Winnebago County, Illinois
OPEN MOUND ON INDIAN TERRACE
BUILT BY THE MOUND BUILDERS CENTURIES AGO--A WATH IS BEING KEPT FOR RELICS AS THE EARTH IS TURNED--ARTIFICIAL NATURE OF MOUND IS APPARENT FROM SOUL--FIRST OF MOUNDS TO BE LEVELED IN MOUND PARK FOR YEARS--MAY FIND RELICS OF EXTINCT RACE
Archaeologists are interest today in the excavation of one of the mounds on Indian Terrace near the celebrated Turtle Mound. At press time this afternoon the mound had been leveled almost to the surrounding surface without any relics of an extinct people being discovered.
However, as the work of excavation for the new home of Al Everett at this point will be continued far below the natural surface, if there are relics of skeletons in the mound or below it they will be discovered by the scoop shovel. The artificial nature of the mound in plainly shown by the fact that it was entirely composed of surface loam while a ditch dug in the same vicinity shows clay and rock formation just below the foot of the loam.
The work required by the aboriginal builders of this and other mounds on Indian terrace just north of the water works is beyond calculation as the builders could have had no decent tools to work with. The leveling of the mound has required a team with a scoop shovel an entire day: it could not have been built--even so comparatively small a mount as this--by an ordinary tribe in less than a week.
What may be discovered yet beneath the tons of earth is problematical and the mound is being watched with some interest. This is the first of the mounds in this vicinity to be opened for years if at all and the dirt has lain undisturbed for centuries at least. Many Winnebago county mounds have yielded trophies in the shape of skeletons, flint implement and pottery although this one may prove to be barren.
The mounds of Indian Terrace have long been a mystery to the people of Rockford because the owners of the grounds have steadfastly refused to allow them to be desecrated by the spade and shovel. The one which the necessities of building cause to be demolished today is of oblong shape, possibly thirty feet by twenty in dimensions and four feet high.
Prof. J.W. Foster in his "Prehistoric Races of the United States." says: The subordinate valleys of the Rock River, the Fox, Kankakee and Illinois show abundant evidence of former occupancy by the mound builders, and while the mounds are inconspicuous, they are not destitute of relics, and the human remains are indicative of a race whose skulls are marked by peculiarities which distinguish them from the red man.
Three classes of pre-historic mounds can be found in Winnebago County. There is the common round mound from ten to thirty feet in diameter and from two and a half to five feet high. The oblong shaped mound is much less common but is frequently remarkable for its great length. One was found within the present limits of Rockford which measured one hundred and thirty feet in length twelve feet wide at its base and three or four feet high. Mounds of the third class have a fancied resemblance to some bird or animal and are called effigies. The most common of these are the bird or turtle mounds found in many localities in the county. Some fine specimens of this class, as well as the round and oblong mounds are, are still carefully preserved in the grounds by the Misses Beattie and Mrs. Clara G. Sanford north of the city water works on the west side of the river. The round mounds were evidently constructed for the purpose of sepulture, the elongated for game drives, while the effigies were probably ceremonial.
"A number of archaeologists believe that these mounds were built by a race inhabiting this country before the American Indian and in the absence of any information concerning their origin they are denominated "Mound Builders." Other recent authorities incline to the opinion that the mounds were constructed by the ancestors of the Indians. These earliest inhabitants had no beasts of burden and naturally their travel and traffic were largely by canoe up and down the rivers. Their settlements therefore and their monumental mounds were uniformly located near or upon river banks. When the cut was made in East Rockford for the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad in 1852 many mounds were destroyed and gruesome evidence of the sepulchral purpose of some was given by the fragments of skeletons disinterred"
In a history of Winnebago County published in 1877 the following description of the turtle mound on the Beattie property adjacent to the mound opened today is found : "The turtle mound, so called, resembles more an alligator with its head cut off than it does a turtle. Its dimension are, whole length, 150 feet, width opposite fore legs, 50 feet width opposite hind legs, 39 feet, length of tail from point opposite the hind legs to a point of tail, 110 feet, length from point opposite hind to point opposite fore legs, 33 feet, distance from fore legs to where neck should begin, 15 feet. The figure lies up and down the river on a line north and south, the tail extending northward. The body rises into a mound as high as a standing man. The feet and tail gradually extend into the greensward growing less distinct and indefinable from the surrounding sod. The effigy, whether of an alligator, lizzard or turtle, appears to be headless and no depressions in the surrounding soil would indicate that the materials out of which it was constructed were obtained in the vicinity. It is a curious structure and one would like to know its true history as he looks upon its partially defaced form, what were its uses and who builded its uncouth animal proportions may be better answered by the researches of the antiquarian than by the geologist or historian."
