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Cleveland: Western Reserve & Northern Ohio Historical Society,
1882 #56

Ancient Burial Cists in Northern Ohio

     STONE burial cists have been opened in Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee, but those described below, by Mr. Baldwin, constitute the first authenticated group of this class of remains in Ohio.  When first discovered in Tennessee they were regarded as the graves of a race of pigmies.  When the bones of the Mound-Builders were first uncovered, it was, and still is, a popular belief that they were a race of giants.  Their lower jaw bones fit on, over the faces of living men.  As the jaw of any person of ordinary size, will go on outside of every other persons, this proof of stature is nothing.  It is like persons sitting upon one another, in the lap.  The sculls and other bones of the supposed Mound-Builders, like those in Parkman, are found to be, on examination, those of persons of all ages and sizes, often bent and crowded into the least possible space.  Parkman is the southeastern township of Geauga county, Ohio. 

The Stone Mound

Letter of Mr. Baldwin

                                                                     NELSON, O., March 13th, 1882.

C. C. BALDWIN, Esq.,

       Dear Sir:  Agreeably to promise I sent you a description of the stone tumulus at Parkman, Geauga County, Ohio, which I explored, or the partial ruins of, in August, 1879.
     It is located about one-quarter of a mile north of the south line of the township and county, and about the same distance east of a line north and south at the middle of the township, upon the top of a high bluff running nearly north and south, with the Grand river running southeasterly, and about one hundred and twenty-five feet below the mound, and distant about fifty rods.  The mound was built upon the crest of a bluff, and about three rods south of a sharp ravine, running nearly east and west.  The ravine is about fifty rods long, and at the lower and cuts through the bluff, and slopes at an angle of about forty-five degrees.
     The place is exceedingly picturesque, more so than any other spot for a mile or so along the river, which presents very fine scenery for this part of the country.  It is near a salt spring or "deer lick," and places which are known to have been much frequented by pre-historic peoples.  There are great numbers of rock shelters within a radius of two or three miles from the mound, which show use by fire-marks, debris, etc.
When this country was new, there was a saw mill and a large mill dam, which was much frequented by boys for swimming and rafting.  These boys, now old men, tell me they used to collect large numbers of "trinkets," as they called them, some flint chips, arrow heads, stones of slate, with one or two holes in them, skinning stones, celts, and human bones.  In this way the mound was reduced to a partial state of ruin, - one-fourth to one-third of the stone formerly in the mound having been thrown down the bluff.  About three-fourths or two thirds of the stone remained nearly in their original positions.  Parties who saw this, before any demolition had taken place, say it was symmetrical in form and about six or eight feet high.  Trees of one foot or more in diameter were growing on the mound, - an elm of about that size being nearly in the middle.  Of the stone remaining upon the site of the mound, I found that more than one-half of them had been more or less disturbed by the said boys in search of "trinkets."
     This mound was about sixty-feet long and about fifteen feet wide at base, tapering, so that it was somewhat conical, or to a blunt point.  The stone composing it were generally flat, and in sizes averaging from that of an oyster shell, to about two feet square on surface at top and bottom, and two to four inches in thickness.  The stone are of the "Berea grit," or sandstone, but of irregular stratification.  I forgot to mention that west of the mound and land is level or table land.  The stone were obtained principally from the southern slope of the ravine, at the east and near the top, while a part of them evidently came from the low lands west, and the slope of the bluff east and southeast.
     In exploring the mound, I was assisted by three persons, - my two sons, and a friend by the name of A. W. GATES.  Two of us commenced at each end, placing the stone back of us as we took them from the pile, thus making a thorough exploration of the site and the stone upon it.  We found that the first work done by the builders was to excavate a small quantity of earth in order to level the surface which the mound was built, for the ground descended a little toward the bluff.  A cut was made of about (on an average) four to six inches in depth and the dirt moved eastward, so as to make a surface nearly on a level about sixty feet in length by five or six feet in width, and running apparently due north and south.

