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Monsters from the Mound
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Some old historians dissed reports of bizarre finds from Western New York, but most acknowledged mystery. We should be suspicious of stories from frontier papers that stood to gain plenty from tall
tales. These are from historical texts.
When the Whites arrived, Western New York was littered with the works of earlier people. Stone walls, graded roads, and fortifications were reported, though most commonly these markers were earthen
mounds or enclosures. The Native Americans seldom had any tradition about the people who had put them in place. Most of us now believe that the influence of the Mississippian (Mound-Builder)
culture was behind them. The settlement and the plow have been lethal to most of these fragile works, and even the old mound-fanatic E. G. Squier confessed ruefully in 1849 that the Western Door held
little any more worth looking at. As these works were destroyed in the last century a stablefull of curiosities seems to have come out.
T. Apoleon Cheney notes (in Illustrations of the Ancient Monuments of Western New York) that a twelve-foot high elliptical mound above Cattaraugus Countyâ€™s Conewango Valley held eight big
skeletons. Most crumbled, but a thigh bone was found to be 28â€� long. Exquisite stone points, enamelwork, and jewelry (like that of Mexico or Peru) were also unearthed in the area. The mound looked
like those of the Old World.
Cheney also mentions a skeleton seven-foot-five (with an unusually thick skull) from a Chautauqua County site near Cassadaga Creek. Inside a very old mound near Cassadaga Lake were some large
skeletons that were examined by medical gentlemen.â€� One measured nearly nine feet. (In 1938 Charles Hunnington of Randolph was so inspired by Doc Cheneyâ€™s finds that he made two giant â
€œwooden Indianâ€� statues, probably still at the museum in Little Valley.)
The History of Cattaraugus County notes the town of Carrolltonâ€™s â€œFort Limestone,â€� whose rough figure-eight enclosed five acres. In 1851 the removal of a stump turned up a mass of human
bones. Some were enormous. Franklinvilleâ€™s Marvin Older virtually gamboled about the site with them: a skull fit over his size seven-and-a-half head; a rib curved all the way around him, a shinbone
went from his ankle to above his knee, and a jaw - with bodacious molars - went over his own. Its first owner had probably stood eight feet tall.
Stafford Clevelandâ€™s History and Directory of Yates County refers to skeletons from a conical burial mound by Keuka Lake in the early 1800â€™s. A Penn Yan doctor found that many were seven
footers. (Tales of ghosts and buried treasure cling to this vicinity as well.)
Turnerâ€™s History of the Holland Purchase reports an ancient three-acre earth fort in Orleans county (about one and a half miles west of Shelby Center) that covered seven- and eight-foot skeletons.
Their skulls were well developed in front, broad between the ears, and flattened on top. Also, Turner notes that, upon digging a cellar on his town of Aurora farm, Charles P. Pierson found a giant of his
The 1879 History of Allegany County noted a circular mound between Philipâ€™s Creek and the Genesee in the village of Belmont. Several feet high and fifteen or so in diameter, it disgorged human
bones, some very large, when the railroad was made in 1849 and 1850.
Giant human skeletons donâ€™t ring any bells with us. Some think the Scandinavians were in Western New York, and they were considered virtual giants in the ancient world (whose people were
traditionally much shorter than those now). Many Vikings would seem tall even today, but they were not routinely seven-footers.
Not all the humanlike skeletons found about the Western Door were so surely human. Several old histories discuss the two very bizarre skulls taken in the early 1820â€™s from a mound on Tonawanda
Island near Buffalo. One early writer notes each "portentous, protruding lower jaw and canine forehead." Another adds that the burial customs were entirely unlike those of the regionâ€™s natives.
Our County and Its People (Truman C. White, 1898) mentions skeletons that seem to have been "platycnemic" - flat-shinned. In the bluff at Fort Porter (Buffalo) one such skeleton was found near ancient
implements. Burials of up to three such skeletons have been found high up on river or lake banks about the region. Their flat shins and "other skeletal peculiarities" were thought due to climbing and
living in trees. These are odd stories to make up.
In natureâ€™s evident experiments toward Homo sapiens, some of the discontinued models were very large (Gigantopithecus comes to mind); none are thought to have set foot or dragged knuckle on
any American soil. Jess Stearn (in Montezumaâ€™s Serpent) cites finds from the American southwest implying some giant, bestial hominid was here. Jim Brandonâ€™s Weird America lists two such
accounts from just outside the Western Door. An eight-footer turned up in an Ellisburg, PA mound (near Wellsville, NY) in 1886. The same year a team of professors and professionals found dozens of
huge, oddly-skulled humans in a mound in Sayre, PA (near Elmira, NY). They averaged seven feet, though some were taller, and some had horny knobs on their foreheads. Several went to the American
Investigating Museum in Philadelphia, into which they disappeared. Modern fans of Bigfoot (seen in almost all the states of the Union) might rejoice at historical testimony of monster bones; for the rest of
us the matter is just... weird.
