This account was taken from William Martin Beauchamp, “Perch lake mounds, with notes on other New York mounds, and some accounts of Indian trails.”

Other New York Mounds

A few supplementary remarks may be made on other mounds in New York, the larger part of the State having none, and most of those found being of small size and simple character. In some cases natural formations have been mistaken for these, having been [25] used for burial or camps. In 27 counties some form of mound has been reported and a summary of these follows. They are most frequent west of the center of the State, and will be mentioned by counties.

Several occurred in Allegany county, and thence westward they were frequent. In the town of Conewango, Cattaraugus county, was a tumulus 13 feet high, with a diameter of 61 by 65 feet. Skeletons were found with relics. In the village of Randolph was a burial mound 10 feet high and 35 feet in diameter. In the town of Bucktooth, north side of the Allegheny, was a burial mound, 39 feet in diameter and 10 feet high. Another was in the town of Napoli, on Cold Spring creek, which was 120 feet around. At Olean were several of these, one being 40 by 60 feet in diameter and nearly 10 feet high. One in Dayton was of the same hight, and 120 feet in circumference. Another was on the west side of the Allegheny river, in the town of Cold Spring. This has been reported as 200 feet around and 20 feet high ; probably an exaggeration. On Cold Spring creek, 2 miles from the Allegheny, were two burial mounds, 10 feet high and 100 feet around. Others were in the towns of Leon and Conewango, in one of which were 8 sitting skeletons.

Quite a number were in Chautauqua county. One at Cassadaga lake was 7 feet high and 30 feet in diameter. A stone mound near a fort in Ellington was 4 feet wide and 5 feet high. Two mounds near Griffith’s point, Chautauqua lake, were once 12 feet high and 40 feet in diameter. A number of similar mounds have been reported on both shores, and two near Jamestown. Another, near Rutledge, was 20 feet in diameter and 6 feet high. One in the village of Fredonia was 7 feet high. Another at Fluvanna seems recent. Most mounds west of Cayuga lake were sepulchral.

Near Spring Lake, in Cayuga county, were small mounds with human remains, but these may have been incidental, as in some other places. On the high land of Rowland island, near the river, are one or two suggestive of Perch lake. One is not very distinct, but the other stands out plainly. It is a circle with a diameter of 37 feet and an elevation of 30 inches, inclosing burnt earth and [26] stone, but yielding no relics. The earth is in its natural condition for a considerable distance around. Some pits within the circle may be the work of explorers. This I examined July 18, 1902.

The noted burial mound in Greene, Chenango county, was 40 feet in diameter and 6 feet high. Several hut rings have been reported along the Chenango river, similar to those at Perch lake, but those at Indian brook, a little south of Greene, prove to be caches.

Columbia and Schoharie counties both had the stone heaps to which Indians added stones in passing. Erie county had its full share of mounds. One at the mouth of Cattaraugus creek was used for burial, but was probably natural. It was 50 feet across and from 10 to 15 feet high. The relics were modern.

There were several burial mounds on the east side of Cattaraugus creek, two of which were excavated by Dr A. L. Benedict of Buffalo, in 1900. As good accounts of such work by competent observers are rare in New York, his plans are given in plate 1 1 , and his report is summarized from the American Antiquarian for 1901, p.99-107.

No. I, a truncated mound in an open field when I saw it, is a mile north of the creek, and 600 feet north of the high bank of the ancient valley. It is nearly circular and about 70 feet in diameter. The central bight is 4 feet, 8 inches, but he thought it was originally 10 or ii feet high. It was made of sand loam, and there were depressions north and south in the general level of the field. It had been disturbed. At A were animal bones, ashes and charcoal at 3 feet. 5 inches from the surface; also bones of the aboriginal dog. At B was a heap of flat pieces of Hamilton slates, some of them waterworn. A rib and sacrum under these he thought those of the musk ox. At C was a fragmentary human skull, with other human bones, at a depth of 3 feet. Near this were flint arrows and knife, flint chips occurring elsewhere in the mound. Dr Benedict’s plans have the top to the south.

