel Vietzen opened the museum to house his archaeological finds and to enlighten others on the people who once called this land home. The museum boasted having “12,000 Years of History on Parade.” The front of the museum was part of a 1920s filling station which had been located just down the road. The museum did not only house prehistoric artifacts, but had several log structures, a large collection of antique guns, and General Custer’s coat with his blood stain on it. He also had Geronimo’s gun in the museum. One of the log houses on the museum grounds was constructed by Jacob Shupe. Other cabins relocated to the museum grounds included: the Honeysuckle Cabin from Kentucky, Mingo cabin (a stage coach relay station stop), and Tymochte Cabin (built in 1795). Never having the opportunity to actually visit the museum with its artifacts, I have been fortunate enough to meet people and read the Colonel’s publications to learn about his fascinating museum. Thousands of school children, college students, men, and women alike had taken the opportunity to tour the museum and grounds. Congressman Mosher once held his congressional outings on the beautiful museum and homestead grounds.
Bungart Island in the Black River (Canesadooharie). Peter Bungart, a longtime friend of Col. Vietzen’s, was born in the family house on the mainland or in the cabin that was located on the island. The Bungart family owned the island and farmed it for many years. He was employed as a paleontologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. He assembled the giant prehistoric fish fossil “Dunkleosteus” (Bungartus) that was found fossilized in the shale of Northern Ohio.
In the late 1800s the Bungart family cut black walnut trees down on this island and floated then down the river to have then cut into boards at a sawmill located near the Lorain Steel Mill/Shipyards property area. When Col. Vietzen built his house in 1930, Bungart gave some of this wood to Vietzen to use in the new home. We have one piece of this wood preserved at the New Indian Ridge Museum. The Lorain County MetroParks now owns the island. Photo courtesy of Dr. C. E. Herdendorf, President, Sheffield Village Historical Society.
Peter Bungart at work on his famous fish fossil, Bungartus.
To form his impressive museum, Col. Vietzen had worked on many local archaeological sites. These sites included The Franks Site in Brownhelm, Ohio, The Riker Site in Tuscarawas County, Midvale, Ohio, and The Seaman Fort Site near Milan, Ohio. The Franks Site was actually two large sites that ran together. The other site was the Brownhelm site. Both sites were located on the banks of the Vermilion River.
Archaeological work at the Riker Site was conducted by the Sugar Creek Chapter of the ASO. Col. Vietzen served as site supervisor of this particular site. There were over two thousand triangular points (a type of arrowhead), almost two hundred ovate knives, and over twenty stone pipes recovered at the Riker Site. The Seaman Fort Site was a strip of land that dropped off between seventy-five and one hundred feet on either side to the Huron River and Hunt Creek, an ideal campground. Col. Vietzen was working on the site on December 7, 1941 listening to his portable radio when Pearl Harbor was bombed. This site is still being researched by the Sandusky Bay Chapter of the ASO.
At work at the Franks site in Brownhelm, Ohio (Vermilion River Watershed). Col. Vietzen served as site supervisor when Oberlin College worked there in the 1940s. He is seen in the lower part of the photo, kneeling. Photo donated by Mr. Paul Harmon of Nova Scotia.
The Franks Site in Brownhelm, Ohio, located along the Vermilion River encompassed about 80 acres of land and was inhabited by the Erie Indians, the last prehistoric peoples to live in the area. They called the southern shores of Lake Erie their home, and the lake still bears their name. The Franks Site was an Erie Village where Col. Vietzen conducted much archaeological research for his museum and subsequent books. Col. Vietzen served as site supervisor for Oberlin College when they worked on the site.
LEFT: Col. Vietzen directing the archaeological operations at the Franks Site, seen with students from Profs. May and Ward’s Oberlin College Classes in the early 1940s. RIGHT: Another scene from the dig at the Franks Site, Brownhelm, Ohio, c. 1940s.
Col. Vietzen also worked on sites out of state. One of the most interesting and fascinating sites was the Glover’s Cave site in Christian County, Kentucky. Col. Vietzen worked on that site on and off from the 1930’s to the 1980’s. The site provided information from the Paleo Indian era through each of the prehistoric eras. The site was a wealth of information to the field of archaeology and to Colonel Vietzen. As a result of his extensive archaeological excavations in Kentucky and Tennessee, Governor A. B. Chandler awarded Col. Vietzen the “Colonel” status in 1957. This was the same year he published The Saga of Glover’s Cave, an entire book on the prehistory of Kentucky and that cave. He was also named an Honorary Citizen of Tennessee.
Kentucky provided Colonel Vietzen with several other sites, one of which was the Dr. Brake farm. In the 1964 Colonel Vietzen uncovered the Elk Lick Cache of over seventy flint blades. The blades were found in a pit measuring thirty-three inches deep and seventeen inches wide. The blades were carefully stacked in layers and levels with red ocher and sand in between each one. After studying the artifacts, Col. Vietzen felt that the blades were either crafted by a single person or a group of his apprentices. Col. Vietzen was leaning more towards a single craftsman. There were no burials in the area, just the blades. We were able to secure one of those blades and preserve it at the New Indian Ridge Museum. They were all sold separately during the auctions of the Vietzen museum.
