1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Kansas Archaeology Part 1

KANSAS ARCHAEOLOGY

BY GEO. P. MOREHOUSE

Few states or localities on earth have turned up more ancient evidences of a land and region of remote antiquity than Kansas. It is well known that quite a part of Central and Western Kansas was once covered by a great inland sea, in which lived huge pre-historic monsters of the type of the ichthyosaurus, pterodactyle, and large sharks and fishes. Gigantic land animals thrived upon a luxuriant vegetation, as proven by the enormous teeth, bones, and entire skeletal remains of the mastodon and megatherium type. Some of these wonderful specimens are preserved in our Kansas museums and many others have been taken to enrich the collections in eastern universities.

After examining a fossil fish sent to him from Hamilton County, Chancellor Snow said: "Your fine fish probably lived and died when what is now Hamilton County, now more than 3,000 feet above the present sea level, was under the salt water ocean. Remains of fishes, sharks, and great sea monsters are found abundantly in the rocks of Western Kansas, especially along the banks of the Smoky Hill River and its branches. The Rocky Mountains were not upheaved when your fish lived and died."

Whether man lived in eastern part of Kansas during the age above mentioned by Chancellor Snow is not known, but we do know, from the labors of our few but patient Kansas archaeologists, types of humanity have lived in this state for many, many hundreds of years.

Archaeology, in its more limited sense, and as generally treated, means anthropology; as it refers to the concerns and work of the prehistoric natives of our nation and state prior to discovery and exploration by the whites. It thus is the study of mankind from the beginningback to a period of time, when his doings were not recorded in the writings of modern historians. All prior to this is "pre-historic"; for, while some of the American aboriginals had and have historical tradition and even some crude written records, yet they are so brief, vague and fragmentary, that they are not accepted as genuine history.

The united efforts of the archaeologists and geologists of Europe have brought to light interesting facts regarding the primeval inhabitants of that country. In like manner, the study and exploration of our western country will add many interesting chapters to our knowledge of ancient Kansas. Right here within the domains of this central state, midway between the oceans, Great Lakes and Gulf, where crossed the pre-historic highways of ancient commerce, is one of the richest archaeological fields and one which has only been imperfectly explored.

The idea which many have had, including our early Kansas historians, that "Kansas cannot boast of a remote antiquity, that her soil never became the scenes of stirring events until of late years" - as one of them once wrote - is far from correct. Our historical writers have been kept so busy with the known, active, throbbing life of the state during its period of conquest, its border and Indian warfare, its Civil war agitation and its modern development and progress, that they have neglected the investigation of the things which archaeology is bringing to light.

While few, if any, commonwealths have paid more attention to its known history during its formative period and development, yet, Kansas has taken but little interest in its pre-historic annals as recorded in the testimony of the rocks and the many relies found in its ancient river beds, its mounds, and in its many Indian village sites. But now that the state has become rich and prosperous, it has more time to devote to those arts and sciences, which, while not considered necessary, add much to the general intelligence and the state pride of its citizens.

The early neglect, under state authority, to explore and gather archaeological relics has been unfortunate, for skilled parties from other states have come here and developed many inviting fields and taken thousands of priceless relies to distant states and museums.

Mr. J. V. Brower, of St. Paul, Minnesota, who conducted extensive explorations for several years, subsequent to 1896, along the Kansas Valley and some of its tributaries, took from the 100 or more village sites explored nearly 10,000 specimens to the museum of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Had the Kansas authorities encouraged and worked in conjunction with Mr. Brower, this fine collection and other fruits of his labors might have been saved to the state. While the State Historical Society has, during the years, become possessed of numerous and rare archaeological specimens, it could have had many times more by proper attention. Until recently, it has taken little interest in the matter, but is now prepared to build up a great museum along this line.

