Eagle Cave and Franks Hill
Caves along the Wisconsin River
Muscoda  - Gotham Wisconsin
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The Mysteries of the Caves along the Wisconsin River
Based off her series  “In Search of Ancient Man by Mary Sutherland

Nowhere along the magnificent beauty of its course does the Wisconsin River take on an atmosphere so mysterious
and legendary as it does where its broad curves swing in to touch the feet of the northern bluffs near the hamlet of
Gotham in Richland County.

It is at that point that the lost town of "R
ichland City" once prospered from the steamboat traffic from the river. It is
said that it was swept into complete oblivion by the rising waters that took the very ground its houses were built
upon. It  is there where the fabric of mystery has been woven by Native American Indian legend. Even today, the
curious adventurer in the area find themselves baffled by its mysteries.

These mysteries surround the numerous caves of the region round about Gotham. Some of these caves have been
found to be small, while others are found to be hundreds of feet long with ceilings far above one's head. Some like
Big Eagle Cave, are filled with beautiful crystalline deposits, containing stalactites and stalagmites in abundance.

At Gotham the Pine River flows down from the north and enters into the Wisconsin River , babbling as it does so, of
the curious natural rock bridge under which it flows well up into Richland County. At one time, at the junction of
these two rivers was a rather large village, home to the Winnebago Indians. Their beginning, according to the native
population , dated back to an unknown time.

According to one of their legends, in the far dim past of this tribe, so long ago that the exact time has long since
been lost to memory, three adolescent Indian boys left their village to hunt deer in the hills. After failing to return
back to their village for two days and fearing that they may have been captured by hostile ‘Sac’ Indians, the chief of
the tribe Tcaxcepxedega (Great Eagle) sent a band of warriors to follow their trail.

The trail led to the head of a deep ravine and ended at the mouth of a cave. Two or three of the braves made
torches and entered the dark cavern, leaving the others outside, awaiting their return. With sun beginning to sink,
the braves began calling down into the cave for their return. As the callers strained to listen, they were perplexed
and amazed to hear, very faintly, as though it came from the ends of the earth, the “
Death Song of an Indian”. It
was strangely beautiful, yet far beyond anything they had ever heard before. Soon, however, the lure of the song
grew into a feeling of uneasiness. Of the remaining eight of their band of warriors, six grasped their weapons and
ventured into the cave. They, too did not return.. The  sun was all but gone in the west and to the straining ears of
the waiting pair the only thing heard was the faint Indian Song of Death.  

With  anxiety and fear, the remaining two hurried their way back to their village.  The next day Great Eagle, led 100
braves to the cave. The main body stayed outside, while 30 warriors and five torch bearers cautiously slid into the
great black hole. Soon thereafter their lights disappeared as did all sound from them. There was no answer back to
those calling for them outside the cave, except echoes of their own voices and the distinctive lull of the Indian Song
of Death. .

In desperation Great Eagle formed his men in a human chain, hand clutching hand. The first man led them
courageously into the cavern. He had gone but a short distance when the second man suddenly realized that his
hand, which but a moment before had held that of the leader, was clutching nothing! Quickly he reached forward,
but just as quickly the hand of the third man was lost to the hand of the second. There had not been the sound of a
fall or of any violence; in terror the human chain drew back out of the cave.

Great Eagle held a council. Perhaps what a hand could not hold a strong rope could, Great Eagle reasoned, as he
tied the end of a rope most securely around the waist of a volunteer. He was to jerk the rope as he proceeded in,
and to be pulled out by the men on the outside as soon as his jerking ceased.

In he went. He had not gone far when his jerks on the rope ceased. As quickly as lightning the men hauled in the
rope. But there came out of the cave only an empty loop, tied just as it had been when put around the man. The
man had vanished. There was not a mark on the rope.

A ghostly terror settled upon the people in the ravine, and in the stark silence of their fear they heard again the
strains of the Song of Death.

Great Eagle forbade anyone from going near the cave, an edict which didn’t need any enforcement. Except for the
foolhardy, few led by too curious a spirit who dared to investigate, never to return.

Now after many moons there came one day from out of the forest a man the like of whom had never been seen
before. His skin was pale and soft, his hair white and silken, and a great white beard reached to his waist. He was
utterly blind and understood not the tongue of the Winnebago nor was he understood by them. He was led by an
Indian boy of 10 summers, with a longing, faraway look in his eyes too old for his years. This Indian boy looked
identically like one of those who had first gone into the cave even the mother thought him to be her own child. But
the boy maintained he came from a tribe far to the northwest. This boy acted also as the old man's interpreter.

