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What became of "the most remarkable of all mounds in Ohio?"

It contained over 300 skeletons and was over one acre wide

and was located 37 miles from Bluffton in Hardin County

This is a lengthy description of an enormous native American mound between Mt. Victory and Ridgeway in Hardin County, about 37 miles from Bluffton. The account is from “The History of Hardin County, Ohio,” published by Warner, Beers and Co., in 1883. The account begins on page 217 of this history.

The only first-hand accounts from the Bluffton News of Europeans and native Americans tell a different story. These accounts mostly tell of settlers encountering graves. The stories raise questions including:

• What did the early European settlers do with the remains discovered in their fields?

• Did these early settlers give any thought to the people they replaced?

• Would we, today, respond any differently than our ancestors’ responses?

• Sadly, our question, with no answer is, "what became of the items in this mound?"

This is the first of a three-part series - watch for more soon

Most remarkable of all mounds in Ohio

The most remarkable of all mounds in the State was one in Hardin County, in which were found about three hundred skeletons. A doubt has, however, been expressed that these were all Mound Builders skeletons.

The only other mound of which we have been able to learn anything definite, was located in Hale Township, between Mount Victory and Ridgeway, on the line of the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis Railroad, and opened in 1856, by John S.B. Matson, during the construction of that road.

This mound was regarded as one of the most remarkable in Ohio, and as Mr. Matson published the results of his investigations, we cannot do better than to give his description verbatim.

He says: “I commenced removing a gravel bank for the purpose of ballasting a part of the railroad. I learned shortly after my arrival that the bank was an ancient burial ground. This information caused me to examine the ground and note discoveries.

Before I came, there had been a track graded and laid. This track separated a short distance east of the mound, one track on the south and the other on the north. The men who graded the track had taken the loam off where the track ran, and cast it out from the mound.

We removed the gravel from both sides moving the track up to the bank when it became difficult to load. The loading was done on gravel cards, by men with shovels, and hauled out with an engine. The average amount removed was about 220 cubic yards per day. After about six weeks in the winter we had to suspend operations on account of the ground freezing.

The mound covered an area of 1 and ½ acres

“The mound covered an area of one and a half acres, being covered with an orchard of apple trees then in bearing. Several large stumps and a few trees of the original growth still remained thereon.

I was informed by citizens of the vicinity that there had been a remarkable heavy growth of timber on the mound. The stumps remaining were large. The mound is what I would call double, the larger and higher part to the east.

About two-thirds of the mound was embraced in this part. The eastern portion presented the appearance of a smaller hill having been pressed against the other , leaving a depression between them of three or four feet below the highest point of the smaller and five or six feel below a corresponding point of the larger.

Both parts had the appearance of having had surface work done to give them a beautiful oval shape. The loam I found deepest on the highest points, where it is generally of less depth.

The intersection was composed of a clean limestone gravel and sand, evidently formed by decomposition of the strata, and very plainly marked. In the eastern or small part of the mound, was an excavation that had been made by citizens of the vicinity for sand for building purposes, in which excavation I learned a number of skeletons had been exhumed having beads and trinkets on, which were reported as being similar to those I afterward found, but I was unable to obtain any of them.

A little south of the highest point of the western mound was an excavation made. By the railroad company for the purpose of ascertaining the amount of gravel, but no remains were found in it.

“Shortly after commencing to lead gravel, indications of graves were visible in three places – on both sides of the eastern portion and nearly north of the center of the larger or western part. At the last-named place, two skeletons, side by side, were found in a horizontal position, the feet pointing east, which had apparently been deposited there without their heads, there being no evidence of skulls with them.

Graves about 4 feet deep

I found a stone ax or celt or granite, two flint arrow-points, and an implement made of blue stone resembling slate, but much harder, the length of which I found to be two and three-fourth inches; also. A large fresh water clam filled with red paint in good preservation. The flint implements had the appearance of never having been used, being very sharp pointed. These graves were about four feet dep, and the bones crumbed on exposure to the atmosphere.

“The first skeletons taken out of the eastern part of the mound were in better preservation, especially those on the south side. Several skulls were sound, and the other bones of some were so well preserved that, by applying sole leather for ribs, the were wired together.

