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"ONE TOWNSHIP'S YESTERDAYS"
By Edwin Corwin
VII: THE MYSTERY OF THE MOUNDS
"And the mound-builders vanished from the earth.
The solitude of centuries untold
Has settled where they dwelt....
.... The gopher mines the ground
Where stood their swarming cities. All is gone;
All-save the piles of earth that
hold their bones."
...William Cullen Bryant
BEGINNING AT ANOTHER BEGINNING, this time concerning the earliest man in what is now Union Township, we run into a real problem. Who was the first man to reside in the, township? What kind of being was he? Was our earliest human inhabitant a so-called Mound-Builder? It is true that mounds have been found in the township. But were they the work of those little-known aborigines, or merely of later comers, the Indians? We cannot answer. So far, the mystery of the mounds of Union Township remains unsolved ... and doubtless will remain forever without a satisfactory explanation.
Those mysterious people of the past, the e Mound-Builders, are said on good authority to have been inhabitants of certain sections of Indiana, and it is reasonable on our part to claim at least a small portion o;' their population for Union Township. We shall do that. Assuming that they 'were here ... how long ago, we cannot conjecture ... we must give them at least passing mention in our history.
Let us first turn the clock back again ... a, long, long way. We find ourselves ... in another flight of imagination ... at the beginning of the great lee Age. "Vast ice-floes march down upon northern America." The clock ticks, seconds for years, or more likely for centuries, or for ages. We have 'little idea what extent of time our fanciful seconds should represent. But time flies, for now "appears man, hunter and savage, fighting for his life on the edge of the retreating ice." The history of mankind begins.
Although it was about six thousand years ago that the written record of history began ... and enough has been written since then to make some mighty big mounds.. we have been unable, to date, to find a single word mentioning the Mound-Builders of Union Township, This may have been an oversight. At all events, their place in the history of mankind is hidden behind a very dark cloud of doubt. But we do know that the Mound-Builders were a terribly ancient race and a very industrious race to have built "the mighty mounds that overlook the rivers, or that rise in the dim forest crowded with old oaks." Since that race lived and died, there have been many and sundry "footsteps on the prairies." And says Bryant, "I think of those on whose rest he tramples," the rest of the dead of other days.
Little we know, and we may wonder greatly. Let them, the dead, answer our questions. Let them tell us the secret of the mounds. A race, that long since has passed away, built them;-a disciplined and populous race heaped, with long toil, the earth while yet the Greek was rearing the Parthenon. So says the poet. Finally, the red man came, the roaming hunter tribes, warlike and fierce, arid the Mound-Builders vanished from the earth.
Homes on High Laud.
The Mound-Builders were said to have built their homes on high points of land. They left mounds of sundry shapes and sizes, representing serpents, elephants (it seems that they must have known the mammoth or mastodon after all), various other animals, and what-not. Their history is. Sealed; we have learned little about them. It is said by some writers that traces of them, were left in Union Township. These traces have been carefully investigated, and we shall let our readers know just about all we know about them, which is scarcely anything to crow about.
On the "Burr Oak Flats," mounds were discovered many years ago on what was then the J. S. Garver farm, located south of Burr Oak community. The portion of the farm on which the mounds were standing is that which includes the original Garver homestead. It is now, in 1934, the William Lake farm. Daniel McDonald reported, in 1881, "There are three what are called Indian Mounds near Maxinkuckee Lake on the farm of John Garver, on the `Burr Oak Flats'." He said they were not over two hundred or three hundred feet apart and were situated in a triangular position from each other. They were probably thirty feet in diameter, and when first discovered were about six feet in height above, the surface of the ground. Since the settlement of this part of the country, they have been cut down and plowed over until, even in 1881, they were not more than half as high as originally.
Excavations were made in one of these mounds in the 70's or thereabouts, and some human bones were discovered, from which it was conjectured that a battle at some time had been fought there, and the mounds had been made in burying the dead. This, however, was more or less guess-work.
Mounds on Garver Land.
