Shell Deposits at the Mouth
of Short Creek, West Virginia
By H. B. Hubbard of Wheeling, W. Va.

Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, Showing the Operations, Expenditures, and Condition of the Institution for the Year 1881 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1883), pp. 637-38.

Short Creek is a little stream that enters the Ohio River 9 miles above the city of Wheeling, and the shell deposit alluded to commences to show in the bank of the river some 50 yards above the mouth of this creek, and is exposed for over 100 feet up the river, when it is hidden by a fill for a road down to the water. The shells are those of the freshwater clam and are very fragile, splitting into fine scales on handling, though an occasional one is found that is perfect. The shells are now covered with about 3 feet of silt, and formerly there were 3 or 4 feet of the same loamy deposit over this, but it was removed in grading for a public road. A portion of this road, with much of the deposit of shells, has fallen into the river by the caving in of the bank.

While many of the usual indication which mark such deposits as artificial, such as the remains of fires, &c., are present, there are two peculiarities worthy of especial notice. One of which is a stratum of river bowlders which divides the deposit of shells, which is over 2 feet in thickness, into two very equal parts through its entire exposure. These bowlders were evidently selected with great care for uniformity in size and are about 3 inches in diameter, and are packed as closely as in a pavement. The remains of the fires show both above and below these bowlders, but none immediately upon them. The other peculiarity is the abundance of human bones found mixed with the shells, but these are probably of later origin, and, if so, show that the place has subsequently been used for a burial place.

The large mound at Moundsville, W. Va., was opened in 1838 by Mr. Tomlinson, who, in opening, drove two shafts into it, one on the plane of the base to its center, the other from the top to the base. The horizontal shaft was through a loamy clay as far as driven, which was some 12 or 15 feet at the time I was there, and for 3 or 4 feet in from the surface on the sides and top was marked with fine dark lines which formed segments of circles springing from each other in successive rows, after the manner of what is sometimes termed the "shell-pattern." These lines were from 12 to 16 inches from point to point of contact and 2 1/2 to 3 inches apart at their greatest vertical separation. These lines suggested the idea that the mounds had been faced with turf. In support of this hypothesis, it would be necessary to remember the high angle of elevation of the faces of the mound, the height of the mound and the material of which it is composed, and while the angle of inclination of the faces is no more than nature willingly tolerates under such circumstances, yet, unless the faces were protected, they would be much wasted and gullied by the rains before they would be protected by spontaneous vegetation. The adaptation of the means to the end is apparent in the facility with which the material could be obtained applied, and in the perfect protection which such a casing could afford.

Native Americans