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Adair County, Iowa
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History of Adair County

The Denslow History Company 1911
transcribed and submitted by Pam Rathbone

Adair County was evidently a favorite hunting ground for the Indians at one time. The many Indian remains that have been found in the county would be sufficient testimony to establish the fact, but that testimony is strengthened by the stories that have come down from the first white settlers about the visits that the Indians were accustomed to make to this region after they had yielded up their claims to it and had gone farther north into Iowa. Sometimes they came with the evident intention of staying, and menaced the safety of the white settlers. This led to encounters between the Indians and whites, the most noted of which was the battle of "The Cabins/' or the "Big Neck War," which occurred in July, 1829, and which Avill be related at length in the next chapter. How long the Indians had lived here when the whites came is not known, but the probabilities are they had been here a very long time.

The remains that have been found were picked up on the ground along the Chariton River or dug out of mounds in the same region. The mounds are mostly on the east side of the river, and are estimated at about three hundred in number. They were always built on high ground, either on hills or ridges, and were circular in shape. They are from ten to thirty feet in diameter, and are at present from two to five feet high in the center. It appears from those in the best state of preservation that they were originally banked up rather high at the circumference with a slight slope upwards to the center.

That some of these mounds were used for burial purposes is well established by the fact that human remains have been found in them. Very few bones have been found, however, in a good state of preservation. As soon as they were uncovered they generally crumbled into dust. The teeth were usually in a better state of preservation than the bones.

In the center and at the bottom of one these mounds situated in section 13, township 61, range 16, about two miles east of Yarrow on Sugar Creek, there was found a rock grave. Slabs of rock had been laid on the ground and on them a body had been placed; then other slabs had been set up on edge along the sides and at the head and feet; and then across these upright slabs others had been placed, so that the body was fairly well enclosed. On top of the grave the dirt had been piled up several feet. Considerable skill had been used in constructing it. This grave was opened by Mr. T. J. Dockery, of Kirksville, several years ago.

In other mounds that have been opened bodies have been found which had been laid between layers of loose rock, while in others the bodies were apparently covered over with dirt and without any such protection. In one or two mounds were found a great lot of burnt rocks, and it has been supposed that the remains of the persons buried in these mounds were first cremated and their ashes covered over.

Besides these human remains there have been found all kinds of stone implements and weapons. Axes, large and small, arrowheads, spear points, knives, and the like have been found. Pieces of pottery and pipes have also been taken out. One of the most interesting things found is a smooth black stone, oval in shape, about a quarter of an inch thick, about five inches long and" an inch and a half wide. Along the edge notches are cut. It is conjectured that this was a kind of record. Probably some Indian passed a string through the two holes that had been bored through it near the end and hung it about his neck, and as he shot down game he would keep a record of it by notching this stone. The stone was found by Mr. T. J. Dockery in the mound which contained the rock grave mentioned above.

At various times expeditions have been formed among the citizens of Kirksville to excavate some of these mounds. The earliest one of which anything is known was made in July, 1877. The party consisted of Sam'l Reed, R. M.Ringo, John Harlan, B. F. Heiny, H. W. Snyder, Robert Clark, Henry Eckert, A. Wolf, Dan Draper, Wm. Her-ron, W. C. B. Gillespie, W. T. Baird, and W. P. Nason. This party excavated two mounds on the farm of A. K. Collett, six miles west of Kirksville, and found remains of two Indians far below the surface between the layers of loose stone. The bones that were found were brought to Kirksville and placed on exhibition at Hope's Drug Store. That these bones are not those of white persons is supported by the fact that the first white settlement in the county was made in the immediate vicinity of these mounds, and no tradition has come down of any whites being buried at these places.

Other expeditions have been made since then, especially in the early eighties. Prof. W. J. Smith of the Kirksville Business College, and T. J. Dockery made frequent trips, and Prof. C. E. Ross, formerly of the State Normal School at Kirksville, organized several expeditions.

Many relics have been found lying on the ground and some have been turned up in plowing.

Several collections of relics picked, up in the county were made by different persons. The most noted collections were those of B. W. Sands, T. J. Dockery. W. J. Smith, C. E. Ross, and Geo. W. Cain. The Sands collection is probably the largest that was ever made of relics found in this county. In June, 1886, Prof. Smith arranged an Indian Exhibition in his Business College, and brought together all the Indian relics he could get, and to add greater interest he had brought up from the Indian Territory a number of Cherokee Indians who appeared in their native costumes and gave certain exhibitions. The event proved to be one of extraordinary interest


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