If you’ve lived in the Portsmouth area long enough, you’re probably familiar with the murals along the floodwall, but for some, their origins are still a mystery. For the next several weeks, the Daily Times will be presenting a series of stories about specific murals and their role in the community.
Located along Front Street, these murals portray the history of Portsmouth from the mound building Indians to the present day, and use a 20 foot high, 2,000 foot-long floodwall as a canvas. The project runs the length of the historic district and includes over 55 different scenes.
In 1992, the planning stages of the Floodwall Mural Project began with the formation of an ad hoc committee, which later registered as a nonprofit organization – Portsmouth Floodwall Murals, Inc. (PMI). Robert Dafford, an internationally known muralist from Lafayette, Louisiana, was contracted for the project.
The first mural was completed in 1993. The murals are arranged chronologically from east to west, starting with the depiction of the Mound Builders. The series of murals serve as a visual history of the Portsmouth area.
Last week, the Daily Times touched on the history of the first mural, depicting the ancient Mound Builders, we will continue chronologically, heading into the year 1730.
The Shawnee Village mural shows a winter scene of a Shawnee Native American village looking across the Ohio River.
According to Ohio History Central, the Shawnee were living in the Ohio Valley as early as the late 1600s. The Iroquois, a tribe also in the area during this time – were unwilling to share the rich hunting grounds and drove the Shawnees away. Some went to Illinois; others went to Pennsylvania, Maryland or Georgia. As the power of the Iroquois weakened, members of the Shawnee nation moved back into Ohio from the south and the east. They settled in the lower Scioto River valley.
However, this was disrupting by war. In 1817, under the treaty of Fort Meigs, Ohio Shawnee along with Seneca tribes, were sent to live on three reservations in Northwest Ohio. Between 1831 and 1833, following the defeat of the Tecumseh resistance movement, Ohio-based Shawnee continued to organize to resist removal from their lands by the U.S. government. By the mid-1830s, via the U.S. Government’s policy of forced removal of American Indians West of the Mississippi, most Shawnee were relocated to reservations in Oklahoma and Kansas.
For an audio tour of the murals, you can dial 740-621-8031. After the introduction, each mural is a “stop.”
If you’d like to see the murals for yourself, follow the green mural signs posted in the city on Washington Street (Rt. 23 South) leading to the murals on Front Street.
Portsmouth Mural Inc., is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organizations. If you wish to contribute to the project, you can do so by mailing contributions to Portsmouth Murals Inc. at P.O. Box 207, Portsmouth, Ohio, 45662.
For more information about the murals, you can visit the Scioto County Visitors Bureau at 342 Second Street in
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