Two Prehistoric Indian Mounds Found Near Morgansville
by Bruce Horton

Clarksburg Sunday Exponent
June 15, 1930

Find Traces of Old Race in Doddridge

Two Mounds Opened and Explored by Salem College Professor

Chieftain Buried in Regal Splendor

Historic Burial Ground Discovered on Zahn's Farm

Interesting and valuable evidences of a race of gigantic people who inhabited this section of West Virginia more than one thousand years ago have been exhumed from two newly explored mounds located near Morgansville, which is on the Northwestern turnpike about 12 miles west of Salem.

Skeletons of four of these prehistoric mound-builders have been found along with many rare flint instruments and utensils.

The mounds, rich in history of a now vanished race which antedated the present North American Indians, are now being explored by Professor Ernest R. Sutton, head of the geography department at Salem College. Sutton is being assisted by Oris Stutler, of Salem, and others.

Seven Feet Tall

The particular tribe or race which inhabited this section of the state is believed to have been composed of individuals ranging from seven to nine feet in height, and it is thought they were Siouan Indians. The best preserved skeleton found at Morgansville was in a clay encasement, and all of the vertebrae and other bones, excepting the skull, were saved without much crumbling. Careful measurement of the skeletons proved that the Indians were about seven feet, six inches tall.

Although the skeletons constitute a significant addition to the findings thus far unearthed, workers are more interested in the various implements, utensils, and weapons, many of which are considered rare, which have been discovered, since much of the history of this ancient race can be gleaned from the tools and other equipment then used.

On Zahn Farm

The two mounds from which the skeletons and flint tools have been taken are located on the farm of Benjamin Zahn. It was thought for many years that the mounds on the crest of a hill which overlooks the old turnpike were of natural formation, although a few persons maintained that there was a probability of them being graves. The first excavation was made by Professor Sutton and Harley Zahn, son of the owner of the farm, early last fall and the work has been carried on, intermittently, since that time with no little success.

A narrow trench was dug from the east side toward the center of the larger mound, and the first evidence of the formation being an artificial one was in the discovery of the presence of charcoal lumps and some evidence of burnt bone. The clay found appears to have been transported. Further excavation disclosed that the entire mound had been covered with loose rocks which vary in size.

Race Relics

Practically all of the instruments and tools fashioned from flint have been found under the skeletons. The arrow-heads are entirely different from those of the more recent Indians, Professor Sutton states, the former being more crude in design. The spear-points, skinning knives, grinding stones and other implements also differ in varying degrees. The archeological building at Columbus, Ohio, contains many evidences of the workmanship of mound-builders, and much of the materials found on the Zahn farm resembled the findings in Ohio, but one piece, which is a round, flat stone about three inches in diameter (shown in picture) is different from anything exhibited in any museum, it is thought. The use for this particular stone has not yet been determined. The molded piece of clay is also something new, and there is a probability that Professor Sutton will forward these unique findings to the Smithsonian Institution. Many of the other important implements and flint rocks will be placed in the Salem College museum, he has intimated.

The Kingly Vigil

In reviewing the type of mounds found in this section of the country, Professor Sutton spoke of the unusual arrangement of the two mounds he is exploring. It is quite evident that the ruler of the tribe was not destined to be buried with the chiefs of less ranking since the small mound contains the bones of only one individual while three skeletons have been exhumed from the larger one to date and explorers are expecting to discover more as the excavation is continued.

Completely encased in a chamber carefully shaped from large, flat rocks, the chief of the tribe has sat through the centuries in the small mound, the vault fashioned exclusively for him, facing the larger mound which is located about thirty paces to the east and which was the burial ground for numerous lesser chiefs and for many domestic utensils and implements of war.

In all probability the chief was buried in full dress regalia in this death-throne which was so molded as to support him in a sitting position, thus lending him dignity in death as he watched over the kindred chiefs prone upon their backs in the larger mound. However, time has erased whatever evidences there may have been of the worldly splendor of fabrics, robes and head-dress of feathers, but beneath the rock upon which he sat were buried his pipe, banner stone, arrow heads, spear points and other instruments chipped from flint rocks. Burial of these tokens and weapons, no doubt, was in keeping with the Indian tradition of preparing the dead for entrance into the "Happy Hunting Grounds."

Transported Clay

The absence of clay in the immediate vicinity of the mounds leads Professor Sutton to believe that the Indians were obliged to carry this earth for some appreciable distance, baskets probably being used to transport it. The stone vault in which the chief was buried was carefully and tightly packed with clay, and the completed mound was six feet in height and nearly fifteen feet in diameter.

There was apparently no system of burial in the large mound which is ten feet high and about sixty feet in diameter. As a kindred chief died he was buried near the body of a former chief though not in the same manner for each tribe evidently buried its chief as suited its respective ideas or customs. There is a possibility, however, that different rankins of the chiefs may have played some important part in the mode of burial given them.