It was soon evident that the strange man with the long beard was a great healer with powers far beyond those of
any medicine man of the tribe.  In a comparatively short time, because of his unusual skill, power and kindness, he
was called The Great Healer; by the Winnebago and revered by everyone.

One day Great Eagle told the Great Healer, through the boy, his interpreter, of the cave of the Indian Song of

Lead me to this cave, said the blind healer.

And Great Eagle led him to the ravine, with all the people following and forming a great semi-circle about the mouth
of the cave. Not a sound disturbed the forest as all eyes watched the Great Healer and his youthful guide walk
slowly and deliberately down into the darkness.

Again there came the Song of Death, but louder now and closer it seemed,  so that the leaves of the trees stirred to
and fro to its rhythm. All the warriors in the assembly nervously fingered their weapons. The footsteps of the two
going into the cave finally died out and with a suddenness that filled the ravine with an alarming silence, the Song of
Death stopped.

Then, faintly at first, but gradually louder, the sound of footsteps came from the cave, until, after an endless minute,
the lone figure of the Great Healer issued from the cave. His eyes were closed and a beautiful, calm and serene
smile delicately touched his lips.

He stopped, lifted his face and arms towards the sun whose slanting evening rays filtered down through the leaves
and in an unknown tongue he sang the Song of Death; while he walked slowly and deliberately toward the river, with
the people following him.

At the river's edge he stepped into a canoe, and without a paddle the canoe swung into the river and carried the
Great Healer, to where no one knew, never to be seen again.

Several days later, a brave, bolder than his companions, ventured into the silent cave. To the amazement of his
comrades who had tried to prevent his entrance, he came out again saying that he had followed the cavern until it
became so low that he would have been forced to crawl had he gone farther.

With another companion he again entered and this time the two crawled on hands and knees until they reached a
gigantic room.
After lighting a torch their light revealed the skeletons of hundreds of Indians, lying face downward
with arms outstretched toward a gigantic throne formed in the far wall. The great throne was empty.

In terror the two Indians returned to the outer light and told their story. Great Eagle and his council surmised that
the cave was sacred to some great spirit and he decreed that the cavern entrance be closed with dirt and rocks.

After a few generations knowledge of its location perished among the Indians and after a few more generations
even the story of the cave was lost, save by a certain few story loving warriors of the forest.

Centuries later, in 1848, the town of Richland City, now no longer extant, was founded on the site of the ancient
Winnebago city. Then in 1891, by accident as it were, a citizen of Milwaukee while reading the Courier, a newspaper
of Vienna, Austria, came upon an article written by an Austrian scientist. [The following is that article.]

One morning in the spring of 1887 I received in my mail a letter postmarked Richland City, Wis., U. S. A. It was from
Paul Seifert, whom I had known at school. He wrote that he had gone to America, landed in New York, drifted to
northern Wisconsin, floated down the Wisconsin river on a raft and become acquainted with a German living at
Richland City. He had married this man's beautiful daughter, was living very happily and had four daughters. So we
renewed our friendship by letter.

I asked Paul in one of my letters whether he could send me some relics of the American aborigines. In a very short
time I received a package. It contained most magnificent relics of American prehistoric times.
In 1891 (?) I paid him a visit. Finally the last day of my visit came. It was a beautiful moonlight night. I spoke to Paul
about his promise to show me the place where he had found the relics. He said, 'Will you promise to follow me
where I lead?' My reply was, 'I shall be your shadow.'

... Darkness and damp air surrounded us. Paul lit another torch. I cannot describe the horror I felt. The bottom of
the cave was covered with skeletons of a vanished race. Skulls were everywhere. Here perished a tribe; very near I
could say, a nation.

Their belongings were scattered among the bones; Battle axes of stone, ancient pottery, whole and in fragments,
flint arrows and spears, whole and broken, everywhere.

'Here,' said Paul 'is the mine of the relics I have sent you.' Now I understand his remark, 'The chills ran down my
back.' How true. Here on a shelf of stone I found a beautiful quartzite spear beside the bones of a human hand.

So we went along the cave until we entered another passageway, beginning to hear a curious noise. As we went
farther it sounded louder, more and more so, until it sounded like the howling of a lot of maniacs and the moaning of
the dying under torture. I asked Paul to tell me, for the love of heaven, what it was making that terrible noise. He
said that it was the falling waters and the rushing of the wind through the crevices above.

All at once I saw a blue light flicker here and there. It came nearer and nearer. I could not stand it any longer. 'Oh,
how horrible, oh, Paul let us get out of here.'

