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Full text of "Summary of the archeology of Saginaw Valley, Michigan"



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(From the American Anthropologist (N. s.), Vol. 3, July-September, 1901) 



SUMMARY OF THE ARCHEOLOGY OF SAGINAW 
VALLEY, MICHIGAN— H 

By HARLAN I. SMITH 

SAGINAW RIVER VALLEY 
Bay County 

Saginaw River. — The History of Saginaw County ' states that 
" the water courses of the district comprise the Sac-haw-ning, or 
home of the Sacs. . ." 

Tchigaiinibeivin Village Site. — The History of Saginaw County 
(p. 592, •[ 2) states that " it must also be remembered that the 
Great Camp, or Kepayshowink [Ka-pay-shaw-wink], of these wan- 
dering bands did not hold the same position in summer as in win- 
ter, so that he who relies upon Indian legends simply, and without 
further inquiry, might associate the summer camp on the lake 
shore with the winter camp of the interior. Both were great 
camps ; , . . the second, or summer camp, was north of Nesh- 
ko-ta-younk; . . . [and] the first in coming down from the 
lake. In winter the Bay-shore camp was called Tchigaiinibewin 
by travelers as being ' close by ' the great camp, and in summer a 
reversal of terms was simply used to denote that the upper camp 
was the place ' close by.' " 

Nesh-ko-ta-yoiink Village Site. — The History of Saginaw 
County (p. 592) states that the " summer camp [Tchigaiinibewin], 
was north of Nesh-ko-ta-younk." 

McCormick Mound. — W. R. McCormick," referring to the 
Water Street mound, wrote as follows : 



' Page 288, •[ 2. 

"^ Hist. Sag. Co.. p. 284, •[ 3, second part ; and •[ 4, p. 285. McCormick, 
" Mounds," p. 381, •[ I, 2, and 3, gives the same informaticui, with the exception 

501 



502 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s., 3, 1901 

" Some thirty rods below, on Water street, between Twenty- 
second and Twenty-third streets, is an elevation, the highest on 
the river, on which is located the Bay City brewery, Barney 
hotel, the residence of W. R. McCormick and other residences, 
comprising nearly two acres. I wish to describe this elevation 
as I saw it, in a state of nature, over forty-five years ago. For 
many years it was considered to be a natural elevation of the 
land, but subsequent excavations have proved it to have been 
constructed by some remote race of people. 

" When I first became acquainted with the location it was 
covered with a dense growth of timber, with the exception of the 
mound and about an acre and a half in the rear of it, where 
[from which] the earth was taken from to build the mound. It 
was then a duck pond, with water three feet deep, grown up with 
alder bushes. In grading Twenty-second street through the 
north end of the [this] mound, some years since, we found at a 
depth of II feet three skeletons of very large stature with large 
earthen pots at the head of each. In excavating for the cellar 
of the Bay City brewery, we found at the depth of four feet the 
remains of Indians in a good state of preservation, with high 
cheek bones and receding forehead, while, below these again, at 
the depth of four or five feet, the remains of a more ancient race, 
of an entirely different formation of skull, and with those burned 
stone implements and pottery were found. I have been unable 
to preserve any of these skulls, as they crumbled to dust when 
exposed to the air. I found one skeleton in a sitting position. 



of the parts here in itcilics and with the addition of the matter here in brackets, 
McCormick (W. R.), " Mounds and Mound-Builders of the Saginaw Valley." By W. 
R. McCormick. of Bay City. Pp. 379-383. Pioneer Collections, Vol. iv [1S81], 
Lansing : W. S. George & Co., 1883. 8"". 

W. R. McCormick, according to Hist. Sut^. Co., pp. i8o-ig2, was born in 1S22, 
removed from Ali)any, N. Y., to the present site of Flint, (icnesee Co., Michigan, 
in 1832, later moved to Portsmouth, Bay Co., Michigan, and finally lived in Bay City. 
He was the first inhabitant of Saginaw valley to make any permanent archeologic 
records. Author of various items in Hist. Sag. Co., pp. 11 7-1 20, 282-2S7, and 
' Mounds " above noted. 



smith] the archeology of sagina w valle y 503 

facing the west, with a very narrow head, and long, as if it had 
been compressed. I laid it aside in hopes to preserve it, but in a 
few hours it had crumbled to pieces. 

" This mound is full of the remains of ancient pottery and 
small stones that have been through the action of fire. A friend 
of mine found an awl made of copper which was quite soft with the 
exception of about an inch from the point which was so hard that 
a file would scarcely make an impression on it. This seems to me 
to show that the Mound-Builders had the art of hardening copper." 

