Grave Creek Mound
Description by Thaddeus Mason Harris, 1803

The Journal Of A Tour Into The Territory Northwest of the Alleghany Mountains; Made in the Spring of the Year 1803, by Thaddeus Mason Harris, reprinted in Travels West of the Alleghanies, by Reuben Gold Thwaites (Cleveland: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1904), pp. 360-362.

We reached Tomlinson, a small settlement near Grave Creek, to lodge. We propose spending tomorrow here in viewing the surprizing forts and the "Big Mound," in this vicinity.

Wednesday, June 8 [1803]

"Behind me rises huge a reverend pile
Sole on this desert heath, a place of tombs,
Waste, desolate, where Ruin dreary dwells,
Brooding o'er fightless skulls and crumbling bones."

We went out this morning to examine the antient monuments about Grave Creek. The town of Tomlinson is partly built upon one of the square forts. Several mounds are to be seen. I think there are nine within a mile. Three of them, which stand adjoining each other, are of superior height and magnitude to those which are most commonly to be met with. In digging away the side of one of these, in order to build a stable, many curious stone implements were found; one resembled a syringe; there were, also, a pestle, some copper beads of an oval shape, and several other articles. One of the mounds in Col. Bygg's garden was excavated in order to make an ice-house. It contained a vast number of human bones, a variety of stone tools, and a kind of stone signet of an oval shape, two inches in length, with a figure in relievo resembling a note of admiration, surrounded by two raised rims. Capt. Wilson, who presented the stone to my companion Mr. Adams, observed that it was exactly the figure of the brand with which the Mexican horses were marked. One of the mounds was surrounded by a regular ditch and parapet, with only one entrance. The tumulus was about twelve feet high, and the parapet five.

The "Big grave," as it is called, is a most astonishing mound. We measured the perpendicular height, and it was sixty-seven feet and a half. By the measurement of George Millar, Esq. of Wheeling, it is sixty-eight feet. Its sides are quite steep. The diameter of the top is fifty-five feet: but the apex seems to have caved in; for the present summit forms a bason, three or feet in depth. Not having a surveyor's chain, we could not take the circumference, but judged that its base covered more than half an acre. It is overgrown with large trees on all sides. Near the top is a white oak of three feet diameter; one still larger grows on the eastern side about half way down. The mound sounds hollow. Undoubtedly its contents will be numerous, curious, and calculated to develop in a farther degree the history of the antiquities which abound in this part of our country.

As there are no excavations near the mound, and no hills or banks of earth, we infer that it must have been principally formed of sods skimmed from the surface, or of earth brought from a great distance. The labour of collecting such a prodigious quantity must have been inconceivably great. And when we consider the multitude of workmen, the length of time, and the expense, requisite to form such a stupendous mound; when we reflect upon the spirit of ambition which suggested the idea of this monument, of great but simple magnificence, to the memory of some renowned prince or warrior, we cannot but regret that the name and the glory it was designed to perpetuate are gone - Lost In The Darkness of the Grave!

Native Americans