No. 2 resembles the last and has been reduced by plowing. It is quite near the creek, and a central shaft was sunk below the original soil in 1875 1 v William C. Bryant of Buffalo. Gravel was found [27] 4 feet below the level at A by Dr Benedict, and this occurred at 4 feet. 9 inches at H. At F was an oblong 1 fireplace of water worn stones. Between the top stone and one on the west side of the inclosure part of a pottery rim was found. There were small sherds at H. In the ashes under the top stone were calcined bones. A human astragalus was found at B, 4 feet southwest of the central stake, at a depth of i foot, 9 inches, covered with several round stones, 6 inches to a foot in diameter and an inch thick. A calcined long bone was found 15 feet south of the stake, which seemed part of a human tibia. At 7 feet, 10 inches south from the stake the bottom of the mound was of burnt clay and gravel, about 6 inches thick. Below this was a hollow space, beginning 3 feet, 7 inches from the surface of the mound. This was 9 or 10 inches deep, and extended every way 2 or 3 feet. The floor of this was of coarse gravel, about the size of hickory nuts, blackened, but showing no disturbance. Charred wood was occasionally found, some of considerable size. There were also small bits of mica.
These seem hardly true burial mounds, though containing human bones.

Other mounds have been reported in Erie county 15 to 16 feet high and from 45 to 54 feet in diameter. One near the Indian fort at Buffalo was 5 or 6 feet high, and from 35 to 40 feet across. It is probable that Dr Benedict’s diameters may be too great, allowance not being made for increase at the base by washing down from above.

On St Regis island, Franklin county, was a mound 8 feet high, and another opposite, on the east bank of St Regis river. Burial mounds were frequent along the St Lawrence.

Small mounds have been reported on Tonawanda creek, in Genesee county, but they may not have been artificial, though used for sepulture. The mound at the Bone fort, near Caryville, wa& 6 feet high and 30 feet wide, almost entirely composed of bones.

Two small mounds have been reported nn Jefferson county, and many hut rings on the east bank of Black river, Lewis county, opposite the Deer River station. These are like those at Perch lake.

In the summer of 1903 an early and notable ossuary was discovered [28] by Mrs R. D. Loveland of Watertown, near the long carrying place at the head of Chaumont bay. A curious depression arrested her attention, and a little digging brought to light a human skull. She then turned over the search to others, who unfortunately had not her knowledge and skill, and no clear description is available from them. Dr R. W. Amidon afterward visited the place, saw the relics, and obtained what information he could. Its importance comes from its age, the relics being mostly of early types. The pit is near and below the end of a ledge of Trenton limestone. At least 8 skeletons of vigorous adults were unearthed, from 2 to 4 feet below the surface, and mostly covered with boulders and flat stones. Two skulls were fractured, as though by a war club. A perfect clay vessel was destroyed by the diggers, but it was of a frequent form. A bird amulet, of green striped slate, was found. This was 5^2 inches long, rather broad, and with the head and tail almost on a plane with the body. There was also a bar amulet of sandstone, 6 inches long, and a perfect soapstone pipe of a frequent form. A flat bone bead, bone and horn implements, flint arrowheads or knives, were among other articles. This ossuary thus gives us some idea of what other things were used by those who had these amulets.

In Livingston county there was once a mound in the road from Dansville to Groveland, which was 4 or 5 feet high and 30 feet in diameter. Another was midway between Dansville and Scottsburg. A burial mound was 2.y 2 miles southeast of the head of Hemlock lake. One at Mt Morris was used for recent sepulture, but may not have been artificial, as it is said to have been 100 feet across and 8 to 10 feet high. Some accounts make the relics of early types, and it is probable it was used at various periods. On the Genesee river, near the Wheatland line, was a burial mound 8 feet high. Two mounds are also on the Wadsworth farm near Geneseo. One is 3 feet high, but not quite 25 feet across; the other is much smaller. Both have been reduced in size. A stone heap at Lima traditionally had a memorial character.

