Popular Science Monthly/Volume 43/May 1893/Evidences of Glacial Man in Ohio


THE recent sweeping denials by Mr. W. H. Holmes, of the Bureau of Ethnology, respecting the validity of the evidence upon which the existence of glacial man in America has been so generally accepted makes it necessary to present the facts in greater detail than has heretofore been done. It seems that Mr. Holmes has been himself looking for palæolithic implements in undisturbed gravel of glacial age for two or three years, but has not found any; and that he has discovered that the Indians had quarries and workshops in various places where they threw aside great piles of partially wrought and rejected implements which were of such shape as not to be readily available for their purposes, and which had a faint resemblance to palæolithic implements. In view of these experiences Mr. Holmes has come to the conclusion, first, that all the so-called palæolithic implements which have been found by Dr. C. C. Abbott and others in America are simply "rejects"; and, secondly, that nobody in America has found any implements in undisturbed gravel of glacial age. In Science for January 20, 1892, he uses the following language: "If there was, as is claimed, an ice-age man, or at any rate a palæolithic man, in eastern America, the evidence so far collected in support of these propositions is so unsatisfactory and in such a state of utter chaos that the investigation must practically begin anew."

The best answer which I can give to this sweeping denial will be to present, with illustrations, the details concerning a single discovery in Ohio with which I am familiar, namely, that at Newcomerstown. But, to get the full significance of this discovery, and the cumulative value of the evidence afforded by it, a brief statement of other discoveries must be made.

The evidence naturally begins with that at Trenton, N. J., where Dr. C. C. Abbott has been so long at work. Dr. Abbott, it is true, is not a professional geologist, but his familiarity with the gravel at Trenton, where he resides, the exceptional opportunities afforded to him for investigation, and the frequent visits of geologists have made him an expert whose opinion is of the highest value upon the question of the undisturbed character of the gravel deposit. The gravel banks which he has examined so long and so carefully have been extensively exposed by the undermining of floods on the river-side, but principally by the excavations which have been made by the railroad and by private parties in search of gravel. For years the railroads had been at work digging away the side of the banks until they had removed a great many acres of the gravel to a depth of twenty or twenty-five feet. Any one can see that in such conditions there has been no chance for "creep" or landslides to have disturbed the stratification; for the whole area was full of gravel, and there was no chance of disturbance by natural causes. Now, Dr. Abbott's testimony is that up to the year 1888 sixty of the four hundred palæolithic implements which he had found at Trenton had been found at recorded depths in the gravel. Coming down to specifications, he describes in his reports the discovery of one (see Primitive Industry, page 493) found while watching the progress of an extensive

PSM V43 D040 Section of the trenton gravel in which the implements were found.jpg

Fig. 1.—Section of the Trenton Gravel., in which the Implements described in the Text are found. The shelf on which the man stands is made in process of excavation. The gravel is the same above and below. (Photograph by Abbott.)

excavation in Centre Street, which was nearly seven feet below the surface, surrounded by a mass of large cobble-stones and bowlders, one of the latter overlying it. Another was found at the bluff at Trenton, in a narrow gorge where the material forming the sides of the chasm had not been displaced, under a large bowlder nine feet below the surface (ibid., page 496). Another was found in a perpendicular exposure of the bluff immediately after the detachment of a large mass of material, and in a surface that had but the day before been exposed, and had not yet begun to crumble. The specimen was twenty-one feet from the surface of the ground.

In all these and numerous other cases Dr. Abbott's attention was specially directed to the question of the undisturbed character of the gravel, he having been cautioned upon this point in the early part of his investigations.

Here it is proper to premise that the apparent monopoly of this evidence by Prof. Putnam and his associates in the Peabody Museum at Cambridge, Mass., has come about by a legitimate and natural process, which at the same time has probably interfered to a considerable extent with the general spread of the specific information in hand. Early in the investigations at Trenton, Prof. Putnam, who had lately become curator of the museum, with its large fund for prosecuting investigations, satisfied himself of the genuineness of Dr. Abbott's discoveries, and at once retained him as an assistant in the work of the museum, thus diverting to Cambridge all his discoveries at Trenton. Living on the ground during long-continued and extensive excavations made by the railroad, Dr. Abbott's opportunities were exceptionally favorable; hence his own prominence in the whole matter.

