Lawrence County Museum of History

Lawrence County Museum of History & Edward L. Hutton Research Library

Museum Corner—January 2018

Among the museum’s collection of Native American artifacts are these tools donated by Ethel Speer. The knife and arrowheads were found in the Heltonville area.Jan. 2018—Courtesy photo by Becky Buher

Among the museum’s collection of Native American artifacts are these tools donated by Ethel Speer. The knife and arrowheads were found in the Heltonville area.Jan. 2018—Courtesy photo by Becky Buher


We were not the First to live here

Lawrence County celebrates 200 years in 2018

Published in Times Mail newspaper Jan. 3, 2018 under the title: "Museum Corner for Jan. 3, 2013"
By Becky Buher, Guest columnist

It’s 2018, and Lawrence County will be celebrating its bicentennial this year. However, civilizations existed here long before there was an official Lawrence County.

Goodspeed’s 1884 History of Lawrence, Orange and Washington Counties mentioned two archaeological Native American mounds that were found in this area—Connelly and Palestine Mounds. The periods in which these two local mounds were built was not specified.

Palestine Mound—In 1870, three men, Newland, Dodd and Houston, explored a mass of stones near the abandoned Palestine community close to White River. Goodspeed recorded it to be “a circular wall twenty feet in diameter. It was found to be a vaulted tomb. The first or upper vault contained the bones of many women and children, a layer of flat stones divided this from the second which contained the bones of men; another layer of flags, and at the bottom six feet below the surface, two skeletons were found with their heads placed to the east and faces to the north. The last were persons of great size, being not less than six and a half feet high. With the skeletons were found a quantity of flints, arrow-points, etc.; near the head of the largest individual (was found) a pair of hammered copper earrings with a globular ‘war-whistle.’ The keen noise of the latter (whistle) may be compared to the sound of a policeman’s whistle and can be heard nearly a mile. Stone axes and pieces of pottery were found on the surface near this tomb.”

Connelly Mounds—John Collett said the following in the 1873 Geological Survey of Indiana: “On the southeastern slope of the hill over Connelly’s cave, two miles east of Huron, is a group of seven mounds, from two to four feet high, and an obscure winding way may be traced leading from the cave spring to the top of the hill. On the summit fragments of sandstone, reddened by burning, and small shell heaps are seen. The mounds were probably habitations. From protruding pieces of stone seen on the sides, the internal construction was of that material (stone) instead of timber, as was usual in similar structures on the Wabash and Mississippi.”

Another early local Native American site was found near White River just beyond the current location of the Virgil I. Grissom Municipal Airport. This significant prehistoric site contained artifacts from the Paleoindian, Archaic, Woodland, and Terminal Woodland/Emergent Mississippian time periods and is thought to have been continually inhabited for thousands of years. The area is restricted. The field, known as the Clampitt Site was the location of an Indiana University archaeological dig in the early 1990s that unearthed the remains of a village that had been inhabited sometime between 1280 and 1433. The Oliver Phase is the name for a Late Woodland Native American culture that flourished from 1200 and 1450 CE (Common Era) along the east and west forks of White River in central and southern Indiana. The Clampitt Site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places March 15, 2016. 

The above mentioned Native American archaeological sites are all on private property and are not available to the public.

By the time Indiana became a state in 1816, Native Americans had no permanent settlements here, but the future Lawrence County land was situated in several tribal districts. The Piankeshaw were the first and later the Delaware, the Shawnee and the Pottawattomie tribes used the area. Some of the favorite campsites were near what would later become Heltonville and Springville as well as near Indian Creek and White River. The museum has an extensive collection of Native American tools on display in the gallery. A map indicates the tribal lands and travels.

In 1803, the purchase treaty at Fort Wayne included a portion of what would become Lawrence County. In 1805, the Treaty at Vincennes included local lands, and in 1809, the Harrison Purchase opened vast Native American lands to white settlers including Lawrence County land.

Tune in next month to see who moved into the area, and where they lived.

Sources: Goodspeed’s 1884 History of Lawrence, Orange and Washington Counties, Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Historic Preservation, museum records.

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