Native Cemeteries and Forms of Burial East of the Mississippi

By David I. Bushnell Jr. | Go to book overview

STONE-LINED GRAVES

Stone graves--that is, small excavations which were lined or partly lined with natural slabs of stones--have been encountered in great numbers in various parts of the Mississippi Valley. They are discovered scattered and separate; in other instances vast numbers are grouped together, thus forming extensive cemeteries. While the great majority were formed by lining properly excavations, others were created by erecting one upon another, forming several tiers, and covering all with earth, so forming a mound. In and about the city of Nashville, on the banks of the Cumberland, in Davidson Country, Tennessee, such burials have been revealed in such great numbers that it is within reason to suppose the region was once occupied by a sedentary people who remained for several generations, and must have had an extensive village near by. It will be recalled that the Shawnee occupied the valley in the early years of the eighteenth century, and that a French trader was there in 1714. A mound standing near Nashville was examined in the summer of 1821, and writing of it Haywood said : "This is the mound upon which monsieur Charleville, a French trader, had his store in the year 1714, when the Shawanese were driven from the Cumberland by the Cherokees and Chickasaws. It stands on the west side of the river, and on the north side of French lick creek, and about 70 yards from each. It is round at the base. About 30 yards in diameter, and about 10 feet in height, at this time." The mound was examined and much charcoal, traces of fire beds, a few objects of stone, and bits of pottery were found. And telling of the later history of the mound the writer continued : "The mound also had been stockaded by the Cherokees between the years 1758 and 1769. . . . Very large burying grounds once lay between the mounds and the river, thence westwardly, thence to the creek." ( Haywood, (1), pp. 136-138.)

Although from this statement it would appear that many graves had already been destroyed before the close of the first quarter of the last century, nevertheless vast numbers remained to be examined at a later day. About 20 years after Haywood wrote, another account of the cemeteries in the vicinity of Nashville was prepared, at which time it was told that "We have one near the suburbs of our town, which extends from near the Cumberland river almost to Mr. Macgavoc's; it is about one mile in length, how much in breadth I cannot say, the road and houses cover one side, and a cultivated field the other; in this field is a tumulus which is now worn down. From the part that I have examined of this grave-yard, I found that the stone coffins were close to one another, situated in such a manner that each corpse was separated only by a single stone from the other; about one and one-half or two miles from this, on the other side of the

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Native Cemeteries and Forms of Burial East of the Mississippi
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Preface 5
  • Contents 7
  • Illustrations 9
  • Algonquian Groups 11
  • Stone-Lined Graves 44
  • Burials in Caves 58
  • Iroquoian Groups 65
  • Muskhogean Groups 70
  • Siouan Groups 93
  • Conclusion 122
  • Bibliography 149
  • Index 157
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