(being continued from 28/02/13 )
First Discovery in Montcalm County
In 1890 a discovery was made which caused tremendous excitement. A young man named James 0. Scotford discovered a mound by accident while in the employ of Mr. Steward. James A.Remick owned in Montcalm County a large track of land called “Slashings,” i.e. land upon which the piece had been cut. Mr. Scotford was hired to erect a fence around a track of this land for a
cattle range. While he was in the process of building the fence, his line ran over a small hill some thirty feet across. When digging a posthole on this hill, the auger struck something hard. He recognized that it was too hard to be a root, and there were no stones in the place. Prompted by curiosity, he borrowed a spade from his companion, who was setting posts for him. Upon digging the object up. he found it to be a large earthen casket. He had broken the- cover of the casket with the auger; however, the casket was unbroken. This was the first discovery in the Michigan mounds to cause excitement and attract the attention of the public.
Mr. Scotford took the casket and hurried to his home-town Edmore which was situated nearby.
He was as wild in excitement as if he had discovered a gold mine. There in Edmore he displayed the ancient relic to the villagers, as he did in the neighboring town of Wyman a few days later.
This discovery interested many of the people in those two villages which lay only three miles apart. They searched the woodlands near by and found numerous small mounds and hills. They were all covered with dense vegetation, including many large trees.
Other Discoveries in Montcalm County
Before much time elapsed, these people who became so excited about Scotford’s discovery had opened up 400 to 500 mounds and discovered approximately 100 caskets, tablets,augers, copper relics, and numerous other archaeological artifacts. All of these ancient relics were discovered by the citizens of Edmore and Wyman in Montcalm County, Michigan. These artifacts
were composed of clay, slate, sandstone and copper. They were all beautifully carved with ancient Bible scenes, historic scenes, writing, and symbols.
Description and Contents of Mounds in Montcalm County
In 1892, only two years after Mr. Scotford made the first archaeological discovery in Montcalm County, Mr. M.E. Cornell wrote a small book describing the numerous discoveries made by the citizens of Wyman and Edmore. In this booklet, he wrote:
“The mounds vary in size from twelve to sixty feet in diameter, and from four to twelve feet high.
Charcoal and ashes are found in many of the mounds, supposed to be the result of some ancient idolatrous ceremony of burning sacrifices over their dead. But only in a few instances have bones or skeleton been found, though in nearly all are seen stains of where bodies have been decayed and dissolved during the long ages.” (Ibid., pp. 6-7.)
Mr. Cornell described the contents of the mounds as follows:
“Many curious things were unearthed, such as caskets, tablets, amulets of slate stone, cups. vases.
altars, lamps of burnt clay, copper coins hammered out, and rudely engraved with hieroglyphics.
The caskets are of sun-dried clay, and are covered with picture writing and hieroglyphics. The caskets seem to be intended as receptacles for the tablets of record. They have close-fitting covers, which are cemented on with Assyrian-like cement. and various figures were molded on the top, the ancient Sphinx, beasts, serpents, human faces with head dresses or crowns, etc
(Ibid., p. 5.)
A little later in his book, Mr. Cornell wrote:
“Scores of the citizens of Wyman and Edmore are familiar with all the circumstances of the discovery and have been eyewitnesses of the excavating and taking out of the relics; and to them the evidence of genuineness is so clear that doubts are never
entertained for a moment.
“On this point take as a specimen the fact-that a casket was found under the roots of a pine tree which by the concentric circles was shown to be about three hundred years old; and that one of the roots of the tree had grown through the corner of the casket. Three caskets have been found pierced by roots of trees growing on the mounds over them. We found one with the cover broken
in by a root of a tree and the casket was filled with sand. The root was coiled up inside the box, but so decayed that it was broken with a touch. Only the decayed stump of the tree, and a few rotten roots were left. Professor Wessels, the writer, and three others were present, and took part in the diggings, and the Professor lifted the casket from its ancient bed with his own hands, exclaiming,Gentlemen, this is no fraud!” (Ibid., pp. 5, 7-8.)
Other Mounds In Michigan
In 1896 and 1898 a number of other mounds were found and excavated in several other localities in Michigan. During the early years of the twentieth century, a general revival of interest in the ancient mounds occurred. Detroit became the center of interest for the people who were seeking out these ancient relics. Many mounds were found within a few miles of that city.
These mounds, or graves, as a rule, were found in groups. Some groups of mounds were discovered at considerable distances from Detroit, however. In 1911 the Reverend James Savage reported his activities in conjunction with those of Daniel E. Soper as follows:
“We have opened more than 500 of these mounds in the four counties in which we have worked– a territory exceeding over 260 miles. We have diligently inquired regarding the locality of other finds and have so far located sixteen counties in Michigan in which these specimens have been found. We are confident that we are only on the border land of the great prehistoric people.”
(Savage, op. cit., p. 10)
Reverend Savage wrote the foregoing only four years after he started excavating in the Michigan forests. If he and Mr. Soper had excavated 500 mounds during that short period, it. Is difficult to estimate the large number of mounds that they opened during the following nine years’ period of time. They continued their work until about 1920 (died ml 926), when Father Savage died.
Between 1898 and 1920 many thousands of mounds, or graves were opened. The vast majority of them were empty. To quote from a small book published by John A. Russell in 1911:
“It must not be imagined that every mound opened has been a storehouse of objects of
interest. On the contrary, the proportion of productive to non-productive mounds has not been
greater than as one to ten.” (Russell, pp. cit., p. 7.)
However, many thousands of ancient relics were found in these numerous tombs or mounds. As time passed and descriptions of relics found in mounds appeared in newspapers, many people throughout the state reported that they also had found similar relics.
Big Cemetery Theory
On August 26, 1911, an article entitled “Still Finding Soper Relics” appeared in a newspaper in Detroit which maintained that much of Michigan was a great ancient burial ground.
So many mounds had been opened by this time that it looked as if thousands of people had been buried in this state in ancient times. The paper stated that Father Savage and John Russell, of the Home Telephone Company, are still searching diligently in the mounds for ancient relics of the prehistoric race which once lived in Michigan. They are thoroughly convinced that the tablets being found are genuine and are ancient. To quote:
“Development within a few days has cheered the investigators, a farmer named Michael Cunie, plowing on his farm near Newberry in the upper peninsula, has turned up a number of ancient objects… . And a farmer on the sixth miles road in Wayne County named Ruppe, several days ago, discovered a pendant similar to several in the Savage collection. Men are now at work
digging in a number of mounds near the Lozier Plant. One tablet in excellent condition on which is definitely located and will eventually be explored.”
“I have personal knowledge of more than 3000 articles that have been found,’ says Mr. Russell,‘and if they are fakes and were buried to be found, whoever buried them has been a very busy person, because they have been found throughout the state by hundreds of different people.
There are one or two things that Professor Star did not explain in his attack on these relics. I have myself several articles of tempered copper and have seen many others, and yet today we have not the secret of hardening copper. We are continuing our exploration and hardly a day goes by that something isn’t found. Lately we have been getting word from all parts of the state of finds, some of them recent and some made years ago. In many cases farmers had articles, but believed them to be relies of the Indians. It was not until a description of the antiques which Mr. Soper and Father James Savage had found was published that those people realized that the relics were not of the Indian period but antedate the Indians by thousands of years.” (Still Finding Soper Relics. August 26, 1911.)
(TO BE CONTINUED )
Compiled by Glen W. Chapman- September 2000