So we retraced our steps through the cave of the dead, passed on back to the long rope, climbed up, passed
through cave and passage, till we stood once more in the open air.

Conjecture if you will whether this be the cave of the legend. Seifert admitted to representatives of the state
historical society that there was such a cave but he refused consistently to tell its location, saying that 'No one will
ever find the cave. I have planted grass and bushes to grow over its mouth.'

A neighbor of Seifert, hearing a loud blast on the bluff many years ago, climbed the hill and found Seifert blasting.
On inquiry Seifert said 'There was a hole in the rocks here and I was afraid boys might fall into it sometime, so I
have closed it up.'

Dr. John Booher, jr., Richland Center, and Tom Lewis, Watertown, hoping that this may have been the entrance to
the mystery cave, sank a shaft on the spot in September, 1929, but found no possible opening to a cave.

A newspaper picture of a room in a cave is said to come from the Big Eagle cave near Muscoda, Wisconsin.  The
caption adds, The large stalagmite is ten feet high and every inch of wall and ceiling is covered with crystaline
deposits.  Unfortunately I do not have this picture to share with you.

In investigating the effigy mounds of Frank’s Hill near Muscoda which is not far from Gotham, I have heard the local
legends of  caves with buried treasures of the Ancient Ones . Many have looked for this lost cave but none have
found it.

More stories coming from my ‘In Search of Urban Legends continue… with photos.
The Hooked X is the sign of the
Knights Templars - Found at Frank's Hill,
documented by Mary Sutherland
Frank's Hill  - Muscoda, Wisconsin  Effigy Mounds
Yellow Hair was the Chief of the tribe that created the
Mound Sites at Frank's Hill.  According to the stories of
Chief Yellow Hair, in the Plains (photo) a great battle
took place between them and the Red-Haired Giants of
Aztalan.  Along the blue hills in the background runs the
Wisconsin River.
On the top of this hill, running in line are conical
mounds. They seem to me that they were some sort of
calendar or keeper of time . I have shown this to a few
archaeologists but none seem to have a clue as to
what these conical mounds are representative of.
This is Frank who owned the property. He took care
of its upkeep until his death. In his will , he had
requested that the land be passed on to local Native
American Indians to be forever cared for as sacred
land.  Photo by Mary Sutherland
Before we left, Frank took us to this large boulder that
had rolled off one of the hills. He showed us a strange
marking on the rock and told us he had shown several
archeologists the mark and no one seemed to know
what it was.  It was obvious that someone just didn't
want him to know because there is no other mark of its
kind out there like it.  It is the mark of the Knights
Templar. Where ever they found a sacred site area or
place of power, they always marked the spot with what
is known as the 'hooked x'.
A creek that runs through the sacred area of Frank's
Hill. It comes off the hills , down through the base of
Frank's Hill and winds its way to the Wisconsin River
Mary Sutherland giving prayer and reverence to the
Frank told us that a Native Canadian Indian had come to Frank's Hill in search of his
ancient ancestors. He told Frank the story that his ancestors originally came from
Canada and made their way down to the sacred place then owned by Frank.

According to my writings in the
would have been correct, except that prior to the Anishinabe migration, there were
those already living here,  known as the T-legwi and described as mound builders .

Waasekom Niin references this as the Anishnaabe Migration and reports that their
stories were documented in oral form , before the written word.
Every solstice and equinox, an observance ceremony is held on a small Native American Effigy Mound known as Frank’s
Hill in southwestern Wisconsin. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places, and considered sacred by many.
The hill – part of the Shadewald Group – is owned by a local farmer named Frank Shadewald, who bought it in order to
preserve it. On an adjacent mound, a series of what are known as ‘calendar mounds’ mark the rise and set of the sun at
these key times of the year. If the weather is clear this winter solstice, visitors will be treated to seeing the sun align with
the series of little bumps along the hilltop.
I found a site quite similar to Frank's Hill in Wisconsin's
neighboring state, Iowa.  In the following photo you see
the conical lined mounds along with the effigies. But in
the Harper Ferry,  Iowa case, all the effigies are bear,
unlike the Wisconsin site.
Unlike the Wisconsin site, the Iowa mounds were
photographed using LiDAR (Light and radar), a
surveying technology that measures distance using light.
A plane fitted with LiDAR equipment is flown over the
landscape and emits pulses of light which bounce off
different feature trees, rocks, and the ground. LiDAR
measures the time it takes for the light to bounce and
return to the equipment. This is a great tool because it
can give an accurate image of the ground surface. The
light waves can go through the small gaps in the
vegetation, showing what the actual ground surface
looks like.
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Mary Sutherland