Samuel Gardner Drake.

The aboriginal races of North America; comprising biographical sketches of eminent individuals, and an historical account of the different tribes, from the first discovery of the continent to the present period ... and a copious analytical index online

. (page 11 of 131)
Online LibrarySamuel Gardner DrakeThe aboriginal races of North America; comprising biographical sketches of eminent individuals, and an historical account of the different tribes, from the first discovery of the continent to the present period ... and a copious analytical index → online text (page 11 of 131)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

side, and to the east of the centre gateway, rises a large mound. In the op-
posite point of the compass, without the circular one, is another. These,
probably, were the places of burial. As the walls of the square fort lie pretty
nearly in a line with the cardinal points of the horizon, some have supposed
they were originally projected in strict regard to them; their variation not
being more than that of the compass ; but a single fact of this kind can estab-
lish nothing, as mere accident may have given them such direction. '* What
surprised me," says my authority, " on measuring these forts, was the exact
manner in which they had laid down their circle and square ; so that aftei
every effort, by the most cartful survey, to detect some error in their measure*
ment, we found that it was impossible."


As it is not my design to waste time in conjectures upon the authors of
those antiquities, or the remoteness of the period in which they were con-
structed, I will continue my account of them, after an observation upon a
single circumstance. I refer to the fact of the immense trees found growing
upon the mounds and other ancient works. Their having existed for a thou-
sand years, or at least some of them, can scarcely be questioned, when we
l;no\\ t'loni unerring data that trees have been cut upon them of the age of
near 500 years ; and from the vegetable mould out of which they spring, there
is every appearance of several generations of decayed trees of the same kind;
and no forest trees of the present day appear older than those upon the very
works under consideration.

There are in the Forks of Licking River, above Newark, in the county of
Licking, very remarkable remains of antiquity, said by many to be as much so
as any in the west. Here, as at Circleville, the same singular fact is observa-
ble, respecting the openings into the forts; the square ones having several, but
the round ones only one, with a single exception.

Not far below Newark, on the south side of the Licking, are found numer-
ous wells or holes in the earth. " There are," says Mr. Jllwater, " at least a
thousand of them, many of which are now more than 20 feet deep." Though
called wells, my author says they were not dug for that purpose. They have
the appearance of being of the same age as the mounds, and were doubtless
made by the same people ; but for what purpose they could have been made,
few seem willing to hazard a conjecture.

Four or five miles to the north-west of Somerset, in the county of Perry, and
southwardly from the works on the Licking, is a stone fort, inclosing about 40
acres. Its shape is that of a heart, though bounded by straight lines. In or
near its centre is a circular stone mound, which rises like a sugar-loaf from
12 to 15 feet. Near this large work is another small fort, whose walls are of
earth, inclosing but about half an acre. I give these the name of forts, al-
though Mr. Atwater says he does not believe they were ever constructed for

There are curious remains on both sides of the Ohio, above and opposite the
mouth of the Scioto. Those on the north side, at Portsmouth, are the most
extensive, and those on the other side, directly opposite Alexandria, are
the most regular. They are not more remarkable than many already de-

What the true height of these ruined works originally was, cannot be very
well ascertained, as it is almost impossible to know the rate of their diminu-
tion, even were the space of time given : but there can be no doubt that most
of them are much diminished from the action of tempests which have swept
over them for ages. That they were the works of a different race from the
present Indians, has been pretty confidently asserted ; but as yet, proof is en-
tirely wanting to support such conclusion. In a few instances, some European
articles have been found deposited in or about some of the works ; but few
persons of intelligence pronounce them older than others of the same kind
belonging to the period of the French wars.

As it respects inscriptions upon stones, about which much has been said
and written, I am of the opinion, that such are purely Indian, if they were
not made by some white maniac, as some of them most unquestionably have
been, or other persons who deserve to be classed among such; but I would
not be understood to include those of South America, for there the inhabitants
vidently had a hieroglyphic language. Among the inscriptions upon stone
in New England, the " Inscribed Rock," as it is called, at Dighton, Mass., is
doubtless the most remarkable. It is in Taunton River, about six miles below
the town of Taunton, and is partly immersed by the tide. If this inscription
was made by the Indians, it doubtless had some meaning to it ; but I doubt
whether any of them, except such as happened to know what it was done
for, knew any thing of its import. The divers faces, figures of half-formed
animals, and zigzag lines, occupy a space of about '20 square feet. The whim-
rhal conjectures of many persons about the origin of the inscription might
muse, but could not instruct; and it would be a waste of time to give an
account of them.


