Source: NMHS Newsletter, November 1990
Indian Relics in Northern Wabash County
By L.Z. Bunker, M.D. Ret.
Many things come to mind when one thinks of American Indian artifacts and relics: baskets, rugs, bows and arrows, flints and stone work, but the only remaining Indian relics in this area are of stone and a very few pieces of burned clay pottery. The Woodland people and some Mound Builders, who lived here before the red Indians, produced many finely worked stone tools, grinders, sinkers, discoidals, game stones, and flint arrows and knives and fish hooks.
The arrows range from one-inch-long bird points to several inches in length, and also six or seven-inch projectiles used for large game. It would seem that the arrows and flint spears were made by both groups of Indians. The more recent red Indians, presumed to have infiltrated this area from the Siberian migrations, appropriated the artifacts remaining from the earlier inhabitants whose disappearance has never been explained.
One of the most useful artifacts aside from arrows was the grinder or manya. An example is the stone 7 to the right in the photo and was 4” X 3” x 2-1/2”. This is a comfortable hand size. The base of the grinder (the metate in Mexican cultures) is not found here and was probably served by a flat stone or wood from a fallen tree. This device produced corn meal.
A small amount of pottery was produced by plastering mud over woven twig forms, then burning it off. Some of this pottery was decorated with incised markings, as in the shard shown here (stone 2), next to the large grinder (stone 1). These forms were used for storage.
Stone 9 is a fire stone which seems rather common, as I have found five of them over many years. The worn notch shows where it was rubbed against a stick and limbs to produce a flame.
Stones 1, 3, and 7 are grinders, the small ones used to pulverize herbs or minerals, such as iron that accumulated in springs and was used for face paint. Soot was also used for this.
Stones 11, 10, 8, and 4 are game stones, sometimes called counters. The Indians played games similar to dice, a crude form of checkers, and a game of matching stones.
In the back row is a fleshing stone (stone 6), used in removing pelts from rabbits and other small animals. Sharp cutting knives were made by both groups and were sometimes set in poles for fish spears or darts for small game. A large flint knife set in a long pole was used for hunting buffalo or in combat.
Stone 5 is said to be a stone used in smoothing pottery, the only one of these I have ever seen.
All of the stones and other items which I gave to friends were found in the immediate North Manchester and Wabash County area and was the work of the prehistoric denizens or historic Miami and Pottawatomie Indians.
Where does one find these treasures? Grinders can often be found in a farmer’s rock pile, picked off the land by the pioneers and left to lie for generations, Indians camped near water, such as creeks, springs, and ponds, hence such an area is often a considerable source of flints, grinders, and so on.
Excavations and shallow digging often bring up grinders, fire stones, etc., that have been covered with dirt for centuries. An old thicket often yields bird flints. None of the artifacts shown here has been removed from graves nor has the author ever desecrated a grave in search of relics. This is an abominable practice, and much digging often produces no results. Many Indians were buried in “bundles” hung from branches in trees, and their remains were scattered to the four winds.
Spring plowing often turns up flints or an axe. An ancient battle site gone over with an iron prod will sometimes bring up amazing pieces. This has been true around the old battle site near Jalapa, near Marion, Indiana.
Of course, the easiest way to acquire these aboriginal artifacts is to buy from another collector or at a sale where a collection is being broken up. But this is not equal to the pleasure of finding one’s own prizes from upland farms and sandy creek banks.