Wayne County, IL



Well folks after numerous emails to various universities, archeological societies I was finally able to get the object identified.  While it looks like a “hatchet” it in fact is a hoe.  Special thanks go to the Smithsonian Institute.  Now exactly who the hoe would have belonged to is a little dicier.  But the story in and of itself perhaps puts the spotlight on two specific groups of people.

The hoe was discovered 1 mile east of House Springs, Missouri which is in Jefferson County. Charter Communications were installing a new fiber optics line, when the drill company melted down a $3000.00 drill bit when they hit an underground limestone outcropping. They came in with a backhoe to excavate this particular area to figure a way around the outcropping; they excavated a hole which went down about two feet which is where the hoe was brought up from.  Jefferson County is the second highest point in Missouri, consisting largely of limestone hills and bluffs and very rocky red clay soil. 

House Springs, Missouri is named after Adam House, who settled here about 1796, and for the two large natural springs located here. In 1800 Adam House was killed by Osage Indians due to a dispute over stolen horses. Two of Adam's children did escape; his wife Anne Wheat House had died the year before of illness. However the law found House's head stuck on a post having arrived too late from St. Louis to aid the family. House's cabin was built near the spring about a mile from the Big River.

Dated 19 March, 1800

     "I, Pierre Treget, commandant at Carondelet, pursuant to orders from Don Carlos Dehault Delassus, commandant at St. Louis, repaired to the Renault Forks, with the few militiamen I could assemble, in pursuit of the Indians.

On reaching the place, I found an old man dead, head cut off and laid at his side, scalp taken and body full of wounds from musket shots; and a few paces off, a boy eight or nine years old, head cut off and lying near him, face smeared with blood, with a small piece of maple sugar in his mouth, no wound on his body from either musket or knife; a dead cow, one horn carried off, dead calf, head cut off, beds in the house cut to pieces, utensils broken and strewed about the house.

Ascertained that the murders had been committed by the Osages; buried the bodies, not known at this time. Source: Historical Library, St. Louis, Missouri

     Almost a week later, on March 25, 1800 Pascal Leon Cerre, Ensign of the militia, visited the scene of the tragedy and learned that the victims were Adam House and his son, Jacob. It is believe by many people that the entire House family was wiped out. But the same entry goes on to state that another son, John, managed to escape, and that the Ensign appointed Robert Owen of Maria des Liards to be the guardian for the boy and his two sisters, Betsey and Peggy.

Source: Historical Library, St. Louis, Missouri.

During the 1950’s an Indian burial ground was located in the locale of the Adam House residence.  Below I have included a map of territory held by Indian tribes in the Midwest.  The other possibility for the hoe’s ownership may go to the Illini or properly known as the Illiniwek tribe.  Records however show that the Osage were very warlike and would not likely have tolerated another tribe’s incursion in their territory.

From their traditional homes in the woodlands of present-day Missouri and Arkansas, the Osage would make semi-annual buffalo hunting forays into the Great Plains to the west. They also hunted deer, rabbit, and other wild game in the central and eastern parts of their domain. The women cultivated varieties of corn, squash and other vegetables near their villages, and they harvested nuts and wild berries.

In the 17th century, the Illini or Illiniwek suffered from a combination of exposure to European infectious diseases, to which they had no natural immunity and warfare by the expansion of the Iroquois tribe. The Iroquois had hunted out their traditional lands and sought more productive hunting and trapping areas. They sought furs to purchase European goods in the fur trade.

When a Peoria warrior murdered Chief Pontiac in 1769, the northern tribes retaliated against the Illiniwek. They suffered more losses. Many of the Illiniwek migrated to present-day eastern Kansas to escape the pressure from other tribes and encroaching Europeans settlers.

The Illini or Illiniwek lived in a seasonal cycle related to cultivation of domestic plants and hunting, with movement from semi-permanent villages to hunting camps. They planted crops of maize (corn), beans, and squash. They prepared dishes such as sagamite. They also gathered wild foods such as nuts, fruit, roots and tubers. In the hunting season, the men hunted bison, deer, elk, bear, cougar, lynx, turkey, geese and duck. Women prepared the meat for preservation and the hides for equipment and clothing. They tapped maple trees and made the sap into a drink or boiled it for syrup and sugar.

In conclusion because this locale was previously developed prior to the hoe’s discovery the exact original depth it was at is unknown.  It if originally lay deeper in the ground prior to development it is very probable it was Illini/Illinwek.  If the hoe was pushed deeper by a bulldozer and originally was closer to the surface it is more probable it belong to the Osage.  The reader may draw their own conclusions based on the evidence.



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