Col. Vietzen was not only a student of prehistoric man, but he was also a friend of the Native Americans of today. Adopted by two prominent groups of Native Americans including the Senecas, whom he lived among, the Sioux, and Navajo Indians, Col. Vietzen gained important knowledge of these people. He lived with the Navajo’s as well many years ago. His Sioux name was Se-tis-tis-tee or High Flying Eagle and his Navajo name was White horse. His adopted Siouan father was Chief Iron Tail, one of the composites of the Buffalo Nickel. Chief Iron Tail was actually in the Battle of Little Bighorn and fought against Gen. Custer. He was in his nineties when Col. Vietzen was adopted about 1940.
Besides being an archaeologist, Col. Vietzen was an artist and author. Throughout his life he had done several hundred paintings. He also authored seventeen books from 1941 to 1995. The first book was Ancient Man in Northern Ohio. His last book was called Prehistoric Indians From Darkness Into Light. Ruth, his wife, actually finished the book for him as he passed away in 1995. After this, several auctions were held to sell the contents of Indian Ridge Museum and his personal collection. The collection was broken up through these sales to people throughout the United States. Ruth Vietzen passed away almost four years later in 1999. The dissolution of his Indian Ridge Museum was a tragic loss to not only our local history but regional and even national history.
With the death of the Vietzens, the archaeological world lost two wonderful people. Although I never met the Colonel and his wife, I feel like I have come to know them through the books Col. Vietzen authored and the people that he had met.
The founding fathers of the Archaeological Society of Ohio (ASO) as we know it today; at that time it was known as the Ohio Indian Relic Collectors Society. Col. Vietzen is in the second row, at the far right. Courtesy New Indian Ridge Museum and Indian Ridge Museum.
The New Indian Ridge Museum officially commenced operations on November 24, 2000. The museum is a collection for the preservation of Prehistoric and Historic Artifacts. The main goals of the museum are as follows (a.) to collect back into one museum, as many of the artifacts from Indian Ridge Museum and the Col. Vietzen collection as possible, (b.) to preserve, collect, salvage, and interpret the early history of Amherst, and (c.)to collect and preserve any other historically of archaeologically significant artifacts. The museum is in memory of Col. Raymond Charles Vietzen (1907- 1995). He and his wife Ruth curated their museum, Indian Ridge Museum at the intersection of West Ridge and Fowl Roads in Elyria, Ohio, which was originally a part of the Vietzen family property. He started his museum in 1930 and was the last living individual associated with the founding of the Archaeological Society of Ohio. Many of the artifacts in the author’s museum are from his collection.
I became interested in history when my family took down an addition to our house in 1997. When the new basement was being excavated we found historic pottery pieces, fragments of trade pipes, an 1878 Indian Head Penny, a nineteenth century power flask, and many other artifacts (all now preserved in the museum). We had also found a German belt buckle in the Beaver Creek. Having found these pieces, I began to believe that our home was very old and possibly historically significant. At that time, I believed that the original portion of the house was constructed about 150 years ago. My mother, Uncle Zack Dolyk (local attorney and judge), and I went to the Lorain County Courthouse/Administration building in downtown Elyria, Ohio to research the deeds to the property. The deeds dated so far back that we had to trek to the basement of the building. The last deed went all the back to the year 1816. We learned that Jacob Shupe (1778- 1832), the first white settler in Amherst, Ohio, had purchased 300 acres of land from Elijah and Maryann Boardman for 600 dollars. The property extended all the way to Lake Erie and “encompassed the water of Beaver Creek.” Jacob first built his home as a one story cabin. Soon after, he constructed the frame house that stands today — first frame house in Amherst (c. 1816). He operated the first lumber mill, distillery, and grist mill in Lorain County. Jacob and his wife had eleven children. He was the father of the first white born child in Amherst (Betsy Shupe) and participated in the first funeral in the Amherst area. Unfortunately at age 54, a log fell on him in his sawmill, and he was killed.
Over the years, property was sold off and today, we maintain 15 of the original 300 acres.
After I had completed my research, we applied for the Landmark Plaque through the Amherst Historical Society of which I am a member. When we received the plaque, the story appeared in The Morning Journal and The Amherst News Times. The Landmark Plaque is presented to property on which historical events occurred. Only seven of these plaques have been presented to sites in Amherst to this date.