At the nineteenth biennial session, Secretary William E. Connelly presented the matter of the need of an archaelogical department section. This was followed by the appointment of an archaelogical committee, composed of the following persons: Geo. P. Morehouse, chairman; Mark E. Zimmerman, of White Cloud; George J. Remsburg, of Potter; Allen Jesse Reynolds, of Ottawa; Christian Bernhardt, of Lincoln; John J. Arthur, of Topeka; and John T. Keagy, of Alma. This committee is doing much to encourage the owners of small collections of relics to donate them to the society's museum, where they will be properly preserved and displayed, and also to induce those having large collections to hold them in trust for the state to which they really belong.

A few years ago, a rare Aztec chart of great age was found among the remnants of the Kansa or Kaw Indians by Geo. P. Morehouse, their official historian. It is one of the most interesting hieroglyphical scroll records ever found regarding the Aztecs, and is clearly wrought upon a sort of fibre cloth eighteen feet long by eight inches wide. Upon it is traced hundreds of characters, emblems, sign and miniature pictures, symbols of wars, battles, victories, defeats, councils and courts with a chronological calculation running along the narrative. Harvard professors say that it is a record of 200 years of the history of the Aztec people, after they left that unknown island of the Aztlan, from which they came to Mexico. But how and when did the Kansa Indians find this prehistoric document and why did they keep it for generations among the sacred and prized relies of the tribe?

When did mankind first inhabit Kansas or the regions contiguous to it, will always be an interesting question for the scientist. Until the past few years, it has been considered that the immediate ancestors of some of our known Indian tribes were our first settlers - say within 4 or 500 years. That far back is proven from the testimony of the earliest Spanish and French explorers, who - during the period of Cabeza de Vaca in 1536; Coronado in 1541; Onate in 1601; Marquette in 1673; Dutisne in 1719 ; Bourgmont in 1724; Jesuit Fathers as early as 1727; - found by personal exploration or from information, that Indians were then inhabiting what is now Kansas, during those dates. Of course, the first coming of man to this state was long prior to those above dates; for, some of those explorers found the Indian fairly well established along certain of our river valleys, where it was then evident they had lived for many years.

But within a few years past, discoveries have been made which throw new light upon the antiquity of man in Kansas, and seem to prove that he was here many thousands of years ago. In 1902, the scientists of the world were startled by the discovery of the skeleton of the "Lansing man" which was unearthed near Lansing, Leavenworth County, while some parties were digging a deep tunnel. It was found far below a stratum of earth and rock, imbedded in river loess. Eminent scientists from various parts of the United States critically explored the location of the relic and reported thereon. They found that the probable age of this remarkable find was from 10,000 to 35,000 years old. From other discoveries, it is almost certain that man lived within the present borders of our state as far back as the Glacial period - possibly before.

The more thorough explorations will probably reveal - if it has not already done so - the relics of man along with that of the extinct animals found in the ancient glacial drifts of Eastern Kansas and in the beds of our pre-historic seas in the western part of the state.

It is now an accepted fact that men were living in the Mississippi Valley and along its tributaries when the mastodon and the elephant lived in and browsed upon its forests, and in New Jersey when the walrus and reindeer from Greenland reached that far south.

Relics of mankind and extinct animals are found in the gold bearing gravels of California and Colorado; and right near us in Nebraska arrow and spear points are found from fifteen to twenty feet below the ground surface, and in the loess covering the ancient lake beds of our neighboring state, mixed with the bones of the early American elephant.

Years ago (1880), the Scientific American in commenting upon a report of Judge E. P. West regarding archaeological explorations in Kansas said:

It presents a large amount of evidence to show that at a remote period that region was peopled by a race with which the mound builders must be accounted modern. . . . Prior to the drift epoch the river channels were deeper than now and the river valleys were lower. Subsequently the valleys were filled by lucustrine deposit of considerable depth. In or beneath this deposit the remains of an extinct race occur. Here we have a buried race enwrapped in a profound and startling mystery - a race whose appearance and exit in the world's drama precede stupendous changes marking our continent, and which perhaps require hundreds of thousands of years for their accomplishment. The prize is no less than determining when this mysterious people lived, how they lived, when they passed out of existence, and why they became extinct.