The use of the word " race " instead of " tribe " is probably a 
mistake in nomenclature, since the author evidently did not refer 
to the early European explorers or settlers. The statement that 
skeletons of ver}' large size were found is probably due to mis- 
judgment. Such remarks are commonly heard in the folklore 
repeated to explorers throughout the region. 

It is still possible that this site is a natural hill in which were 
graves, and that the " duck pond " was also natural and not the 
source of the material of which the mound was made. Many of 
the hills in this region are formed by the wind and are increased 
and decreased by the same means. This would satisfactorily 
account for burials at different depths. 

Fragile bones that would crumble on exposure to the direct 
rays of the sun, or even to dry air, may often be preserved without 
the use of other means than by wrapping in paper and boxing 
quickly so as to retain the moisture and allow them to dry slowly 
enough to become hard without warping. 

While the narrow skull, described by Mr McCormick, may 
have been a case of post-mortem deformation due to pressure of 
the soil, it may more probably have been the skull of the rarer of 
two types, since not only the Sauk and Ojibwa have inhabited 
the region, but the Potawatomi and other tribes have visited it ; 
and again, two forms of crania have been found elsewhere in this 
valley.' 

' See Fobear Mound No. i, under Saginaw County. 



504 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s., 3. 1901 

The statement that part of the point of the awl was so hard 
that a file would scarcely make an impression on it is a fallacy 
probably derived from the feel and effect on the file of the thickly 
oxidized metal as compared w^ith that of a clean piece of metallic 
copper. 

The term " Mound-builders," as used by Mr McCormick, 
probably refers to a mysterious extinct people, whereas the word 
" Indians " would doubtless have been more suitable in this con- 
nection. 

William McCormick' states that "in the vicinity of the resi- 
dence of William R. McCormick, that being the highest land, and 
where they [the Sauk] had attempted to fortify themselves ; 
- . . at the present time, by digging in this hill, you will find 
it full of human bones." 

Mr McCormick," referring to the mounds of Saginaw valley, 
•states that " the plow has helped to level many of them, with the 
■exception of the Fraser, Fitzhugh, and McCormick mounds. 
And to prove that the last three are artificial and not natural 
is the fact that in the rear of all these are low places, showing 
where the earth had been taken from [procured] to build the 
mounds. 

"Again, the soil on the mounds differs from the soil around 
them with the exception of the low places referred to from 
where the earth was taken ; . . . And in no part of the valley 
will you find those relics except in those mounds." 

The description of the varieties of soil is perhaps too arbi- 
trary, and specimens such as are found in the mounds arc found 
also on village sites. 

Professor Thomas ' states that there is a " large artificial ele- 
vation on Water street, in Bay City, east side. . . . Described 

' Hist. Sag. G?.. p. 118. 

' Ilist. Saf;. Co., p. 287, ^ I. McCormick, " Mounds," p. 383, ^ 1-3, gives the 
same information with the exception of the parts here in italics and with the addition 
of the matter here in brackets. 

' Thomas, Catalogtu, p. 107. 



smith] the archeology OF SAGINA W VALLE V $0$ 

by W. K. McCormick, in Michigan Pioneer Collection, vol. 4 
(1881), p. 382." 

Water Street Mounds. — W. R. McCormick ' wrote as follows : 
" On the Saginaw river, toward its mouth, when we come to what 
is now the corner of Twenty-fourth and Water streets in Bay 
City, where the Center House now stands, we find the old Mc- 
Cormick homestead. Here were two large mounds in the gar- 
den, which my father plowed and scraped down. They 
contained a number of skeletons, stone axes, knives, and quite an 
amount of broken pottery." 

Professor Thomas * states that " two large mounds, now gone, 
stood on the east side of the Saginaw River, at the corner of 
Twenty-fourth and Water streets, Bay City. . . Described by 
W. K. McCormick, in Michigan Pioneer Collection, vol. 4 (1881), 
p. 382." 

More Mound. — W. R. McCormick' wrote as follows: "We 
will now pass over to the west side near the mill of More, Smith 
& Co. There was here, 45 years ago, a mound just above the 
mill about 100 feet across in a circular form and about three 
feet high. Originally it must have been much higher. I have 
never examined this mound, but have understood from old 
settlers that there were a great many stone implements found in 
it. The plow has nearly leveled it, so that it is scarcely noticed 
any more." 

Professor Thomas * states that " there was a mound on the 
west side, near the mill of M. Smith & Co." as "described by 
W. K. McCormick, in Michigan Pioneer Collection, vol. 4 (1881), 
p. 382." 



