Cleveland: Western Reserve & Northern
Ohio Historical Society,
Ancient Burial Cists in Northern
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
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.