Early Native American Mound Builders: St Joseph County, Indiana


Early American Indian trail that could date as early as 7000 BC located in the city of South Bend, Indiana. One of Indiana's oldest historic sites.

St. Joseph-Kankakee Portage     
    Let us take a bird’s eye view from the point where the prairie nearest approaches the St. Joseph River as it appeared in the early days, when the face of nature still remained essentially the same as when Hennepin and LaSalle looked upon it. To the west and south the dry prairie, the semi-wet prairie and the vast expanse of marsh appeared as one great plain, on the western verge of which we can see the teepees, the smoke from numerous campfires, and on closer inspection the rude fortifications of an Indiana village of Miami’s, Wascoutins and Outagamis. To the west this rudely fortified village extended a stretch of high, rolling and dry timberland. To and beyond those beautiful and very conspicuous landmarks, Beaver, Bass and Lower Chain Lakes. It may be assumed that no careful writer accustomed to reciting a trip in detail would have failed to mention these lakes, covering over two miles of that trip, and whose waters covered in expanse over 600 acres, had these lakes been on his route. The remains of the fortified Indiana village referred to above were a prominent land work with the pioneers who settled in German Township. 

 They were located on the northwest quarter of Section 32, township 38, north range two east, about 200 yards east of the timberline, and about 200 yards north of the present Michigan road and just to the northeast of the old Jesse Jennings residence. These earthworks consisted of a mound some 80 or 90 feet in height. North of their mound was a circular embankment about 100 feet in diameter. To the west from their enclosure was an elevated path or walk leading to a small pool that had no inlet or outlet, being supplied with water by the springs and the rain. Within the circular enclosure, Mr. Jacob Ritter built a cabin in 1830.

Indiana History Bulletin, Vol. III, Oct. 1925 - Sept. 1926,
An Archaeological Find”

The South Bend Tribune of October 4 contains announcement of the discovery of important prehistoric remains in St. Joseph County. This announcement is confirmed by a letter from John D. Hibberd, Secretary of the Northern Indiana Historical Society. The circumstances are as follows:
     Carl Litchfield of Teegarden, and Jesse Lichtfield, who lives just north of Teegarden, recently excavated a mound on the farm of Grove Vosburg, some three miles north of Walkerton. The mound is reputed to be of great antiquity and this seems to be confirmed by the memory the owner of the farm has of an oak tree a yard in diameter formerly growing on top, which fell down about twenty years ago. The mound was at one time about twenty-five feet high but in recent years its height has been decreased. At a depth of about twelve feet, the Litchfield’s found eight skeletons in an arrangement somewhat like the spokes of a wheel with their heads toward the center.

   In the skull of one of the skeletons, said to be of large size, a fine flint arrow was embedded. With this same skeleton several plates of copper were found. The excavation also brought to light a number of other articles, bands, beads, etc., and two pipe bowls, one smooth, and the other elaborately carved.

It is to be hoped that the most significant items of this discovery may be deposited in an appropriate historical museum where they will be accessible and at the same time carefully preserved.

NOTE: It has been stated in other histories, that the skeleton exceeded nine
feet in height.

A History of St. Joseph County Indiana, 1907, by T.E. Howard

      While no remains of great magnitude, left by the Mound Builder, are found in St. Joseph County, yet indications of the presence of those mysterious people are discovered in many places in and near the valleys of the St. Joseph and the Kankakee.

    Near New Carlisle, on the borders of Terre Coupe Prairie, and at various other points such remains are discovered. The most remarkable of these are three large mounds and two small ones, found in Warren Township, on the northwest bank of the furthest south of the group of Chain of Lakes, just south of the Lakeshore railroad tracks. These mounds have supplied some of the finest of the cooper axes in the collections of the Northern Indiana Historical Society and other collections; while in the vicinity of the mounds are the usual cloth-marked fragments of pottery and broken stone implements indicating the presence of that old race whose remains are so conspicuous throughout the valley of the Kankakee and the Illinois.