J. S. Garver, in the 70`s, had property on both sides of the road connecting Burr Oak with Lake Maxinkuckee. The homestead, still standing, is south of the Hibbard cross-road and on the east side of the Burr Oak road. Mr. Garver had rather extensive lands. He had one parcel east of the Franklin Overmyer property and north of the Hibbard cross-road. The mounds are situated south and east of the old Garver farmhouse, a couple of hundred feet or more from the Burr Oak road. They are in the southeast corner of the present Lake farm, which takes in only a portion of the much more widespread Garver lands as originally owned.
In describing the mounds, Minnie H. Swindell says that at one time their tops rose to a height of about six 'feet and they were about seventy-five feet across. Upon them grew trees and shrubbery. John McFarlin and Henry Grube of Plymouth remembered when the mounds were very high; but since the settlement of this region, they have been plowed under until very little trace of them remains. They were supposed to have been burial places. Grisly skulls covered with mould, and other human bones were found when the mounds were excavated. Near the bones were tools and implements of stone, iron, pottery and copper. These showed that the tribe they represented was somewhat advanced in civilized methods. According to this historian, they built their homes on high ground as a protection from roving Indians, and where spring floods could not reach them. Also, during such floods, animals took refuge on high ground; thus the inhabitants had an abundance of food. They were clever people; instead of permitting the elements to do them harm, they turned such would-be menaces to account.
Wilbur Brown and other old residents remember when the mounds on the Garver farm used to be conspicuous, while today they are barely distinguishable, having been greatly leveled in the cultivation of the fields. Anyone not already familiar with their location, would have considerable difficulty in finding the old mounds today, since they are now so unassuming. The erosion brought about by wind and rain, added to the leveling-off due to cultivation of the soil, has about obliterated the original contour of the mounds. They now appear like natural waves or swells on the surface of the land, and much like the rolling ridges so common to the countryside in this region. On close observation, however, the mounds can be discerned in their triangular formation, the larger mound of the three being the, easternmost.
A visit to the former Garver farm by the writer was without what may be called success, insofar as supplying further evidence to help solve the enigma: who built the mounds? Some proofs of Indian or other early occupation of the territory were found in the form of chips such as are cast aside by the ancient arrow-makers. These chips were invariably of white or greyish flint. On the mounds and near by were some pieces of granitic stone, broken off apparently from primitive implements, such as grinding stones and tomahawks. Some of these fragments were of serpentine, the technical name, for a greenish grey granite, a hard solid rock that was a favorite with the Indians for the making of certain utensils and weapons. Other debris indicated that an antique race once frequented the spot. Fossils and geological specimens were also found in the glacial drift near the mounds. Today there are no trees or shrubbery directly on the mounds, but between one of them and the dry bed of a former pond to the east is a clump of quick-growing trees.
In his later history, published in 1908, Daniel McDonald speaks of the Mound-Builders leaving traces since the days of the mastodon. These strange people are supposed to antedate the American Indian, he said. Mr. McDonald examined two mounds situated close together, on the "Burr Oak Flats." "Digging a considerable distance into them," he wrote, "nothing unusual was found." In a comparatively level country, the height of the mounds indicated to him that they had been built for some purpose by human hands, but as they were composed of solid earth with nothing in them to show why they were built, it was difficult to figure out what they were for. A mile or so farther west from these mounds, he found quite a large mound which seemed to have been investigated, for there had been, considerable digging in and around it. He knew of no discovery in this mound of anything that would indicate its purpose o.° use. Mr. McDonald could not say whether these were the work of Mound-Builders. "They were here, however, long before the Indians came to this part of the country," he wrote, "as trees and shrubbery grew on some of them and were of considerable size when they came. These mounds were supposed to have been intended as burial places for the dead, as, in excavating in some of them, human bones were found as well as tools and implements of stone, pottery, :iron and copper."
Another Large Mound.
In the early days quite a large sized mound existed on the west side of Lake Maxinkuckee, on or very near Long Point. It was dug into more than half a century ago, and from time to time since then many curious investigators repeated the process. Some human bones were found, also charcoal, ,stone arrow-points and other trinkets and relics. The discovery of these vestiges seemed to indicate that this was a burial place of Mound-Builders or of Indians of a later period, most probably the latter. Practically the same conclusion may be advanced regarding several small mounds at "Pashpo," as originally known, located west of the Michigan Road and three miles south of Plymouth. Investigation of the Pashpo mounds was also made at an early date.
