Burial ground is museum site
Mariemont group planning opening in '99

Saturday, July 4, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

MARIEMONT -- A burial ground here described by experts as one of the most significant archaeological sites in eastern North America might one day be home to a museum of ancient American Indian culture.

The Mariemont Preservation Foundation has received a $75,000 grant from the Thomas J. Emery Memorial Foundation to plan several projects, including the museum, in observance of the village's 75th anniversary.

"We expect to be finished with the planning on the museum this year," said Fred Rutherford, president of the foundation. "The museum will be completed next year."

Mr. Rutherford said the foundation's next step would be fund-raising to finance the museum.

It will include panel displays of the history of Mariemont and of the Fort Ancient Indians and, later, the history from 1000 to 1670 A.D. of the Shawnee Indians.

The site, at the southwest corner of Dogwood Park near the Little Miami River, has been a fertile ground for archaeologists over the past century. The site is no longer being explored, but previous digs have yielded a wealth of artifacts.

When excavation began in the burial ground in the late 19th century, it became known as the Madisonville site because the village of Mariemont did not exist at the time.

Archaeologists believe it was one of the last occupied in the Central Valley by American Indians before they were driven out by the Iroquis Confederacy in 1670.

C. Wesley Cowan, curator of archaeology at the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, said the Madisonville site was one of the 10 most important in eastern North America.

Penelope Drooker, one of the site's leading authorities, said it contained more than 1,450 burials and 1,300 corn storage and refuse pits.

"Archaeologists were able to do chemical analyses on artifacts found there and determine what kind of animals they hunted, what kind of food they ate, and the clothes they wore," Ms. Drooker said. "I think this would be a wonderful place for a museum because it would be right in the middle of that culture."

The artifacts indicated the Indians were basically farmers, depending more on corn crops than hunting.

Historians believe the Indians located in this area because it was close to the Little Miami River and had an abundance of game. Records show that the 25 acres once were owned by Phebe Ferris, who bequeathed the land to the Peabody Museum at Harvard University in 1880.

Harvard University conducted excavations at the site from 1880 to 1911, using it as a training ground for students in archaeology. The original Mariemont plan of the early 1920s called for an outdoor museum for American Indian relics in the southwest corner of the village at the end of Mariemont Avenue, where Dogwood Park now sits. A state of Ohio historical marker on Mariemont Avenue commemorates the site.

"I think the village became busy in other projects, that the museum was pushed to the side," Mr. Rutherford said. "I think now there is an awareness of the importance of this site."

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