In Madison county, on Oneida lake, are supposed Indian mounds, which are probably natural formations. [29]

There was a mound in Monroe county, a few miles northwest of Scottsville. Two small mounds were west of Irondequoit bay, on high land, the largest being less than 5 feet high. A large one was east of the bay, and another, east of the village of Penfield, was originally 40 feet in diameter and 8 or 9 feet high. Two burial mounds were on the east bank of Genesee river, half a mile below the lower fall. They were 4 feet high and 20 to 25 feet wide. There were other mounds in that vicinity. In Pittsford was a pile of large limestone boulders, the heap being about 12 feet square. Between Irondequoit landing and the lake was a cemetery of 200 small grave mounds, arranged in rows. The further character was not reported, but single graves are usually depressed. A mound was on the bluff south of Dunbar hollow, which contained stone implements. Mr Harris thought a small island on the west side of Irondequoit bay was mostly artificial, as proved by excavations and grading. It was 90 feet long, 32 wide and 17 feet high, but was not sepulchral, though it contained many fine articles at a depth of 15 feet.

A mound described in Cambria, Niagara county, should be called an ossuary and contained metallic articles. A stone mound has been reported a mile west of Lockport, and an ordinary one at Gasport. Two burial mounds of large size were on Tonawanda island. Another was in Wilson, and two in the town of Lewiston. In September 1903, the one marked D on Schoolcraft’s map was opened. He called it ” a small mound or barrow,” but if it ever had much elevation cultivation had long before removed all signs of this. As it has not before been described a brief account of it will be given here. The first skull was found 6 or 8 inches below the present level of the ground, and the skeletons were estimated at over 300. Over 200 skulls were secured and none had been injured, the place representing well the ossuaries of Canada. The date may have been not far from 1620, perhaps a little later, while the Neutral nation still occupied land in New York. The pit, excavated by Mr John Mackay of Niagara Falls, was about 18 feet long and from 12 to 14 feet wide, with a depth of $ l / 2 feet from the surface. The form was an irregular ellipse, and the bottom was of rock and clay. To [3O] make more room the pit had widened alxwt 18 inches from the lx>ttom. and the smaller Ixmes were placed in this addition. Thenwere no traces of any lining to the pit. nor any suggestions of Jesuit contact, while earlier articles of Kuropean trade had reached the spot, possibly from the Dutch through the Five Nations. There were 24 iron axes, several brass kettles. 3 sword blades. 24 large and curious brass rings. 5 cylindric brass or cop]>er beads, with other ornaments of shell. Through the kindness of Mr Mackay I examined a number of these. The rings are simply short brass cylinders, bent in circles, and the beads are long brass tubes, precisely like those occurring in the Mohawk valley. One of these is u inches long and yk inch in diameter. Mr Mackay has an interesting collection, well repaying study.

Some burial mounds have been reported in New York city, apparently natural elevations used for sepulture.

Some supposed mounds in Oneida county are also of doubtful character, nothing having been determined by examination.

In Onondaga county, near Baldwinsville. were two large stone heaps, covering human bones, and two burial mounds were on the west side of Onondaga outlet. One was circular and stood out prominently from the bank behind it. The other was oblong, being 12 feet long and 3 feet high when I sketched it. and had then been somewhat reduced.

At the modern Seneca castle near Geneva, where Johnson built a fort in 1756, is an artificial mound about 6 feet high and used as a cemetery. It is probably rather graded than built up. There was a small recent mound at Clifton Springs.

In Carlton, Orleans county, on the north bank of Oak Orchard creek, is a small oblong mound. 20 by 30 feet in diameter. Another small mound was 30 rods away.

Bone hill, at Oswego Falls, was a place of sepulture, now known to be of natural formation. It was 6 rods in diameter and 40 feet high, and has been removed.