' Hist. Sag. Co., p. 284, 1 3, first part. McCormick, " Mounds," p. 380, "y 5, p. 
381, first part. 

■^ Thomas, Catalogue, p. 107. 

^ Hist. Sag. Co., p. 285, ^ I. McCormick, " Mounds," p. 381, ^ 4, gives the 
same information with the exception of the parts here in italics and with the addition 
of the matter here in brackets. 

•• Thomas, Catalogue, p. 107. 



506 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s., 3, lyoi 

West Bay City Village Site. — On the sand ridge close to the 
river at West Bay City, where the railroad roundhouse is located, 
were found fragments of chert and burned stones in sufificient 
numbers to suggest that the place had been a village site. 

West Bay City Graves. — In the West Bay City village site 
several human skeletons were dug out by the railroad section 
workmen, one of whom, on inquiry, reported the same. The 
place of these graves appeared to be a natural sand ridge in 
which interments had been made. This burial site may be identical 
with what Mr McCormick terms the Birney mound. 

Birney Mound. — W. R. McCormick' wrote as follows: "The 
mound which was located near the west end of the Detroit & 
Bay City railroad bridge, [which] for reference I will call the 
Birney mound, as it is located on the lands of that great philan- 
thropist, the late Hon. James G. Birney. This mound was not 
so large in circumference, but much higher than the one just 
noticed."' 

" In this were [was] also found human bones, in a much better 
state of preservation than any of the rest. I procured from this 
mound a skull with a hole in it just above the temple bone, pro- 
duced by a sharp instrument, which undoubtedly caused death. 
This skull I presented to J. Morgan Jennison, of Philadelphia. 
It was of an entirely different formation from the Indian skull of 
the present day, as it did not have their high cheek bones nor 
their receding forehead, but a very intellectually developed head, 
showing that it was of a different race of people from the Indian. 
Some years since some boys were digging in the side of the 
mound, as they had often done before, to get angle-worms for 
fishing, when they came across a small silver canoe, about five 
inches long. A [, and a] gentleman who was fishing with them, 



' Hist. Sag. Co., p. 285, 1[ 2, p. 286. McCormick, " Mounds," p. 381 , ^ 5, and p. 
382, ^ I, gives the same information with the exception of the parts here in italics 
and with the addition of the matter here in brackets. 

' Refers to tlie More mound " about 100 feet across . . . and about three feet 
high." 



smith] the archeology OF SAGINA W VALLE V 507 

offered them 50 cents for it, which they accepted. After clean- 
ing it up, he found it to be of exquisite workmanship, with the 
projecting ends tipped with gold. [ [Query. — Was not this 
a present from some early Catholic missionary of whom history 
makes no mention?]] A rough copper kettle of peculiar shape 
and make, having been wrought into shape by hammering, with- 
out any seam, was also taken from one of ^/lese [those] mounds, 
and is now in the State capitol among.?/ Mr. [O. A.] Jenison's 
[Jennison's] collections oi a}itiguities [antiquity']." 

On August 28, 1890, Mr McCormick told the writer that the 
hole in the skull above mentioned may have been made as a 
post-mortem religious custom. Regarding the remarks concern- 
ing the shape of the skull, it must be remembered that, at the 
time Mr McCormick wrote, exact somatologic methods were un- 
known in his section, and the great difference in the shape of the 
skull from that of the others found (unless the skull were that of a 
Caucasian, possibly an early French voyageur) was probably exag- 
gerated owing to lack of familiarity with crania. The word " race," 
in this connection as in others, is used indiscreetly by the author. 

The silver canoe may have been introduced after the first con- 
tact with the early French traders. It suggests that the burial 
was comparatively recent. 

The Birney mound may have been merely a natural sand 
ridge in which there were graves, and possibly is identical with 
the site of the West Bay City graves. 

Professor Thomas" states that " a mound formerly stood near 
the west end of the Detroit and Bay City Railroad bridge, on 
land of James G. Birney. . . . Described by W. K. Mc- 
Cormick, in Michigan Pioneer Collection, vol. 4 (1881), p. 382." 

Ly?in Graves. — W. R. McCormick,' referring to his preceding 
item about the Birney mound, wrote as follows : " The next 



' [Unfortunately the Legislature declined to purchase this valuable collection, and 
it has been repossessed by Mr Jenison.] '^ Thomas, Catalogue, p. 107. 

^ Hisl. Sag. Co., p. 286, T[ I. McCormick, " Mounds," p. 382, ^f 2. 



