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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Warren County Had Its Own Serpent Mound

Dallas Bogan on 28 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Warren County has within its boundaries many archaeological sites, some of which have been examined and some which have not. A site, which no longer exists, was originally called the "Kingsnake Mound," or in later years, "The Warren County Serpent Mound." The Warren County Serpent Mound was first discovered in 1839. It was thought to have been built by the Adena Indians about 2000 years ago. Only three other serpent mounds have been uncovered in the world: one each in Canada and Scotland, and the other, the Great Serpent Mound in Adams County, Ohio.
The Warren County effigy mound existed in a small loop of Baker's Creek, just south of the Little Miami River, off Stubbs Mill Road. A gravel company has since consumed it.
Dr. S.S. Scoville, a student of archaeology, in the spring of 1892, was passing through the woods near the town of Morrow. He came upon a peculiar elevation that attracted his attention. He found on top of this elevation a growth of immense trees, which were many centuries old. The remains of other large trees and foliage were found rotting on the location. He worked his way through the mass of entanglement and traced the ridge to a clearing. The work of the American Indian had again been uncovered. A once dominant race had indeed left its work behind, and was rediscovered by the trained eye of Dr. Scoville. His discovery was all too symmetrical to have been an incidental fluke. Over the years the plow and the machinery of man had taken its toll on his findings.
Dr. Scoville for some time studied the mound and had carefully taken into consideration the many cuts and gaps that were missing in the configuration. He concluded that road makers cutting through it and had consequently used the materials for roadbeds had mostly made them. He suggested that if the gaps were filled in, the snake-like mound would be a total of 1900 feet long, some 400 feet longer than the Serpent Mound in Adams County. The serpent was measured at 15-20 feet wide and three to five feet high.
It did not take him long to discover that the "head" of the effigy had practically been destroyed. The body was still enveloped in the virgin forest. He retraced his steps along this giant mass and found the tail section had also been destroyed by the plow.
In 1892, Professor Putnam, of the Peabody Museum of Harvard College, was called on by Dr. Scoville to examine the mound. After a brief examination, the professor called for and supervised an excavation. (Dr. C.L. Metz carried on the actual excavation and Dr. Scoville with the results being conveyed to Prof. Putnam at all times.) The professor stated that it was a rare find and was constructed in the same manner as the Serpent Mound in Adams County, and the fact that a second effigy mound was uncovered, was proof of the existence of a densely populated Indian culture.
Cross sections were cut into the mound, and a line of flat stones standing on edge, on each side, was found to extend along its whole course, somewhat representing a back bone. The bulk of the mound was found to be made of clay, with ashes along the edge. Digging trenches into the body at short distances carried on the exploration apart. Graves of the ancient people were found which contained skeletons and certain articles of household goods.
What happened to the serpent mound? As was stated earlier, a local gravel company bought the property on which the mound existed, the year being about 1961. On September 24, 1950, an eight-member board had been appointed for the purpose of looking into the present status of the effigy earthwork.
It was named "The Warren County Serpent Mound Committee." A meeting was held on October 15, 1950, at the site of the mound concerning its findings. Between 1927 and 1950, the matter was allowed to lie inactive. Through much effort, the committee presented its final report to the Ohio Indian Relic Collectors Society on the afternoon of November 18, 1951.
A statement was made that the matter of the mound had been settled forty years previous. It was at this time concluded that an exhaustive investigation should be made. (The Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society had officially recognized the earthwork as an authentic effigy since 1909. The Society, between 1914 and 1927, had repeatedly tried to acquire the site as public property. A committee was formed to inquire into the ownership of the farm with a notion of purchasing the site. It was not for sale.)
Two sides, negative and affirmative, were brought up regarding the mound. It was suggested to the committee that no more than three men had ever written anything about the subject, which would be considered relative to its restoration prior to 1938.
Colonel Charles Whittlesey had drawn a map of the earthwork in 1839, and published the same in 1853.
Harlan I. Smith, in 1892, a young man considered to be an inexperienced student of Dr. Metz, carried on some explorations of the earthwork under the Dr.'s guidance. Smith was not convinced that the effigy was a work of another culture, contrary to the belief of Dr. Metz. Smith's inexperience and untrained eye were in question concerning his decision. Scores of persons were interviewed on the affirmative side. All data was compiled along with affidavits from individuals concerning the mound.
All data was made public: aerial photographs were produced; written statements from archaeologists were obtained; and prominent laymen who had seen and had direct personal knowledge regarding the earthwork signed countless statements. The document contained approximately 350 pages consisting of the above. The committee's findings were made public in the form of a resume. It said in certain terms that all information contained in the 350 pages of the resume related directly to both the negative and the positive findings as to whether the Warren County Serpent Mound was an authentic effigy.
All knowledge of the mound was to be based upon the facts prior to the restoration of the earthworks previous to 1938. It was restored under the direction of Senator John Holden of Morrow. In 1933, Senator Holden used his political influence and got the ancient works declared a worthwhile project for the Works Project Administration (WPA). In 1934, a crew of workmen, along with their mechanical giants, moved into action.
A question arose in 1964 when the Cincinnati Enquirer charged that the Warren Serpent was the result of a WPA project, in which bulldozers had transformed a "linear type mound and several small mounds into a serpent with a head, five convolutions type forms and a coiled tail."
In 1951, Mr. Schuchter, the owner of the land, offered to sell the "Little Serpent Mound" at a price of $10,000. Until this time he had failed to put a price tag on it. Because of all the controversy, no one at this particular time seemed interested.
In time interest in the mound faded away. It disappeared in the early '60's with the question of authenticity still unresolved.

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This page created 28 July 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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