Who was the first settler in this region? "The Indians were the very first people to live in Union Township," wrote Ulee McClane of Mt. Pleasant School, some years ago. "Mounds have been found that we suppose were Indian mounds. Some of them have been opened, and all kinds of Indian relics found." And how old is the township's first man? This is just about as unanswerable as a sort of riddle that years ago, but "within the memory of modern man," became a popular expression of the times; "How old is Ann?" No answer is recalled. Likewise, no attempt can be made to explain the antiquity of man in this region, or anywhere. He is very, very old; that is all we can say. What matters a thousand years or so, one way or the other? Like Jane 'Taylor, we should be contented, and
"The first thousand years as a specimen take
The dates are omitted for brevity's sake."
In an interview, some years ago, with, Dr. Junius Henderson, a distinguished authority on ancient things-fossils, bones of prehistoric man and beast, and the like--the writer ventured to ask his opinion as to the age of some bones dug up in the far West, the remains, it seems, of the so-called Santa Barbara Man. The scientist smiled. He would not hazard a statement. The bones might have been 25,000 years old, or 100,000. What mattered it? Colossal, staggering figures! The age of a star in the, firmament! Figures that cannot be grasped; things so ancient we cannot sense their age, because it is all out of proportion when compared with time as we evaluate it. Union Township's first settler may be a million years old; maybe not. "How old is Ann?"
The pliocene skull that Brat Harte versed about, was said to be a remnant, not only of the earliest pioneer of California, but the oldest known human being. A geologist thought that man existed contemporaneously (a contemptible, word) with the mastodon, but this fossil was said to prove that he was here before the mastodon was known to exist.
The Mound-Builder had various reputations. He was said to be of gigantic height, and a cannibal, a farmer, hunter, fisherman, very religious and a sun-worshiper, also a scientist. He even knew the secret of "squaring the circle." He was a wonder and a wizard.
There may be some cause, therefore, for people feeling superstitious about him. The story is told that at one time some one looked over the Garver farm with the idea of buying, but when the prospective buyer saw the mounds and learned they had been built by some mysterious human hands a long time ago for a mysterious reason, he refused to become a. buyer. He was superstitious, no Joubt, and had some fear of the supernatural. We may recall how Longfellow's Skeleton in Armor, when asked to speak, replied: "Take heed, that in thy verse Thou dost the tale rehearse, Else dread a dead man's curse; For this I sought thee."
|VIII. THE DAYS OF THE REDSKINS|
Now we shall hear of the Redskin braves
Of the great Potawatomi race, Paddling canoes o'er Maxinkuckee's waves,
And ranging the country in the chase.
.... Random Rhymes.
THE REDSKIN ENTERS THE PICTURE.
He dwelt in this land a long, long time before the white man came, and just a little while after he arrived, to settle permanently. When that happened, the Redskin found that his days in this neighborhood were numbered, and very soon he packed up and moved west, leaving Maxinkuckee to the summer cottagers and the fishermen and huntsmen, the boatmen and crewmen, the bathers and a few others.
At the time this story a told, the white man has enjoyed the lakes and streams, and the land between, in this township, for nearly a century, but the Indian did better than that; he had the whole business all to himself for ... well, no one seems to know just how 'long, but it must have been at least several times the white man's century. And what a wonderful piece of land, including of course the lakes and streams thereon, the Indian relinquished to the incoming Paleface, in order to "go West, young man"-and maybe cash in on a good fat oil lease! To put the story in a nutshell, the Redskin came, stayed as long as he could, then went. May he rest in peace and plenty on his royalties, for he surely got a "raw deal" when he was dragged or had to drag himself out of the Union Township picture!