A stone, once thought to contain some marvellous inscription, was deposit-
ed a few years since in the Antiquarian Hall, at Worcester, Mass. ; and it way
with some surprise, that, on examining- it, I found nothing but a few lines of
quartz upon one of its surfaces. The stone was singular in no respect beyond
what may be found in half the farmers' fields and stone fences in New Eng-

In a cave on the bank of the Ohio River, about 20 miles below the mouth
of the Wabash, called Wilson's or Murderer's Cave, are figures engraven upon
stone, which have attracted great attention. It was very early possessed by
one Wilson, who lived in it with his family. He at length turned robber, and,
collecting about 40 other wretches like himself about him, took all the boats
which passed on the river with any valuable goods in them, and murdered the
crews. He was himself murdered by one of his own gang, to get the reward
which was offered for his apprehension. Never having had any drawings of
the hieroglyphics in this cave, we cannot form any very conclusive opinion
upon them. As a proof of their antiquity, it has been mentioned, that among
those unknown characters are many figures of animals not known now to be
in existence; but in rny opinion, this is in no wise a conclusive argument of
their antiquity ; for the same may be said of the uncouth figures of the Indian
manitos of the present day, as well as those of the days of Powkatan.

At Harmony, on the Mississippi, are to be seen the prints of two feet imbed-
ded in hard limestone. The celebrated Rappe, conveyed the stone containing
them from St. Louis, and kept it upon his premises to show to travellers.
They are about the size of those made by a common man of our times, unac-
customed to shoes. Some conclude them to be remains of high antiquity.
They may, or may not be : there are arguments for and against such conclu-
sion ; but on which side the weight of argument lies is a matter not easily to
be settled. If these impressions of feet were made in the soft earth before it
was changed into fossil stone, we should not expect to find impressions, but a
formation filling them of another kind of stone (called organic) from that in
which the impressions were made ; for thus do organic remains discover them-
selves, and not by their absence.

A review of the theories and opinions concerning the race or races anterior
to the present race of Indians would perhaps be interesting to many, and it
would be a pleasing subject to write upon : but, as I have elsewhere intimated,
my only object is to present facts as I find them, without wasting time in com-
mentaries ; unless where deductions cannot well be avoided without leaving
the subject more obscure than it would evidently be without them.

Every conjecture is attended with objections when they are hazarded upon
a subject that cannot be settled. It is time enough to argue a subject of the
nature of this we are upon when all the facts are collected. To write volumes
about Shem, Ham, and Japhet, in connection with a few isolated facts, is a
most ludicrous and worse than useless business. Some have said, it is an
argument that the first population came from the north, because the works of
which we have been speaking increase in importance as we proceed south ;
but why they should not begin until the people who constructed them had ar-
rived within 40 ' of the equator, (for this seems to be their boundary north,) it
is not stated. Perhaps this people came in by way of the St. Lawrence, and
did not need any works to defend them before arriving at the 40 of north
latitude. The reader will readily enough ask, perhaps, For what purpose
could fortifications have been built by the first people ? To defend themselves
from wild beasts, or from one another ? .With this matter, however, we have
nothing to do, but were led to these remarks, preparatory to a comparison be-
t ueen the antiquities of the north with those of the south.

