Mound Builders.America is called the New World because of its discovery by Europeans, but ethnologists and antiquarians claim that it is also an old world and had an ancient civilization, proved by the prehistoric works and remains, left by a people called mound builders, who once inhabited the western continent. Some ethnologists believe that this race in North America inhabited that portion of the United States which lies between the Appalachians and the Rocky mountains, and it is true that the greatest evidence of ancient life has been found there, but Dr. Brinton in his "The American Race" divides the country where these ancient people lived into five sections: the Isthmian, the Mexican and Central American, the Pueblo (which includes New Mexico, Arizona and portions of Nevada, Utah and Colorado), the California, and the distinctly mound building section "embracing that part of the United States and the adjoining portion of the Dominion of Canada, east of the Rocky mountains. The northern boundary is, as yet, wholly conjectural, but it is quite probable that it extends farther toward the northwest than toward the northeast."
The archeological remains of the fifth section, which covers most of the United States, show well defined lines. The chief one reaches from New York through Ohio along the Ohio river and onward in the same general direction to the northeast portion of Texas; the second follows the Mississippi river; a third extends from the Wabash river to the head waters of the Savannah river; and the fourth crosses southern Michigan and Wisconsin. While the lines follow the rivers, and the banks of the Mississippi river abound in prehistoric remains from Lake Pepin to the mouth of the Red river, indicating that this was a favorite dwelling place of the ancient inhabitants, the mounds themselves refute the idea that waterways were lines of migration, except for short distances, migration taking place across rather than up and down streams. The longest stretch of works apparently by one people are found on the west bank of the Missisippi river from Dubuque, Iowa, to the mouth of the Des Moines river.
After much study of the different mounds, ethnologists have come to the conclusion that the mound builders belonged to several different races, tribes or nations. It is demonstrated by their earthworks that these people differed in customs, habits, arts and beliefs to such an extent as to be clearly shown in different mounds and classes of mounds. It is now believed that the mound builders were a comparatively sedentary people, occupying the same areas for considerable lengths of time. The great number of monuments afford proof that the builders occupied their respective districts for a long time.
The place where the works of the mound builders are most numerous are the valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and in Tennessee. In Ohio alone have been found 10,000 burial mounds and about 1,500 inclosures or village sites, some of considerable size. In one series of works there are 20 miles of enbankments. Walls 20 or 30 feet high, enclosing from 30 to 100 acres, and pyramids 100 feet high, covering as many as 16 acres have been discovered.
In different districts the earthworks vary in character. Emblematic mounds are found in great numbers in Wisconsin, and a few have been found in eastern Iowa and southern Minnesota along the Mississippi river. These mounds resemble the wild animals and birds formerly abounding in the territory, and are generally located on hill tops, overlooking the streams or lakes. Some of the most remarkable of these are the bird mound at Prairie du Chien and the famous elephant mound in Grant county, Wis. There are also other extensive earthworks and burial mounds in Wisconsin, from which flints and pottery have been taken.
The second district is characterized by burial mounds or ordinary tumuli, and are often called prairie mounds. They are found in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Dakota, Missouri and parts of Kansas. This section seems to have been occupied by mound builders who were migratory, as they built no walled defenses. The most common relics are spear and arrow heads, knives and axes.
The third district belongs to the military class of mound builders and embraces the region of the hill country of New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, extending along the shore of Lake Erie into Michigan. The works in this section were for defense and show that the inhabitants were a warlike people.
The fourth district, situated along the Ohio valley, is characterized by what are called "sacred enclosures," or village enclosures. The works most characteristic are the circle, square and octagon. In some places the ancient works are very elaborate systems covering a great amount of land, one of the largest and most interesting being near Newark, Ohio. The fifth district is along the Atlantic coast, but is marked by no distinctive class of works. The sixth district lies south of the Ohio river, between it and the Cumberland and the Tennessee rivers. The seventh district adjoins the sixth and the works are similar, but on lower ground, where great numbers of the mound builders lived. The peculiarity of this region consists of the great number of pyramids, conical mounds and lodge circles within the enclosures. Great quantities of pottery have also been found in this district.
Many evidences that an ancient race once inhabited a part of the state have been found in Kansas. Three miles north of Neodosha, on the Verdigris river, a village site and fort have been discovered. The lodge sites occupy a considerable area and the village seems to have been important, for no other village of such size has been found in the same section of the country. It is believed that the inhabitants were known for great distances, as flint implements of many varieties and colors have been found there, differing from others found in the same region. Stone mauls, flint arrow points, shells, hammers, rubbing stones, scrapers, pitted stones, and other objects have also been discovered. The fort, situated on the high ground, is almost that of a horse shoe in form, with the opening toward the east.
In Riley county, on Wild Cat creek, a stream emptying into the Kansas above Manhattan, village sites have been discovered. There are elevations where the earth lodges stood, flint fragments, broken pottery, scrapers, arrow and spear heads, but the ruins indicate that the seat was only temporary and not occupied for any great length of time.
On the Republican river burial mounds are found on the bluffs near Broughton, and a number have been located on the bluffs south of that town. Several have been discovered on Madison creek, 2 miles above Milford, and on the Kansas river near Ogden over 100 burial mounds have been located. Those opened were found to contain ornaments, charred bones and occasionally spear heads. The largest mounds nearly always contain spear points, scrapers, stone and shell beads. Some of the largest and most interesting mounds in Kansas have been discovered near Edwardsville, Wyandotte county. They are situated about a half-mile from the Kansas river, but indications show that they were formerly on the bank of the ancient river. There are five of them, each about 5 feet high and 25 feet in diameter, and are situated about 50 feet from each other. Before the land was cleared the mounds were covered by oak trees 3 or 4 feet in diameter, indicating great age. Axes, celts, arrow heads and other implements have been found in the vicinity of the mounds.
About a mile north of Kansas City, Kan., the remains of an aboriginal workshop or village have been discovered. The location is on a small stream, called Jersey creek. The village site covers about two acres; the soil is sandy and to a depth of two feet is a mixture of flakes of flint, ashes, bones and unfinished stone implements of various descriptions. The fragments of pottery found are very numerous and are of three colorsblack, brown and red. The vessels are usually globular in shape and are composed of clay, sand and pounded shells.
Two mounds have been explored on the Walnut river in Cowley county. They are 30 feet in diameter, 18 inches high at the present time, and are located some 30 rods apart. Originally they were 3 or 4 feet high. Upon digging into them, bones, potsherds, charcoal, jasper chips, arrow points and grinding stones were found at a depth of 6 feet or 2 feet below the original level of the earth.
On the summit of the bluff along Wolf creek in Coffey county, many stone heaps have been found that contain shells of mollusca, such as now live in the Neosho river, which at the present time is a mile away. At the foot of the bluff many arrow heads have been unearthed. A possible crematory was also discovered and a few knives and arrow heads have been found. The ashes, bones, pottery and other relics were all discovered a few feet below the surface and over the site oak trees 3 or 4 feet in diameter were growing. Another village site was discovered near Lindsborg, where various kinds of flints were found. In Morris county a hearth was discovered at a depth of 15 feet, resting on a ledge of rock lower than the present bed of the river, and from above the hearth an oak tree 3 feet in diameter had grown. A large shell heap has been discovered near Marion Center, Marion county, while in Leavenworth county six mounds "in a line about 30 feet apart," were found on Pilot Knob Ridge near Fort Leavenworth. All of these remains give proof that the mound builders in Kansas belonged to that class of ancient people called prairie mound builders, who were migratory in their habits and left no walled defenses.Pages 325-328 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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