The first of the copper-skinned race to enter the picture were the Miamis, originally known as the Twightwees. They occupied the territory now included within the boundaries of Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana, in the early days; they were the original owners of the land, who held it "by right of discovery." The Miami Indians: permitted. the Potawatomis (spelled variously), who were gradually gaining a foothold in this region, to OCCUPY their lands and hunting grounds. Finally, by the "treaty of Tippecanoe" made October 26, 1832, about four years before the coming of the first permanent white settlers to this township, the Potawatomi tribe was recognized by the government as the owners of the territory they occupied, the country north of the, Wabash river and south of Lake Michigan. The possession of the territory by the United States dates back to the ordinance of 1787. The government made a succession of treaties with the Indians from that date onward, and took a succession of slices of land from the original owners in these parts until at length they had neither rock nor blade of grass they could call their own. Up to 1834, a hundred years ago, this immediate region had a population composed entirely of these Indians, of whom there were estimated to be around 1,500, located in villages along the lakes and rivers of the county.
Conquered by Indians.
Whether the Indians immediately succeeded the Mound-Builders or whether a period of time elapsed between the going of one race and the coming of the other, it is hard to tell. It is more than probable that the succession was immediate, and the Mound-Builders were conquered and destroyed by the Indians, who took possession of the lands. A single battle could not have settled the affair; no doubt it was a warfare of ages, or of decades, that ended in victory to the Indians. There is no way to prove, however, that the Mound-Builders were of more ancient origin than the Indians.
Most of the Indian tribes of Indiana were of the Algonquian relationship. The Twightwees or Miamis, the Foxes, Potawatomis, Kickapoos, and the Ouiatanons, to mention those who were once here or very close by, were among the various members of the formidable Miami Confederacy. The Potawatomis were among the strongest of the tribes of Indiana. The Confederacy had some valiant fighters. Little Turtle, one of the greatest of Redskin warriors, was a Miami.
The Indian tribes of the great Algonquin race that roamed old Indiana Territory long ago were allied into families within the race, and while often warring among themselves, they united their strength in terror of their bitter enemies located on either side of them, the cruel Iroquois to the east and the bloodthirsty Sioux to the west. This territory, reserved as a hunting-ground, became a series -of perpetual battle-fields. Things settled down in time so that the whites could begin to settle down. It is said that the Miami tribes were a degraded lot, much given to drink and gambling. They "raised old Ned." It is even rumored that they practiced cannibalism in revolting forms, and in the midst of an overproduction of game. There is no accounting for tastes, even among the aborigines.
The Potawatomis, who were said to be a rather peaceful tribe, had a family tree that took root elsewhere than in this neighborhood. They were people from up North. They had ties of blood relationship connecting them with the Ojibways, Chippewas and Ottawas, other northern stock. The first trace we have of the Potawatomi people locates their old territory in the Lake Superior region on the islands near the entrance to Green Bay, from which point they held the country all the way to the headwaters of the Great Lakes.
Why they left the Green Bay country, now known as a part of Wisconsin (also Michigan), is not quite definite, maybe because of too many cold winters, scarcity of game, Or the "lure of the wandering foot" and a desire for new worlds to conquer. Anyway, and it is historically correct, they left a beautiful country to the Ole
Olsens, the Lars Larsens and the Jens Jensens, and came to another land of equal (claimed to be greater) .beauty. Migrating southward, they finally camped in this lower region, later located permanently, and were recognized as the rightful owners -of the territory. They came, they like it, they stayed!
Samuel R. Brown, an early traveler, writing in 1817, tells one reason why the Indians liked it here. He declares that the best proof of the excellence of the land in certain parts, especially around the headwaters of the rivers, was the existence there of a numerous Indian population. "These sagacious children of nature," according to Brown, "are good judges of land. Indeed, they are rarely, if ever, found on a barren soil." He found the Potawatomi to be the most numerous tribe in the State.
Not only were the Potawatomi Indians a numerous tribe, but they were also formerly a powerful force for foes to reckon with. They were rather widely distributed, likewise, for they inhabited the northern part of Indiana, the southern part of Michigan and the northeastern part of Illinois. In the early history of Indiana, they were for several years hostile to the whites. They favored the French in the early wars and later were unfriendly to the United States.
Fox Tribe Once Here.
The territory of Marshall. County, it is said, was originally in the Possession of the Fox Indians and another friendly tribe. The Potawatomis claimed right of possession. In consequence, a feud sprang up between them, resulting in many hard-fought battles, the last of which, it is stated, occurred in an open space of ground north and east of Wolf Creek mills, on what later became the Hugh Brownlee land. An Indian village was there before the whites settled in the neighborhood.