The explorations referred to were principally along the second bottom or terraces of the Kansas Valley in Douglas, Pottawatomie, Riley, Dickinson and Ellsworth counties, - also in the counties of Marion and Lincoln, in which the digging of wells and other excavations, stone and flint artifacts, bones and bone implements, pottery and other relics of man were found from twenty to thirty feet below the present surface of the ground. The age of these relics and the race using them has been placed just after the glacial epoch and before the deposit of the loess accumulations.

One of the prolific sources of information regarding pre-historic Kansas comes from the relics of various kinds found in the numerous mounds which have been discovered and explored by our local archaeologists. While the mounds and also those numberless stone, flint and bone artifacts found upon the sites of ancient Indian village sites were probably used by a race of men hundreds of years this side of those heretofore mentioned, yet their mute evidence is eloquent with facts touching their habits of life, their tribal relations and the extent of their travels and influence.

While the mound builders of Kansas were of a different type than those of Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin, nevertheless, in many respects their work is just as interesting and worthy of study.

There never was a systematic exploration of the known mound and ancient Indian village sites of Kansas, and a large part of those which were first noticed when the state was settled have been obliterated by the cultivation of the soil or by the acts of careless despoilers and most of the valuable relies were lost or scattered.

Thirty or forty years ago one or two of our educational institutions made some effort and about twenty years ago the Kansas Historical Society had a committee which tried to do some original work; but having no means to pay expenses did not go very far. The most systematic work ever done in the state was by some private parties from other states, - such as that by Prof. J. V. Brower of St. Paul, Minnesota, and most of what such expeditions found went to eastern museums.

One early Kansas enthusiast was Prof. J. A. Udden of Bethany College, at Lindsborg, who early in the '80s explored several mounds south of the Smoky Hill River and found numerous animal bones, hand grindstones, stone and flint weapons, - implements and pottery, - in all about 500 relics. The finding of a piece of Spanish chain mail made him think that the site was occupied as late as the earliest western exploration by the Spaniards of Coronado's time.

Two of the most successful recent Kansas archaeologists are George J. Remsburg, of Potter, Kansas, and Mark E. Zimmerman, of White Cloud. They have discovered and explored numerous pre-historic mounds and villages sites in Northeast Kansas and preserved large collections of fine relics. Most of their work has been in Doniphan, Atchison and Leavenworth counties and has been described in published articles. Among the numerous mounds examined by Mr. Remsburg were two upon the land of the late Senator John J. Ingalls, about five miles below Atchison on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, and Walnut Creek. One of these contained the remains of a dozen aboriginals. It was 15 feet in diameter, composed of alternate layers of stone and earth, with the bones, flint and pottery articles embedded in the earth layers. At Oak Mills, he found an extremely ancient and extensive cemetery and hundreds of flint and stone weapons, implements and potsherds.

The site of the main village of the "Quans" or the "Grande Village des Cansez" which was the famous capital of the Indian nation afterwards known as the Kansa, Kanses, Konzo, and by a hundred or more other names, had been a matter of doubt until Mr. Remsburg found it some years ago.

His proofs are conclusive that the Town of Doniphan in Atchison County stands upon the site of that ancient Indian settlement, which De Bourgmont visited in 1724 with his French expedition from New Orleans, and at that time found it to be a very old town site - probably being the site of an Indian town centuries before occupied by the Kansa nation.

Mark E. Zimmerman, of White Cloud, Doniphan County, heretofore mentioned, is doing much to clear up difficult pre-historic problems by his zealous archaeological study and explorations. He has made many original explorations of mounds and village sites and has an invaluable museum of relics as the fruit of his labors. He is a specialist upon the significance of the various types of burial mounds and pottery, as showing the movements of the ancient dwellers of this Western country. He claims that the stone cist or vault graves and the shell-tempered pottery, as found at the two ancient villages near the mouth of the Nemaha River, marks the western limit of the White Pani or Allegwi-Welsh Indians' habitat and where that interesting people made their last heroic stand and were exterminated by Siouan tribes. Mr. Zimmerman traces this people across the country from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to these places near the northeast corner of Kansas and where he and others have found much of the shell-tempered pottery, the cist graves and even in one mound some sixty specimens of the crania of the victims.