     This plat made nearly level was then nicely paved with pretty well selected stones as regards thickness, but of all sizes.  No stone of this pavement had been disturbed since first laid down.  We removed these all and examined the earth that had been disturbed below.  Upon this pavement, stone caskets were walled off with stone or little cells, of about three and one-half feet long by one and one-half feet in width, and flat stones set edgewise to make the partitions between them.  I found one of these cells almost entire, and the distinct remains of several others, so I concluded that they were built the entire length of the sixty feet.  These cells were covered with large flat stones.  Quite a quantity of earth was placed in the cells and above them, which was soil taken probably from the surface near by.  Above these cells or caskets and around them the mound seems to have been built, by throwing the stone carelessly; except to make the shape heretofore spoken of.  The base of the mound when completed was about three times the width of the pavement.
     In exploring the mound and its foundations we found flintflakes, arrow heads, a number of white pebble stones, charcoal, quite a quantity of fragments of human bones, in a state of decomposition.  Claws from the forefoot of a dog or wolf and bones of the same, in small fragments.  Fragments of skulls were mostly found along the east end.  I think the burials were made in a sitting posture, with the feet to the west.  Human teeth were found.  An ornament made of slate, but of different color and texture than I have before seen was also found.  It was about six inches long by one-fourth of an inch in thickness, and a side view is like the diagram following, perforated with one hole, and highly polished, but rather rude in its outline.  I should have mentioned that some few stone in the mound were brought from the river bed below, and are a kind of soapstone.
     The ground upon which this mound is built is of a hard yellowish clay, with a very thin soil.  A flat stone of about two and one-half inches in thickness, by a length of twenty inches, and a width of about twelve inches, but of irregular outline, which was found over the "cell" before spoken of as being almost entire, has three hacks or marks made by a tool, perhaps a stone axe or a celt, which are about two and one-half inches in length, and in width about such as would be made by a vigorous blow with some blunt edged instrument.
     The "trinkets," I am informed, were largely slate ornaments, with two perforations, or what are sometimes called shuttlestones.  The remainder were celts and arrow heads and flakes.  This concludes the description of the mound, but the surroundings are also interesting, which I will attempt to describe.
     The mound was completely surrounded by graves, which answer the description given of what are called "SIX STONE GRAVES," and which were supposed, by some, to be graves of pigmies, on account of being so short.  These single graves were built in all respects like the "caskets" mentioned, except there was no pavement underneath, or walled stone at the ends; but flat stones were set at ends and sides, and in all about six or eight in number.  A cavity of about eight or ten inches, however, was dug in the ground before setting the flat stones.  There were but few of them at the north end of the mound, the largest number were on the west side, or about three-fourths of the whole.  These graves, like those in the mound, were in a partial state of ruin from the same cause, but several were almost entire, and one wholly so, makes me shore of the character of all.  Human bones were in the same condition as in the mound.  The dirt removed from these graves, I think, was put on the grave with the stone; at all events there was dirt on them and among them.  Arrow heads, flint chips, and white pebbles, stones and charcoal were found also in the graves.  In the one which had not been disturbed, but had for some reason escaped, (and, as I think, by being partially covered with the stone from another grave, when the search was made), I discovered a beautifully "barred," slate ornament or shuttlestone, which greatly interested me.  I had removed removed some dirt and stones, when I came upon the covering of flat stones which were quite large, and upon removing them, I noticed a number of small think stones, partially soapstone from the river, directly over the part of the grave containing the heart and breast, placed as represented in the following diagram, which is intended to represent the upper surface of this "nest" of thin stones, and their upper edges, about twenty in number.  The heavy line in the middle represents the slate ornament, also set edgewise in the middle of the "nest."  It is about seven inches in length by two inches in width, though tapering towards the end, and about one-eighth of an inch in thickness with two holes near the middle, highly polished and beautifully striped.  The thin stones were (or a part of them), placed alongside of ornament, and parallel with it, say about two-thirds of them, the remaining one-third placed crosswise at the ends.  I think the burials, both in the mound and outside, were made with a view to effectually prevent wolves and other animals from obtaining the dead bodies.
     My experience in exploring mounds is not large, but I am inclined to the opinion that this stone mound is as ancient as the earth mounds, and that the graves around it are nearly as old as the mound itself.  The relic found by me I still have in my collection.  It is said that the Indians here, when the whites first settled, knew nothing of the mound or the graves, by tradition or otherwise.
     The number of graves around the mound has been variously estimated by different persons at from forty to one hundred.  At the time I commenced to explore, I thought it impossible to ascertain, definitely, the number, by reason of the disturbance and confusion made by curiosity-seekers.  After consulting with some of those who assisted me, I now make the estimate at sixty, believing that there were as many as that.
     A few graves partially down the slope, southeast of the mound, seemed to be of different character, there being no large flat stone used in covering, or set edgewise, at ends or sides of the graves.  Many of these large flat stone were evidently quarried from the bluff, northeast of mound.  I think force was used by wedges and levers in obtaining them.  The open seams offered a good opportunity for this kind of work.  At all events the appearance of the quarry, seems to indicate that such was the case.  In many cases the flat stone set edgewise at the sides or ends of grave, served for two graves in close proximity at ends of sides.
                                                                          Yours truly,
                                                                                                 CORNELIUS BALDWIN.




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