Strawtown Koteewi Park History

Strawtown Koteewi Park is Rich in Indiana History

Purchased in 1999 from the estate of a local resident, Dan Taylor, the park has some of the most significant archaeological sites in Indiana. The park covers 750 acres of former undeveloped land in northern Hamilton County. Located along the west fork of the White River, the property contains woods, prairies, wetlands, 3.25 miles of riparian corridors, and wildlife along with eight miles of multipurpose trails for recreational activities. An additional 60 acres was purchased from the Morris Family. This purchase included an 1898 historic barn. The barn has been restored and is open periodically for park events and programs.

The First “Hoosiers”

Professional archaeological investigations previously conducted at the park has shed some light on the park’s past residents. The Paleo-Indians are considered to be the first Hoosiers and they left behind clues about their life at Strawtown Koteewi Park. Artifacts dating to the end of the most recent ice age have been recovered from park property. The Paleo Indians were nomadic hunters and gatherers that tracked large game animals like mammoths and mastodons. It is possible that these animals are responsible for the creation of a game trail that traveled through what is now Strawtown Koteewi Park. Remains of those ancient mammals have been unearthed near to the park's boundaries.

Fast forward to the Woodland Era (1000 B.C. and 1400 A.D.) and you will see Native Americans villages and crops of corn. The Oliver Phase Native Americans were Indiana's some of Indiana’s first farmers. The Oliver settled at Strawtown Koteewi between 1250 A.D. and 1400 A.D. Archaeological findings helped highlight the fact that the Oliver peoples had a complex village and lived rich and meaningful lives.

Early Trails

The early trails in central Indiana came together at Strawtown. The Lafayette Trace route went directly through the park and was highly traveled by Native Americans and early settlers. It was a game trail and trace route and eventually transformed into a trade route as well. Additionally, Conner trail came through Strawtown and was a frequently traveled trail. It originated in the Cincinnati area and headed north to Strawtown and then south towards Indianapolis.

Koteewi is the Miami Native American word for "prairie or fire.

The Lenape inhabited this area after being forcibly removed from Ohio around 1795. This area was the hunting grounds for the Miami Tribe and the Lenape were invited by the Miami to settle here.

The Lenape resettled in villages along the White River including areas near present Strawtown Koteewi Park. They established villages and spent time fishing, hunting, and farming. Some of the first Europeans to arrive where traders. The Europeans traded with the Lenape offering glass beads, steel knives, axes, hatchets, blankets, alcohol, and money for the natives' fur pelts, maple sugar, syrup, woven baskets, and beaded moccasins. Native Americans were experienced at creating fur pelts and provided superior quality fur.

The Lenape were farmers. Corn was their main crop, but they also farmed beans, pumpkins, squash, and tobacco. The first European settlers arrived in this area in 1818 and many more came after that. Unlike the early European fur traders, the new settlers were interested in settling the area and creating their own farms. The Treaty of St. Mary's once again called for the Lenape to vacate their new lands, this time by 1821.

Early Hamilton County

In 1823 Hamilton County was created by the Indiana State Legislators made up of 2 townships: Delaware consisting of the Southern half and White River being the Northern half. Strawtown is one of the oldest towns in Hamilton County. On July 27, 1836 Bicknell Cole and William Conner recorded the 1st plat of Strawtown, even though the name had been used prior but did not have any record.

Strawtown Growth

Many settlers came to the area due to the farmland and ease of travel. The town began to thrive, and additions were made. The first school opened in the winter of 1822 and was a cabin on the Michael French farm north of Strawtown. Additions to the town included the school, church, tavern, post office and general stores. Many of these buildings were torn down in the 1930's due to the poor structural quality. It is rumored that Strawtown was considered to become the state capitol since that area was highly traveled by settlers.

In the 1840's and 1850's the town stopped growing due to the alternate means of transportation. Railroads were a huge development and the use of the trails around Strawtown ceased. The cities that were closest to railroads prospered, while Strawtown was 4 miles from the nearest railroad.

Strawtown Koteewi Park Today

Anytime is a good time to visit Strawtown Koteewi Park. With eight miles of hiking/biking trails, opportunities to horseback ride, snow tubing in the winter, archery year round, an aerial ropes course adventure, a beautiful restored prairie, a museum center dedicated to the rich and deep history of the land and bordered by over three miles of the White River - there is so much to see and do! 

The Taylor Center of Natural History

The Taylor Center of Natural History was named after the former landowner and opened in 2005 to serve as an educational and interpretive centerpiece of the park. The facility includes an exhibit area showcasing information on the park and archaeological finds, a classroom for educating student and visitor groups, a laboratory to clean and catalog artifacts, and a curation room and research headquarters. All archaeological resources on display have been gathered by professional archaeologists and have been obtained following Indiana State Law.

Koteewi Trace

Koteewi Trace is an outdoor interpretive exhibit with life sized replica structures of Native American Dwellings and a mock archaeological excavation.

Park Amenities

The parks development has included restoration of 400 acres of native prairie, trails, the Taylor Center of Natural History, Koteewi Trace, canoe launch, Koteewi Range (a sport and target archery center) Koteewi Aerial Adventure (a tree top trails adventure). Koteewi Equine Experience (an equestrian adventure), Koteewi Run (seasonal slopes, snow tubing hill) and a 19 acre recreational lake, Koteewi Lake.