George Rogers Clark Park

George Rogers Clark Park in Springfield was the site of a battle between the Shawnee, Delaware, Miami, and Wyandot Indians, and the eponymous General George Rogers Clark. Today an old house visible from State Route 4 is said to be the site of some ghostly appearances, including a face in one of the upper windows. This may be the Daniel Hertzler House, a site known locally to be very haunted. It's said that tour guides avoid talking about it for fear that people will stop patronizing the park. On October 16, 1867 Daniel Hertzler was killed there by intruders who were looking for several thousand dollars in cash and government bonds.

The Hertzler House stories might be nothing more than stories, if the current residents are to be believed. According to one who e-mailed me, the only scary things they deal with are people creeping around their house in the middle of the night, looking in the windows, trying to see ghosts. The guides avoid the topic to protect their privacy, as well as the reputation of the park as a legitimate historic site. Interestingly, Daniel Hertzler seems to be buried in Columbus, at the Old Asylum and Penal Cemetery on the Hilltop. It's either him or someone with the same name, as well as month of death. The question is, why is he buried in a cemetery that served a lunatic asylum and state penitentiary two counties away?

Now some more confusion: An e-mail I received informs me that Daniel Hertzler's body rests, "without a doubt," at Ferncliff Cemetery in the Dayton area. Will the real Daniel Hertzler please stand up? On second thought, that might be a little bit messy.

Hertzler was a Mennonite who established the first private bank in the county and a sawmill on Buck Creek. His biography appears in the 1881 History of Clark County, Ohio, along with an account of his murder. His detailed November, 1867, obituary from the Herald of Truth, a monthly Mennonite periodical, is transcribed as follows:

Death of Daniel Hertzler, of Springfield, Ohio
The door was broken open during the night of October by running a piece of timber against it, and the assassins entered the house. Hertzler's wife heard the noise, and rose to see after the child which had been sick and slept in the room where they entered, and said, "What is the matter, Daniel?" when one of the men caught her by the neck, and said, "Never mind Daniel." By this time Daniel was up, trying to light a candle; but his wife cannot tell whether he got it lighted or not, but she heard a disturbance in the other room and the report of a gun, upon which the man who held her, let her go and ran into the other room, and she went up stairs, and awoke the hired man, came back to the room, and taking the sick child, fled to a neighbor's house. This was on the morning of the 10th of October, between two and three o'clock. Hertzler lay there until six o'clock, when they found him dead. He had been shot twice; once in the thigh, which was the cause of his death, and once in the side which was only a flesh wound. He was buried on Sunday, the 13th. This was the largest funeral that I ever was present at. 434 carriages are said to have been in attendance, and a large concourse of people.
J. M. G.

Further details about his killers are provided in the 1881 county history:

Four persons were arrested for this crime - two were acquitted, and two others (Scott and Roberts) escaped through the open door of the jail, and have never been recaptured.

And then there's this contemporary wire service news story, clipped (oddly enough) from the Davenport, Iowa Daily Gazette of April 23, 1868. It describes how messrs. Scott and Roberts escaped from custody: by cutting a hole into the adjoining cell, where the female inmate had been given free run of the place because she was ill. Read the poorly printed and spelled ("Octobear") article for yourself:

Does Hertzler's spirit still linger in his home, unable to rest because of his murderers' escape? As far as anyone knows they were never recaptured or punished for their deed, though if they had stayed in the Springfield jail they certainly would have hung. It's possible that Daniel feels cheated. For information about the Hertzler House Museum, call (937) 882-6000.

Also haunted at George Rogers Clark is the Davidson Interpretive Center, just down the road from the Hertzler House. This building was supposedly built on the site of the battle of Pickuwe (aka Piqua).

And finally, this story of an eerie encounter at the park was e-mailed to me by an historical reenactor. It suggests that more than just the buildings at the park might be haunted. Here it is:

I've worked at The Fair at New Boston for a long time, and sometimes my friends like to stop by on that weekend to see all of the sutlers. This one friend searched around the entire grounds for me and couldn't find me, so he started exploring the place on his own. He came to one of the little pathways near the forest, the one marked with the "Tecumseh Springs" post. As he walked down the path, he saw reenactors and visitors walking by. Once he got to the end of the path, which does not go around in a circle like the soldier encampments, he noticed a slight curve that leads to the "spring" and the very end of the path. As he went around the curve he stopped in his tracks, because it appeared to him at first that he just walked into a tiny reenactment of this older married couple. Soon after, he felt like he just walked into a really creepy moment. True, these people were very period correct, but there was something very odd about them. The woman was sitting on this wooden box-thing that has always been there, shaking a rock out of her shoe, and the man was just watching her.

Now, as he was explaining this to me, I thought he had just ran into some people having a rest near the spring, but the story was just weird. Even when you are sitting down, you acknowledge that someone else has happened upon you, especially as a reenactor. You always try to interact with the people, or at least let them know that you are aware that they are around, in case they want to ask questions, or even just observe what you're doing. These people didn't even notice that he was there, and he made himself known.

After a while of being frozen on the spot, he turned around and walked out of the path. At about halfway, he turned around again to look back, and saw the man and woman standing at the edge of the path, right before the slight curve, staring at him. The man had his arm around the woman like he was clutching her to his side. My friend freaked out and found me as quickly as he could. I didn't hear about this until about three weeks after the event, because he thought that he was absolutely nuts.

I know that the story is a little weird, but he kept asking me if people worked by the spring and I don't know anybody who even goes near the spring during the day. Everyone is way too busy to go back there, and there are plenty of places to rest besides the uninhabited spring. My friend also told me that the whole time he just got the creepiest feeling while watching them, like he walked in on some very private, odd moment, even though nothing appeared to be wrong.

Interesting stuff. If you know anything else about George Rogers Clark Park, please do not hesitate to drop me a line.

George Rogers Clark Heritage Association
Old Asylum and Penal Cemetery, Columbus
The Hertzler Murder and Daniel Hertzler Biography - 1881 County History
Herald of Truth Obituaries - November, 1867



The History of Clark County, Ohio. Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881.

"Obituaries." Herald of Truth. November, 1867. pp. 67.