It is claimed, that in all the vast region between the Kansas River and the Mandan country of North Dakota, they were the only people who made that type of pottery and buried their dead in that manner.

A very old village site has been discovered about two miles south of Topeka, where many relics have been turned up during the past twenty or more years. Upon the recent clearing of an adjoining tract of timber land, Mr. John Arthur, a Topeka archaeologist, has recently found numerous fragments of an ancient type of pottery and there is evidence that these primitive people cultivated the sheltered bottoms along Shunganunga Creek.

In excavating for the abutments for a bridge on Clark's Creek, near Skiddy, Morris County, at the depth of about sixteen feet a sort of oven, fireplace or hearth of matched stones fitted together was uncovered some years ago. It rested upon a solid ledge or strata of rock, far below the present channel of the stream. On and around it were ashes, charcoal, bones, some flint artifacts and a small coin-shaped disk of metal like brass. Some seven or eight feet above the fireplace and about the same depth below the surface of the earth an oak-tree stump was found, where the tree had grown. It was a find that indicated great age.

About three miles north of Neodesha on the Verdigris River, the site of a pre-historic fort and village were found. It must have been a place of great importance, for nothing so extensive exists anywhere else in that part of the state. On the highest ground of the site two parallel lines of pits appear, the dirt from both lines having been thrown between the two lines of pits making an elevated ridge. The form of the fort is rather like a horseshoe, opening toward the east. Each of these pits were from one to two rods long. Many relics of flint and metal character have been found on this site.

Several mounds and ancient town sites near Lindsborg in McPherson County have yielded many specimens especially one situated between two never-failing streams. Many flint implements of various colors have been found, which indicate either conquest or barter with distant tribes.

Large quantities of buffalo bones have been dug up from this old site, and it would seem that the buffalo were their principal article of diet; also many specimens of pottery were recovered, indicating that the inhabitants were skilled in some of the arts.

Along several streams falling into the Kansas River from the south like Gypsum, Holland, Turkey, Lyon, Clarke and other creeks in McPherson, Saline, Dickinson, Morris and Geary counties, many pre-historic Indian villages flourished. From the fact that flint hoes, spades and other digging implements have been found, it is presumed that their ancient owners cultivated small tracts of land in the sheltered nooks of those streams.

Many old village sites have been found and explored along Wild Cat Creek in Riley County. When examined years ago, mounds of earth seemed to show where permanent earthen lodges once stood and many flint chips, knives, arrow and spear points have been gathered.

Near Broughton on the Republican River burial mounds were found along the bluffs, and also near Milford, on Madison Creek.

In Geary County, about three miles north of Alida, an interesting excavation of former days can be seen. It was no temporary camp for, after probably centuries have passed, it is a well-defined earthwork. There are eight or more lodge rings from 25 to 40 feet in diameter. Near by are numerous depressions, probably the caved-in remains of ancient caches. The site was naturally well fortified by being on high ground with the Republican Valley and River to the east, School Creek on the North and a deep depression on the west and must have been a noted stronghold.

Near Ogden, on the south side of the Kansas River, numerous burial mounds and evidences of ancient life have been found and explored, and large numbers of fine flint, bone and stone artifacts recovered, - all of which tell of the habits and customs of pre-historic Kansans.

On Walnut River in Cowley County, several mounds have been noticed, two of which were explored, and many articles found, such as grinding stones, bones, potsherds, charcoal, spear and arrow points. These were unearthed at a depth of six feet. These two mounds were 30 feet in diameter, originally 3 or 4 feet high and about 30 rods apart.

In Marion County, a large heap or mound of shells was found years ago; and on bluffs of Wolf Creek in Coffey County, numerous stone heaps have been found in which shells of muscles are mixed, such as are found so numerous in the Neosho River a mile away and which yield so many fine pearls even to this day. These heaps were possibly once covered with earth, which the elements have washed away. At the foot of the bluff, a probable crematory and many flint arrow points were found, - some of which with fragments of pottery were several feet below the surface where large oak trees 4 feet in diameter had grown.