It is important also to note that, before taking up with Dr. Abbott's work, Prof. Putnam took ample pains to satisfy himself

PSM V43 D041 Section across the delaware river at trenton n j.jpg
Fig. 2.—Section across the Delaware River at Trenton, N. J.: a, a, Philadelphia red gravel and brick clay (McGee's Columbia deposit); b, b, Trenton gravel, in which the implements are found: c, present flood plain of the Delaware River (after Lewis). (From Abbott's Primitive Industry.)

of its character and correctness. In 1878 Prof. J. D. Whitney visited Trenton in company with Mr. Carr, assistant curator of the museum. In the Twelfth Annual Report Mr. Carr writes: "We were fortunate enough to find several of these implements in place. Prof. Whitney has no doubt as to the antiquity of the drift, and we are both in full accord with Dr. Abbott as to the artificial character of many of these implements." In reporting further upon this instance at the meeting of the Boston Society of Natural History, on January 19, 1881, Mr. Carr states that the circumstances were such that "it [i.e., one of the particular implements] must have been deposited at the time the containing bed was laid down." In 1879, and again in 1880, Prof. Putnam spent some time at Trenton, and succeeded in finding with his own hands "five unquestionable palæolithic implements from the gravel, at various depths and at different points." One of these was four feet below the surface soil and one foot in from the perpendicular face which had just been exposed, and where it was clear that the gravel had not been disturbed. A second one was eight feet below the surface. (Proc. Boston Soc. of Nat. Hist, for January 19, 1881.)

As confirming the entire trustworthiness of Dr. Abbott's observations, it is to be noted that, with a single exception, all the implements reported below the loam which constitutes the surface soil are of argillite, while those upon the surface, which are innumerable, are chiefly of a different type, made from flint and jasper, or of other material of related character. Another fact, which has always had great weight in my own mind, is one mentioned by the late Prof. Carvill Lewis, in his chapter upon the subject at the end of Dr. Abbott's volume on Primitive Industry. I have the more reason to feel the, force of his conclusions, because the proof-sheets passed through Lewis's hands at the time we were together conducting the survey in Pennsylvania, soon after we had visited the deposits in question. The fact was this: Prof. Lewis had been at work for a considerable time in classifying and mapping the gravels in the Delaware Valley, being all the while in ignorance of Dr. Abbott's work until his own results were definitely formulated. But, after he had accurately determined the boundary between the glacial gravels and the far older gravels which surround them and spread over a considerable portion of the territory beyond, he found that the localities where Mr. Carr, Prof. Putnam, and Dr. Abbott had reported finding their implements in undisturbed gravel, all fell within the limits of the glacial gravels, and had in no case been put outside of those limits. Now, Dr. Abbott's house is situated upon the older gravel; but at the time of most of his discoveries he had not learned to distinguish the one gravel from the other. If these implements are all from the surface and had been commingled with lower strata by excavations, landslides, or windfalls, there is no reason why they should not have been found in the older gravels as well as in those of glacial age. There is here a coincidence which is strongly confirmatory of the correctness of our conclusion that there is no mistake in believing that the implements were originally deposited with the gravel where they were found.

