Sometimes while doing research you find a little tidbit that throws you off topic and down a path you never though you would find yourself wandering on. While investigating the topic of lost graveyards in Erie I stumbled upon this curiosity:

“…when the roadway of the Philadelphia & Erie road, where it passes through the Warfel farm, was being widened, another deposit of bones was dug up and summarily deposed of as before (Thrown in a neighboring ditch). Among the skeletons was one of a giant, side by side with a smaller one, probably that of his wife. The arm and leg bones of this native American Goliath were about one-half longer than those of the tallest man among the laborers; the skull was immensely large; the lower jawbone easily slipped over the face and whiskers of a full faced man, and the teeth were in a perfect state of preservation. Another skeleton was dug up in Conneaut Township a few years ago which was quite as remarkable in its dimensions. As in the other instance, a comparison was made with the largest man in the neighborhood , and the jawbone readily covered his face, while the lower bone of the leg was nearly a foot longer than the one with which it was measured, indicating that the man must have been eight to ten feet in height. The bones of a flathead were turned up in the same township some two years ago with a skull of unusual size. Relics of a former time have been gathered in that section by the pailful, and among other curiosities a brass watch was found that was as big as a common saucer.
An ancient graveyard was discovered in 1820, on the land now known as Dr. Carter and Dr. Dickinson places in Erie, which created quite a sensation at the time. Dr. Albert Thayer dug up some of the bones, and all indicated a race of beings of immense size.” (History of Erie County Volume 1; Warner, Beers and Co., 1884, pp. 166-169)

I was a bit flabbergasted.

As an enthusiast of the unexplained I was well aware of the legend of the mound building giants of ancient Northeast. Attributed to the Hopewell Indians, an unknown race of Native Americans, these mounds litter the Northeast tp the Midwest. They vary in size from a small two foot knoll to the hundred foot Monks Mound in Collinsville, Illinois. There were old legends that when the early European settlers established homesteads on these lands near the mounds they uncovered huge bones of archaic Indians. The circle was complete as I read on in “The History of Erie County”;

“Equally curious are the pre-historic mounds and circles found in Wayne, Harborcreek, Conneaut, Girard, Springfield, LeBoef, Venango and Fairfield Townships. The principle one in Wayne Township, which is still in a fair state of preservation, is in the south branch of French Creek, near the road from Corry to Elgin…It consists of a vast circle of raised earth, surrounded by a trench, from which the earth was unquestionably dug, the whole enclosing about three acres of unbroken ground…Half a mile to the west, a little north of the road, on a slight eminence, was another and smaller circle, which has been plowed down, leaving no vestige behind.

The circles in other portions of the county are or were similar in their general features, with one exception, to the above. Those in Harbor Creek Township were situated on each side of Four Mile Creek…on points overlooking and commanding the deep gulf of that stream.” (History of Erie County Volume 1; Warner, Beers and Co., 1884, p.169)

During the Colonial Era in the Great Lakes, Northeast and Midwest territories, whenever there were mounds, there were accounts of the discovery of giant Indian bones.

Ross Hamilton in his article“Holocaust of Giants: The Great Smithsonian Cover-up”
Uncovers several incidents of giant bones found in or near local mounds in 19th Century Ohio. All of these incidents are documented in digests of local history. The jist of Mr. Hamilton’s article is that the Smithsonian actively covered up the discoveries of giant bones in the 19th Century in order to produce a preferred history of ancient America. In other words, the Smithsonian was a conspirator in 19th Century political correctness.

There are a few things that I find fascinating about these historical reports listed by Mr. Ross and “The History of Erie County”.

First, most of these reports do not seem to be sensational. They just simply report the discoveries as odd curiosities. Most historians discredit these alleged discoveries as local folk tales that have no basis in reality. In fact they are the fabrication of a bigoted worldview in which the pioneering white man could not conceive that the savage Indians could have constructed such edifices. It had to be another ancient race that was here before the Indians; since many times the mounds were very big they attributed them to the giants from the Bible. Allen Quinn, professor of Archaeology at Mercyhurst College here in Erie is one of the scholars who holds this position. He has personally excavated a mound and found only normal remains. He regulates these stories to fanciful lore, although he did relate that there was a tale another discovery of a giant near North East Pennsylvania as well.

But my problem with this explanation is the familiarity of most of these reports. They point to the discovery of these giant skeletons at a specific place by specific people. People who were well known in small communities. When you live in a small community, you tend to get to know everyone exceptionally well, especially in the pioneer days of the 19th Century. It would soon be known if the person is an honest man, a thief, drunkard or a huckster. That the discoveries were documented in detail with the finders names and the location of the find noted is noteworthy. It speaks volumes to the veracity of the find. I think our problem is that in our 21st Century worldview we tend to look at those who lived before our modern era of technology as ignorant, uneducated and superstitious. We forget that many of these early archaeologists were not just ignorant farmers, they were educated and honest men. They found something spectacular. But what did they do with the bones? Many were too fragile to be rescued and crumbled when the finders tried to excavate them. Others were haphazardly discarded by workers along with the normal sized Indian remains they found. They too seem lost to history. But many accounts do not relate to us as to the deposition of these remains. Were they given to the local government for historical value or did they remain in the family of the discoverer over the years? Further investigation is evidently needed. Be that as it may, the stories of the giants and the mound builders passed from generation to generation as truth, as is evident in these history cartoons “History Profiles” published in the 60s and 70s.

Secondly, it must be noted that these discoveries never exceeded but a few giant skeletons. Many mixed with normal sized remains. Usually there was only one giant, but many times up to three or four were discovered together. To my knowledge there was never an entire village of giant skeletons found. What does this mean? Were these giants merely genetic abnormalities living within their average sized community? Or were these giants a different race entirely? If so why did they dwell among the other Indians and were buried alongside them as kin? Perhaps they were some sort of guardian that watched over the tribe? Or were they the honored envoy of an ancient race that is now long forgotten?

Across America there are many mounds of the Hopewell and Adena that still litter the landscape. Many have been overgrown or neglected over the centuries. Perhaps there still remains evidence of the giant Indians to be found, if they were Indians at all. Let us hope that they do not become prey to vandals or amateur archaeologists who might damage the evidence and rather be painstakingly documented by professional archaeologists in the near future.

Then perhaps the mystery of the giant mound builders will be answered.