1924 Henry Mies Speech

1924 Henry Mies Speech

BULLETIN NO. 1 OF The Livingston County Historical Association – March 5, 1925

Published and Distributed by the KIWANIS CLUB OF PONTIAC


At a meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Pontiac in November the following paper on the Indian life, habits and history of this region was read by Kiwanian Henry Mies. Mr. Mies has long been a collector of Indian relics and a student of Indian lore. He has a large and interesting collection of relics found in various parts of this county. The members of Kiwanis were so impressed with the paper that it resulted in bringing about definite action on the formation of a Livingston County Historical Society. A committee consisting of Henry Mies, Grant Armstrong, D. S. Myers, Jr., J. B. Grotevant and W. W. McCulloch was appointed to take the initial steps. Rev. John H. Ryan was added to the committee at their first meeting, the other members feeling that no other man in the county is better versed in its early history. The above committee has secured a charter and at the last meeting o the board of Supervisors a room in the Court House was provided as a museum in which to keep all interesting historical material that may be contributed. Any one who has historic relics or who knows of any that might be should added to the collection   correspond with some member of the above committee or with the supervisor of his township. We feel sure there are many who will be glad to co-operate in making our County collection one of real historic value.

Early Indian History of Livingston County

Not a great deal of Indian history can he written when confined to a territory as small as Livingston County, yet the little that can be written should not be left unrecorded. Some day the student, the Investigator, the collector will be asking questions, seeking information, wondering what the Indian has left to enrich our history.

It, perhaps, will fall to the collector to give a classification of the Indian’s work in the stone age. I will try to present some facts regarding our local Indians based on years of experience and research, having before me a vast array of material on the subject. I am greatly indebted to the many who have given me specimens found by them in various localities in Livingston County, and to the others who have shown me specimens from their own private collections.

Many of these specimens are of late origin having come from the Illini and Kickapoo tribes who roamed this section up to 1832. Everywhere along our streams, over our great moraines, and uplands he has left his barb. The many things fashioned by the Indian cause even the collector to wonder. Here too is found the barb of extreme age, even the chemist can not calculate the time it took to oxidize the stone, giving the surface this glaze and luster, this covering of patina. No doubt that superior race of men, the Illini, followed our beautiful Vermillion and aged before that, others found our open prairie a great hunting ground.

It is almost within the memory of men of today that much of this information could have been recorded. Less than 100 years ago these streams and upland were theirs. It is within the memory of many of our pioneers who cleared the land and brought to the collector this wonderful array of handiwork, buried history of the past. Less than 100 years ago Indians cultivated corn in this County, yet the little crib (the Kickapoo storehouse) is forgotten. Corn Grove in Section 28. Chatsworth Township, where it once stood is now a cultivated field.

It has been the writer’s experience and pleasure to find these barbs by the hundred, and even some handiwork of the Mound Builder’s race. He has marveled, he was enacted, at the skill and patience the workmen had, using stone against stone, fashioning weapons which were so necessary for his protection and existence. His work in the higher arts, his ornaments, his emblems, his charms. so enduring is most of it made, that it has withstood the raves of the elements and of time. Some of his work is checked by the many prairie fires that have swept our up-lands and some has crumbled. Even in the short space of 90 years the Indian is forgotten.

“Gone all thy world O Arrow Head,

Gone are the hands that made thee so,

Gone is the warrior and his bow,

Gone is the quarry and the oak,

Gone are the wild red forest folk,

Like their own bolts forever sped,

Gone all thy world O Arrow Head.”

Not a massacre occurred in the County, not even a battle field has been found or recorded. Our Indians remained peaceable in the unrest of l831-32 — The Sauk and Black Hawk War. Not until a race has passed from the face of the earth will investigations be made. Such is history. I have waited for an opportune time to present some facts regarding our first inhabitants. There is a deeper interest being shown at this time, and on the pages of our history their story can be told as it should be. It is only due to the coming generations that the story should be told with the object lessons and the ideals of a race before them. As a collector, as an investigator, in my den I can see the connecting link of his handiwork when I compare our manufactured tools of iron and steel with his of stone. I can see they played a part. Theirs were the forerunner of a larger and better civilization. What a history we could have had, had our early pioneers written their story when they lived among the red men. I could not help being impressed as the plow exposed for me the barb, or lap anvil, the mortar dish, and the battle-ax. I have plowed the virgin soil within the city limits of Chicago and exposed the war point from its hidden past. I plowed up the two bitted stone ax so old that we wonder who fashioned it so. From these and many, many others that I have found I have, as best I could, woven their story. In classifying their work I feel it would be of interest to you to know how this information is gleaned, and the naming of their handiwork, giving terms that are so familiar to us to-day. These had their origin in the stone age. In our patent office at Washington can be found some of their exact duplicates and on these patents are granted to-day.