With the first skeleton taken out of this part of the mound I found a think pieces of ivory with two small holes, evidently an ear ornament. Next was the skeleton of a little girl, who may have been eight or ten years old. The skull was in good preservation, and remains in my cabinet. She had a string of beads so make as to be larger in the center of the neck in front, tapering almost to a point at the back of the neck; she also had a plate of copper on her neck.

The lower maxillary and upper joints of the vertebra are yet green from its oxidation. The plate had two rows of dents a part of the way around. The dent’s look like an impression made on a board with a heel of a boot with tacks.

Skeletons in a sitting posture

The two last skeletons had been buried in a sitting posture. On the north side, nearly opposite of the last-named skeletons, was a grave about four feet deep, in which the remains had be deposited and apparently burned.

There were ashen and charcoal, with pieces of charred bones, one or two heads being entire. In the progress of the removal, I found the eastern or small part of the mound to be literally filled with graves. The modes of burial had been various, the depth of remains varying from two to nine feet, while there was a difference of posture in nearly every skeleton. I found that not less than ten or twelve dogs had also been buried – the human and canine side by side.

“One group of nine graves I was so impressed with I will endeavor to be partially explicit. The first had two skeletons, that of a male and females, side by side, there not being more than four inches of sand between them.

Both had evidently been buried in one grave. The female was buried on her knees, both hands spread over her face, which was downwards, and a string of conch shell beads around her neck. I found inside her ribs the remains of a fetus.

Her partner was buried horizontal, with ace down; both hands had been placed with their palms on the face, their heads toward the east. After tracing the bones with particular reference to their position and to save those skeletons which were best preserved, I took down the disturbed strata with my hands; and at the head of the grave I found above the remains, and point down, the bones of the index finger, while at the foot of the grave, and at a corresponding height, the bones of a great toe, pointing in a similar manner.

The balance of the group were buried some with face down, both hands over the face; others with one hand; some with face up, and both hands over the face; while another had one hand over the breast another over the face.

Heads facing east

All this group had their heads to the east. On one of this group I found a string of copper beads, of which the metal had never been smelted, but evidently had been flaked from the native metal, and rolled around a twisted string, evidence of which was still visible in the beards, which were rude.

“On the north side of the eastern portion, under an oak tree stump (150 years old by growth), were the remains of the largest human bones I had ever seen. The joints of the vertebra seemed as large as those of a horse!

I think they did not indicate a taller form than some others; but the bones were heavier than any in the mound. I have its interior maxillary broken, but glued together, in my cabinet. The other bones were so decomposed that they were useless. I could not say as to the posture, as the stump brought down the grave, rendering it out of the question to note the position.

27 skulls

Near the last-named skeleton, perhaps 10 feet from it, we came across a grave that had been dug oblong almost six feet deep, three feet wide, and over seven feet long, which they had filled with human bones promiscuously, without regard to order, to the depth of four feet; on these, in regular order were placed 27 skulls, with the top of the skulls up.

They were about two feet below the surface; the bones so much broken, and I regret to say I did not examine them so particularly as I should have done. One of the skulls had a small hole it ins, and I learned afterward that a piece of femur was found, when they were dumped on the road, having a flint dart fast to the bone.

“There was an implement or ornament found having one part like the head of a bird’s neck, and shoulders like a horse, cut back of the shoulders, and turned up like the back part of a saddle seat; the lower art being flat, with a hole drilled diagonally from the lower part of the neck of the base, with a corresponding hole in the back part.

This implement was manufactured of a blue stone resembling slate, but extremely hard. It is probable they had a battle, and after the flesh had decomposed they collected the bones and ground them to the mound for burial.

I am sure from the positions of the bones, they had not interred with the flesh one. I found in this part of the mound the remains of at least fifty children, under the age of eight years, sone with two, others with four incisors; some with eight, and others with no teeth.

Conch shell beads, 140 in number

On the neck of one infant having two incisors, there was a string of conch shell beads of the largest size, 140 in number; four of these beads were black and were about three-fourths of an inch in diameter.

The string would weight one pound or more. Some of the graves had trinkets and beads made of clam sell; some had bones of a deer, sharp-pointed, others had pieces of deer horns; some had long-shaped beads around the wrists, I think of Ivory.