5o8 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s., 3, 1901 

mound was about half a mile up the river, and formerly stood 
in the center of Linn street, West Bay City, but has been graded 
down many years since. I was not there at the time, but was 
informed by others that it contained human bones and stone imple- 
ments. Charles E. Jennison, a pioneer of Bay City, informs me 
that he dug up two skeletons many years ago in the side of this 
mound. He found with the skeleton;? two copper kettles, which 
he has still in his possession. I am inclined to think that these 
were not the remains of the original Mound-Builders, but a race 
of a subsequent period." 

On August 28, 1890, Mr McCormick told the writer that the 
mound was fifty or sixty feet in diameter and twelve feet high. 
The copper kettles suggest that the bodies with which they were 
found were buried since the advent of the whites and that the 
site was a burial place in the sand knoll rather than a mound. 

Professor Thomas ' states that " another [referring to his pre- 
ceding item about the Birney mound] stood half a mile up the 
river, same side [west], at what is now the centre of Lean street, 
west Bay City." He also mentions that copper kettles were 
found and that the information was derived from W. K. McCor- 
mick, in Michigan Pioneer Collection, vol. 4 (1881), p. 382. 

Fitzhugh Graves. — W. R. McCormick,' referring to his pre- 
ceding item about the Lynn graves, wrote as follows : " We now 
proceed a half-mile more up the river, to the rise of ground in the 
rear of Frank Fitzhugh's grist-mill. This elevation, 45 years 
ago, when I first saw it, was the most picturesque spot on the 
Saginaw river. Here was also a beautiful spring of cold water, 
and was a favorite camping ground of the Indians. It was 
also, according to the Indian tradition, the original site of the 
Sauk village, and where the great battle was fought when the 



' Thomas, Catalogue, p. 107. 

' Hist. Sag. Co., p. 286, ^ 2. .McCormick, " Mounds," p. 382, •[ 3 and 4, gives 
the same information with the exceptiim of the parts liere in italics and the addition of 
the matter here in brackets. 



smith] the archeology OF SAGINA W VALLEY 509 

Chippewas exterminated that nation.' This I will call the Fitz- 
hugh mound, as it is on the lands of Frank Fitzhugh. [•[] This 
elevation, comprising two or three acres, was always thought to 
be natural ; but I am satisfied from recent excavations, and a low 
place to the southwest, that the earth has been taken from this 
point to raise the mound higher than the surrounding land, and 
that it is, therefore, mostly artificial. Then again, the land ad- 
joining on the north is a yellow sand, while on the south the 
land fell off abruptly, and is composed of the same kind of soil 
as the mound, black sand and loam, from where the earth was 
taken. I am now speaking of this mound as it appeared 45 years 
ago. Since then the railroad company have excavated a part of 
it for ballasting up their road, and many other excavations and 
alterations have taken place, so that it has not the same appear- 
ance it had when I first saw it. Some years since Mr Fitzhugh, 
or the village authorities of Wenona, now West Bay City, ex- 
cavated a street through this mound, which brought to light 
many relics, and proved beyond a doubt that this eminence was a 
mound built in remote ages. A great many skeletons were ex- 
humed, together with a great many ornaments of silver, broken 
pottery, stone implements, etc., and, like the McCormick mound 
on the opposite side of the river, was full of broken stone which 
had been through the action of fire." 

The site is probably a sand ridge, with graves in it and a 
natural pond near it. The ornaments of silver were doubtless 
the traders' ornaments commonly found in the region and suggest 
that the graves were made since the advent of the whites. 

On August 28, 1890, Mr W. R. McCormick informed the 
writer that this mound was oblong and covered an acre and a half. 

Mr McCormick,' referring to the mounds of Saginaw valley, 
states that " the plow has helped to level many of them, with the 

' See footnote 2, p. 287, American Anthropologist, 1901. 

^ Hist. Sag. Co., p. 287, ^ I. McCormick, " Mounds," p. 383, ^ 1-3, gives the 
same information with the exception of the parts here in italics and with the addition 
of the matter here in brackets. 



5IO AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [x. s.. 3, 1901 

exception of the Fraser. Fitzhugh and McCormick mounds. ["If] 
And to prove that the last three are artificial and not natural is 
the fact that in the rear of all these are low places, showing 
where the earth had been taken from [procured] to build the 
mounds, . . . [•[] Again, the soil on the mounds differs 
from the soil around them with the exception of the low places 
referred to from where the earth was taken ; . . . And in no 
part of the valley will you find those relics except in those 
mounds." 

The statement regarding the varieties of soil is perhaps too 
arbitrary, and specimens such as are found in the mounds are 
found also on village sites. 