The classification of their work is as follows: 1st shape, 2nd size, 3rd material. 4th color, 5th, condition, 6th age, 7th workmanship, 8th locality. 9th the date found and 10th comments. This opens up a field almost unbelievable, but such it should, to obtain reliable records of their handiwork. It then can be indexed and scored. The above points are subdivided. Under workmanship we have five divisions, work in flaked and chipped objects, such as the arrowhead, the hunting spear, the knives, drills, scrapers, and chisels. The next is work in pecked objects such as the stone hammer, slugs, axes, celts, and hatchets or tomahawks. The next is work in polished objects, such as slate ornaments. The next is moulded work, such as pottery. Then comes the work in copper which is hammered ware.

In use they are divided: Weapons of warfare and chase; implements of agriculture, work in ornaments, work in emblems and ceremonials in religion; charms, pipes, plumb bobs, banner stones, gorgets, amulets, discoids, paint cups, and others. Some are classed as artifacts and problematics, their use to us unknown. Under the head of warfare and chase the objects used were the grooved ax, grooved stone hammer slugs, the un-grooved celt, or tomahawk, skinning knives. and daggers. The war club, set with points, had somewhat passed out of use belonging more to the Paleolithic period of the stone age. Still the war’ points are quite numerous. evidence of a change in the method of warfare. The weapons of range, those that would carry a distance are the lance head, the hunting spear, and the bow and arrows. In the miscellaneous type we have the free hand skinning knife, the notched knife, the beveled knife, the beveled or rotary arrow, scrapers of many kinds and shapes, and chisels of many designs such as the freehand, beveled, notched, and stemmed, also many types of drills. stone pencils for picture writing and hieroglyphics, fluted arrows, some gouged, both in flaked and pecked. The types of smaller arrows are quite numerous, such as the smaller arrows are quite numerous, such as the small bird barbs, the small lances, spears and fish points. In all it would take pages to describe them. To illustrate, an arrow is classified first as to point, 2nd, the edge or face, 3rd. the bevel, 4th, the blade. 5th, the tang. 6th, the stem, 7th, the base, 8th, the neck, and 9th. the barb or shoulder.

The implements of agriculture are not so numerous, yet are very interesting and are work of a higher order. Implements of stone shape the way for a higher order of civilization. In 1828-29 near Rock Island over 3,000 acres of corn in one spot flourished and ripened. Here in our County we find the mortar dish, the pestle and grinder, the notched hoe, adz, and hafted spade, evidence of agriculture. The higher the order of workmanship the less numerous are the objects. Now and then their ornaments ceremonials and charms are found. Their carved effigies and pottery ware show a marked advance in the stone age. Fragments of pottery ware are sometimes found at old camp sites, but as so little is found I will not go into detail regarding it. No doubt at permanent camps pottery ware was made and burnt. They found in this locality all the tempering material, such as clay, sand and shells. using pulverized stone with their burnt clay. So far I have seen but one piece of glazed pottery with colored design from this locality. We marvel at the perfect contour of line, and uniform thickness, when we consider that perhaps the pottery wheel was unknown at this time. Further history of pottery ware must be based on vases and ware found in burial mounds, and as over 30 years have passed since the opening of one, much history has been lost. I am in hopes that some day further information may be added.

Now and then bone awls as well as squid sewing needles are found. Bone ware was used for many purposes. such as cutting. flaking and drilling. I cannot pass by this interesting work of drilling with either bone or stone. Even at some of his other handiwork we stand perplexed, when we know that our workmen of to-day can not duplicate their work. Holes were drilled in small pearls and also through the hardest of materials such as granite and hematite.

They knew the value of sand in drilling and in many cases silica are found. One that I recall was a bone flute found in this locality, having little holes or perforations made in a straight line so that the same could be fingered. Such ware to-d ay is very rare, most of it having decayed . The finding of musical instruments shows a refining influence even in primitive life as we weave together the story of human progress. Perhaps the first musical sound heard was the clanking of stones at the quarries where they were broken and fashion into weapons. Our Indians here had developed music to quite a high art, using five notes to the scale and making their run down instead of up as we do.

It might be interesting to know that most of our Indian handiwork is made of stone transported, as we had no quarries here in the County. The only material that could be found for work was in our glacial drift. The heavy weapons of warfare and chase were made from the glacial granite pebbles found along our streams. This accounts for the many beautiful specimens and the variety of color found in our axes, celts, and hatchets or tomahawks. Now and then an ax of jade is found. In the flaked and chipped ware the material shows much barter and trade from other quarries, therefore the great variety and color of stone. We find ware of obsidian, agate, camelian, jasper, petrified wood, transparent quartz, and many others of flint and chert, and now and then a local pebble of solidified coral and even some with the imprint of the sea lily or crinoidea. The mill pore, the mound and chain coral, were made into beautiful arrows. So interesting is this to the collector that class workmanship is recognized and also that the workman was considering color and beauty in the stone cutting art. It is probably true that skilled workmen were making this a specialty, since Longfellow mentions the ancient arrow maker. The most prized of all this work are objects made from hematite, an iron ore transported from the Lake Superior region and the Iron Mountains of Missouri. We find the grooved ax, the celt or hatchet, the plumb bob, and the skinning knife. The skill and patience exhibited in fashioning these objects would easily class the maker as a master workman. The material had a hardness of from 4.5 to 6.5 and a specific gravity of 4.9 to 5.3. Some of this ware is quite magnetic. I might say that now and then ferruginous ware is found, although quite rare in this locality. It also has a hardness of 5 on a scale of 10.

