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Local History Index

Indians Were Here First!

By Fred H. Keller

Source: Sussex Sun, Tuesday, November, 30, 1976

Dan Tetzlaff owns a large set of Indian arrowheads that were found over a period of 50 years time on his farm land, which is just east of Sussex Heights subdivision and north of the North Western Railroad tracks. The majority of the Indian artifacts were found on the downhill side of a long curving ridge that bisects the Tetzlaff farm. This ridge formed the high land on the east bank of an ancient lake, that has gone through the evolutionary cycle of filling in, and becoming first a shallows, a source of wild rice; then a swamp and today is a peat soil cultivated field.

Prehistoric Indians inhabited this ridge and hunted along the lake shore, occasionally losing one of their stone tipped missiles or working tools. These predominately flint stone sculptures are works of art with a utilitarian purpose, and many are still entirely functional today. In the picture of the collected arrowheads the central stone was probably a knife or spear head. It is about eight inches long and still after a thousand years, retains its stiletto sharpness at its tip and along the blade sides. Many times Indians would make exceedingly large blades similar to the one shown, but they would only be used for ceremony and show purposes.

Directly above the large stone is an awl, a narrow needle shaped piece of flint that was used as a drill bit for piercing wool, leather, bone and shell. Other pieces are the traditional arrow heads, scrapers and cutting tools of the stone age Indians.

Dan Tetzlaff's father and three stepbrothers found the majority of the collection in the days of horse drawn equipment. In the early years of the Tetzlaff family ownership, horse drawn cultivators and plows were the norm. When cultivating corn the operator sat on a seat that barely straddled the fluffed ground. As the earth was turned it passed directly below the rider. The net result was if an arrow head surfaced, it was laid right at the feet of the operator. With the mechanization of farm work this opportunity is probably lost forever.

The arrow heads that Dan Tetzlaff possesses most likely came from the group loosely called the Woodland Indians, a group of Indians that predate the Pottawatomi, Sauks, Winnebagoes, and Menomonees that were sparsely scattered over the Lisbon-Sussex area when the first European intruders arrived in the 17th century. Tetzlaff, at one time, owned an Indian stone ax head which has been relost now for several years. From his description of the ax head with only two side grooves, rather than the more common three grooves (two sides and bottom) and four grooves (grooved all the way around) the date of the Indian group that lost the arrowheads can be roughly put at well before 1000 A.D. Three grooves and four groove ax heads are used as milestones in the evolutionary progression of Indian stone tool making sophistication. They are time period indicators.

Many early settlers in the town of Lisbon have found extensive collections of Indian artifacts. The Seaborn Farm at the northeast base of Mary Hill was the site of a large early village of Indians. Again there is evidence of a prehistoric lake in that region. Also springs that still flow today are at the base of Mary Hill. Mrs. Ruth Seaborn Stier has the collection today. The prized piece is a stone grain grinder.

At one time arrow heads and Indian artifacts were of little value, but with the recent upsurge in antique buying and collecting of heritage collectables, these reminders of civilizations past have found ready markets at constantly growing prices. Now the law of supply and demand has spawned a forger. A cottage industry, supposedly in the American Southwest, is actually engaged in chipping out arrow heads to sell to the gullible public, and rightly calls them "Indian arrow heads" because some of the work is actually done by Indians, albeit modern Indians. A few of the modern examples of stone tips have passed through my hands. They are very crudely made, as a really good one takes too much time and patience to make to be profitable.

I have found about 25 arrow heads in my life. My method is to go to a likely spot (where earlier finds have been reported) in Spring, and walk over plowed fields that have been pelted with rain. The rain tends to wash off the dirt from the stone surfaces, leaving them clean and a distinct contrast to the color of the plowed soil. My second method is to walk in corn fields when the corn is less than a foot high. A recent rain that has dried and compacted the soil often leaves an Indian artifact on the surface. I walk one row and eyeball the two adjacent rows. The rare thrill of finding one of these bits of stone age Indians is hard to describe.

 

Rec'd these arrowhead points from Florence McKerrow Glass, March 12, 2012. they're part of a larger collection her grandfather Fred Sommers of Lisbon put together between 1900 and 1914 from plowing fields in Sec 11.

This is an initial gift to the SLAHS Depot Museum. From her husband John Glass: "Part of these items consist of by-products of the Indian flint chipping process - chips of stone without finished edges. Some may have been used as scrappers. These are interesting as illustrating part of the manufacture of "points". They are a complement to the finished arrow products and deserve exhibit with the points. They have fractures of a type not made by modern earth-grading machines. Experts in points love them. At least two or more of the points appear to be quite old - "Formative" - with concave bottoms."

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