In Leavenworth County, on Pilot Knob Ridge near the Fort, six mounds in a line and about thirty feet apart have been found.

Probably the largest remains of the mound builders in Kansas are the five or more mounds near Edwardsville, Wyandotte County. While they are now about a half-mile from the Kansas River, the indications are that they once stood upon the bank of the ancient Kaw, or some other stream.

These mounds are about 5 feet high, 25 feet in diameter and stand fifty feet apart. Before the ground was cleared, these mounds were hidden by a growth of large oak trees, and all the surroundings indicate an ancient piece of work. Many stone and flint implements have been found near this place.

The Kansas mound builders were more migratory than those east and left few, if any, remains of walled defenses. They might properly be termed prairie mound builders to designate them from those who left more pretentious works.

One of the very important and unique archaeological relics of "Life in Old Kansa," is the ruin of an old pueblo twelve miles north of Scott City, Scott County. It has been determined by several competent scientists that these ruins are the long lost remnants of the pueblo El Quartelejo, which were established about 1702 (some claim as early as 1650) by some adventurous Pueblo Indians from the Town of Picuries in New Mexico. Originally it was a stone and adobe building of 32 by 50 feet, and was divided into seven rooms.

Probably it was the first walled house ever constructed within the present borders of Kansas. In it were found stone, flint and bone implements, mealing stones, potsherds, a quantity of charred corn and other things used and found in an Indian pueblo of the Rio Grande, New Mexican type. Although most of the walls had been despoiled by early Scott County settlers, - who probably wanted the material - enough of the foundations remained in 1898 from which Profs. S. W. Winston and H. T. Martin of the Kansas University derived many interesting facts and recovered numerous relics. The result of their labors is found in The Kansas University Science Bulletin of October, 1909.

There is no evidence that Spaniards or other whites had anything to do with its construction or ever lived there, and it seems that the Pueblo Indian owners of El Quartelejo, were soon persuaded by the Governor of New Mexico to return to their former home.

The honor of establishing the first white settlement and governmental center within Kansas is with the French, who as early as 1727 maintained a Jesuit mission station and built a fort and trading post among the Kansa Indians on the Missouri River prior to 1757 and called it "Kansas." The ruins of this old French fort and post were seen by the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and are also described in Bougainville on French Forts and other early Canadian documents. (See History of Kansa or Kaw Nation.)

In Geary County, on a bluff overlooking the Republican Valley and about three and one-half miles northwest of Junction City, four mounds were discovered and opened in 1879 by Hon. John Davis, the owner of the land. They were arranged in a semi-circle eighty feet apart, - the largest being 30 feet in diameter and about 4 feet high and the others from 12 to 20 feet in diameter. They were mounds of sepulture, built of layers of stone and earth, and the remains of many bodies were found, which seemed to have been placed upon the original surface of the ground and the mounds built over them. Fragments of primitive pottery or urns with pipes, arrow and spear heads were found.

It would be interesting to know more about the original people who lived upon and around the old William Malotte farm a little east of White Church, in Wyandotte County; for, there, over an extensive area, an ancient Indian town flourished in pre-historic times. Probably several cultures of aboriginals occupied it at different periods, which accounts for the large variety of relics found thereon. The late George U. S. Hovey, of White Church, during his many years of activity, recovered hundreds of fine specimens from this site, most of which were included in his large collection now in the museum of the Kansas University.

Among the sites of ancient Indian towns of the pre-historic period which have yielded up innumerable stone and flint artifacts is the one at Diamond Springs in southwestern Morris County. This old site is known as the "Town of the Big Spring," for near its center an enormous spring of fine water bursts from the ground and makes a stream several feet wide. This site was discovered along in the '60s when the land of the David Rude farm was broken up. Since that time bushels of relics of stone and flint material have been recovered, but taken by so many people, no very complete collection has been kept together. This shows the unscientific method of many people, at different times, exploring a site.

