Early pleas for preservation

“A veneration for antiquity seems to be natural to man; hence we consider as barbarians those who demolish the relics of antiquity. …

…but do we display a juster taste, with regard to the only relics with which our country is honored? When those relics shall have disappeared, and nothing but their history shall remain, will not future generations pronounce us barbarians for having demolished them? Those venerable sepulchral mounds ought to be religiously preserved, and even planted with evergreens. They would figure well in our grave yards, public squares and public walks; but what is likely to be their fate? If in fields, for the sake of a few additional ears of corn, or sheaves of wheat, they are plowed down. If within the limits of a town, demolished to afford a site for a house, or garden, or to fill up some sunken spot, while the walls which inclosed the town or fort of the ancients are made into brick. Such is man! Such are the enlightened Americans!”

Episcopal minister and author Joseph Doddridge (1912, original printing 1824)

“Everyone is interested in the early inhabitants of America… and yet in nearly every state and township, we are rapidly destroying every vestige of Indian life.

Imagine a valuable, illustrated historic book of 655 pages placed in your county courthouse. Person after person comes in and looks it over. One rips out a leaf and stuffs it in his pocket. Another, somewhat more careful, takes out his penknife and removes an illustration, but in so doing destroys the reading matter on the opposite side of the page. Some one mildly protests, saying that the pictures and pages will soon be scattered and of no value to anyone; but he is met with the reply that the book belongs to all the people and if one does not get his share now, another will. And so the destruction goes on until only fifty pages of the book are left. Then suddenly the people of the county come to realize that they have allowed the destruction of a priceless historical document, a volume which would have brought thousands of visitors to the county and thus added to its fame and to its revenue.

The destruction of this book is not fancy but fact. In one county in Illinois there have been located 655 Indian mounds varying from simple burial plots to pyramids of considerable size; from earthworks to effigy mounds. And all but fifty of these have been dug into and for the most part looted, and their historical significance lost. …

The looted mounds bear eloquent testimony to the fact that the volume was beautifully illustrated, but today the county possesses only a few battered remains.”

Archaeologist Fay-Cooper Cole (1929)

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