Copper objects also are quite rare in this locality. I have a few found along the Illinois River at Buffalo Rock near Ottawa. The objects found in caches or pockets are not numerous, yet many that have been found have been forgotten. Only those interested have kept a record. Perhaps many will come to light as interest increases. Mr. J. B. Grotevant’s find is the best so far. His find of 26 pieces of spades (agricultural implements) found in a cache near Ocoya is very interesting. A small cache near Scovel contained arrow heads and another near Cullom a mortar dish and battle ax with a celt and a few arrows.

Quite a few have been found along our Vermillion by early settlers in the clearing of the timber. Some were found under trees and some the plow would expose, yet it was of no interest, simply a passing incidents.

Indian picture writing has, through the hand of man, become obliterated. Now and then small record stones are found. Along the north bank of Five Mile Creek some writing was found and is now in Mr. James Smith’s collection at Saunemin. I sent a duplicate copy to the Bureau of Ethnology but it could not be deciphered. All our timbered spots along the Vermillion show signs of Indian habitation. Even around the old oak trees at Five Mile Grove I can still find their flakes. At Five Mile three of the old French hand-made trader’s axes were found. In the timber spot near Wing quite a few arrows are found. The spot east of that, the Ox Bow, is where I found a good specimen of the ax-makers art which had been turned up by the dredge boat.

It might be of interest to mention the signal hills of our County such as Sugar Loaf south of Kempton. Here quite a few arrow heads have been found. The depression in that hill was not of Indian origin but was used as an outpost by the early prairie bandits to give them a wide outlook over the swamp region. Sugar Loaf has an elevation of a little over 750 feet. The next is the Smith Mound just South of Blackstone with about the same elevation. Here many arrows have been found. This mound is not of Indian origin. The next are the Grey Knobs south of Chatsworth at Oliver’s Grove, (once known as Kickapoo Grove) near where the moraine divides. This has an elevation of 831 feet. From these hills news was conveyed over this region by signal fires.

The Indian burial mounds are nearly all obliterated along the Vermillion. Their elevation was only a few feet, so in the clearing of the timber and the cultivation of the land many were not even recognized. The Tom Smith Mound in Avoca Township near the junction of Indian Grove Creek had an elevation of about 5 feet. The writer has stood on it in an early day not knowing it was a mound. Not till the opening of the mound for a cellar did it reveal its hidden treasures. These are now scattered to the four winds. Even in his resting place, in his endless sleep, the Indian is disturbed. Another civilization takes his place, so forgetful that not a line is recorded. This is the only mound recognized by collectors as of very old origin. Around the mound was a great camping ground, perhaps the largest in the County. The finds here were very numerous and of many different types.

Following along this line I will mention a few other camping places of importance. The second is the bench land along the Vermillion in Amity Township. This is very rich in finds. Even last spring I found a battle ax, celt and arrows on fields cultivated over 50 years. Our treasure spot at Pontiac is the old Indian camping grounds east of town known as Rollins Grove. All our collectors have visited this old camp site and pictured what might have been in the long ago when the Indian teepees numbered into the hundreds. All around this old camping ground their chipped objects are quite numerous, and on the old trails to-day the barb can still be found. Let us preserve this beauty spot along our beautiful Vermillion, this one spot that is so closely linked with the primitive. Let the springs that are still there quench our thirst. That which they have loved, let us love, that over which their children roamed let ours roam, for those that are yet to come let it be preserved and not defiled.

Another area of bluff or bench land is that of the old or ancient channel of the Vermillion near the McCormack homestead south and east of Pontiac, sometimes call the Ox Bow. Here are still the springs. Here too the barb is found. A Miss McCormack has quite a collection from this locality. Other camping places are known but I am drifting to a close. I have had my dreams of this old Ox Bow. Here a beautiful artificial lake could be made such as it once was. I would like to name it Kickapoo Lake after the Kickapoo Indians who lived there.

It would be indeed an interesting history if all our finds of Indian relics could be preserved, gathered in one museum and classified. What a light would gleam from the hazy past! It would surprise one if he could read the history of a forgotten race from the actual evidence upon the collector’s shelves. The collector has gathered together the scattered fragments that tell the story, a story in stone, deserving a place in the history of our county. Much of our Indian handiwork is scattered, some carried away, some lost, some destroyed. The writer has heard of some fine specimens being broken, many an arrow has been broken and defaced to see flint strike fire. This is to be regretted for they cannot be restored. The hand that so easily destroys can not duplicate.

The specimens found in my own Township, Saunemin (named after a sub-chief under Chicago), I have carefully marked, and others given me have received the same consideration. It has been my intent and purpose in this short sketch to give a brief classification of the Indian handiwork of this County, perhaps never given before. To the student, to the investigator, and to the collector, I lend my co-operation.

Henry J. Mies,

Pontiac, III.