On Saturday I was privileged to participate in a program to visit Glenford Fort in Perry County. It wasn’t much of a hike (with an easy 200-foot ascent to the top of a hill), but it was a great chance to view an ancient hilltop enclosure
While the registration information for the program stressed “sturdy hiking shoes are a must,” I went with the sturdiest kind of footwear I know. (Barefoot.)
When it comes to Indian mounds in Ohio, I usually write about the Newark Earthworks. But there are others sorts: there are burial mounds, there are effigy mounds (like Serpent Mound and the Alligator Mound), but there are also hilltop enclosures, of which the best known example is probably Fort Ancient. These hilltop enclosures were called “forts” by the early settlers, but they almost certainly were not really used as forts. As far as I know there is no evidence of battles fought there. Instead, they seemed to be special places that were, in some sense, marked off with mounded earth.
Except, at Glenford Fort (see, again the settlers called it a fort), it was marked off with rocks. Glenford Fort is just a bit east of Buckeye Lake, and is about 10 miles southeast of the Newark Earthworks.
If you look at a topographic map of the Glenford Fort hilltop, there doesn’t seem to be anything special going on.
It just looks like a hilltop.
But its location is pretty typical of the sort of place that the Native Americans built these structures on: the end of a ridge of hills overlooking water. In this case, the water is Jonathan Creek. You can see that, and the enclosure itself, on this LiDAR picture I put together.
If you use a program that looks for bumps (like walls) and holes (like trenches), things really stand out. Here’s a false-color image that does so.
It’s pretty obvious where the walls are.
It’s also quite a large enclosure. Here’s a panoramic shot taken from near the south-southeast corner of the enclosure.
[Click for the much larger version.]
You’ll notice some people out in the field (yes, this spot has been farmed for a long time—after all, it is a large, flat area). The field is littered with flint chips. It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust to what to look for, but once they do, it doesn’t take long to start finding them.
[Note: this is an archaeological site; after finding a chip and looking at it, we put it right back where we found it.]
Down in the far southeast corner, you might be able to see that there are corridors through the walls. But they are actually more than just walls: there is also geology going on here.
You see, the top of the hill is resistant bedrock and a lot of the edge is an outcropping of this bedrock. The bedrock sure looked to me like the kind of Blackhand sandstone that I see all the time in Hocking Hills, but I don’t know (and was unable to verify) if it is actually Blackhand or just a similar, but different, layer of rock.
In most places along the edge, the Native Americans enhanced the natural bedrock edge by piling rocks on top of it.
Here’s a look as we went through the gap in the sandstone.
As you can see on the map, this southeast corner has some of the more dramatic topography on the site. The corridors also lead to another, smaller earthen mound off the tip. It also looked as if, before it was disturbed by us moderns, these corridors or gaps had had rocks piled in them to block them.
The site also has a bunch of really cool nature. At the end of this corridor was a huge beech tree I just had to take a picture of.
At lunchtime we all gathered for a great lunch, supplied by the Perry County Historical and Cultural Society.
We also got to hear what the Heartland Earthworks Conservancy was doing to try to save Ohio’s mounds. There are so many of them, but most of them have been obliterated by farming or other activities. The Conservancy was formed to both map, if possible, acquire ownership of properties. One of there most recent (and exciting) successes was saving the Junction Group near Chillicothe, which will be added to the mounds that the National Park Service manages in that area.
Heartland also helped acquire (with help from the Arc of Appalachia preserve system, and the Perry County Soil and Conservation District) a portion of Glenford Fort. (The rest remains in the private hands of the Cooperrider family, who allowed us access for the day, and are striving to be responsible stewards while still using their property as they need to.)
Here’s another shot of us eating lunch. You can see me sitting off to the right . . . just look for the bare feet.
[This photo was posted on the Heartland’s Facebook page.]
After lunch we visited the central mound . . . well, it used to be a mound.
Originally, it was a mound of piled stones (I can’t remember how tall they said it used to be).
Unfortunately, in the 1980s, the then-owner of the property ran a bulldozer through it looking for artifacts. Unfortunately, in the 1980s, the owner gave an amateur archaeologist permission to excavate the mound. A backhoe was used to move all the stones and then the mound was never restored. [See Update at the end of this post.] The stones were all pushed from the middle, so what is left is now a ring of stones. (You can see that in the 3rd picture, above.)
On the other hand, the depression dug there created a small marsh, so it is now a wildlife location.
Here’s a panoramic shot (covering about 120°) of the pond.
[Click for a much larger version.]
You can see how all the stones now ring it.
There was another little pool nearby with a mass of tadpoles in it.
That pool also had a small mud snake that was feasting to its heart’s content. (I barely saw the snake and was not fast enough with my camera, though somebody else did get a picture, which you can see on the Heartland’s Facebook page.)
After the mound, we headed east for a closer look at the wall on that side.
Here you can see what the rock wall looks like. The bedrock edge is less impressive here (though still present), so the Native piled up the stones to enhance it.
Finally, we headed back down the hill, and encountered yet another huge beech tree.
Let me finish by stressing the good work that the Heartland Earthworks Conservancy does. It’s a non-profit with a board of impressive archaeologists, experts, and nature lovers. I was also impressed with how much they had learned about how to save these sorts of locations, teaming up with various other organizations in the state to leverage various monies that might be available.
You might also consider giving them a donation. They are all volunteer, so all monies go to purchasing property to be preserved.
Marcia, in the comments, researched this, which has allowed me to correct and enhance this the best I can. I’m not sure just how much I might have heard incorrectly, or misremembered, or even if the different tour guides were just passing along what they’d heard from others.
The Cooperrider family has owned the Glenford Fort site for a very long time, since 1831. You can see their ownership in this portion of a map from 1875.
You can see that they had land in both sections 17 and 20 in the township (named, not too surprisingly, Hopewell Township). The Perry County Soil and Conservation District (with the help of Heartland and the other conservation bodies) now owns at least some part of the portion in section 20 (I don’t know if they now have that whole piece, or just some part of it adjoining the existing Cooperrider property), so I’m guessing that the Cooperriders must have sold off that portion at some time. This is where we ate lunch, just off the portion of the property still owned by the Cooperriders.
In 1987, James Dutcher, described as an “amateur archaeologist”, obtained permission from the owner, Elizabeth Cooperrider, to excavate the mound, which he did with a backhoe (those are heavy rocks). He retrieved a layer of charcoal which he had carbon dated. They came back with a date of 2220 +- 50 B.P., which would put them late-Adena or early-Hopewell. This information came from Glenford Stone ‘Fort’ and Other Stone Constructions in Ohio and Beyond, by Norman Muller, NEARA (New England Antiquities Research Association) Journal, 44 (1), p. 30-41.
In addition, there is an article by Richard Moats, A Summary of Fort Glenford Hill Top Enclosure and Mound, Ohio Archaeologist 61, no. 1 (Winter 2011), 30-35. (Click on the PDF link on that page to access it.) In it, he says that Dutcher at some point stopped excavations, and then in early 1988 became ill and died. This may account for the mound never being restored.
Here is a picture from the Moats paper of 4 copper bracelets that were recovered.