Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Moundsville, Part I

The day after the bike ride I wanted to drive up toward Moundsville which is about 70 miles from North Bend State Park. There were two places I wanted to see in Moundsville itself: one was the huge Indian mound for which the city is named, and the second was the closed West Virginia Penitentiary which is also located in the town. The prison has been shut for almost fifteen years and they offer tours of the abandoned facility. So I wanted to do that.

The sky was overcast when we got up so we quickly decided that a trip to Moundsville was the ticket. We keyed in the city on our Tom Tom and headed out. The drive over was really good, taking us across the Ohio River and into the state of Ohio. I hate to say it, but you can almost tell the difference between Ohio and West Virginia just by crossing that river. Whatever the reason, there seems to be less poverty in Ohio and the people who are poor seem to care more about their homes than the same kind of folk in West Virginia. I'm not making a judgment, just an observation.

We saw lots of those small-time oil wells all along the way. Both on the West Virginia side of the river and in Ohio. In fact, the ones in Ohio seemed to be more in use than the ones on the east side of the river. There was also quite a lot of manufacturing going on in both states on either side of the Ohio River. All kinds of facilities from aluminum smelting to power stations to glass factories. I was surprised at the amount of enterprise around that area, considering the general state of the economy. We also noted a lot of road construction being done with stimulus money--each project had a large sign indicating that it was being done as part of the stimulus package from a few months back. So people were being put to work from that, also.

When we got to Moundsville, I was surprised at the size of the town. I'd thought that it was going to be a very small village, but instead I realized that it's a much larger place than I'd imagined. The roads were really busy, too, and there seemed to be no shortage of jobs. Not sure why, but that was my impression. As soon as we got our bearings, we stopped at a take-out Italian restaurant and ordered three stromboli--Andy got them to make him a vegetarian boli, but Carole and I had ones with meat. After that we drove right over to the Grave Creek Mound site where we had a tailgate lunch. And right away we saw that the prison was just across the street from the mound! So we weren't going to have any trouble at all finding that place.

After we'd eaten, we headed into the Mound complex, which includes a modern museum and laboratory where archaeologists work on preserving and cataloging the vast amounts of Native American artifacts that are drawn out of the ground there. I was amazed at the quality and the variations of the things that have been found at the site. The Indians who began the mound were part of what is now called the "Adena" culture. They were at work on that mound at about the same time that Julius Caesar was ruling Rome. Lewis & Clark made note of the mound complex on their way out west.

A working oil well. These small outfits pump the oil into tanks located on hillsides and which are drained by trucks from local oil firms who then resell the oil to larger outfits. From the state of some of the homes located around these wells, I'm left with the impression that they either don't produce much oil, or else the mineral rights to the wells are owned by someone other than the tenants. Many of these people with the oil wells are obviously grindingly poor.

The Grave Creek Mound Archeological Complex. This is an extremely nice facility. And the admission is free! This includes the extensive museum and the mound itself!

I took a number of photos of the working laboratory. They have a glass wall so that you can look in and see the archeologists at work on new artifacts.

This was an especially nice effigy found in the area.

The numbers and variety of the pipes on display was amazing! They have a couple of dozen pipes to see, and these were some of the more imaginative ones.

I was intrigued by this stone. A lot of Europeans made the claim that Native Americans had no written language. But this was, at the very least, not entirely true. I'm not sure what these lines represented, but they served as something perhaps like a written word to the culture that produced them.

My tiny family standing in front of the Grave Creek Mound. It's not the biggest burial mound I've ever seen, but it is a very nice one.

This modern walkway follows the earthen ramp that was a part of the mound created by its builders 2,000 years ago.

And here I was on the summit of the mound where there is a directional monument placed there in 1942.

And here is Andy sitting on the sandstone wall at the flat-topped area on the summit of the mound. Andy's allergies were acting up really terribly that day and the walk to the top was hard on his lungs.

This is the old, now abandoned museum that once held the artifacts pulled out of the mound and the nearby area. It's all boarded up now and the roof has caved in. But they've left it as just another artifact on the grounds.

Andy noticed that one of the trees near the base of the mound was producing burrs. I took a close look at the tree and suspect that it's a Chinese chestnut. But it could be an American chestnut. I meant to ask one of the rangers, but forgot to do that.

And this was the prison across the street from the mound complex. I'll cover our visit in there in my next couple of posts. It was a pretty strange and somewhat sobering tour.

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