On the other hand, it is said the original people of North America must have
come from the south, and that their progress northward is evident from the
same works; with this difference, that as the people advanced, they dwindled
into insignificance ; and hence the remains which they left are proportionate
to their ability to make them. But there is nothing artificial among the ancient
ruins of North America that will compare with the artificial mountain of Ana-
huac, called Cholula, or Chloluia, which to this day is about 164 feet in perpen-
dicular height, whose base occupies a square, the sides of which measure 1450



feet. Upon this the Mexicans had an immense wooden temple when Cortez
overrun their empire. A city now hears the name of Cliolula, in Puebla,
(iO miles east of Mexico. Yet it appears from Dr. Beck's Gazetteer of Illinois,
that there is standing between Belleville and St. Louis, a mound (>00 yards in
circumference at its base, and 90 feet in height. Mount Joliet, so named from
the Sieur Joliet, a Frenchman, who travelled upon the Mississippi in HJ7.'J, is
a most distinguished mound. It is on a plain about GOO yards west of the
River Des Plaines, and 150 miles above Fort Clark. Mr. Schoolcraft computed
its height at GO feet, its length about 450 yards, and its width 75. Its sides
are so steep that they are ascended with difficulty. Its top is a beautiful plain,
from which a most delightful prospect is had of the surrounding country. It,
seems to have been composed of the earth of the plain on which it stands.
Lake Joliet is situated in front of it; being a small body of water about a mile
in length.

Although the remains of the ancient inhabitants of South America differ
considerably from those of North America, yet I have no doubt but that the
people are of the same race. The condition even of savages changes. No
nation remains stationary. The western Indians in the neighborhood of the
lakes do not make pottery at the present day, but earthen utensils are still in
use among the remote tribes of the west, which is similar to that dug up in
Ohio, and both are similar to that found in South America.

In speaking of ancient pottery, Mr. Schoolcraft observes, " It is common, in
digging at these salt mines, [in Illinois,] to find fragments of antique pottery,
and even entire pots of a coarse earthenware, at great depths below the sur-
face. One of these pots, which was, until a very recent period, preserved by
a gentleman at Shawaneetown, was disinterred at a depth of 80 feet, and was
of a capacity to contain eight or ten gallons."

We see announced from time to time, in the various newspapers and other
periodicals, discoveries of wonderful things in various places ; but on examina-
tion it is generally found that they fall far short of what we are led to ex-
pect from the descriptions given of them. We hear of the ruins of cities in
the banks of the Mississippi ; copper and iron utensils found at great depths
below the surface, and in situations indicating that they must have been de-
posited there for three, four, or five hundred years ! Dr. McMurtrie relates, in
his "Sketches of Louisville," that an iron hatchet was found beneath the roots
of a tree at Shippingsport, upwards of 200 years old. He said he had no doubt
that the tree had grown over the hatchet after it was deposited there, because
" no human power could have placed it in the particular position in which it
was found."

Upon some other matters about which we have already remarked, the same
author says, " That walls, constructed of bricks and hewn stones, have been
discovered in the western country, is a fact as clear as that the sun shines
when he is in his meridian splendor ; the dogmatical assertion of writers to the
contrary notwithstanding." My author, however, had not seen such remains
himself, but was well assured of their existence by a gentleman of undoubted
veracity. Unfortunately for the case he relates, the persons who discovered
the ruins came upon them in digging, at about .18 feet below the surface of the
ground, and when about to make investigation, water broke in upon them, and
they were obliged to make a hasty retreat.

" A fortified town of considerable extent, near the River St. Francis," upon
the Mississippi, was said to have been discovered by a Mr. Savage, of Louis-
ville. He found its walls standing in some places, and " part of the walls of
a citadel, built of bricks, cemented by mortar" Upon some of these ruins were
trees growing whose annual rings numbered 300. Some of the bricks, says
Dr. McMurtrie, were at Louisville when he wrote his Sketches ; and they were
" composed of clay, mixed with chopped and twisted straw, of regular figures,
hardened by the action of fire or the sun."

Mr. Priest, in his ;< American Antiquities," mentions the ruins of two cities
within a few miles of each other, nearly opposite St. Louis ; but from what he
says of them I am unable to determine what those ruins are composed of.
After pointing out the sight of them, he continues, " Here is situated one of
those pyramids, which is 150 rods in circumference at its base, and 100 feet


high." He speaks of "cities," but describes pyramids and mounds. If there
be any thing like the works of men, at the places he points out, different from
what is common in the west, it is very singular that they should not have at-
tracted the notice of some one of the many thousands of people who have for
50 years passed by them. Mr. Brackenridge speaks of the antiquities at this
place, but does not say any thing about cities. He observes, " The most re-
markable appearances are two groups of mounds or pyramids, the one about
10 miles above Cahokia, the other nearly the same distance below it, which, in
all, exceed 150, of various sizes. The western side also contains a considera-
ble number.

