Early Native American Indian Mound Builders in DeKalb County, Indiana


Historic Map of Dekalb County, Indiana with the locations of the Indian burial mounds and earthwork s

Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian, 1878
       The next day we visited a point five miles northeast of Waterloo, where there are several groups of mounds. In the woods on Mr. Boyer’s farm we found a mound about twelve feet in diameter and three feet high, composed entirely of large boulders. It has been there ever since the settlement of the country. On removing the stones and digging beneath, we found that the original soil had never been disturbed, and no remains were found. Near by in a cultivated field was another mound of earth nearly obliterated by cultivation. Excavating it, we found numerous bits of charcoal, and several fragments of pottery, but no human remains. A sort of trench from side to side had been filled with what appeared to be dried swamp muck. Its outlines were quite well defined in the sandy loam of the rest of the mound.

Atlas of DeKalb County, Indiana, 1880
      Two similar mounds, plow river were on the farm of John Taylor and one on the neighboring farm of John Boyer. In these were found only fragments of pottery and charcoal. There is a mound on the farm of Mrs. Hammond near these mentioned.

Note: If one travels five miles northeast of Waterloo you would be in Section 10 Franklin Township, this is where we found the possible stone mound. There is a Boyer property adjacent to the Taylor property, but there was no information available from residents about mounds existing on the property.

Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institute, 1874
      On the adjoining farm of Mr. Taylor about half mile distant, were two more mounds. We dug into one of them, finding again charcoal and fragments of pottery, but no human remains. None of these mounds are more than three foot high and generally have a base from twenty to thirty feet. All through this section many flints, carved implements, and ornaments of stone are found by the farmers. Some of them are perforated, and nearly all are of the banded siliceous slate, which seems to have been so highly prized by the Mound Builder.”

Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1874.
“Antiquities of Allen and DeKalb Counties Indiana” by R.S. Robertson.
      I enclose by today’s mail manuscript description of mound remains in Allen and DeKalb Counties, which I hope may be considered worthy of a place in your report. I think it important to describe locations of mounds as far as discovered, and when Northern Indiana is fully explored, it will prove rich in prehistoric remains.
     I have been careful to defer noting anything from reports, which are almost always much exaggerated, until I can verify them by personal examination. For instance, some ten days since I rode twelve miles in carriage and ten on horseback and return, to visit a fortification and mounds in the north part of Huntington County, only to find a very large beaver dam. As reported to, it was said to enclose from 150 to 200 acres. I found a beaver dam in zigzag lines, nearly 1000 feet in length, and a half a mild farther on two more, one about 300 and the other 600 feet long.
     During the summer I have investigated the prehistoric remains of Allen and DeKalb Counties as far as my opportunities would allow. All that I have discovered thus far have been in the vicinity of the St. Joseph River, which flows from the northeast to the had of the Maumee and one of its tributaries, Cedar Creek, which flows from the northwest into the St. Joseph . . .
      Near Waterloo, in DeKalb County, R.W. McBride, Esq., an enthusiastic archaeologist and collector, had excavated two mounds, finding in one the remains of a great number of human skeletons, apparently buried in a promiscuous heap, and the other, not a far distance, a single skeleton. The bones were too much decayed for preservation. One of the skulls, he says, appeared to have been crushed by a blow from a blunt instrument. He found no works of art, but in examining the rubbish afterward with him I found a butt-end of an arrowhead of flint and a small fragment of pottery. These two mounds are about fifty feet apart, are about thirty feet in diameter and about four feet in height, and are situated on the high ground bordering a marsh, which has once been a small lake. The remains were laid on the surface of the ground, covered with earth, and fires built, which baked the earth and calcined some of the bones. Quite a layer of charcoal and ashes was passed through in diggings, and above this layer earth had again been heaped.

R.W. McBride also submitted this article to The Indiana Quarterly Magazine of History, Volume II, 1906 about these mounds. Titled: Indiana Mounds in DeKalb County.
     Two of these mounds were on the bank of Cedar Creek, about one-half mild northwest of Waterloo on the farm of Daniel Godwin. Large trees were growing around them, and quite a large tree grew about in the center of one of them, - the smaller of the two. The large mound was about twelve feet in diameter, and about four and one-half or five feet in height. It contained the skeleton of one person, apparently buried in a sitting posture. The other contained the remains of a number of persons. The bodies had apparently been placed in a heap on the ground, and covered with earth. Fractures of some of the skulls indicated violent deaths. Above the earth covering the bodies was a layer of stone and over this more earth and a thick layer of charcoal mingled with charred fragments of human bones. At that time, after careful examination, I concluded that these mounds marked the site of a battle; that the victors of those left in possession of the field had made these mounds the burial place of their dead, and had burned the bodies of their dead enemies in the mounds above them. . .

Very respectfully,

Robert W. McBride
Indianapolis, January 10, 1906

The Smithsonian Annual Report, 1874, R.S. Robertson
      We next went to the farm of Henry Gonzer in Fairfield Township, there a mound once overlooked a small lake, which is gradually filling from the wash of the surrounding hills. The mound is now nearly obliterated by cultivation. We were informed by Mr. Gonzer that it was opened about twenty years ago, when the skeleton was found thigh bone of which was as long as his leg, and the skull as large as a half bushel measure. We dug a little below the surface, and found a few bones, among which was a broken thighbone of ordinary size . . .

Atlas of DeKalb County, 1880
       And one on the land owned by Henry Gomer in Fairfield Township, there were found bones and charcoal. 
       Like mounds (Taylor farm) exist on the farm of Christian Keller, in Wilmington Township, Alonzo Lockwood, in Jackson, Mr. Martin near Newville, and on the farm of Mr. Tyndal near Spencerville, in Concord Township. Four of these being opened proved to be burial mounds containing human remains and pottery. Near the crossing of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad over the St. Joseph River, on the old Blair Farm, were found several of these earth tombs, from which arrowheads and stone hatchets were obtained. On the farm of Mr. Kepler, in Smithfield Township, are three mounds, in one of that was found a quantity of charred corn in a state of preservation. In Smithfield Township, on the farm of Mr. Refner, is a circular earthwork having a circumference of about two hundred yards. The embankment is in places two and half feet high, and is surrounded by a ditch. To the northeast and southwest are entrances and large trees standing on bank and ditch.

Circular Iroquois earthwork located south of Ashley, Indiana.  These circular works extended along the southern shores of the Great Lakes to New York.  This work marks their western extent.

History of the Maumee River Basin, 1905, Slocum
       Beginning in the northwestern part of the basin and following down the streams, we note first, a circular ridge of earth on the morraine in the northeastern and highest part of Smithfield Township, DeKalb County Indiana. The ridge is rather indefinite in part, with indications of possibly two original openings while in other places it is yet nearly three feet in height. Its diameter is about 200 feet.

History of DeKalb County, 1885
     The Mound: is an elevation of ground on the Ashman Farm. It is about ten rods from the “Little St. Joe” and on the south bank of a small creek that empties into the St. Joe at this point. It was opened in the fall of 1837 by Silas A. Bartlett, Daniel Strong Jr., John Platter and Frasier Bartlett. They found a large quantity of human bones about three feet from the surface. The elevation was then ten feet, but is now only about four. It is evident that this was a sepulcher of the mound builders, and the rude earthworks indicate that here was also at sometime a fortification.”

This is the only ancient Iroquois burial mound that was found in Dekalb County, Indiana, located on the Little St. Joe River.  There was no evidence of any additional earthworks.

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