Years ago, so much material was taken from this place that it was supposed to have been worked out; but, every year, as the soil is worn down, more relics are found. A workshop was disclosed with thousands of flint chips and fragments of broken artifacts. Probably the fine spring, the sheltering trees, and rich bottom nooks, along with a flint quarry near by were the causes that boomed this ancient town.

In the open bottom and within a half mile seem to be the site of a terrific battle, in which the defenders of the town went out to meet the attacking forces. The contest was a hot one, for numerous arrow and spear points, of two distinct types, were found in large numbers, broken and scattered about, where the contending forces met and struggled. One type of these war relics is the same as found at the old town - being the ordinary blue flint of that locality. The other type, used by the invaders were arrow and spear points of a much better grade of material and workmanship. They were sharper, better pointed and made of varieties of agate, gray, white and red colored flint. It appears, however, that the attacking forces in that battle failed to take the town. As no pottery had been found here, it must have been occupied by a type of Indian different from many of the villages above noted.

It would be an interesting contribution to have a Kansas map of the location of the many known pre-historic Indian towns and villages, - only a few of which have been above mentioned. A true pre-historic town does not include those tribal centers where iron articles are found, such as knives, gun barrels, axes and numerous other implements which were furnished them by the whites. Such places are of comparative recent date and can be identified with some modern tribes of Indians. But of the ancient pre-historic towns, - the busy centers of aboriginal life and activity hundreds of years before the whites knew anything about Kansas, - it is not so easy to determine, when and by whom they were occupied, or what became of their inhabitants. And yet some of them have been so well explored that they have given up many important facts concerning the character and hustling qualities of our primeval Kansans.

In some instances, the more modern Indian village has been built upon the very site of an ancient town, about which the later occupants knew nothing in fact or by tradition. Upon some sites, as many as three entirely different types or cultures have been found, which show like the slicing down of a layer cake, and the investigations have proven that the implements of warfare, agriculture, etc., of each strata, were entirely different in character and workmanship and must have belonged to people living at different ages. This is perfectly natural, for the nomad was no tyro as a town boomer and in selecting a good town site was often more skilled than his white brother, - as proven by some of the great floods along Kansas valleys. The succeeding Indian town promoters were very liable to select the same points of advantage as their predecessors, even though the earlier town bad been obliterated by the dust and debris of ages. It is from these pre-historic sites that we have found the countless varieties of stone and flint spear and arrow points and the many other interesting implements of war and peace, and where it is certain that people of different grades of intelligence lived long ages before the more modern tribes existed.

Thus we have seen that there are three principal sources of information from which we derive our archeological or pre-historic knowledge concerning the first inhabitants of Kansas: (1) The scattered relics of man, his bones or workmanship, found here and there deep in the ancient drifts of river beds or resting in other hidden places, from which they are often thrown up to light; (2) The many ancient mounds and cemeteries along our valley slopes or upon slightly bluff prominences, in which have been preserved the skeletal remains of a prehistoric people along with specimens of the tools of warfare and industry they used; (3) The numerous old town and village sites which have yielded up such rich harvests of stone and flint artifacts such as arrow and spear heads, axes and tomahawks, knives and scrapers, spades and hoes, mortars and milling stones, specimens of various types of pottery and store house caches, and now and then, unique emblems and symbols which seem to connect them with former ages of civilization beyond the seas.

These all speak volumes of the intense life and activity of a race of early Kansans, who lived and died in a primitive but not indolent manner, along the rich valleys and upon the fertile prairies now occupied by the more perfect civilization of modern times.

While much has been lost in the past by imperfect and careless exploration and the lack of proper preservation of what we have found, yet, as time passes and our progressive age delves deeper and deeper into the earth by more extensive excavation, new and startling facts will be revealed and our people will take greater interest in this topic. And why not? For it is bringing to light much interesting pre-historic data, which is of so much value to the future historian, poet, scientist, and to all those students of ancient life in the Sunflower State.

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A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 2000.

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