" A more minute description of those about Cahokia, which I visited in the
fall of 1811, will give a tolerable idea of them all. I crossed the Mississippi
at St. Louis, and after passing through the wood which borders the river, about
half a mile in width, entered an extensive open plain. In 15 minutes I found
myself in the midst of a group of mounds, mostly of a circular shape, and at
a distance resembling enormous haystacks scattered through a meadow. One
of the largest which I ascended was about 200 paces in circumference at the
bottom, the form nearly square, though it had evidently undergone considerable
alteration from the washing of the rains. The top was level, with an area suf-
ficient to contain several hundred men."

When Mr. Bartram travelled into South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, be-
tween the years 1773 and 1776, he saw many interesting antiquities. At the
Cherokee town of Cowe, on the Tennessee River, which then contained about
100 houses, he noticed that " The council or town-house was a large rotunda,
capable of accommodating several hundred people : it stands on the top of an
ancient artificial mount of earth, of about 20 feet perpendicular, and the ro-
tunda on the top of it being about 30 feet more, gives the whole fabric an
elevation of about 60 feet from the common surface of the ground. But," Mr.
Bartram continues, " it may be proper to observe, that this mount, on which the
rotunda stands, is of a much ancienter date than the building, and perhaps was
raised for another purpose. The Cherokees themselves are as ignorant as we
are, by what people or for what purpose these artificial hills were raised ; they
have various stories concerning them, the best of which amount to no more
than mere conjecture, and leave us entirely in the dark ; but they have a tra-
dition common with the other nations of Indians, that they found them in much
the same condition as they now appear, when their forefathers arrived from the
west and possessed themselves of the country, after vanquishing the nations
of red men who then inhabited it, who themselves found these mounts when
they took possession of the country, the former possessors delivering the same
story concerning them."

Hence it is to be observed that the mounds in the south are not only the
same as those in the north, but Indian traditions concerning them are the same

At Ottasse, an important town of the Cherokees, the same traveller saw a
most singular column. It stood adjacent to the town, in the centre of an ob-
long square, and was about 40 feet high, and only from two to three feet thick
at its base, and tapered gradually from the ground to its top. What is very
remarkable about this pillar is, that, notwithstanding it is formed of a single
stick of pine timber, the Indians or white traders could give no account for
what purpose it was erected ; and to the inquiries which Mr. Bartram made of
the Indians concerning it, the same answer was given as when questioned about
the mounds ; viz., that their ancestors found it there, and the people that those
ancestors dispossessed knew nothing of its origin. This is not singular when
reference is had to mounds of earth, but when the same account is given con-
cerning perishable material, the shade, at least, of a suspicion is seen lurking
in the back ground. As another singular circumstance, it is observed that no
trees of the kind of which this column was made (pin. palustris] were to be
found at that time nearer than 12 or 15 miles.

In the great council-houses at Ottasse were observed, upon the pillars and
walls, various paintings and sculptures, supposed to be hieroglyphics of his-
torical legends, and political and sacerdotal affairs. " They are," observes
Mr. Bartram, " extremely picturesque or caricature, as men in a variety of at-


titudes, some ludicrous enough, others having the head of some kind of ani-
mal, as those of a duck, turkey, bear, fox, wolf, buck, &c., and again those
kind of creatures are represented having the human lietid. Tln-sc dcsin-ns are
not ill executed ; the outlines bold, free and well proportioned. The pillars
supporting the front or piazza of the council-house of the square are ingenious-
ly formed in the likeness of vast speckled serpents, ascending upwards ; the
Ottasses being of the Snake tribe."

In the fourth book of this work mention has been made of the great high-
ways in Florida. Mr. Bartram mentions them, but not in a very particular
manner, upon the St. John's River. As his sentiments seem to be those of a
man of intelligence, I will offer here his concluding remarks upon the Indian
antiquities of the country he visited. "I deem it necessary to observe, as my
opinion, that none of them that I have seen discover the least signs of the arts,
sciences, or architecture of the Europeans or other inhabitants of the old world,
yet evidently betray every sign or mark of the most distant antiquity."

