By Janet Dodrill
Squaw Rock by Henry Church Jr. 1885, ink sketch by Janet Dodrill.
On a walk down a path at the South Chagrin Reservation known as Squaw Rock sits a mammoth-sized rock on the bank of the Chagrin River that was carved by an artist in1885. That artist was self-taught Henry Church Jr. (1836-1908), American primitive painter and sculptor, but blacksmith by profession, from Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Squaw Rock’s formal name is ‘The Rape of the Indian Tribes by the White Man’ and it stands 30 feet high. The carving includes a woman (squaw) surrounded by a snake, a baby (papoose), skeleton, eagle, shield, flag, hatchet, arrows, and dog.
I read somewhere once that Henry used to secretly travel to the carving site by night, working by lantern, in hopes that the rock would be ‘discovered’ one day and believed to be carved by Indians, but I cannot locate the posting again to support this.
In recent years it has been vandalized and damaged. The squaw’s face and breasts have been defaced, and nature has taken its course and the stone face has deteriorated. After Church died, WPA (Works Project Administration) built a base under the rock to protect it from the river. I remember going there as a child, and even though my father was an avid photographer then and I so in more recent years, we have no early photographs, or any for that matter, of the rock at all.
In 1999 I visited the rock and did this ink sketch, as a result of an organized ‘hike and sketch’ event by the parks, which I participated in with my later mother and father who also appreciated his work.
Church carved a lion with a lamb for his own funeral stone, which is currently on long-term loan at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and pre-recorded his own funeral sermon on a wax gramophone cylinder. Though most of his painting were destroyed by his daughter after his death, he is also known for his painting The Monkey Picture (28″ x 44″, oil on paper, mounted on oil cloth, 1895-1900) which is on permanent collection at Abbey Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center.
The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
Antiques & Fine Art Magazine (The Monkey Picture)
The Sculpture Center, Outdoor Ohio Sculpture Inventory
Photos of Squaw Rock:
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio
CarCow.com, The Famous Squaw Rock
South Chagrin Reservation, Cleveland Metroparks