A couple of years later, we applied for the Historic Shupe Homestead to be recognized as a Lorain County Historic Site by the Lorain County Preservation Network through the Lorain County Historical Society and Lorain County Commissioners. The Historic Shupe Homestead was approved and listed as an historic site of Lorain County. The property is also listed on the Ohio Historic Inventory of Historic Places. The Historic Shupe Homestead, which borders Beaver Creek, has also been placed under a land conservation easement through the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, effectively preserving the property in its natural state, in perpetuity.
When we found that Col. Vietzen owned the original Shupe Cabin that was constructed before the frame house, we became interested in Col. Vietzen’s Indian Ridge Museum. In one of Col. Vietzen’s seventeen books, he wrote that he had found the cabin on Russia Road. When we found that Col. Vietzen had collected Prehistoric artifacts, I wanted to learn more about the prehistory of our area.
The New Indian Ridge Museum is always growing and changing. We have four pillars from Col. Vietzen’s home which he built himself. The Colonel’s museum and home were located near each other, on the original Vietzen homestead, settled by Col. Vietzen’s grandparents. The author also has several cases from Indian Ridge Museum. The door that led into the entrance of the Vietzen museum, now leads into the office/lab at the New Indian Ridge Museum.
After The Colonel passed away, a man bought the museum and several auctions were held to disperse the collection. When those auctions were held, we were unaware of the history being lost. We were later granted permission to go onto the Vietzen property after the sales had occurred. We “tromped around” at Col. Vietzen’s and found many things, including broken arrow points, flint and bone fragments, a large celt (stone tool), pottery, pieces, and a preform for a bannerstone. We were even able to save the old claw foot bath tub the Vietzen’s had in their bathroom.
Very early photo of Col. Vietzen’s house on West Ridge Road, c. 1930. The house was built by him and his wife. It was changed a bit over the years by adding a small porch over the door and the windows on the left were replaced with a single large one. Courtesy Paul Harmon of Nova Scotia.
Above: note present views of the site of the Col. Raymond C. Vietzen homestead and Indian Ridge Museum. The area was re-cleared in July 2013. The buildings were originally demolished late in 2000 or early 2001. On the top photo, note the area where Col. Vietzen had a large pond. It is now a wetland area. On the bottom photo, note the sidewalk and turning lane added on Fowl Road – West Ridge Road is in the background. Col. Vietzen’s Indian Ridge Museum was located right alongside Fowl Road, and when it was built in 1930, Fowl Road was nothing more than a small farm lane. After the Museum was demolished, the turning lane and sidewalk were constructed. This should provide a bit of reference as to the location of these structures. The house and Museum were were parallel to West Ridge Road, and house was in front of the Museum, facing West Ridge.
One of Col. Vietzen’s seventeen books is called The Saga of Glover’s Cave. Glover’s Cave is a cave in Christian Co., Kentucky. Col. Vietzen excavated in the cave and around that area from the 1940s –1980s. In early July 2002 we received permission to document the Cave’s geology through photographs. The cave’s geology was fascinating to see. The naturally formed limestone cave entrance is thirty-one feet wide then the room opens up to seventy-two feet wide. Prehistoric people only lived about one hundred fifty-two feet back into the cave. The original cave floor is 6 feet under the present floor. Prehistoric “garbage” or midden has made the cave floor higher. We were able to visit the area several more times and have learned quite a bit about the prehistory and geology of Kentucky through reading Col. Vietzen’s book and viewing old-time farm collections from the area.
On October 3, 2007, I officially became a Kentucky Colonel. At the September Meeting of the Archaeological Society-Sandusky Bay Chapter, Col. Ron Sauer presented me with this status. Col. Sauer said that because I was preserving Col. Vietzen’s history, I should be a Kentucky Colonel as well. This is the highest award bestowed by the Governor of Kentucky. Col. Vietzen acquired that status in 1957 as a result of his archaeological work conducted in Kentucky and the subsequent book that he published on this work. He was also named an honorary citizen of Tennessee. About 1940 he was adopted by the Sioux and Navajo Native Americans.
Col. Nahorn in the Museum with Museum Contributors (left to right) Jay Rounds (Tour Guide Overseer), Col. Ron Sauer (Curatorial Advisor), and Dr. Charles Herdendorf (Museum Advisory Council) discussing the Peter Bungart Map of the Black River.
Col. Nahorn stands beside an original runnerstone mill buhr from Jacob Shupe’s grist mill c. 1813, which was located across the road from his homestead. It stood as a monument at the Central School in Amherst from 1934 – 2013 when it was moved to Jacob Shupe’s Homestead, where the New Indian Ridge Museum is located, and is now preserved. The sandstone base is from the Cleveland Quarries, and the sandstone slab upon which it sits was salvaged by the Nahorns from a local barn. Thanks to Sprenger Health Care for donating this important local artifact for preservation locally. Special thank you to Wendy Dolyk for her aid in securing the piece. The handmade bricks that surround this display originally comprised the historic Capt. Flint House c. 1860.
Following is a document outlining program / speaking offerings by Col. Nahorn & the Museum: Program Offerings