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Print

Conservation group acquires land rich in American Indian sites

December 01, 2011 at 09:13 PM

Freeport Journal-Standard

Galena, Ill. — Last spring, the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation (JDCF) acquired property known as the “Hess Farm.”

There are American Indian archaeological sites on the property, including numerous burial mounds and village sites.

So far, the Foundation has not decided what to do with the property or if it should be open to the public.

According to Chris Kirkpatrick, director of land protection for the JDCF, a committee of board members, staff, and community members have been formed to explore options for the property and its potential for public use..

The property is located between Casper Bluff Land and Water Reserve and Keough Effigy Mounds Land and Water Preserve, both previously acquired by the JDCF, and located near Galena.

The 316-acre bluff area was locally known as Portage.

Originally, Portage was referred to as the neck of land between the Galena River channel and the Mississippi River.

People crossed here to avoid the extra distance it would take to boat down to the mouth of the river to the south.

Later, the railroads created a siding and signal tower at the bluff base and called it Portage.

Rail engineers still call it that on their scanner.

Locally, the whole west side of the Galena River mouth, the Hess property, and surrounding lowlands, became known as Portage.

Portage attracted the attention of curious locals as early as 1835 and in 1876, including prominent Galena businessmen and amateur archeologists Louis A Rowley, W. M. Snyder, and John Dowling.

Mounds Recorded

In the late 1800s, local archeologist William Baker Nickerson recorded 39 burial mounds on the site.

These mounds were constructed by middle and late Woodland people between 200 B.C. and 1,000 A.D.

The Middle Woodland mounds are older than those found on adjacent JDCF preserves.

Evidence of three villages and a rock shelter have also been found.

“The cultural importance of this area was first recognized by local archaeologist William Baker Nickerson,” said Philip Millhouse, archaeologist for the Illinois State Archaeological Survey.

“His excavations in the late 19th century were later followed up by the University of Chicago in the 1920s,” he said. “The university used Nickerson’s meticulous notes and insights to develop a methodology for archaeology that had a critical influence on the development of the field over subsequent decades.”

The Portage area was also known and utilized by local Meskwaki who were engaged in extensive lead mining, smelting, and trading during the early 19th century.

“The Hess property is remarkable because of its size, natural habitat, and rich archaeological record that spans the time from the arrival of the first Native Americans many millennia ago to Euro-American pioneers in the early 19th century,” said Millhouse.

Trading Post

In his research of the property, he found that Jo Daviess County history states that in 1816, American trader George Davenport had a post at Portage. Amos Farrar may have briefly built a cabin and post at this location with his Mesquakie wife in the early 1820s.

Later, a farm was built on the land, possibly at the same location, which was occupied by James Harris, a prominent early settler and business owner.

His grave was also discovered on the tip of the eastern ridge.


Copyright 2011 The Journal-Standard. Some rights reserved

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let me just take a guess on this one’NO HUNTING’ !!!

Posted by trolloni on 12/02 at 08:01 PM

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