Okay, here’s a mystery that needs an answer. Or maybe a couple. It seems that back in the 1800’s when Toledo city workers were doing some excavating along Monroe Street in the downtown area, they came across an ancient stone carving. It was the carving of face and it appeared to those who saw it to be the face of an early Native American, or a person with “thick lips and round face”who was deemed to be one of the “ancient” pre-historic people, known as mound builders.
This little gem has come my way from a book given to me by a friend who found the 1922 book it in a garage sale near Dayton. The book is entitled “Memories” by Dr. Cyrus Noble of Toledo who practiced medicine in the early part of the 20th century in Toledo and Wood County.
Dr. Noble was also a poet and observer of life in the area and his poems reflect on a number of local stories that piqued his curiosity and interest. In “Memories” he writes fondly of the famed “Indian Elm” in Maumee. A giant among trees where Indians reportedly perched to take aim at soldiers across the Maumee River at Ft. Meigs. Dr. Noble also waxes lyrically about a variety of topics, but the one that snared my curiosity was the story of the “Great Stone Face”. There wasn’t much of a narrative about it, but there was a photo of it, presumably where it was exhibited for years inside of the now-forgotten Dixon Inn in Toledo’s old Tenderloin District. The Dixon Inn had been a brothel at one time, amid the clutter of the “sin zone” but after the Tenderloin was closed down in 1918, the Dixon Inn stayed open as a hotel, inn and boarding house, and more importantly – a very strange museum. I have written about the Dixon Inn before in the Gazette, and its odd collection of bizarre artifacts, from shrunken heads to ancient battle weapons. But the “Great Stone Face” is the stand out among the collection, for if it is truly an artifact of ancient heritage, it conjures a list of questions, the first being how it came rest 20 feet below the surface of earth in the area of downtown Toledo? One might wonder what else is still down there to be discovered? If there are any folks who can offer some educated speculation as to the origin of this “face” or any other information about it, please share them with us. My search efforts to excavate more about information regarding the “face” have turned up nothing specific, but other stories regarding carvings found in other areas of the country.
In fact, the discovery of human effigy artifacts from the “mounds” in Ohio and other Midwest sites in Illinois and the Mississippi Valley are well established, but Toledo was not known for an abundance of such mound building activity, although, there were, as I have read, some small “mounds” discovered in the downtown area near the river upon arrival of the first pioneers to the area. So how did this carving get to Toledo. It was offered by some that it could have been transported here centuries ago from another area and left with those ancients living on the Maumee River.
When looking at the photo of this particular “stone face” at the Dixon Inn, it does not resemble the others I have seen, but looks more “finished” or finely sculpted. Thus, some shades of skepticism darken my door of belief. What do you think? Where would it have come from? How did it get to Toledo, and what ever happened to it? I have found from a newspaper reference that it was part of the Dixon collection that was auctioned at the Dixon Inn around 1925 after the owner died.
The Great Stone Face of Toledo seems to have disappeared in the past century, leaving me to wonder whether the carving was really the product of someone perpetrating a hoax and merely had been the handiwork of a con artist or someone with a sense of history and humor. That is certainly possible and let’s face it, the Dixon Inn was not exactly the Smithsonian. Despite the questions and the doubts, Dr. Noble seemed convinced of its historic gravity and message when he penned his poem in 1920, about Toledo’s Great Stone Face.
If the veil of mystery,
were rent so I could see,
I could talk to the Great Stone Face,
and it could talk to me.
To tell me of the ages past,
of all the great unknown–
and about the Master Hand
that made it in the stone,
And of the mighty ruler,
in whose image it was made,
How it t’was worshiped as a god,
through many a decade.
How before some temple door,
t’was strewn with flowers and kisses
It saw the strife of human life,
And heard its howls and Hisses;
Then watched earth drink up the blood,
of men of might and brains
It saw the traitors slay their kings
To grasp the ruler’s reins
For centuries this face held sway,
above some sacred mound,
until a conquering army came,
and dragged it to the ground.
Its friends, by night, had stole away
And brought it over land,
with stealth and pride,
they buried it beneath the Maumee’s sand.
Then all the history of its past
Was plunged into the dark,
No doubt t’was safely hidden there
when Noah built his ark.
A modern city rose Above its resting place;
Men who delved into the ground
Came to this wondrous face.
They brought it once more to light,
where the curious could gaze,
and ponder over its handiwork of men of other days.
Perhaps a thousand years from now,
when this fair city’s gone,
Art and Science once more lost,
as time keeps marching on,
and as other cities rise again,
this stone face will be found,
To prove that the greatest of all men
Now sleep beneath the ground.