Jay Reeves with the AP got up on the stone mound in Oxford (finally!) and wrote a great story that’s run in papers across the country, including the Washington Post, titled ‘Ala. city plows beneath Indian site for Sam’s Club’.
…”It’s the ugliest old hill in the world,” said (Oxford mayor) Smith, who has overseen a mushrooming of big-box stores in this east Alabama city of 15,000 during his seven terms as mayor.
Brown said the state lacks the power to halt the project, and petitions and protests haven’t done anything to stop the work.—
City project manager Fred Denney said officials plan to remove the top of the hill eventually to create an elevated, eight-acre site that will overlook the Choccolocco Valley and the city of Oxford.
“It would be a beautiful view,” said the mayor, who envisions a motel or restaurant atop the hill.
Indian historian Robert Thrower is aghast at what he sees as the city’s lack of concern for the historical importance of the site, which he said is similar to others along the East Coast. Groups have saved rock mounds in Montague, Mass., North Smithfield, R.I., and elsewhere.
Todd Stacy, a spokesman for Riley, said the governor believes there is nothing the state can do to save the structure.
“If the state doesn’t have jurisdiction, then it’s up for the local folks to decide,” he said.
And Harry Holstein, professional archaelogist and professor at Jacksonville State wrote in (in part):
How do we know if the Oxford mound is prehistoric and not historic? First, it fits the geographical profile of many proven prehistoric stone mound sites, which is a man-made pile of cobbles and/or boulders sitting atop a narrow hilltop, which would be impossible to farm. Second, the stone mound is within sight of a major prehistoric Woodland and Mississippian town along Choccolocco Creek. In all likelihood, the residents of this town constructed the stone mound. Third, the University of Alabama’s test excavation in April 2009 confirmed there are prehistoric Woodland artifacts under the structure, including a piece of Bangor chert that could have only been obtained by the builders from the Tennessee River drainage. Finally, common sense would say that a pile of rocks 42 feet long by 18 feet wide by six feet in height would have taken considerable time and effort to gather up and pile atop that rugged, stony hill. Settlers had no cultural motivation for such pursuits.
In addition, when the massive, earth-moving bulldozers begin to push thousands of pounds of boulders over the edge of the hill, any fragile human remains that may have survived hundreds of years in the ground will, in all likelihood, be crushed into powder and impossible to discern by any nearby observer of the mound removal.
We wrote in our final report to the city that the stone mound sat adjacent to the prehistoric town and that it was archaeologically significant. We were verbally assured the stone mound would not be disturbed. And to those who have said the Native American protestors should stay “in their own hometowns,” how little you know, or maybe how little you care, about your Alabama history.
Until the 1830s, the Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw and other Native American groups were in their hometown — present-day Oxford, Anniston, Jacksonville and for that matter all of Alabama until they were forced from their homeland at the end of a gun to make way for what American settlers looked to as 19th-century progress. It’s a shame we forcibly removed the people in the 19th century, and today Oxford is purposefully trying to remove one of the few cultural, sacred, stone monuments they left behind. All in the name of progress.
Professor Holstein also warns about future destructive development by the city of Oxford in his comments to the magazine ‘Archaeology‘ after they also reported on the mound:
The Archaeological Resource Laboratory of Jacksonville State University conducted a Phase I survey on some property that was going to be (now is) developed by the City of Oxford in 2006. Recorded 14 multicomponet sites and revisted 13 previously recorded ones along Choccolocco Creek just south of Oxford. Recommended preservation on several including, 1Ca196, a Mississippian earthen temple mound. Oh , by the way this ceremonial site may be the 16th Century De Soto Expedition Spanish contact site of Ulibahali. Leon Smith, Mayor of Oxford was not happy with our recommendations. We also at the time informed them (Oxford officials) about the large (42 feet x 18 feet x 6 feet) stone mound atop the hill behind the new Sam’s club and of its prehistoric importance. The City said it would not touch the stone mound. So much for words!!! The bad news is there are several other multicomponent sites, slave house sites, and a NRHP 1850s Plantation house across the street from the hill and development and Oxford has its eyes on it next for development. I have suggested this area be turned into a welcome center, museum and rest area for I-20 (which lies within sight of Indiana I Farm House). Suggestion again has fallen on deaf ears by the City of Oxford! I too wish those in power would have more insight to preserve rather than destroy the past!!!