The term "Trace" was defined by Senator Thomas H. Benton, son-in-law of John C. Fremont, "the pathfinder," in a speech he delivered to the Senate. He says:
"There is a class of scientific engineers older than the schools...they are the wild animals which traverse the forests, not by compass, but by instinct which leads them always the right way to the lowest mountain passes...and the shortest route between two distant points. The Indian first, then the hunter follows this same trail. After that, it becomes the wagon-road of the immigrant, and lastly, the railroad of the scientific man."
Traces, Trails and Roads
In their quest for a new home by the early adventurers in the Northwest Territory, the Bullskin Trace became an artery for these early pioneers. Every type adventurer and home- seeker followed these narrow path-like trails. The steady increase of the population allowed the paths to become a trail, a road, a stage road, and a post road for the delivery of the mail. Next came the toll-pike, the free turnpike, and finally the Interstate system.
The Bullskin Trace was an essential part of the prehistoric trails, which led through Ohio. It extended from the old town of Rural (founded in 1845 and later destroyed by the flood of 1913), located on St. Rt. 133, near the Ohio River in Clermont County. The entire course wound its way through Ohio to its destination of Detroit, Michigan. Its southern extension was used heavily as a trail following the high ridges along Locust Creek to the Great Salt Licks, located along the Licking River in Kentucky. The Great Salt Licks was a northern branch that was connected to the Great War Road that ran south through the Cumberland Gap, and the Scioto Trail, which extended southwest from Portsmouth, Ohio.
The name Bullskin was taken from a creek by that name in Clermont County. A log house in this region was known as Davenport's Meeting House where Thomas Scott, later Judge Thomas Scott of Ohio's Supreme Court, and Edward Tiffin, later first Governor of Ohio, used to preach. The name Bullskin can possibly be linked to this large Methodist migration from western Maryland.
Many prehistoric sites that parallel the trace is certain evidence that it was in use many centuries before the arrival of the white man. At the mouth of Bullskin Creek is an archaeological site composed of late archaic pre-pottery artifacts dating around 4000 BC to 1000 BC. This site is on the National Register of Historic places. The line of the Trace is dotted with archaeological finds. The most prevalent exploration is in the Caesar's Creek Reservoir region.
Many names have been associated with the Bullskin Trace such as: the Augusta and Round Bottom Road, the Miami Warrior Trail, Corduroy Road, Detroit Highway, and Xenia State Road. The Xenia State Road was enacted by the First Ohio Legislature to be selected as an official road the entire length from the Ohio River to Detroit, Michigan. It was designated a public highway February 4, 1807, being one of the first officially recognized state highways in Ohio.
The Bullskin Trace had an extension, which led from Harveysburg to Waynesville. General Charles Scott and his army, led by the Indian scout William Smalley, traveled this trail and occupied a camp at a little creek called Camp Run, which was a mile south of Waynesville. The nearby hills protected it from enemy approach. Water was found in abundance for the men and the animals at a nearby spring. Smalley is said to have rested his command a day and a night, by which time all stragglers had reached camp.
In 1787, George Washington bought four surveys of land that were located in Clermont County on the Bullskin Trace, this acreage totaling 3,051.
The War of 1812 was primarily fought in the area of the Great Lakes. As was stated earlier, the enactment of the Legislature to officially make the Xenia State Road a highway made an open and usable roadway, from the Ohio River north to Detroit, a military necessity. The first monies that were to be used for its improvement were $700.00, which was obtained from the sale of public lands. The roadway was cleared to a width of 20 feet. The right-of-way varied from 60 to 66 feet. Logs were laid side- by side, which formed corduroy roads. Frequently these logs were left in place for the next road construction. It was fortunate that the road was ready when the conflict came, for as soon as the War of 1812 was declared, Perry's fleet on Lake Erie had to be supplied with provisions and ammunition.
Isaac Blanchard, of Edenton, took a contract to furnish these supplies, which were boated down the Ohio River to the mouth of Bullskin Creek. From there his caravan of fifteen wagons bumped over the new corduroy road on its way to Sandusky. Blanchard hauled supplies on the Bullskin Trace nearly two years.