Mound Builders in Steuben County, Indiana


 MOUND BUILDERS  IN STEUBEN COUNTY, INDIANA

This bust type birdstone was found in Alvarado, Indiana near the location of the circular fortification. It is evidence that the earthwork was constructed by the Iroquois sometime around 800 A.D. An identical earthwork is preserved in the adjoining county of Dekalb.

All of the sites below were investigated, but nothing remained in Steuben County.  The burial mounds that were 5 in number are still preserved in the adjoining county of Williams, Ohio.

The most comprehensive travel guide to the burial mounds in Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Michigan.  222 sites burial mound and earthworks sites were photographed and directions provided.  85 sites were photographed in Indiana.  

Seventh Annual Report of the Geological Survey of Indiana, 1875
     Through the kindness of James Colgrove, of Kendallville, we were shown some mounds near Little Turkey Lake in the southwest corner of Steuben County. One on the roadside, about ten foot in diameter and ten feet high, had been opened; it was of coarse gravel and sand, the same as the surface soil in the adjoining field.
      A few rods southeast of this, in the woods, we visited a well defined mound, twenty-five feet in diameter and four and half feet high; the center had been dug out, a deeper excavation was made, reaching down to the level of the surround soil, without finding any bones, or other evidence of burial. About a quarter of a mile further south, on the land of Frank Glascow, near the margin of a marsh, (ancient lake) another mound was discovered, having about the same dimensions as the one last mentioned. An excavation was made in the top, and at the depth of three feet, ashes, charcoal, and fragments of human bones were found; about one foot below these another layer of ashes and charcoal was encountered, among which were the much decayed bones of an adult human being; associated with the bones were fragments of a skull, jaw bones, and well preserved, but much worn teeth, indicating burial in a sitting posture. One stone implement was taken out - a chisel - shaped slab of mottled slate, four and half inches long by two inches wide, and one quarter of an inch thick, with one corner broken off.

History of Steuben County, 1955
      The circle mound on Oscar Taylor’s farm in Richland Township, along Fish Creek, east of Hamilton Lake. What was once a six-foot embankment has been reduced by farming operations until it is scarcely perceptible as an Indiana circle.

History of the Maumee River Basin, 1905
      Another circle is situated about four miles northwest of Hamilton, Steuben County, in Richland Township. It is locally known as The Mystic Circle, it is 68 yards in diameter and averages between three and four feet in height with a breadth of twelve feet at the base of the earth wall or ridge . . .. shows an entrance or opening twelve to fourteen feet wide, a little west of south.

History of Steuben County, 1955
Indian Lore of Steuben County” by Cameron Parks
      The mound as used by the “Mound Builders” is classified into definite groups, as burial, alter, temple, sepulcher, observation, lookout and anomalous. The only two in Steuben County that may be properly classified, would be the lookout mound near Hogback Lake and the Sepulcher Mound or Circle Mound on Oscar Taylor’s farm in Richland Township, along Fish Creek, east of Hamilton Lake. What was once a six-foot embankment has been reduced by farming operations until it is scarcely perceptible as an Indian Circle.

Atlas of Steuben County Indiana, 1880
       There are also mounds in the vicinity of Hamilton, on the shores of Crooked and Silver Lakes, and also in other places in the county, but of Indiana burial grounds the number is not so limited. Fleshing stones, flint arrow points, and stone hatchets are numerous, and attract but comparatively little attention to what they would in localities not so well supplied with relics of a race now fast disappearing from the land.

Geological Survey of Indiana, 1873
      A few small mounds are known. Just east of Pleasant Lake the outlines of two can be distinctly traced; no one seemed to know whether either of them had ever been opened. On the north shore of Silver Lake, 20 feet above the water, are five mounds, the largest about 20 feet in diameter and 3 to 5 feet high; some years ago J.W. Gale, with two or three friends, opened one of these and found human bones, but no stone implements. In the southwest corner of the county on the north shore of Little Turkey Lake are 10 small mounds. Dr. W.E. Weicht was one of a party who dug into one of these some years ago, no implements or pottery, but six different layers of human bones were found, distinctly separated by a thin strata of earth; the skeletons lay on their backs, extended full length. This mound was about 10 feet in longer diameter and six feet in the shorter by five feet high.

Bureau of American Ethnology, 1920, Bulletin 71
Native Cemeteries and Forms of Burial East of the Mississippi”
      Decidedly different from any of the preceding was a great communal, or tribal, burial mound which stood on the lowlands of Buffalo Creek, near the Ohio, in Union County, Kentucky. The mound was partially examined and “on the west side bodies were found covered with six feet of earth, forming about five separate layers. The bones of the lowest layer were so tender that they could not be removed. . . It would appear that the general plan of burial was to scrape the surface free from all vegetable matter and deposit the body on its back, with the head turned to the left side. The bodies at the bottom of the heap, as far as could be ascertained by the examination, were buried without weapons, tools, or burial urns. . . To the depth of three feet from the surface, some of the bodies had with them burial urns. . . Three or four tiers of skeletons, of later burials, were covered with clay. It is probable that as many as 300 bodies, infant and adult were buried in this mound. . . Adults and children were buried together.”
      This represented a type of burial mound encountered farther up the valley of the Ohio, a good example of which formerly stood within the city of Cincinnati. It was “in the center of the upper and lower tow, on the edge of the upper bank. The principle street leading from the water is cut through the barrow, and exposes its strata and remains. . . The dead repose in double horizontal tiers between each tier are regular layers of sand, flat surface stones, gravel and earth. I counted seven tiers, and might have discovered more. . . With the dead were buried their ornaments, arms and utensils..” (Asher, (1) pp. 185-190)
      In the extreme northeastern corner of Indiana, almost due north of the preceding, was another mound of this type. In the southwest corner of Steuben County, on the north shore of Little Turkey Lake, stood a group of 10 small mounds. One of the groups was examined and six strata of human remains were revealed, “distinctly separated by thin strata of earth; the skeletons lay on their backs, extended full length”. Their mound was about 10 feet in longer diameter and 6 feet in the shorter, by 5 feet high. Neither pottery nor implements occurred with the remains.