Such was the progress of discovery at the time when I began my special investigations upon the glacial boundary in Ohio, and of the glacial terraces there corresponding in age with that at Trenton. To the similarity of conditions along these streams I promptly called attention in 1883, pointing out various places in Ohio where it would be profitable for local observers to be upon the lookout for such evidences of glacial man as had been discovered by Dr. Abbott. The first response to this came from Dr. C. L. Metz, of Madisonville, on the Little Miami River, in southern Ohio. Dr. Metz is a physician of large practice, of high character, and of long experience as an assistant of Prof. Putnam in exploring the mounds of Ohio. He knows the difference between disturbed and undisturbed gravel as perfectly as any one does. His residence is upon the glacial terrace which borders the Little Miami Valley. In 1885, while digging a cistern in this terrace, a perfectly formed implement of black chert was found by him in undisturbed gravel eight feet below the surface. This was exhibited by Prof. Putnam at a meeting of the Boston Society of Natural History, on the 4th of November, 1885, and is No. 40,970 in the Peabody Museum. Two other implements were discovered at a later time by Dr. Metz in the talus of the glacial terrace of the Little Miami, at Loveland, where also numerous bones of the

PSM V43 D043 Chipped pebble of black chert.jpg
Fig. 3.—Chipped Pebble of Black Chert, found by Dr. C. L. Metz, October, 1885, at Madisonville, Ohio, in gravel eight feet from surface under clay: a, face view; b, side view. Natural size.

mammoth were found. But, as these were not in place when discovered, they can not be adduced as positive evidence.

The discovery at Newcomerstown, of which Messrs. Holmes, Brinton, and McGee speak so lightly because they do not know the facts, is really one of the best attested of all the single cases. The discovery was made in 1889 by Mr. W. C. Mills. The implement has been presented to the Western Reserve Historical Society of Cleveland, and can there be seen at any time in company with various implements from France. A photogravure from it appears in the smaller figure in the following cut.

The discovery of the implement was made in October, but it was not brought to public notice until the next spring, when I chanced to meet Mr. Mills and learned about it. He then forwarded it to me, when its exact resemblance in form and finishing to an implement which I have in my own collection, that was obtained by Dr. Evans, of London, at Amiens, France, greatly impressed me. I forwarded it immediately to Prof. H. W. Haynes,

PSM V43 D044 Paleolithic chipped stones from newcomerstown and amiens.jpg
Fig. 4.—The Smaller is the Palæolith from Newcomerstown, the Larger from Amiens, France (face view). Reduced one half in diameter.

of Boston, whose expert judgment is second to that of no other person in America, or indeed of the world. Prof. Haynes exhibited it at the meeting of the Boston Society of Natural History on May 7, 1890, and his account was published in the Proceedings of that evening. In conclusion, after having enumerated its distinctive characteristics, he said, "I desire to express most emphatically my belief in the genuineness and age of this Newcomerstown implement, as well as to call attention to the close resemblance in all particulars which it bears to these unquestioned palæolithic implements [which he exhibited beside it] of the Old World." This implement is not a "reject," but is a finished implement, with the secondary chippings all around the edge. The cuts, reproduced from photographs, perfect as they are, by no means do it justice.

I promptly gave an account of this discovery in The Nation, in its issue for April 24, 1890, and repeated it in substance with some additional particulars on page 620 of the third edition of my volume on The Ice Age in north America. This account was also reprinted in The Popular Science Monthly, Volume XXXIX, pages 314: to 319. The account in my later volume, on Man and the Glacial Period, is still more condensed. The more detailed evidence is published in Tract No. 75 of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio, containing the report of the meeting

PSM V43 D045 Edge views of the paleolithic chipped stones.jpg
Fig. 5.—Edge View of the Preceding.

when Mr. Mills was present and gave his own testimony. This was held December 12, 1890.

The facts are these: There is a glacial gravel terrace in Newcomerstown at the mouth of Buckhorn Creek, where it enters the larger valley of the Tuscarawas River. There can be no question about the glacial age of this terrace. It is continuous up the river to the terminal moraine. Its surface is about thirty-five feet above the flood-plain of the Tuscarawas; it consists of stratified material, containing many granitic pebbles and much granitic gravel. The deposit at Newcomerstown extends over many acres, having been protected from erosion in the recess at the

PSM V43 D046 Area map where paleolithic implements found.jpg
Fig. 6.

mouth of Buckhorn Creek. Through the middle of this deposit the railroad had cut its road-bed, and for years has been appropriating the gravel for ballast.

