British Island

It may be hard for a Columbus resident to believe now, but at one time there were significant islands in the Scioto River. One between Broad and Main Streets was large and solid enough that the local black population used it to hold dances and parties, away from restrictive segregation rules in the city. Others were large enough that people used them for hunting.

One island in particular had an interesting history. British Island, located north of the confluence with the Olentangy River near Franklinton, was used as a POW camp following American victories in Canada and northern Ohio during the War of 1812. Because they expected to move the prisoners right away, not many provisions were made for their health, and many died from exposure. Others were killed by the soldiers guarding them for trying to escape.

There aren't any islands in the Scioto anymore; they either eroded or were cleared to make room for river traffic. The requirements of the canal boat era necessitated the destruction of some of the islands, including the one where the black Columbus residents held dances. British Island eventually washed away--but it retained its reputation as a haunted place even after it was gone. According to legend, that part of the river is haunted by the ghosts of the dead British soldiers. Whether or not they still appear, nearly two hundred years after they died, is not known.

If you know anything about this story, please drop me a line.

This Week article: "River Islands Once More Plentiful"



Lentz, Ed. "As It Were: River Islands Once More Plentiful." This Week. June 19, 2003.