In Unadilla was a supposed Indian monument, 20 feet in diameter, 10 feet high, and of a conical form. There was a mound at Oneonta. and a supposed burial mound at Cooperstown. [31]

In Tioga county there was a circular burial mound at Owego. Several mounds were in the vicinity of Newark Valley. One of these was 15 feet high and 250 feet around, suggesting natural formation.

In Wayne county I examined several mounds July 18, 1902. One was northwest of Savannah and in the midst of camp sites. It is circular and but slightly separated from the ridge behind. It is 60 feet across and 3 feet high. Another burial mound north of Crusoe creek and northeast of this, is now small and low, but distinct. Another was examined 2^2 miles south of Savannah. It is at the south end of a ridge containing caches, from which it has been separated by excavation. The bodies were apparently laid on the surface and the earth heaped upon them. It is 30 feet across and about 7 feet high. The first of these mounds shows little work.

In Wyoming county is a burial mound about 4 miles south of Portage.

In Yates county a small burial mound on Bluff point is 9 feet long and 4 feet high.

These are all the burial or monumental mounds thus far reported in New York, as distinguished from defensive earthworks. Very few indeed resemble those of Perch lake, and this led to the special examination of the latter. Their peculiar character is emphasized by this comparison with New York mounds elsewhere, and though scattered examples may yet be found here, it is quite probable that nowhere else in the State will they be seen in such numbers or in such fine preservation. They form a unique group, well worthy of further study, though offering little in the way of fine relics, or indeed of any at all.

By way of caution it should be remarked that the hight of mounds is commonly made too great unless accurately determined ; and there is also a disposition to consider any symmetric elevation of moderate size an Indian mound. Even when human bones are found in them they are not always artificial.

A curious spot i l /2 miles west-southwest of Unadilla may be described here, having never been mentioned before. For the account and chart, thanks are due to Mr Harry B. Cecil of that [32] place. It is on the farm of Enoch H. Copley and in a woodland of about 33 acres, the whole of which is a series of moraines and kettle-shaped hollows. In the largest of these hollows is a shallow pond, marked A in the diagram, plate 12, figure I. The shaded part B has been partly filled in for the Delaware & Hudson Railroad. The pond is surrounded by moraines, C C C, about 100 feet high, and a road D, follows the north and east margins. At E, F, G, are rude stone walls from 2 to 4 feet high. Mr Cecil said:

At one time I supposed these had been constructed to get rid of the rocks that were in the way, but this could not be the case, as the stones could have been dumped into the pond very much more easily, and it would have materially helped to widen the road D. The oldest residents say that these piles and walls have ah been there. At II, until a short time ago, were two circles made of rocks loosely thrown together. They measured 10 feet across and were contiguous, having openings at the remote parts of their circumferences. I turned these over carefully, but failed to find anything of Indian workmanship and the soil beneath was apparently undisturbed. At I was another stone wall. At J is a heap of undisturbed rocks. At K is a carefully made road, about 8 feet wide and extending about 300 feet in a westerly direction, gradually ascending to 50 feet above the pond level. No explanation can be given of this unless it was part of a trail. Below this road and above the wall at E, is a stone heap, and above the road is a large hollow filled up with stones of all descriptions. I am positive that these heaps are not natural. All these remains are included in about half an acre.

This account is free from extravagance and suggests the use of the spot as a pound for deer, terminating a driveway. These and other animals would naturally resort there to drink. With or with out contracting hedges they would follow their own paths, and the roadway would turn them toward the double walls, I, F. when driven. Some would escape only to encounter other hunters at the wall G. In the press others might turn back and meet hunters at the wall E. The circles may have been the foundations of hunting lodges, and the season of wild fowl would afford a secondary use. The usual course was to make a pound of stakes and branches, but the primitive hunter was quick to avail himself of natural advantages, and was not sparing of work.

(William Martin Beauchamp, “Perch lake mounds, with notes on other New York mounds, and some accounts of Indian trails,” Bulletin of the New York State Museum, no. 87, Albany: New York State Education Dept., 1905, pp 24-32:


Chinese (Simplified)DutchEnglishFrenchGermanHebrewItalianPortugueseRussianSpanish