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[Book 1 feet. Upon this the Mexicans had an immense wooden temple when Cortez overrun their empire. A city now bears the name of Cholula, in Puebla, 60 miles east of Mexico. Yet it appears from Dr. Beck's Gazetteer of Illinois, that there is standing between Belleville and St. Louis, a mound 600 yards in circumference at its base, and 90 feet in height. Mount Joliet, so named from the Sieur Joliet, a Frenchman, who travelled upon the Mississippi in 1673, is a most distinguished mound. It is on a plain about 600 yards west of the River Des Plaines, and 150 miles above Fort Clark. Mr. Schoolcraft computed its height at 60 feet, its length about 450 yards, and its width 75. Its sides are so steep that they are ascended with difficulty. Its top is a beautiful plain, from which a most delightful prospect is had of the surrounding country. It seems to have been composed of the earth of the plain on which it stands. Lake Joliet is situated in front of it; being a small body of water about a mile in length.
Although the remains of the ancient inhabitants of South America differ considerably from those of North America, yet I have no doubt but that the people are of the same race. The condition even of savages changes. No nation remains stationary. The western Indians in the neighborhood of the lakes do not make pottery at the present day, but earthen utensils are still in use among the remote tribes of the west, which is similar to that dug up in Ohio, and both are similar to that found in South America.
In speaking of ancient pottery, Mr. Schoolcraft observes, “It is common, in digging at these salt mines, [in Illinois,) to find fragments of antique pottery, and even entire pots of a coarse earthenware, at great depths below the surface. One of these pots, which was, until a very recent period, preserved by a gentleman at Shawaneetown, was disinterred at a depth of 80 feet, and was of a capacity to contain eight or ten gallons.”
We see announced from time to tine, in the various newspapers and other periodicals, discoveries of wonderful things in various places; but on examination it is generally found that they fall far short of what we are led to expect from the descriptions given of them. We hear of the ruins of cities in the banks of the Mississippi; copper and iron utensils found at great depths below the surface, and in situations indicating that they must have been deposited there for three, four, or five hundred years! Dr. McMurtrie relates, in his “Sketches of Louisville," that an iron hatchet was found beneath the roots of a tree at Shippingsport, upwards of 200 years old. He said he had no doubt that the tree had grown over the hatchet after it was deposited there, because “ no human power could have placed it in the particular position in which it was found.”
Upon some other matters about which we have already remarked, the same author says, “ That walls, constructed of bricks and hewn stones, have been discovered in he western country, is a fact as clear as that the sun shines when he is in his meridian splendor; the dogmatical assertion of writers to the contrary notwithstanding." "My author, however, had not seen such remains himself, but was well assured of their existence by a gentleman of undoubted veracity. Unfortunately for the case he relates, the persons who discovered the ruins came upon them in digging, at about 18 feet below the surface of the ground, and when about to make investigation, water broke in upon them, and they were obliged to make a hasty retreat.
• A fortified town of considerable extent, near the River St. Francis," upon the Mississippi, was said to have been discovered by a Mr. Savage, of Louisville. He found its walls standing in some places, and a part of the walls of a citadel, built of bricks, cemented by mortar.” Upon some of these ruins were trees growing whose annual rings numbered 300. Some of the bricks, says Dr. McMurtrie, were at Louisville when he wrote his Sketches; and they were "composed of clay, mixed with chopped and twisted straw, of regular figures, hardened by the action of fire or the sun.” Mr. Priest
, in his “ American Antiquities,” mentions the ruins of two cities within a few miles of each other, nearly opposite St. Louis; but from what he says of them I am unable to determine what those ruins are composed of. After pointing out the sight of them, he continues, “ Here is situated one of those pyranids, which is 150 rods in circumference at its base, and 100 feet
high.” He speaks of " cities,” but describes pyramids and mounds. If there be any thing like the works of men, at the places he points out, different from what is common in the west, it is very singular that they should not have attracted the notice of some one of the many thousands of people who have for 50 years passed by them. Mr. Brackenridge speaks of the antiquities at this place, but does not say any thing about cities. He observes, " The most remarkable appearances are two groups of mounds or pyramids, the one about 10 miles above Cahokia, the other nearly the same distance below it, which, in all, exceed 150, of various sizes. The western side also contains a considerable number.
“ A more minute description of those about Cahokia, which I visited in the fall of 1811, will give a tolerable idea of them all. I crossed the Mississippi at St. Louis, and after passing through the wood which borders the river, about half a mile in width, entered an extensive open plain. In 15 minutes I found inyself in the midst of a group of mounds, mostly of a circular shape, and at a distance resembling enormous haystacks scattered through a meadow. One of the largest which I ascended was about 200 paces in circumference at the bottom, the form nearly square, though it had evidently undergone considerable alteration from the washing of the rains. The top was level, with an area sufficient to contain several hundred men.”
