Expedition Team: Dave Miller, Jacque Miller

The City of Moraine celebrated its 50th Birthday in 2015 (1965-2015). Moraine City Manager David Hicks asked my wife and I to chair a committee to plan and administer monthly special events, programs and projects throughout 2015 which we were honored to do.

Throughout my life while traveling I enjoyed reading Ohio (and other states) Historical Markers along the highway. With Moraine’s rich history, I decided to research, write and install ten Moraine Historical Markers as one of the “Moraine 50th Anniversary Projects”. Three of the ten markers dealt with the Wright Brothers as they had a strong presence in Moraine. This adventure was to find the famous “Pinnacles”.

In 1897 leading minds who dreamed of man flying argued what was most important – power or control. Wilbur Wright believed it was control. Every summer in 1898 when the weather was good the Wright Brothers bicycled south from Dayton to a popular, yet secluded picnic area called “The Pinnacles”, a cliff and gorge above the Miami River with large, unique boulders and strange geologic formations created during the ice age. (By the way, the City of Moraine got its name because moraine means the dirt, rock and gravel pushed along and left after a glacier). Ranging 60 to 80 feet high, the Pinnacles created updrafts that attracted buzzards and other birds providing an ideal observation area for the Wrights to study the mechanics of flight. Wilbur would lay and use binoculars to study the larger birds flying and turning. By the end of the summer of 1898, he determined his wing-warping theory here in Moraine based upon his observations of the birds twisting their wing tips.

City of Moraine employees Kim Wallace and Aaron Vietor helped on additional research and finding vintage photos. Six photos taken by Orville & Wilbur Wright in 1898 exist although one is of poor quality and a second photo shows a bridge behind the Pinnacles which is the basis of another expedition. The four main photos are shown below. See the detailed description on each photo. Written articles and diary records mentioned an area of the Pinnacles called the “Devils Backbone”. I remember in the mid 1970’s swinging on a tire swing and climbing trees in the woods that the locals called the Devils Backbone. Using this as a reference point plus the four vintage photos, I did four solo expeditions along hiking trails and deer trails in that area during the spring of 2015. Still, I was not convinced of the location.

As Aaron, Kim and I re-examined the photos and debated the location, the answer can to me. The water in photo #2 & #3 was not the Miami River but was the stagnant pond (Visible to the right in Photo#2) between the Pinnacle cliffs to the north and the railroad tracks and river to the south. Expedition #5 in May 2015 proved it and I discovered the exact location. I could sit at the top of the Pinnacle cliff and feel the cool updrafts hitting my face and see birds rising on the current. Below me the pond was still there but after 117 years, hundreds of trees and bushes had grown in the shallow pond which disguised it from that 1898 photo. Sadly, the weird geological shaped formation in photo #1 (with Wilbur Wright standing by it) has eroded away.

My daughter Jacque joined me on Expedition #6, and we tried to take photos at the Pinnacles at the same location that the Wright Brothers did. To me, it is unbelievable that this famous location is only one mile south from where I live and is one half mile north of where I worked all those years at Splash Moraine Waterpark/Moraine Recreation Center.

The Moraine Historical Marker for “The Pinnacles” is located along Main Street beside the Main Street Bike Trail.  Volunteers and I are developing the 1.1 mile “Wright Brothers Pinnacles Hiking Trail” which we hope to have completed by 2022.

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