For this blog, our neighorhood is described as follows: about 2 miles west of Princeton, bordered on the north by Highway 95, Rice Lake (Kunkel Wildlife Management Area) on the west, 17th Street on the south and the Rice Lake Addition area on the east (all in Greenbush Township). Other than the wildlife area, most of this area is residential. Years ago – it was also residential, although I don’t know how many people lived there and it looked much different. This neighborhood was very likely the site of a Native American village.
Our property is on the northerly edge of the village (see map below). Over the years, we’ve heard stories about burial mounds in the wildlife area, across from our place. There is a creek/county ditch that runs from the wildlife area to the north/northeast, crossing under Highway 95. It then flows into the West Branch of the Rum River. I’ve not found any documentation of burial mounds across the road but I did find evidence of a Native American village in this area.
Years ago, while doing research at the University of Minnesota, I remembered viewing a fascinating book titled: Aborigines of Minnesota (full citation at the bottom of this page). I found information about this area in the book but have long since lost track of my notes from that day. On a whim, I typed the book title into google, and, yes, I found the book – available to view on line. I have no idea why I happened to think about it now. Perhaps it just came to mind as I stared across the yard into the wildlife area.
The site was explored by numerous people over the years. In 1901, Dr. Caley (well-known Princeton doctor), Max Cordiner and Claire Caley were out prospecting the Indian mounds in this vicinity.” (Princeton Union, August 1, 1901; page 5.)
The site was explored by Theodore H. Lewis, one of the contributors to Aborigines of Minnesota. This book was published in 1917. The local Princeton newspaper notes that “T. H. Lewis of St. Paul has been at work for several weeks past securing data in this vicinity for a work on natural antiquities. He has surveyed and examined all the mounds and Indian burial grounds in this vicinity. Mr. Lewis is a loquacious gentlemen and has been engaged in this work in every section of the Union.” (A loquacious person is someone who is constantly speaking, often an incessant amount. It sounds like it was thought that Mr. Lewis talked too much.) (Princeton Union, May 6, 1915; page 3.)
We moved to our property in 1969, acquiring it from Ms. Viola Larson. Much of the village site area was owned by Ms. Larson. While she was still living there, people from the Univeristy of Minnesota conducted digs at her site. The digs were at what we referred to as ‘the dump site’ – now residential platted and developed lots. I haven’t found any reports or information from those digs.
In the early 1970’s, we would pick wild red and black raspberries in the area south and southeast of our property. At that time, our road (115th Avenue) was not a through road. There was one residence on the road and it was not plowed in the winter. Our access was off of Highway 95.
The Village site
As shown in the map above, the native american village covers the area between Rice Lake Drive and 115th Avenue, about two miles west of Princeton, all south of Highway 95 and north of 17th Street. In the map found in Aborigine’s of Minnesota, 23 mound areas overlooking a meadow area were identified, with six that were elongated and one curve-elongated. In 1907, the site was visited to determine the nature of the mounds that had been previously identified by Mr. Lewis. (As noted earlier, Mr. Lewis also came back in 1915, but apparently was unable to provide any additional information from that noted in the 1907 site survey.) The group was unable to find some of the sites noted – either they had been plowed during field cultivation or the original survey was in error. It was determined that mounds #, 8 and 9 were likely formed by a ditch made by ‘Doc Marshall’ while working on this farm. #18, #21, #22, and #23 were alongside the ditch and no longer identifiable. #15, #16 and #17 were not found.
Mounds #1, #7 and #12 were found. #1 consisted of nothing but black soil that was similar to soil that would have been thrown out of a ditch. However, Mound #7 proved to be the most telling mound. Once 92′ by 9′, this mound had been excavated by several parties. Most of the mound was sandy loam soil (which is consistent with the area’s Anoka sandplain soil classification). At a depth of 4 – 4 1/2 feet, a bundle of bones was found, with enough femurs (leg bones) for three individuals. In addition, fragments of two skulls, smaller bones thought to be arm bones, and teeth were found. Earlier wampum beads and a 1″ white porcelain ball were found in Mound 7.
In the ancient village site area, pottery, chipped white quartz, flint, chert, and arrowheads were found. A ‘trophy’ discovery was a 3 1/2″ round disk stone, cupped on both sides and somewhat battered on the edge.
Remember the bones found in Mound 7?
“There is a tradition that three Dakota warriors, killed in a fight with the Chippewas, were buried in the mound.” (Aboriginies of Minnesota)
Initially, Minnesota was held by the Sioux Indians, also known as Dakota. About 1745, near Mille Lacs Lake, a band of Chippewas made an advance on the Mdewakaton Sioux and after three days almost completely destroyed the Sioux tribe, who fled to the south. For a time, the Sioux concentrated in the lower valley of the Rum River (the ditch across the road from our house empties into the West Branch of the Rum River) and later fought more battles near Elk River (located south of Princeton about 20 miles). Both tribes later agreed to a boundary with Sherburne County as the northern Sioux boundary. (Inventory of the County Archives of Minnesota: Mille Lacs County; full citation below. ) Our neighborhood is a mile or less from Sherburne County. Given this information, it is very likely that our neighborhood was a Sioux village. And, it is quite possible that the bones in Mound #7 were those of Sioux warriors.
So there you have it. Long ago this area was (likely) a Sioux village. Nothing visible or easily identifiable remains such that anyone would know. Even the raspberries are gone – for the most part. We still find a volunteer plant here and there on the edge of our yard. Chances are good they appear in other yards as well.
Thank you for reading! I hope you will return!
Aborigines of Minnesota. 1906-11 Report of Native Americans. Based on the collections of Jacob V. Brower, and on the field surveys and notes of Alfred J. Hill and Theodore H. Lewis. Collated, augmented and described by N. H. Winchell. Minnesota Historical Society. The PIoneer Company. St. Paul. 1917.
Inventory of the County Archives of Minnesota: Mille Lacs County. Minnesota Historical Records Survey Project, Division of Community Services Programs, Works Project Administration. Saint Paul, Mn. February 1942.