The above remark is cited to show how different different people make up
their minds upon the same subject; it shows how futile it is for us to spend
time in speculating upon such matters. And, as I have before observed, it u
time enough to build theories after facts have been collected. It can add noth-
ing to our stock of knowledge respecting our antiquities, to talk or write forever
about Nebuchadnezzar and the lost tribes of Jews ; but if the time which has
been spent in this manner had been devoted to some useful pursuit, some use-
ful object would have been attained. As the matter now stands, one object,
nevertheless, is clearly attained, namely, that of misleading or confounding the
understandings of many uninformed people. I am led to make these observa-
tions to put the unwary upon their guard.

In the preceding chapter I have given various accounts of, or accounts from
various authors, who imagine that a colony of Welsh came to America 7 or 800
years ago. It is as truly astonishing as any thing we meet with to observe
how many persons had found proofs of the existence of tribes of Welsh In-
dians, about the same period. As a case exactly in point with that mentioned
at the beginning of the last paragraph, I offer what Mr. Brackenridge says upon
this matter. " That no Welsh nation exists," he observes, " at present, on this
continent, is beyond a doubt. Dr. Barton has taken great pains to ascertain
the languages spoken by those tribes east of the Mississippi, and the Welsh
finds no place amongst them ; since the cession of Louisiana, the tribes west
of the Mississippi have been sufficiently known ; we have had intercourse with
them all, but no Welsh are yet found. In the year 1798, a young Welshman
of the name of Evans ascended the Missouri, in company with Makey, and
remained two years in that country ; he spoke both the ancient and modern
Welsh, and addressed himself to every nation between that river and New
Spain, but found no Welshmen." This, it would seem, is conclusive enough.

Mr. Peck, in his "Gazetteer of Illinois," has aimed so happy a stroke at the
writers on our antiquity, that, had I met with his rod before I had made the
previous remarks, I should most certainly have made use of it. I shall never-
theless use it. After saying something upon the antiquities of Illinois, he pro-
ceeds : " Of one thing the writer is satisfied, that very imperfect and incorrect
data have been relied upon, and very erroneous conclusions drawn, upon west-
ern antiquities. Whoever has time and patience, and is in other respects qual-
iried to explore this field of science, and will use his spade and eyes together,
and restrain his imagination from running riot amongst mounds, fortifications.
horseshoes, medals, and whole cabinets of relics of the 'olden time,' will find
very little more than the indications of rude savages, the ancestors of the
present race of Indians."








" 'Tis good to muse on nations passed away
Forever from the land we call our own."



Conduct of the early voyagers towards the Indians Some account of the individ-
uals Donacona Agona Tasquantum, or Squanto Dehamda Skettwarroes
Assacumet Manida Pechmo Monopet Pekenimne Sakaweston Epanow
Manawet IVanape Coneconam.

THE first voyagers to a country were anxious to confirm the truth of their
accounts, and therefore took from their newly-discovered lands whatever
seemed best suited to that object The inhabitants of America carried off
by Europeans were not, perhaps, in any instance, taken away by voyagers
merely for this object, but that they might, in time, learn from them the value
of the country from whence they took them. Besides those forcibly carried
away, there were many, doubtless, who went through overpersuasion, and
ignorance both of the distance and usage they should meet with in a land of
strangers ; which was not always as it should have been, and hence such as
were ill used, if they ever returned to their own country, were prepared to
be revenged on any strangers of the same color, that chanced to come among

In the first voyage of Columbus to America, he took along with him, on his
return to Spain, a considerable number of Indians ; how many we do not
know ; but several died on their passage, and seven were presented to the king.
Fincente Yanez Pinzon, a captain under Columbus, kidnapped four natives,

Online LibrarySamuel Gardner DrakeThe aboriginal races of North America; comprising biographical sketches of eminent individuals, and an historical account of the different tribes, from the first discovery of the continent to the present period ... and a copious analytical index → online text (page 11 of 131)