The War That Never Happened

As offered by: Randall D. Bryhn

I stumbled across this story while doing other research. It’s a piece of history that up till now was in danger of being lost forever. To keep the story alive I have tried to send a copy to all my family, and friends. I have been to the Council Chamber many times to give offerings, and to play the flute. I personally believe the story to be true.
I thought you too might like a copy…
The history of the Native American people before the white man came has only been written after the fact, since the Native Americans had no written language. But many stories have survived, some as myths, others as legends. Another source is journals that white people kept as they lived with the Native Americans, but many stories have been lost forever. The events in this story happened as the Delaware Indian Tribe came into contact with the white man, so no written copies of the story exist. Only word of mouth and the existence of the Council Chamber itself have kept this story alive. If this war would have happened it’s quite possible the United States as we know it today would not exist.


It came to pass in those spring days, that strangers could be seen, and heard for miles away, as they blundered through the woods. Their comings and going would be so loud and disruptive, that it would take the forest hours, before it would return to normal. Was it any wonder then, that these strangers attracted so much attention? These people were not welcome here, where they went, they broke the ground, so that others of their kind could follow easily. It was not the way of the ones that lived there. The culture of the natives had always been to live with the forest, and become a living extension of it, always giving back what was owed, never taking what was not earned. This is the way of the Northern, and Mid Eastern Tribes, and Clans: as it had been for many generations, in and around the Hocking Valley Region. The natives were at first attracted by the very strangeness of these people, many things were learned, and many items were traded. Then the Delaware were able to witness the miracle, the White Man had created. They had harnessed lightning, and put it in a tube. It was at their very command, to destroy, or kill, as they chose.

The Delaware were amazed, but in their knowledge they knew, that if they were to survive as a people, they to would also need this knowledge. At first they tried to trade for it, and they had some limited success with that, but at some point they realized it wasn’t the firearm that was the miracle, it was the gunpowder that fueled it. So their quest turned to finding the chemical formula for mixing gunpowder. At first barter was used, but the formula evaded them. The white settlers that were first moving into the area just didn’t have that knowledge. Today it is easy to find the recipe to make gunpowder, but at the time it wasn’t common knowledge. It would have been in comparison as though

The War That Never Happened Cont.
someone had asked you to explain the circuitry in an FM radio. We may know how to work it, but we don’t have the technical knowledge to build one. That is the problem the Delaware faced over and over again, as they attempted to gain the knowledge they sought. Trading was proving to be no use, so the Delaware resorted to kidnapping, and torture, but still the formula for making gunpowder eluded them. Then one fateful day the decision was made, the Delaware would go to war, the next step was to call a gathering.
The first day of the gathering would have been a frenzied time, warriors that were always hard pressed to the food gathering labors, were doubly hard pressed to provide enough for the guest’s that would soon be arriving. The Delaware were a noble and respected people. Their clans were scattered far and wide across the Hocking Hills Region, and their warriors were fearless in battle. As the call to come went out among the tribes, all that heard responded. Favors given, and favors remembered, were used to motivate those who wanted not the seeds of war. The Delaware were persistent and many, although most were drawn to hear why they should take up arms against the white man, an air of festivity hung about the land. For days the council fire raged. Unlike most Native American fires, that are made very small, and easy to conceal, a war fire is built up, sometimes the fire would be built to three, or four feet high. The circle had to be large enough to sit each tribal chief, and each clan elder next to the fire. Immediately behind them, would be seated one, or two of the clans next warrior in line, and after that there would be women, and boys attending those up near the fire. This was a system that had been used for many generations. The fire raged for many days, the arguments ran back and forth like children let loose during the first spring thaw. The arguments rang true from both sides, to take up arms against the White Man was an unknown factor. As the days went by a consensus began to be reached. The Delaware knew they had been right in calling the gathering, because they knew in the end the Nations would need the secret of gunpowder.

On the third morning, as the story has been passed down from generation to generation, the ceiling exploded with unleashed fury. The tribal elders, the chieftains, and their braves were all killed in a fatal collapse of ceiling stone, as their fire was buried under a seven foot thick slab of stone that had been blown out of the ceiling. None of the braves, nor the women serving them, not even most of the children that were playing in the back part of the cave were spared from the unleashed devastation of the fall.

The front of the cave showing the rock fall thickness.


The people scattered, the explosion shattered their purpose and they fled the area, leaving the caves that had served as their homes for hundreds of years. The explosion was believed to be punishment from the Great Spirit, a rebuke for considering going to war against the white man. It was later thought the white man was protected from the power of the clans. The Delaware left the area. The spectacle of the Council Chamber broke the spirit of the Delaware. As a result of that try at war, the Delaware, and other tribes of the area, did not go to battle with the White Man, and were known as, ”Good Indians” to the White Man as the passed into the area. They became scouts and workers for the military, often succumbing to the bottle for payment, or becoming the butt of military harassment. Later the Shawnee would move into this area, and claim it as theirs.

The story that I have just passed on to you is an urban myth that has been passed down in the Hocking area for many generations. In their quest for gunpowder it is very ironic that the place of their gathering was later named the Salt Petre Mines of Hocking. The mines would serve to furnish the civil war with salt petre, one of the main ingredients of gunpowder. Also found in the walls of the cave, is a substantial quantity of naturally occurring sulfur. I had the occasion to ask a professional chemist if it would be possible that by adding wood char from the fire, and with the other ingredients found in the walls, would it be possible for an explosion like that to happen. I was told, with the introduction of wood char from the fire, and the buildup of heat, that it would be very possible for an explosion to happen.
The actual Council Chamber measures 29 feet across the mouth of the cave, with a estimated 54 feet of depth. The rock fall itself measured 27 feet wide at the mouth with the rock fall reaching 42 feet back into the cave. Only small children playing against the back wall would have been spared being buried alive.

Middle section of the rock fall showing the release from the area of the roof, and the almost total coverage of the floor.


Looking at the ceiling of the Council Chamber, it’s hard to believe that anyone could have lived through this.


This is a section in the back of the cave that seems to have escaped the collapse of the roof. It measured the full width of the back, approximately about 17 feet, and was about 12 feet deep. However, there was only about two and a half feet of head room. That means the only children, if any, would have been very small.
This story has never been authenticated by any authority, the area has been cordoned off, and it requires a special permit to access the area. Since the Council Chamber is considered a sacred place, a forensic or archeological study, has not been attempted here. However, unlike some urban myths that wither and die over time, this story has remained deeply entrenched in the culture of the area. Most stories of the tribes that have been introduced into history, have been provided by the white man, through diaries, and written accounts done by white individuals. However, this happened at a time before white men had time to interact, and become established with the natives of the area. Since the Delaware did not have a written language at the time it has become increasingly hard, to authenticate such stories. It is also entirely possible that if the Delaware would have been able to gather for war, and wage it, the America we know may never have happened. At that time, the eastern cities were only being started. Places like Boston, and Philadelphia only boasted a few brick buildings in each city. If a war started in the Ohio valley, would have raged Eastward, the way that America was colonized may have happened differently, if at all.
I offer this story in peace, as a remembrance.
Location is approximate, it is in a donut-hole location, on the Harvest Moon Cottages Property, Located on Big Pine Road, after the Conckle’s Hollow
Trail Head at Hocking Hills. The coordinates are: 39 deg. 27’ 39.44”N ,
by 82 deg. 32’ 48.05”W.


One Response to “The War That Never Happened”

  1. Jennifer Ostrander Says:

    Thank you for preserving and sharing this story.

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