BLTC Press Titles

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The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

History, Winnebago County, Wisconsin

by Publius Virgilius Lawson


The story of all these prehistoric tribes is lost forever except such meager evidence as is furnished by their monuments or artifacts. Much of this remains buried and only a part of that found is properly recorded. Many mounds have been destroyed and very few have been scientifically examined.

From a study of such evidence as is at hand it is discovered that the culture and art of the prehistoric peoples was high in the scale of primitive intelligence. They 'understood how to make fire, as shown by the charcoals and ashes found in the mounds and the shell heaps. They lived on the fish, animals and fruits of their beautiful wild woods home and cleared the land of its forest and piled up the small stones and made garden beds covering many acres in which they cultivated corn, potatoes, squashes, roots and tobacco. They were a peaceable people, not savages at war with their neighbors, though they possessed innumerable spears and bows and arrows, which were doubtless used in the chase.

They made immense quantities of earthenware, though only two or three whole ones exist now; there are great quantities of sherds scattered over the surface as well as in the mounds. Impressed on them is also found the numerous kinds of basketry and cloth manufactured by these people. It is truly surprising to see the excellent quality of the product of these primitive looms; though the thread was mostly twined, the cloth was made in many patterns. Some few pieces have survived to us, but most of the product has long since crumbled to dust with this people and their history. The pottery is tempered with quartz, the same material used ever since the world over, even in the finest classic porcelain of China. It is a long story to explain that the culture of the Wisconsin neolithic man in the fabrication of earthenware was almost complete. He knew how to select, wash, wedge, temper and bake his clay. No potter ever knew more and improvements have only been made in appliances, or selection.

1Most of tho monumental evidence still to be seen was reported by the author in "Summary of Archeology of Winnebago County," published by the Wisconsin Archeological'Society in volume 2, 1902.

They worked, fashioned, broke, chipped and polished the diorites, hornblends, granites, flints, and all the hardest rock, into many desirable forms. The form of their axe, chisel, scraper hoe, spear, knife and arrow had the same form as the approved modern implements for similar uses. They made copper implements from float or glacial copper found among the boulders of the glacial drift. It was made into knives, spears, lances, needles, spuds and fish hooks, which are marvels of the coppersmith art.

They were intensely superstitious and loved to adorn their person with the most grotesque amulets and charms, beads and bracelets made of stone, bone, wood, copper, silver, lead and iron ore or crystals. They had passed far beyond that state of culture whose utilities are simply useful. Their activities were as much devoted to art for its own pleasure. They carved images of animals, birds, men and women on their stone pipes, on bone or copper; decorated their pottery with regular designs in shevron, dotted characters or lines and with fabric; made demijohns, bowls, dishes, with legs and handles. Carved human images and idols; used dyes to enhance the beauty of person and utilities; and colored their pottery. Had altars, temples and pyramids for worship of their complicated mythology, and represented many of its events in totems, in which we may possibly discover the cradle of the highly cultured Mayas and Toltecs.

These prehistoric people were wonderful travelers. The flints and stones of our county or state furnish but crude material for aboriginal art, yet these Etruscans of the west possessed a rich archeological collection. Their commerce was carried on from ocean to ocean and from Greenland and Alaska to Mexico. They possessed quantities of red pipestone only found in Minnesota and western Wisconsin; much ivory from the walrus of Greenland; quantities of obsidian from the Rocky Mountains or Mexico; sea shells from at least two thousand miles away; beautiful shimmering qu'artzites, ivory chalcedon, jasper, tortoise shell flint, and many other kinds of foreign stone for their artifacts not found locally. The beautiful ribbed slate stone of their bird and banner forms, gorgets and boat-shaped ceremonials, were all imported. In exchange they probably carried the native copper of the drift or the lake mines to all accessible parts of North America. They were a prosperous, rich and happy people. History does not disclose that they were related to the Indian who came after them and who first met Nicolet here, almost three hundred years ago, although many students suppose they were related and it has been found quite impossible to separate the prehistoric art from the Indian art even in the mounds, because of so many intrusive burials.

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