Mason C. Winfield is the author of "Shadows of the Western Door," a research-survey of Western New York's paranormal mysteries. The book included information on ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot, ancient
mysteries, giant skeletons, secret societies, cult activity, etc. "Shadows of the Western Door" is available at Buffalo Books
Niagara's Ancient Cemetery of Giants
Ref: Steve Quayle
I respected the spelling used in the text. Fredenburg is first used and later it is spelled "Fredinburg." The site was about 40 miles west of Niagara Falls, according to recent maps; Dunnville is at the
mouth of the Grand River which flows into Lake Erie. A "Six Nations First Nation Territory" is along the Grand River today, but I cannot say if the site was in it, or out of it. More information is needed to flesh
out any veracity to this story, which 21st Century readers may take with a grain of salt.
Headlines: "A REMARKABLE SIGHT-- Two hundred skeletons of ANAKIN [sic] in Cayuga Township; A singular discovery by a Torontonian and others -- A vast Golgotha opened to view -- Some remains of
the 'Giants that were in those days.' From our own correspondents."
Cayuga, August 21-- "On Wednesday last, Rev. Nathaniel Wardell, Messers. Orin Wardell (of Toronto), and Daniel Fredenburg, were digging on the farm of the latter gentleman, which is on the banks of
the Grand River, in the township of Cayuga. When they got to five or six feet below the surface, a strange sight met them. Piled in layers, one upon top of the other, some two hundred skeletons of human
beings nearly perfect -- around the neck of each one being a string of beads.
"There were also deposited in this pit a number of axes and skimmers made of stone. In the jaws of several of the skeletons were large stone pipes -- one of which Mr. O. Wardell took with him to
Toronto a day or two after this Golgotha was unearthed.
"These skeletons are those of men of gigantic stature, some of them measuring nine feet, very few of them being less than seven feet. Some of the thigh bones were found to be at least a foot longer
than those at present known, and one of the skulls being examined completely covered the head of an ordinary person. These skeletons are supposed to belong to those of a race of people anterior to
"Some three years ago, the bones of a mastodon were found embedded in the earth about six miles from this spot. The pit and its ghastly occupants are now open to the view of any who may wish to
make a visit there."
Later: Dunnville, August 22, "There is not the slightest doubt that the remains of a lost city are on this farm. At various times within the past years, the remains of mud houses with their chimneys had
been found: and there are dozens of pits of a similar kind to that just unearthed, though much smaller, in the place which has been discovered before, though the fact has not been made public hitherto.
The remains of a blacksmith's shop, containing two tons of charcoal and various implements, were turned up a few months ago.
"The farm, which consists of 150 acres, has been cultivated for nearly a century, and was covered with a thick growth of pine, so that it must have been ages ago since the remains were deposited there.
The skulls of the skeletons are of an enormous size and all manner of shapes, about half as large again as are now to be seen. The teeth in most of them are still in almost perfect state of preservation,
though they soon fall out when exposed to the air.
"It is supposed that there is gold or silver in large quantities to be found in the premises, as mineral rods have invariably, when tested, pointed to a certain spot and a few yards from where the last batch
of skeletons was found directly under the apple tree. Some large shells, supposed to have been used for holding water, which were also found in the pit, were almost petrified. There is no doubt that
were a scheme of exploration carried on thoroughly the result would be highly interesting. A good deal of excitement exists in the neighborhood, and many visitors call at the farm daily.
"The skulls and bones of the giants are fast disappearing, being taken away by curiosity hunters. It is the intention of Mr. Fredinburg to cover the pit up very soon. The pit is ghastly in the extreme. The farm
is skirted on the north by the Grand River. The pit is close to the banks, but marks are there to show where the gold or silver treasure is supposed to be under. From the appearance of the skulls, it would
seem that their possessors died a violent death, as many of them were broken and dented.
"The axes are shaped like tomahawks, small, but keen, instruments. The beads are all of stone and of all sizes and shapes. The pipes are not unlike in shape the cutty pipe, and several of them are
engraved with dogs' heads. They have not lost their virtue for smoking. Some people profess to believe that the locality of Fredinburg farm was formally an Indian burial place, but the enormous stature of
the skeletons and the fact that pine trees of centuries growth covered the spot goes far to disprove this idea."
Ancient American Volume 6, Issue 41, p. 9
Researched and submitted by Benoit Crevier
Originally published in The Daily Telegraph (Toronto, Ontario), Wednesday, August 23, 1871, page 1
Reprinted with permission
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