There are eight Native American mounds on this property. The historic Harper’s Ferry Cemetery is on six of the burial mounds, and mounds seven and eight lie in front of the construction site for our Six Plex Townhomes. To honor the mounds the new structure will be set back from the other two buildings per the Memorandum of Agreement signed in 2006 by the developers and three tribal chiefs. The history written below was obtained by Sandy Point Developers in 2006 through an archaeological survey prior to development of the land. Perhaps this sacred ground will bring you pause for reflection of the many peoples that have worked, played, and in a few mounds, were laid to rest here. An easement through the property allows for access to the cemetery plus two parking spots.
Past to present
Since the end of the Pleistocene, the abundant and diverse resources of the Upper Mississippi River Valley have attracted and supported people. Archaeologists have established a basic chronology of the Native American traditions and the subsequent historic era in the region [dates given in years before present (Y.B.P.)]:
Paleoindian (13,000-10,000 Y.B.P.)
- Archaic (10,000-2,500 Y.B.P.)
- Woodland (2,500- 1000 Y.B.P.)
- Mississippian/Oneota (800-350 Y.B.P.)
- Early Historic (350-150 Y.B.P.)
- Late Historic (150 Y.B.P.-Modern Area)
These periods are based on patterns of material culture and methods of relative and chronometric dating. Periods are distinguished from each other by differences in settlement and subsistence patterns; changes in style or function of stone tools; the appearance of pottery and changes in types and design; and the construction, form, and function of earthen mounds.
The Woodland Tradition were hunters and gatherers and marked by the innovation of ceramic containers which evolved through time. The Woodland Tradition also marks the beginning of horticulture and the construction of earthen mounds. The Woodland people established trade networks for exotic items such as marine shell, obsidian (volcanic glass), copper and mica. Woodland mounds are conical in shape and could be over 15 feet high. on. In SW Wisconsin and NE Iowa the Late Woodland time period is characterized by the distinctive animal shaped mounds of the Effigy Mounds National Monument. Over time mound building occurred on a smaller scale and without exotic trade goods interred with the dead.
Europeans explored the Upper Mississippi Valley early in the historic era and recorded a number of Native American Nations. With the coming of Euro-Americans, native populations shifted dramatically. Disease, population movement, and a cold climatic regime known as the “Little Ice Age” led to dramatic changes in historic Native American nations in the area. Some historians have estimated that 85-90% of some native populations died from European introduced disease. Europeans came to what would be called Iowa in 350-150 Y.B.P. and established fur trading relationships with the local Native Americans. The fur trade, along with the introduction of the horse, caused more displacement of native people. It was not until the 1840s that Euro-Americans settled in what is now Allamakee County. In the 1830 Treaty of Prairie du Chien, a 40-mile-wide Neutral Ground strip was established to separate the hunting grounds claimed by the Dakota to the north and the Sauk and Fox tribes. The Sauk and Fox were removed from eastern Iowa after the Black Hawk War of 1832 and the Winnebago were relocated to the Neutral Ground. In 1848, the Neutral Ground was opened to Euro-American settlement. Allamakee County was established in 1851. In 1860 the town was named Harpers Ferry. This mound group has maintained good integrity because since the mid-nineteenth century, the site has been used and maintained as a historic Caucasian cemetery. The first Euro-American burial in the cemetery was in 1852. The last burial occurred in 1930, a stillborn child. Several Civil War veterans rest there as well.