One had a conch shell plate, round about five inches in diameter, with a hole in the center, half an inch in diameter, with two holes near the edge, for suspension, with a string from the neck, like a breast-plate.

Some had birds buried with them. One skeleton taken out of this part of the mound had the appearance of a very aged man; the point of the inferior maxillary was almost in two parks, with the trachea was bone all around. Quite a number showed indications of ext4eme age, seven or eight that I observed had bone tracheas.

“I now return to the western or larger portion of the mound. This part was removed as fast as the former. I soon discovered there were two rows of graves leading direct from the two first mentioned, containing the flint implements, paint, etc., toward the center each pair having been dug deeper as they approached the center of the mound.

Stone ax, paint and flint implements

Those with the stone axe, paint and flint implements were four feet deep the depth of each pair increasing about a foot in regular gradation till the last pair, which was as need the center and highest point of the mound as I could calculate, being 18 feet.

The pair next to those with the ax, paint and flint implements were in a sitting posture, as were all in these two files, except the first two. On the head of one of the second pair was a conch shell plate, resembling in shape the sole of a moccasin, nine inches in length and three and a half inches greatest breath.

This plate had three holes in it toward the wider end, and it was placed on the top of the head, with the larger end back. Two other skeletons of these two files had similar plates, differing only in size, the small being about half the size of the larger.

Several implements of stone were found, all differing in shape. They were of stone resembling slate but much harder. One of them is three inches long by one and a half broad, in form of a shield, with two holes through it flatwise.

“Farmers picked up some implements in a field adjoining the mound. One given me by Judge Baldwin is a flat stone of slate, with a transverse hold, that I supposed belongs to the same race.

As we approached the center of the mound the graves getting deeper, the bones were much better preserved. Several bodies in decomposition had formed a cement that would have preserved them an almost incalculable length of time. In fact, when first taken out of the cement they had the appearance of bones just dissected, being nearly one-third heavier than those without cement.

Nearly 30 yards of beads

The four last deepest skeletons all had beads on, some of them quiet small, the smallest not as large as a pea. Some were made of clam shells, but mostly of conch or sea shells. Those of clam were so decomposed they fell to pieces. Three of these skeletons had beads only around the neck, the fourth, being the last one taken out, and the file leader of three two deepest, had, I should think nearly 30 yards of beads, having four wraps around the neck crossed over the breast and back, passing down between his legs; strings down his legs to the feet; also strings along his arms and around his writs.

This remains presented the appearance of being decorated all over. He had no other ornaments or implements that I could find. Near the south side of the western part of the mound, near one of the forest trees, I found the remains of a human being that seemed to be detached from all the rest.

I thought perhaps, he was an Indian of one of the late tribes who had been buried, probably , on some hunting expedition. There was a piece of deer horn with him that had the appearance of having been the handle of a butcher knife. I could not detect any evident of rust, however.

On the highest part of the mound, and about 12 or 15 feet from the two deepest graves was evidence of fire. The loam had been burned till it had a brick color. I have seen it look very much also where a large long heap had been burned, and would have thought such was the cause had it not been that it was below the surface about three feet.

308 skeletons exhumed

The number of skeletons exhumed by me was three hundred and eight, I could not ascertain how many had been taken out by diggers of sand.

“The citizens of the vicinity informed me that there was a very heavy forest on the mound at the time of clearing it.

They also stated that the Indians who were here with the first settlers knew nothing of the race who interred their dead there…. I have visited as many as 20 mounds in the Mississippi Valley, on nearly every one of which were broken pottery, literally covering the mounds.

About three-fourths of a mile from where I now reside, on a farm owned by a Mr. Stump, is a very beautiful little mound about30 feet across and six feet high. Some years ago, Dr. Craig, of Ontario, Richland County, made an examination, in which he discovered charcoal, ashes, and a flint knife five inches long.

It is my impression that no signs of human bones were discovered by him. There has been a large number of stone axes, or celts of all sizes, between two and seven inches in length, found on the surface, some of them finely made, mostly of granite.

200 specimens of implements

Various other implements have from time to time been picked up, and I have made a practice of preserving the flint implements on my farm and vicinity, until I have 200 specimens of various shapes and sizes.


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