The middle west is filled with the mounds builded by this vanished race of men and it is claimed that a sodden mound is more enduring than granite which accounts for their presence after the many centuries. Burial mounds are common and many have been opened in which pottery and remains of skeletons have been found. At Athens, O., there exists a mammoth snake mound many hundreds of feet in length, the reptile appearing in the act of swallowing a small hill between its jaws, while at East St. Louis one of the largest artificial mounds in existences has formed the basis for much research. [Rockford Republic, 08-26-1909]
SKELETON FOUND IN INDIAN MOUND
Bones of Child Supposed to Have Been Resting in Indian Terrace Hundreds of Years, Dug Up Today. Archaeologists Much Interested in Discovery--Excavation to Continue.
Part of the bones of a child of 6 to 9 years of age were dug out at noon today from the mound at Indian Terrace that has been the center of interest to local archaeologists for the last three days. The necessities of building demanded that the mound be leveled for the new home of A.E. Everett and the work of leveling the five foot mound of thirty foot diameter was begun the day before yesterday, as stated in the Republic.
When digging was resumed today the level of the ground was reached and passed in excavating for the cellar and at a point one and a half feet below the ground Driver Hayes came upon a portion of an infant's skull embedded in the earth. The fragments broke as they were detached from the encrusting earth a few pieces are over three or four inches square. The shell is a thin as cardboard but the jaw bones are well preserved, such pieces as were found, and several infant's teeth were picked up.
A portion of a tibia was also found, very small and delicate, unmistakably that of a child. The work will continue to a considerable depth and as it is scarcely conceivable that so large a mound would be constructed or one child it is reasonable to hope for greater finds. The relics so far discovered are in the possession of a number of finders. The bones discovered today have undoubtedly been resting beneath the sod of Mound Park for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. The mound builders to which race the child belonged are a vanished race of which no records or legends remain, save the mounds in various parts of the middle west, and the instruments of flint and stone with which they fought and worked. Long before Columbus discovered America, perhaps before a king sat upon a throne in England or a pope rule over Catholicism, this child lived and died in the region which is now Winnebago county. That more will be discovered is almost certain, and the finds of this noon have given added interest to the locality. This little fellow of 6 years or so s probably the real "oldest inhabitant" of which any record remains. [Rockford Republic, 08-28-1909]
OUR INDIAN MONUMENTS
Rockford People Have Relics of Indian Days in Heart of City
Did you ever see the nice big turtle which the Indians left crawling along the bank of the river, across the Beattie lawn? No? Well, this is an indisputable proof of the modesty of our people, that the majority of us are positively ignorant of Rockford's Indian mounds, although the Historical associations of this and adjoining states and learned men throughout the land spend much time and thought upon them. The mounds, you know, occur all along the banks of the river from the great Buttes des Mortes in Wisconsin to the mouth of the river; in our own city they are found on the Beattie, Sanford, Forbes and Stewart lawns and in the grounds belonging to the Knights of Columbus club house. There is also a group of mounds near the bank of the river, about find five miles below he city, that has attracted much attention. Indian mounds, the wise man says, are of three sorts: the circular, the oval and those which reproduce the form of some animal, usually a turtle or a lizard. The circular and oval varieties are simply burial mounds, as may be found by investigating, and as we know from the testimony of the late Ira Barker, who passed through this region from Terre Haute to Galena, in 1824, when the Indians were camped along the banks of the river and the creek under the bluffs near the Illinois Central tracks and the burial mounds rose as an emerald background for their wigwams and their fields of corn and beans. The animal effigies are supposed by some scientists to represent the totem of the tribe and these men contend they were thrown up as a line of separation between the lands of rival tribes. The head of the animal is never produced in these mounds, and the space between the forefeet may have been occupied by an altar, or used as a council chamber. The Rockford effigy, although spoken of as a big turtle, is really more like a lizard than a turtle. It is more than a hundred feet long, about sixty feet wide and sloped gently to the surrounding (sod?). There is no depression about it to suggest that the earth used in its construction was taken from the vicinity.
