THE LOST MOUNDS OF KITCHEE

THE LOST MOUNDS OF KITCHEE

  Around the end of the first millennium of the Common Era, the Mississippian mound building culture began to appear on a high plateau northeast of the Ocmulgee River in East Macon and at other locations around the state of Georgia.

Many of you may know of the two Indian mounds which are located south of Dublin at the end of the Sportsman’s Club Road on the grounds of the Sportsman’s Club and the Archaeological Conservancy on the north.  These grounds, known as the “Sawyer Site,”  were well documented by Dr. Mark Williams, of the University of Georgia, in 1996.

There are additional small mound sites south of the Sawyer Site along the banks of the Oconee River and likely more undiscovered mound sites in other parts of the county. But, you may have never heard of the most mysterious site of them all, on which, according to local legend, was occupied by a village of Indians under the leadership of Chief Kitchee.


TOPOGRAPHICAL MAP OF THE 
LEGENDARY VILLAGE OF KITCHEE
WITH Xs TO INDICATE POSSIBLE
MOUND AND VILLAGE LOCATIONS 
AND CURRENT LANDMARKS

On August 8, 1934,  Dr. Arthur Kelly (BELOW,)  an archaeologist of the  Smithsonian Institute and future Chief Archaeologist of the National Park Service, spoke to the Dublin Lions Club and to a committee from the local Daughters of the American Revolution recommending the development of Indian mounds near Blackshear’s Ferry.   Dr. Kelly told the assembly that all that is necessary for development was the raising of a small amount of money locally. Dr. Kelly declared that the Federal Emergency Relief Administration would furnish labor and supervisors for the work.  He estimated that $200.00 would be sufficient so far as local funds were concerned.


Dr. Kelly, with Dr.  W.B. Childs, and Warren Grice of Macon, and Victor Davidson of Irwinton, attended the regular luncheon of the Lions Club at the Hotel Fred Roberts.  Meeting with the party following the luncheon were Mrs. E.R. Freeman, Mrs. E.T. Barnes, Mrs. Andrew Stephens and Mrs. Millard Rogers, who formed a committee from the John Laurens Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, which had been quietly working on the proposed development of the mounds for sometime.

Some five months earlier in March 1934, Dr. John Swanton, (LEFT) a premier Native American anthropologist, joined Dr. Kelly on a boat trip down the Oconee River in search of the point where he thought the legendary Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto crossed the river during his expedition in 1540.  Confident that they were successful in locating the crossing point, Dr. Kelly added that when he came back later looking for Indian mounds, he was surprised to find that some of the finest mounds known were located at the same point where DeSoto crossed.

“I feel thoroughly confident that DeSoto’s expedition forded with some difficulty the Oconee River at what is now Carr’s Shoals,” Dr. Swanton told a writer for the Macon Telegraph. Swanton’s conclusions were based on two river trips and exhaustive examination of the sites along with the testimony of the oldest residents of the area relating to what was there before the Federal government began the deepening of the river channel.

Swanton spent years tracing DeSoto (LEFT) and his 600-man army’s path through current day Georgia.  Swanton looked to the journal of DeSoto’s secretary, Rodrigo Ranjel, whose descriptions of their course matched the area between Hawkinsville and Dublin in Swanton’s mind.

Swanton relied heavily on his conversation with river boat captain W. W. Ward, who plied the waters of the pre-dredged Oconee for many decades.  Ward’s important description of the bend and rock shoal crossing substantiated Swanton’s theory.

“The accounts say the expedition spent the night on a hill (possibly Carr's Bluff) on the other side, and although there is an elevation to the east, we cannot use this evidence because no mention is made of how far they had traveled after crossing the river,” Swanton stated.

“The question has always been whether or not the account of the two branches of the stream, the rapid current, smooth stones in the water and the possibility of fording “by lines of 20 to 40 men tied together,” the Smithsonian anthropologist said of the area, where today the river is split into two channels with thousands of rocks in the shoals.


AERIAL VIEW OF THE CROSSING OF THE 
LOWER UCHEE TRAIL AT THE OCMULGEE
THE SANDY WHITE AREA IN THE CENTER
IS USUALLY COVERED WITH WATER
WHEN THE RIVER IS A MEDIUM TO 
HIGH LEVELS.  THIS IS THE AREA,
KNOWN AS CARR'S SHOALS, 
WHERE MANY THOUSAND ROCKS
LIE AND WHICH AFFORD
AN EXCELLENT PLACE TO
FORD THE OCONEE RIVER.
CARR'S BLUFF IS OPPOSITE
THE WHITE AREA ON THE EAST (RIGHT) SIDE
OF THE RIVER. 


Along for the ride was Dr. W.B. Childs, a dentist from Macon, James A. Ford (Dr. Kelly’s assistant,)  Ford’s wife, Linton Solomon and Joseph Evans. While in the area, Doctors Swanton and Kelly made preliminary inspections of the mounds in East Macon.

Following Kelly’s speech at the Fred Roberts, The party accompanied by several local citizens, went to the site of the mounds that afternoon for another view of them. Carr’s Shoals, just below the bend of the river below  Blackshear’s Ferry, is about five miles from Dublin where Dr. Kelly said “some of the most wonderful Indian mounds in existence are to be found here.”

Dr. Kelly warned against any commercial exploitation of the mounds saying that this type of mounds saying that this type of development is generally fatal so far as the educational and historic value is concerned, but added that as a business proposition the return from anything expended in development of the mounds would be profitable to the community, because they would attract many visitors to Dublin.

Remains of an old Indian village called by some historians “Ocute” and an Indian burial ground, with perhaps 80 to 100 graves on the outskirts of the village were located by Dr. Kelly.  The arrowheads and pottery and other Indian trinkets which have been unearthed there were entirely different from any others found in Indian mounds over the state, Dr. Kelly stated.

The project which Dr. Arthur Kelly proposed never materialized.  The lack of local funds during the depth of the Great Depression along with the more alluring and important archaeological work in the Ocmulgee Fields in Macon led to the abandonment of the study of the area where Dr. John Swanton believed to be of great archaeological importance and where DeSoto actually crossed - a theory now discounted by modern day anthropologists and archaeologists.

One enduring and unsolved mystery is the location of an mysterious “Indian spring rock” described in Volume 1 of the History of Laurens County which states” The rock is located one mile north of the present site of the ferry.  The tiny trickle of crystal clear water comes from the rock itself.  The rock is about four feet high, and about seven feet long, and on one of its sides it has been made as smooth as it were turned out of one of our marble plants.  Across the wide face, written, or carved into its hard surface are character never put here by nature.  The hieroglyphics are carved in a long line across the entire surface; they have the appearance of Egyptian character, ye they have never been deciphered.”

During the years since the area has remained virtually undisturbed, except for the construction of a few homes, the Dublin Country Club and the current erection of the newest bridge over the Oconee River.

Recently a group of Middle Georgia archaeologists discovered a possible mound site at the northwestern margin of the Country Club.  The area deserves further study. Perhaps, a future archaeologist will come along and discover more information about the people who once lived in around the lost village of Kitchee.

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