Professor Thomas ' states that there is " half a mile farther up 
the river, on same side, [referring to his preceding item about the 
Lynn graves, west side,] an artificial excavation back of Frank 
Fitzhugh's gristmill, now considerably disfigured. Many relics 
[were] found [in it]. Described by W. K. McCormick, in Michigan 
Pioneer Collection, vol. 4 (18S1), p. 382." 

Fitzhugh Village Site. — VV. R. McCormick," referring to his 
preceding item about the Lynn graves, wrote as follows: "We 
now proceed a half-mile more up the river, to the rise of ground 
in the rear of Frank Fitz-hugh's grist-mill. This elevation, ^5 
[forty-five] years ago, when I first saw it, was the most pic- 
turesque spot on the Saginaw river. Here was also a beautiful 
spring of cold water, and was a favorite camping ground of the 
Indians ; it was also, according to the Indian tradition, the original 
site of the Sauk village, and where the great battle was fought 
when the Chippewas exterminated that nation." 

William McCormick * states that " the main village of the 
Sauks stood on the west side of the Saginaw river, just below 
where the residence of Mr Frank Fitzhugh now is, and opposite 

' Thomas, Cntalogue, p. 107. 

* Hist. Sag. Co., p. 286, T[ 2. McCormick, " Mounds," p. 382, T[ 3. 
'See footnote 2, p. 287, American Anthropologist, 1901. 

* I/ist. Sag. Co., p. 117, 1 3. 



smith] the archeology OF SAGINA W VALLE Y 5 1 1 

the mill of the Hon. N. B. Bradley." He further states' that on 
the west side of the river the main village of the Sauks was 
located, across the river from another village (the Portsmouth 
village site) " which stood near where the court-house now stands, 
near the ferry, in Portsmouth." 

PortsmoiitJi Village Site. — William McCormick " states that, 
across the river from the main village of the Sauk, there was 
" another village, which stood near where the court-house now 
stands, near the ferry, in Portsmouth." 

West Bay City Mound.— Ovl August 28, 1890, MrW. R. McCor- 
mick informed the writer that on the west side of Saginaw river, 
near Peter Smith's mill, in the first ward of West Bay City, there 
was a very high sacrificial mound of conical form. 

Sagenong Village Site. — William McCormick,' referring to 
Skull island, states that " just below this locality . . . lies 
Sag-e-nong, upon a high bank on the west side of the river. 
This is the Saginaw of the red man, and the only place known to 
him by that name. The meaning of the word is the ' land of 
Sauks.' The place known to the white men as Saginaw lies 
12 miles or more up the river, and is called Ka-pay-shaw-wink." 

Skull Island Graves. — William McCormick' relates that 
" Skull Island, which is the next island above what is now Stone's 
Island . . . [is] known as ' Skull Island,' from the number 
of skulls found on it." He further relates ' that " about 12 miles 
below Saginaw City is ' Skull Island,' so named by the Indians 
in consideration that upon it exists an endless quantity of * dead 
heads,' which were left here after a great fight, years long past, 
between the Chippewas and Sauks, . . . christening . . . 
about two acres of Bad Island." The approximate date is given : * 
" 1520 — Massacre of the Sauks by the Otchipwes." The writer 
has found no place named " Bad Island " or " Skull Island " on 



' Hist. Sag. Co., p. 118. * Ibid., p. 118. 

^ Ibid., p. 118. * Ibid., p. 120, ^ 2. 

^ Ibid., p. 120, •[ 2. ' Ibid., p. 474. 



512 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s,, 3, igoi 

any map and suspects that the former term, at least, was used 
descriptively in that instance only and was perpetuated by 
typographic error in capitalization. 

Syiiaconning Creek. — The " Map of Saginaw and Tuscola, with 
part of Genesee, Lapeer, Huron & Midland Counties. Michi- 
gan," ' gives the name Syuaconning to the creek given on the map 
accompanying the History of Saginaw County as Syaaquanning 
creek. The History (p. 289) also refers to it as " Squa-hawning, 
or Last Battle river," and it states (p. 290) that " Squahaun- 
ing creek (south branch) rises in the township of Kotchville, and 
flowing northeasterly enters the Saginaw river about six miles 
from the mouth." 

Chcboyganinc Creek. — The History of Saginaw County (p. 289) 
gives the name of this creek as "Che-boy-gun" and states (p. 
290) that " Chcboy creek rises in Tuscola county, and flowing in 
a northwesterly direction, through the townships of Blumfield, 
Buena Vista and Zilwaukee, enters the Saginaw above Bay City." 

' Published by D. A. Pettibone. Bridgeport Center, Michigan. Lylhographed 
printed and mounted by J. H. Colton & Co. New York. Copyrighted 1858. 



FL