One scorching August day in 1875 a company of Rockford scientists, among whom were Dr. Kimball, Dr. Dunn, H.R. Enoch, editor of the Journal, and the late D.A.K. Andrus, armed themselves with pick and shovel, and repaired to the group of mounds on the river bank below the city, on investigation intent. The day was pretty warm and the digging strenuous, but a zeal for science spurred them on. Several feet below the surface of the first mound they attacked they came upon a tablet about five inches long and three wide, and perhaps a half an inch thick, and covered with figures which looked amazingly like those with which Jonnie covered his slate during that first year spent in the primary room. Of course, the find was greeted with delight, and the digging went merrily forward, but nothing more of the sort was found. There was a flat red earthen dish, which crumbled to dust at the touch, and masses of human bones. And with this the explorers were obliged to be content. This tablet was submitted to some of the learned ones of the land, and the story which they read from its surface was interesting indeed. But it was a story of eastern significance and the mystery of its presence in the mound was never satisfactorily explained. The tablet was given to one of the Chicago museums. This institution was later destroyed by fire and the table disappeared in the general ruin. Since that day there have been no efforts made to wrest their story from the Indian mounds within our borders. But the descendants of the Winnebago Indians, who still roam about the Wisconsin woods, tells us that they were made by their ancient tribe, and that they were simply burial mounds. So far from being totems, they declare, that the animal which we call a lizard, and which we declare they represent, was a dream animal which the old worthies claimed they saw issuing from the lake, but which is never known to appear in these degenerate days. [Rockford Morning Star, 09-24-1911]
INDIANS BURIED THEIR DEAD ALONG RIVER BANKS
The Beattie Property on North Main Contains Three or Four Indian Mounds -- Land Was Sold in the Late Thirties for Beads and Trinkets - Local Real Estate Gossip
Previous to seventy years ago the Winnebago Indians used to bury their dead along the river Rock, just north of what they termed "Rocky-ford," on what is now the Miss Mary Beattie property and to the north of it. From the Beattie property north to the red bridge are found many Indian mounds today. In the majority of cases, present owners of the property have left the mounds unmolested, but in some case they have been opened and many valuable relics taken from them. The ownership of these Indian lands was made in those days by the exchange of a few beads, a brilliant piece of cloth or other trinkets of the white man, which appealed to the primitive nature of the red man. All that territory now cut by Indian Terrace was once part of the old burying grounds of the Winnebago tribe. In one of the mounds that was opened in 1887, bones of five skeletons were found together with Indian arrow heads, tomahawks, spears and other instruments of war. Some of these relics are now on display at the Rockford Library. No one can state for certain just how much was paid for the old Beattie homestead but it is known that a quantity of beads and cloth went into the bargain, probably a quarter's worth. When one thinks of the fact that the Trust Building site went at $1.25 an acre, it is not remarkable that this beautiful tract was sold for less. [Rockford Republic, Jan 06, 1914]
OUR INDIAN MOUNDS
Petition has been made to the city council to change the name of Mound avenue to Indian Terrace with which it connects. It is not important--the mound builders were Indians. The mounds in the neighborhood--on the former Beattie and Sanford estates--retain their outlines, but probably not one park visitor in aware that they are relics of early Indian occupation. Several mounds were ploughed over when homes were erected on Indian Terrace. Less than 25 years ago it was said there were at that time probably not less than 500 mounds in Winnebago county. [Rockford Republic, Feb 03, 1937]
ROCKFORDLAND HISTORY-ITS LEGEND LORE
County's Indian Mounds Gradually Disappearing
By CHIEF ILLINI-WIS
This is another in a series of regular weekly articles on Northern Illinois-southern Wisconsin history. The Register-Republic will present another glimpse into the past next Saturday. If you have ay questions or incidents on northern Illinois or southern Wisconsin history, just write them to Chief Illinis-Wis, Register Republic, News Tower, Rockford, Ill. The chief will try to answer them for you. Prehistoric Indian mounds, once widely prevalent in Winnebago county, are gradually disappearing. Highway construction and industrial and suburban development have taken their toll of the ancient relics. Once having numbered in the thousands, the mounds are believed to have been used for ceremonial and burial purposes. Some mounds are round, 10 to 30 feet in diameter and from two to five feet high. Others are oblong-shaped. The large effigy mound in Beattie park, located in downtown Rockford between N. Main st. and Rock River, was originally 130 fee long and extended North along the river bank. Few "finds" have been made in unearthing the mounds. Some have revealed arrow heads and