One hundred and thirty years ago, a recreational hike through what is now Za-
leski State Forest would’ve been an unquiet tour of Ohio’s early industry. Lo-
comotives whistled and chugged from settlement to settlement, wagon wheels
creaked and thumped along dirt roads, great iron smelting furnaces roared,
and axes whacked at timber for fuel and building material.
Today, nearly everything that was built, right down to the railroad’s ties
and tracks, is gone. The small settlement of Ingham Station vanished years
ago. All that’s left of Moonville is the nearby
B&O tunnel. The settlement of Hope has all but
disappeared not once but twice, first as Hope,
and then, after the furnace was shut down, as
Hope Station a short distance away.
No wonder that the forest, once home to so
many, is rumored to be haunted by ghosts.
Spirits of those early pioneers may or may
not roam the area, but hikers along Zaleski’s 25
miles of trails can glimpse traces of the work
their pioneer spirit left behind.
Hikers should begin at the ruins of Hope Fur-
nace across SR 278 from the trailhead parking
lot. The ruins date back to the Civil War when
the region, known as the Hanging Rock Iron Re-
gion, was a smelting center for the Union Army. Iron drove the economy of
Southeastern Ohio until the turn of the 20th century and nothing shaped Za-
leski State Forest more.
For miles around, the ridges and hollows were chopped bare of trees to
keep the furnace fires burning. Settlements sprang up, which brought the
railroad, which brought more settlers, who began farming the deforested land.
Coal seams were discovered by surveyors for the railroad and drift mines
were opened into the barren hillsides.
These developments resulted in soil erosion, sedimentation of water ways,
and acid runoff. The Federal Government stepped in during the 1930s and
launched the Resettlement Administration Program in order to repair the dam-
age done. The maturing second-growth forest is the result of that program.