When Mr. Bartram travelled into South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, between the years 1773 and 1776, he saw many interesting antiquities. At the Cherokee town of Cowe, on the Tennessee River, which then contained about 100 houses, he noticed that " The council or town-house was a large rotunda, capable of accommodating several hundred people: it stands on the top of an ancient artificial mount of earth, of about 20 feet perpendicular, and the rotunda on the top of it being about 30 feet more, gives the whole fabric an elevation of about 60 feet from the common surface of the ground. But,” Mr. Bartram continues, " it may be proper to observe, that this mount, on which the rotunda stands, is of a much ancienter date than the building, and perhaps was raised for another purpose. The Cherokees themselves are as ignorant as we are, by what people or for what purpose these artificial hills were raised; they have various stories concerning them, the best of which amount to no more than mere conjecture, and leave us entirely in the dark; but they have a tradition common with the other nations of Indians, that they found them in much the same condition as they now appear, when their forefathers arrived from the west and possessed themselves of the country, after vanquishing the nations of red men who then inhabited it, who themselves found these mounts when they took possession of the country, the former possessors delivering the same story concerning them.”
Hence it is to be observed that the mounds in the south are not only the same as those in the north, but Indian traditions concerning them are the same also.
At Ottasse, an important town of the Cherokees, the same traveller saw a most singular column. It stood adjacent to the town, in the centre of an oblong square, and was about 40 feet high, and only from two to three feet thick at its base, and tapered gradually from the ground to its top. What is very remarkable about this pillar is, that, notwithstanding it is formed of a single stick of pine timber, the Indians or white traders could give no account for what purpose it was erected; and to the inquiries which Mr. Bartram made of the Indians concerning it, the same answer was given as when questioned about the mounds; viz., that their ancestors found it there, and the people that those ancestors dispossessed knew nothing of its origin. This is not singular when reference is had to mounds of earth, but when the same account is given concerning perishable material, the shade, at least, of a suspicion is seen lurking in the back ground. As another singular circumstance, it is observed that no trees of the kind of which this column was made (pin. palustris) were to be found at that time nearer than 12 or 15 miles.
In the great council-houses at Ottasse were observed, upon the pillars and walls, various paintings and sculptures, supposed to be hieroglyphics of historical legends, and political and sacerdotal affairs. They are,” observes Mr. Bartram, "extremely picturesque or caricature, as men in a variety of at64
titudes, some ludicrous enough, others having the head of some kind of animal, as those of a duck, turkey, bear, fox, wolf, buck, &c., and again those kind of creatures are represented having the human head. These designs are not ill executed; the outlines bold, free and well proportioned. The pillars supporting the front or piazza of the council-house of the square are ingeniously formed in the likeness of vast speckled serpents, ascending upwards; the Óttasses being of the Snake tribe.”
In the fourth book of this work mention has been made of the great highways in Florida. Mr. Bartram mentions them, but not in a very particular manner, upon the St. John's River. As his sentiments seem to be those of a man of intelligence, I will offer here his concluding remarks upon the Indian antiquities of the country he visited. “I deem it necessary to observe, as my opinion, that none of them that I have seen discover the least signs of the arts, sciences, or architecture of the Europeans or other inhabitants of the old world, yet evidently betray every sign or mark of the most distant antiquity.”
The above remark is cited to show how different different people make up their minds upon the same subject; it shows how futile it is for us to spend time in speculating upon such matters. And, as I have before observed, it is time enough to build theories after facts have been collected. It can add nothing to our stock of knowledge respecting our antiquities, to talk or write forever about Nebuchadnezzar and the lost tribes of Jews; but if the time which has been spent in this manner had been devoted to some useful pursuit, some useful object would have been attained. As the matter now stands, one object, nevertheless, is clearly attained, namely, that of misleading or confounding the understandings of many uninformed people. I am led to make these observations to put the unwary upon their guard.
In the preceding chapter I have given various accounts of, or accounts from various authors, who imagine that a colony of Welsh came to America 7 or 800 years ago. It is as truly astonishing as any thing we meet with to observe how many persons had found proofs of the existence of tribes of Welsh Indians, about the same period. As a case exactly in point with that mentioned at the beginning of the last paragraph, I offer what Mr. Brackenridge says upon this matter. “That no Welsh nation exists,” he observes, “ at present, on this continent, is beyond a doubt. Dr. Barton has taken great pains to ascertain the languages spoken by those tribes east of the Mississippi, and the Welsh finds no place amongst them; since the cession of Louisiana, the tribes west of the Mississippi have been sufficiently known; we have had intercourse with them all, but no Welsh are yet found. In the year 1798, a young Welshman of the name of Evans ascended the Missouri, in company with Makey, and remained two years in that country; he spoke both the ancient and modern Welsh, and addressed himself to every nation between that river and New Spain, but found no Welshmen." This, it would seem, is conclusive enough.
Mr. Peck, in his “Gazetteer of Illinois," has aimed so happy a stroke at the writers on our antiquity, that, had I met with his rod before I had made the previous remarks, I should most certainly have made use of it. I shall nevertheless use it. After saying something upon the antiquities of Illinois, he proceeds: “Of one thing the writer is satisfied, that very imperfect and incorrect data have been relied upon, and very erroneous conclusions drawn, upon western antiquities. Whoever has time and patience, and is in other respects qualified to explore this field of science, and will use his spade and eyes together, and restrain his imagination from running riot amongst mounds, fortifications, horseshoes, medals, and whole cabinets of relics of the olden time,' will find very little more than the indications of rude savages, the ancestors of the present race of Indians."
END OF BOOK FIRST.