bits of clay bricks.. Most have been devoid of Indian artifacts, owing ether to complete decay or to a failure of inclusion in the original burial. Evidence of Indian burials in area mounds was revealed last year in a New Milford church yard. Previously, attempts at pulling down an old tree had uncovered several bones entangled in the gnarled roots. Bits of "grit tempered" pottery found in the mound set the age approximately during the late woodland period, about 500 to 700 years ago. Also found were bits of charcoal, clam shell, and small animal bones. Other excavations have revealed similar clues as to the culture of ancient Indians. To aid in determining the age of the objects found, scientists have employed a method known as radio-active carbon dating. By affixing the amount of radioactive substance remaining in a specific object, its age can be approximately ascertained. Archeologists agree tat most of the mounds in Winnebago county seem to be of ceremonial significance. Careful investigations have been made in many cases. Shovels, trowels or mattocks are used to slowly cut away thin layers of earth.. Using knives, brushes and even toothpicks, experts can carefully and completely expose the materials. Most of the work of determining the mound's significance is done in later study. For this reason archaeologists agree that non-professionals, having little background, sometimes may ruin a valuable and perhaps unique historical site. [Rockford Register Republic, 06-17-1960]
ANCIENT INDIAN CULTURES BURIED AROUND ROCKFORD
March of progress sometimes is brought temporarily to a halt when the marching feet must tread on a grave.
Construction of roadways sometimes is delayed while government officials take the problem of graces on highway right-of-ways into court.
Latest example of this type of problem occurred recently when it was found that a pioneer woman was buried just north of Machesney Airport on right-of-way land purchased for widening of U.S. 51. On May 12, Harlem Township voters will be asked to approve a public nuisance ordinance to clear the way for moving the grave off the right-of-way. The woman was the wife of Isaac P. Hamiel. She died more than 100 years ago. Mrs. Hamiel's grave, however, is not the first to lie in the path of construction in Winnebago County. Rockford's boundaries now surround what might be termed "graveyards" of ancient Indian cultures. The graves are mounds found along the banks of Rock River. They range in age from 900 to 2,000 years. Three of these mounds still can be seen in the heart of Rockford at Beattie Park. Biggest mound in the park resembles a huge, "tired" turtle. Milton Mahlburg, curator of the Museum of Natural History, said the mound probably was built in the Mid-Woodland period, and may be about 2,000 years old.
"That's why the turtle looks tired," he said.
The other two mounds in the park are a long ridge and a small, conical one. Three classes of pre-historic mounds can be found in Winnebago County. Prof. J.W. Foster says in his "Pre-History Races of the United States" The subordinate valleys of the Rock River, the Fox, Kankakee and Illinois show abundant evidence of former occupancy by the mound builders, and while the mounds are inconspicuous, they are not destitute of relics, and the human remains are indicative of a race whose skulls are marked by peculiarities which distinguish them from the red man. The three classes consist of the common round mound, from 10 to 30 feet in diameter, and from 2 ½ to 5 feet high. Mounds of this size are quite numerous along the banks of the Rock. Another type of mound, the oblong-shaped, is less common but is frequently remarkable for its great length. The "lineal" mound in Beattie Park measures 130 feet in length, 12 feet wide at the base, and 3 to 4 feet high. The third type of mound have a resemblance to some type of animal life and are called "effigies." The most common of this variety are the bird and turtle which are found in many locatable of the country. At Devil's Lake Wis., there is a large mound which clearly resembles an eagle.
A number of archaeologists believe that the builders of the mounds were of a race that inhabited this country before the American Indian. Other recent authorities incline to the opinion that the mounds were constructed by ancestors of the Indians. There once were at least 500 mounds in Winnebago County, but the farmer's plow and the builder's bulldozer has destroyed most of them. These early inhabitants proved to have no beasts of burden which showed that their travel was mainly in canoe up and down the rivers. Near the Kishwaukee River, Prog. T.H. Lewis surveyed more than 100 mounds. Probably as many existed near Rockton before their destruction. When the cut for the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad in 1852 was made many mounds were dug up. The old Rockford College campus is located on the top of several mounds. Canoeing up the Pecatonica River, many mounds can be seen just off bank. The majority of the mounds are usually located along rvers were two come together. Some of these mounds date back 3,000 years but the majority in Rockford are of the 1,000 year old variety. None of the mounds was built after 600 or 700 years ago. [Rockford Register-Republic, Nov 05, 1964]
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