Mr. Mills is an educated business man, who had been a pupil in geology of Prof. Orton, of the State University, and had with him done considerable field-work in geology. Mr. Mills's character and reputation are entirely above suspicion. In addition to his business he took a laudable interest in the collection of Indian relics, and had in his office thousands of flint implements, collected by him and his associates in the vicinity, who had been organized into an archæological society. His office was but a short distance from the gravel pit from which I have said the railroad had been for so many years obtaining ballast. The perpendicular face of this bank of gravel as it was exposed from time to time by the excavations of the railroad men was frequently examined by Mr. Mills, not with special reference to finding implements, for that thought had not entered his mind, but for the sake of obtaining specimens of coral, which occasionally occurred in the gravel. While engaged in one of these rounds, on the 27th of October, 1880, he found this specimen projecting from a fresh exposure of the perpendicular bank, fifteen feet below the surface, and, according to his custom, recorded the facts at the time in his note-book. There was no lack of discrimination in his observations, or of distinctness in his memory.

The accompanying illustration from a photograph taken six months after the discovery, and when a talus consequent upon the frosts of winter had accumulated to a considerable extent at

PSM V43 D047 Newcomerstown terrace where paleolithic implements found.jpg
Fig. 7.—Terrace in Newcomerstown, showing where W. C. Mills found a Palæolithic Implement.

the base of the deposit, shows the spot in the bank from which the implement was taken. In looking for objects of his quest, Mr. Mills thrust in his cane into the coarser gravel which is seen to overlie the finer deposits. This resulted in detaching a large mass about six feet long and two feet wide, which fell down at his feet. It was in the face of the bank behind this mass that Mr. Mills's eye, so long trained for the detection of artificially chipped flints, discovered the implement under consideration, which he removed with his own hands, and placed in his collection, with PSM V43 D048 Ground layer cross section of paleolithic finds.jpgFig. 8. little thought at the time of the significance attaching to the position in which it was found. The accompanying map of the vicinity and drawing of the bank were made by Mr, Mills at the time of our visit, and furnish, with the photograph, all the additional information necessary.

There is no possibility of mistake concerning the undisturbed character of the gravel from which Mr. Mills took the implement, and observed by him.

These facts, submitted at the meeting of the Western Reserve Historical Society referred to, were fully detailed upon the spot

PSM V43 D048 Topography of the exposed terrace of the finds.jpg
Fig. 9.—Height of Terrace exposed, 25 feet. Palæolith was found 143/4 feet from surface.

to myself and a party of gentlemen, consisting of Judge C. C. Baldwin, E. A. Angell, Esq., William Gushing, Esq., all lawyers of eminence, and Mr. David Baldwin, who accompanied me in a visit to the place on the 11th of April, 1890. We had all the opportunity to question and cross-question that could be desired.

In conclusion, it is proper to say that the sweeping character and the suddenness of these attacks of Mr. Holmes and his associates upon the evidence of glacial man in America have been somewhat bewildering. It has come like thunder from a clear sky. One has but to go back to Mr. McGee's article in The Popular Science Monthly for November, 1888, to find an unquestioning and enthusiastic indorsement of nearly all the facts concerning glacial man which I have incorporated in my recent volume upon Man and the Glacial Period, together with a number which I have omitted, except the discovery at Newcomerstown, which had not then been made. Had I been aware of the preparations which these investigators were making to discredit all past observers on the matter, I should have introduced more detailed evidence in my summary in the volume referred to. Still, it is probably as well that the statements were left as they are, for they are all capable of ample proof; and it is perhaps better for the public to be referred for details to such fuller reports as are made in this article and in the other publications here indicated.

I submit that this evidence is neither "chaotic" nor "unsatisfactory," but is as specific and definite and as worthy to be believed as almost anything any expert in this country, or any other country, can be expected to produce.