One body was buried at a depth of about six feet, being laid on white clay which has the appearance of having been burned, or dried by fire. No rocks or stones were found above or below the body, but underneath the bones were found two large blue-grey unused arrowheads, three flint knives, a standstone shaped much like our modern whetsones, worn smooth on all sides, and a clay ornament of some kind, probably a symbol of the tribe.

Quickly Crumbled

Another body had been buried at a depth of only four feet and near the center of the mound. The skeleton was very well preserved, but, like the others, quickly disintegrated when exposed to the air. Careful measurement proved this chief to have been a man of height, strength and power, measuring seven feet, six inches tall. No flints or arrowheads nor any type of equipment was found with him, but his body had been carefully covered with flat stones.

One of the most interesting discoveries made during the excavation of the larger mound was the finding of a body which had been hermetically sealed in a case of clay. For some reason this chief, buried in the west side of the large mound, had been given more care and attention than anyo other of those so far unearthed. The body had been laid, presumably, on a bed of smooth, well-packed clay and then covered and sealed with wet clay. Firewood then was gathered, placed around the clay and ignited. The fire evidently was kept burning for a long time since the clay about the body was nearly two feet in thickness. There may have been many different applications of clay and many different bakings in the process.

Whatever plan was used seems to have been the best method ever found in this section for preserving the dead, or at least to preserve the skeleton.

Other Instruments

Beneath the body in the firm clay were found instruments and equipment consisting of arrow-heads, a grinding stone, and a bone needle about six inches long. This needle may be an ivory one, however.

Although there are some marks on the small round rock found in the large mound, explorers are of the opinion that the scratches are not inscriptions or writings. It is hardly likely that any writings or characters will be found in the mounds, since none have been found in similar mounds throughout Ohio.

The only cryptic writing found in the mounds of this part of the United States was that which was discovered at Moundsville and which has now been exposed publicly as a hoax by an article printed in the May issue of "The Science News-Letter." Many experts on the world's languages endeavored to translate the cryptic writing which was found on a stone taken from the mound at Moundsville, they believing it to have been written by ancient man in Canaanite, Celtic, Runic, or other characters.

Price Exposed Hoax

The late Andrew Price, president of the West Virginia Historical Society, exposed the hoax, one of the greatest in the history of American science and one which has stood triumphantly undetected for ninety odd years.

Mr. Price, in telling of the deciphering he accomplished, said his "key" was the bit of satire written by Charles Dickens regarding Mr. Pickwick and the stone with alleged ancient inscription carved upon. It had been a practical joke, and the joker had his fun as scientists racked their brains to find the code. Likewise, the Moundsville stone was found to be a hoax and the letters, once the key was discovered, spelled, "Bil Stumps Stone Oct 14 1838."

Regarding the probably builders, Professor Sutton is quite certain that the particular tribe which built the mounds at Morgansville were here before the present Indian race and he supports his contention by comparing the flint weapons and tokens. Those he has found are more crude and distinctively different from those made by the present Indian race and buried at a much later date. The Smithsonian Institute has the following to say regarding moundbuilders:

Mounds Described

"Throughout a large portion of the United States earthworks are found of various kinds, attributed to different periods of antiquity. The mounds and embankments are especially numerous in the state of Ohio, where there have been discovered aboriginal remains of the most interesting character. The controversy as to the origin of these mounds and of the people who built them and of their age is one of the most difficult of satisfactory solution. They are by no means confined to the United States, and as to whether the people who constructed them continued to do so up to a comparatively modern time or whether they all are of great antiquity is and has been a matter of dispute among archaeologists.

"The remains found in the mounds consequently have been by many attributed to a people of great antiquity, antedating the present Indian race, and many scientific papers have been written in support of this theory. Yet there are those living who have witnessed the building of mounds, and the extensive studies of Prof. Cyrus Thomas, of the Bureau of American Ethnology, induce him to believe that the Cherokees were mound-builders up to and since the arrival of whites on this continent.

"Many articles of modern make, undoubtedly the work of white people, have been found buried in the mounds. Such things are declared by some to be intrusive or secondary burials. They are alleged by others to have been deposited therein at the time of the construction of the tumuli. With hardly an exception, all earthworks of every description found in the interior of the country are attributed to this wonderful ancient race of aboriginees."

This report, listed in the late nineties by the Smithsonian Institution, has been followed by information regarding mounds in this section of the country, and some information is given regarding mounds in West Virginia, all of which are attributed to a race which preceded the Indians.

It is planned to further explore the two mounds at Morgansville, and other valuable information may be found. Professor Sutton is of the opinion that there are several more skeletons in the large mound, and further and deeper digging may reveal important additions to the already important lot of relics.

Native Americans