The majority of the Redskin difficulties had been smoothed over, however, by the time the first permanent white settlers came to the Union Township area, establishing their original homes not far from that old Indian battle-ground of the Wolf Creek vicinity. The vanguard of white civilization found the red man hereabouts -hunting and fishing, loafing and enjoying the country, with no encroaching whites to mar the picture of natural splendor, and primitive ease and contentment. The Indian was having his day. And those Redskin days in this neighborhood, as the Englishman might remark, must have been "jolly well spent."
|IX. THE EXPLORER COMES EXPLORING|
"In it, said he, came a people, In the great canoe with pinions Came, he said, a hundred warriors; Painted white were all their faces And with hair their chins were covered!"
... Henry Wadsworth Longfellow NOW CAME THE PALEFACE INTO THE PICTURE, came from far distant lands the white explorer, seeking new domains to annex to the old.
Who it was among white men first to cast eyes on our own fair region, today confined within township boundaries, no one knows. Perhaps it matters not a great deal who the Columbus of Union Township might have been. But whoever he was, he was the discoverer of a mighty fine land!
An empty niche awaits him in our Township Hall of Fame, should he ever take a notion to show up.
History tells us that there came a gallant French explorer to this country. His name was LaSalle. He opened the way, making two memorable journeys into the wilderness of this then far western territory.
Over two centuries ago, Indiana had neither name nor boundary. This was just a big expanse of country claimed by France but as yet unexplored by her. Then, in 1669, La Salle appeared upon the scene. In a diminutive flotilla of frail canoes, said to be as few as four, he and his little band of followers, whose numbers. were estimated at from fourteen to around thirty, came safely through from Montreal bound for the Ohio, the great river he had heard about while up in the Canadian country. La Salle was seeking a route to the Oriental spice lands, to the Far East where the riches of China and Japan beckoned him on. He thought he would find that route by coming this way.
To Lake Ontario came the adventurers, then to its westernmost point. Portaging to one of the branches of the Ohio, they descended it to the Ohio proper. Their canoes went down-river far enough for the white men to see the land that was to become the State of Indiana. They returned to Montreal, and La Salle prepared to go adventuring again, to discover more, and, according to his aim, to extend New France vastly more than it had been extended previously. For his next trip, La Salle built a ship with sails, the "Griffin," a "canoe with wings." (No, it wasn't the "White Swan" or any relation to that noble craft!)
In 1679-80, La Salle again reached the region that is now Indiana. With eight canoes and thirty-three men (or maybe it was more), he entered the St. Joseph River from Lake Michigan, and portaged from where South Bend now is situated, to the Kankakee.
It was in this region that LaSalle, searching for the portage path, lost his way in the Indiana woods, and was separated from his party all one night. There is an unconfirmed rumor that he was out on a private expedition of his own, maybe in search of the fabled Maxinkuckee Moonshine, which could have been found not so very many leagues onward. At any rate, when he returned in the morning, history has nothing to say about a red nose, but he actually did bring into camp two opossums (one for himself and one for the cook) that he had killed with a club as they hung by their tails (foolish notion!) from the boughs of trees by the wayside.
Indian as Guide.
The journey was continued, with an Indian to guide, over the portage-trail, which was reported to be from two to five miles long (depending no doubt on the amount of baggage, canoe, etc., the estimator was obliged to carry), and so on down the Kankakee, the Illinois, and the Mississippi. By these stages progressed the La Salle expedition of 1680. One account of La Salle's journeys says that he faced westward finally in 1681 with sleds and canoes and forty-four persons: Not being certain as to which of his several trips was meant, we shall conclude that he faced westward, by all means, and got there, also quite a bit southward, ultimately.
The famous Father Hennepin was with La Salle on the Kankakee, and contributed a large share to the history of exploration in this part of the world. Then came other explorers, among them Marquette and Joliet. Still other intrepid priests followed the streams of Indiana and Illinois. And "many of them grew old and died at their mission posts among the Indians."
It is very much within the range of probability that one or another of these brave and venturesome French priests may have been the first to discover the region, inland not far from the navigable rivers, that today is known as Union Township.