Monday, April 20, 2015

The Giant Skeleton of Central City

Visitors and residents of Huntington's Central City neighborhood today might never realize that while driving down Thirteenth Street between Madison and Jackson Avenues, they are driving over the remains of one of the many lesser burial mounds that once dotted the landscape throughout the Ohio Valley.  What's even stranger is that the former burial mound held an interesting surprise---the skeleton of a giant!

The idea of a mound containing an extremely large skeleton came to my attention a few years back when a website devoted to the history of mounds and the mound builders posted a newspaper article from the Washington Post dated June 23, 1908. The article noted that a 7 foot tall skeleton was found, along with huge copper bracelets, in the Thirteenth Street mound. Curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to head on over to the Cabell County Public Library and see what the local papers had to say.  There were several articles from both the Huntington Advertiser and the Huntington Dispatch, all with pretty much the same information.  Here's the transcription from the June 23, 1908 edition of the Huntington Dispatch:

REMAINS OF ANCIENT MOUND BUILDER DISCOVERED

Yesterday afternoon a most interesting find was made by workingmen engaged in removing the mound in Thirteenth street, between Madison and Jackson avenues, Central City. Some time ago the authorities decided to remove this obstruction from Thirteenth street, and for several days the work of leveling the mound has gone forward.  Yesterday when at a point twelve feet above the base of the mound, a huge skeleton was discovered. While it was impossible to determine the exact height of the skeleton, it is believed to be near an accurate estimate to state that the owner of the bones stood near seven feet in his moccasins.

That the remains are those of a person of distinction in his tribe is evidenced by the wealth of trinkets which were found in close proximity.  There were about the ankles of the prehistoric chieftain massive copper bracelets, while similar ornaments but of lighter patterns were found in the vicinity of the wrists. When the mold was burnished from the trinkets it was found that they were of the finest type of beaten copper and were in a perfect state of preservation.  Quantities of beads, arrow heads and stone hatchets were also discovered.  The copper bracelets are in the possession of J.V. Fetty, of Central City.

News of the discovery attracted hundreds of persons to the spot, and scores of relics were carried away by the curious.

The excavators have yet twelve feet to go before the base of the mound is reached, and other interesting discoveries are expected.

A curious and significant fact noticeable in connection with the work of removing the mound is that the entire structure is made up of surface soil, showing that the mound was erected by the process of gathering small quantities of surface soil from the adjacent bottoms.  The diameter of the mound at the base in 63 feet.

13th Street from Jackson Avenue looking toward Madison

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