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STONE MOUNDS ON THE WHITEWATER.


By Edgar R. Quick.


The investigator of the traces left by former dwellers of this part of the Whitewater Valley finds many things to puzzle him; not the least interesting among them are the stone mounds, or what would in other countries be called cairns. While the common earthen tumuli are to be found on nearly every prominent eminence or terrace bordering the river valley, but three of the former, large enough to be of special interest to the investigator, are known to the writer, within the boundaries of the county. The so-called stone mounds are composed almost entirely of stone loosely heaped together, with only such intermixture of soil as has accumulated from the decay of vegetable substances that have gathered in the interstices between the stones. As originally built, I am led to think they were not mounds, but small enclosures, loosely built of stone, in rude dry walls, which have been thrown down by natural forces and the careless investigations of men who took no note of what they did or saw.

The three mentioned are now mere stone heaps, the smallest of which is situated on what is known as Boundary Hill, a spur of the Silurian formation which underlies and forms the sides of the valley. This hill is about two miles west of Brookville, on the West Fork of the Whitewater. The mound, when last visited by the writer, was but a low tumulus about twenty feet in diameter and scarcely two feet high, composed almost entirely of small rough stone, such as are found on all our hillsides where the Silurian rocks are near the surface. What little investigation was made disclosed a few broken human bones, among them the lower maxillary of a child, showing the permanent teeth protruding under the empty sockets of the temporary teeth; and animal bones, among which were those of the land turtle and the teeth of a fox or dog.

A second and somewhat larger mound is situated on one of the highest hilltops immediately north of Brookville, overlooking the town and the valley of the East Fork. The stone are somewhat smaller, completely covering the surface, but the whole appearance of the structure leads one to believe that they have been gathered and heaped upon the surface of an ancient earthen mound, as the superstructure bears every resemblance to other small earthen mounds in the vicinity. By inquiry I am informed that pits have been dug into it in past years, which disclosed human bones including one complete skeleton.


4 Stone Mounds on the Whitewater.

The third, which is the largest and most interesting, is situated on the highest point of a bold headland, overlooking the main river, three miles southeast of Brookville, on its eastern bank, and separating the river valley from that of Little Cedar Creek. This hill, which has long been known as "Brown's Hill," form the fact that a squatter by the name of Brown lived at its base at an early day, is of an oval base about one-half mile in length, its longer axis running north and south. It is joined at its northern extremity to the main ridge which separates the two valleys before mentioned. At its juncture with the main hill it is scarcely one hundred feet in height, but rises gradually in the form of a ridge, affording scarcely the width of an ordinary roadway on its top, more than two hundred feet to its highest point, near its southern extremity, when it declines abruptly to the river and terrace formation at its base. The highest point affords but a few square rods of level ground, which are entirely covered by the stone mound which is composed entirely of rough stone which have been gathered on the adjacent hillsides, which is proved by the fact that no loose stone small enough to be carried by hand are found near the mound. No stones larger than a strong man can carry are found in the composition of the mound, which is entirely of stone to its very base. The dimensions of the structure are about thirty by forty feet, and about four feet in height, the sides dropping over the sides of the hill, which are very steep at this point. A few years since an ash tree was growing on the top, near the center, having taken root in the soil which had gathered in the spaces between the stones, but it did not thrive and has decayed and disappeared. This mound has always been a place of interest to the people of the neighborhood, and many rude, unsystematic investigations have been made, but have developed very little regarding the object of the original structure. People who visited the place more than sixty years ago say that it was a walled inclosure of oval form, but little more than a rod in extent, consisting of a rude, dry wall a few feet high, and empty within except a confused mass of human bones heaped promiscuously at the bottom of the inclosed space. The searcher who delves for its secrets will now find numerous fragments of human bones, a few sherds of rude pottery, such as are now found on the most recent formations of the river valley. But what is more interesting is the fact that numerous bones of small mammals, birds, and the land turtle, also shells of the river mussel, of the same species now found in the river. Among the bones of mammals I have identified those of the fox, groundhog, and muskrat. The observations of the writer and what has been learned from others leads to the thought that this class of structures are among the most recent in origin of all aboriginal remains in this part of the country. In the Southern States the erection of stone mounds are directly traceable to the modern Indians, even down to the advent of Europeans, while in the North among the Hurons, and many kindred


Observations on Faunal Changes. 5

tribes, what was called the feast of the dead was celebrated every few years, when all the dead of each division or clan were collected and deposited in a common sepulcher, making such an accumulation of bones as would account for the quantity originally found at the Brown's Hill mound. In a case mentioned by the Jesuit missionary, Brebeuf, a pit was used instead of a walled inclosure, but the transition would not be great so long as the object seems to have been the collection and preservation of the remains of the dead. All through the valley rude implements and pottery are found which indicate that the country bordering the river was recently inhabited by barbarous men. The local collector knows of many sites where villages have been which contained a large population long since the builders of the mounds departed. By the washing away of the river banks, rude camp hearths are disclosed, showing traces which can be but two or three centuries old. All this and many more things leads the inquirer into this subject to ask what became of the dead. Occasionally a rude grave is discovered, often dug into a mound from the top, and a few cemeteries have been discovered where less than a score of graves are disclosed. The investigation of the history of the stone mounds has perhaps partially answered the question.

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