You are here

Bluffton Forever: Why flagstone walls on the Riley near Harmon Field?

By Fred Steiner

Imagine a mysterious Bluffton location partially under water.

Stand near the entrance to Steinmetz Field. Turn toward Harmon Field. Take about a dozen steps toward the creek.

There you will discover the remnants of a dam. That dam backed up the creek, but not anymore. Instead, it simply creates a mysterious Bluffton location.

Today the dam is just an impediment in the stream. However, on the Harmon Field side of the stream stand the remains of a very well-constructed flagstone wall. The wall on the Steinmetz Field side lost its battle with nature years ago.

Why is there a dam? Why a flagstone wall? Who built these structures and when?

By definition, Bluffton’s places of mystery involve unexplained human-constructed features on our otherwise familiar landscape. They exist today like the statues of Easter Island.

This partially underwater site fits our list.

To fully appreciate this site, imagine Bluffton one century ago when this was a pretty interesting place.

Here’s the story:

In the past century the village has operated five separate swimming pools. Don’t be disappointed if you can only identify two of these pools. Our mysterious site dates back to the late 1920s and 1930s. For almost 10 years this was Bluffton’s swimming pool.

Lifeguards included Carl Smucker, Evan Soash, Garfield Griffith, Maynard Coon and Bob Schaublin. This is according to Herb Conrad and Jean Szabo, who talked about the pool in an interview conducted in 1980.

The pool had two flagstone walls and a dam. The dam controlled the water level, creating the perfect community-built swimming hole.

The dam had a gate, controlling water depth. The dam, however, trapped silt traveling down the Riley. Eventually, the area became too muddy for decent swimming, according to Forrest Steinman, also interviewed in 1980s.

The Riley Creek pool was abandoned and replaced with a new and improved “floating pool” located on the Main Street side of the Buckeye in the late 1930s. More on that mysterious object later.

As years passed, the dam disintegrated, swimmers grew up, and the town forgot and moved on.

On your visit to this mysterious Bluffton location don’t be surprised if you hear the sounds of water splashing, divers showing off and life guards whistles wafting through the breeze. Those sounds and images come with the territory.

For the complete story and photographs visit