Ohio History Connection Fights Country Club for Control of Ancient Earthworks

Ohio History Connection Fights Country Club for Control of Ancient Earthworks

A fierce legal battle is underway between the Ohio History Connection (OHC) and a local country club over the control of prehistoric Native American earth mounds.

These mounds, located at the UNESCO World Heritage Octagon Earthworks site, are culturally significant and comparable to Stonehenge.

However, the Moundbuilders Country Club has maintained a golf course on this historic site for over a century, leading to a contentious dispute over its future.

Origins of the Conflict

The conflict centers around the OHC’s desire to reopen the Octagon Earthworks to the public.

This site, which the club has leased for 114 years, includes a golf course constructed around the sacred mounds.

The club and the OHC are unable to agree on a fair price to end the lease, with the club claiming that the OHC either lacks the funds or the willingness to provide adequate compensation for their relocation.

Historical and Cultural Significance

The Octagon Earthworks, spanning 50 acres, were built between 1 and 400 AD. They served multiple purposes, including as a cathedral, cemetery, and astronomical observatory, and hold historical and archaeological significance equivalent to Machu Picchu.

John Low, a citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, compared the situation to having a mini-golf course inside Stonehenge, emphasizing the inappropriateness of the current use of the site.

Country Club’s Perspective

The Moundbuilders Country Club, a beloved community institution, argues that it has provided care and protection for the mounds over the years.

The club’s golf course, which includes holes set around the ancient monuments, has attracted thousands of visitors.

Golfers have even nicknamed the largest mound “Big Chief.” Despite this, Native American representatives have long criticized the club, likening it to placing a country club on the Acropolis.

The Legal Battle

The legal battle began when the OHC sought to terminate the club’s lease to “operate, protect, maintain, restore and share access to this Indigenous wonder.”

According to a 2022 legal document, the OHC accused the club of increasingly denying public access over the past 15 to 20 years, either directly or through inconvenient maintenance schedules.

The club, however, denies these claims, asserting that it has consistently maintained and protected the mounds.

Financial Implications

The financial stakes are high. The club initially requested $12 million for relocation, citing the need to pay off its debt and establish a new facility of equal value.

An independent appraisal, however, valued the compensation at $800,000, which the OHC offered.

This significant discrepancy has led to a prolonged court battle, with an upcoming jury trial set to determine the lease’s value and the payment amount.

Community Impact

The potential closure of the Moundbuilders Country Club could have widespread effects on the local community.

David Kratoville, the president of the club’s board of trustees, highlighted the club’s role as a social hub, with amenities including a brick clubhouse, swimming pool, and 18-hole golf course.

The club supports local high school golf teams and hosts a summer swim club open to non-members, making it an integral part of the community.

OHC’s Commitment

Despite the legal hurdles, the OHC remains committed to ensuring full public access to the Octagon Earthworks.

They emphasize their intent to provide fair market value for the lease, allowing the country club to relocate.

However, Kratoville pointed out the complexities involved in finding a new location, with varying costs dependent on the site.

He stressed that the amount paid would determine whether the Moundbuilders Country Club can relocate or if it will cease to exist after 114 years.


The ongoing legal dispute between the Ohio History Connection and the Moundbuilders Country Club underscores the challenge of balancing cultural preservation with modern recreational use.

As the case moves towards a resolution, the outcome will significantly impact both the preservation of a site of immense historical value and the future of a longstanding community institution.

The trial’s result will determine whether the ancient mounds can be fully celebrated and protected or if the golf course will continue to occupy this sacred space.

TDPel Media

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