Serpent Effigies in Waukesha County, Wisconsin

Possible Serpent Effigies in Waukesha County, Wisconsin
But the most remarkable natural appearances we were led to examine were the ridges in a large natural meadow in the town of Brookfield, Waukesha County, which were supposed to be artificial representations of the Massasauga rattle-snake. My attention was first called to them by Mr. M. Spears, who detected them. They vary from a few inches to two feet in height, above the otherwise uniformly level surface of the marshy ground; and in length they vary from ten or fifteen to one hundred and forty feet. Many of them are obtuse at one end, and tapering and acute at the other, as if intended to represent the head and tail of a snake; others are acute at both extremities. (See Fig. 4.) The accompanying figures show their appearance and relative situation. Some are so arranged that, were they larger and differently situated, we might suppose them portions of a fort, with a guarded entrance. They are composed of the same black mucky earth that constitutes the surface soil of the marsh. They have all the same general direction, being parallel, or nearly so, with that of the marsh. There are great numbers of these ridges, not less, perhaps, than one hundred on this marsh.

To understand how these ridges were probably formed, we must take into account the soft nature of the surface soil; and the fact that, except in the driest portion of the year, it is completely saturated or covered with water. The ice formed on the surface in winter must therefore include a considerable portion of the soil. During very cold weather, this covering of ice contracts, leaving in the middle of the marsh numerous irregular cracks, probably assuming the arrangement and directions of these ridges. As the temperature moderates, the ice expands, closing up the cracks, but moving towards them a portion of the soil, and leaving a slight elevation. The next winter, the same thing is repeated; but the ice being thinner on these slight ridges, it would naturally separate where they occur: and thus the same ridges are enlarged from year to year, until they assume the size and shape now so much resembling serpents. We afterwards saw similar ridges in several other marshes.

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