My young son and I got up early Saturday morning and drove down to Dauphin Island for the Battle of Mobile Bay Commemorative Day at Fort Gaines. After exploring the old fort, listening to living history demonstrators and watching Civil War reenactors fire off a cannon in memory of those who died during that famous Civil War battle 153 years ago, we set off for home. On our way off the island, we took a short detour down Iberville Drive to check out something that I’ve wanted to see for several years, Dauphin Island’s Indian Shell Mound Park.
This park features a network of walking trails that take visitors in and around large Indian mounds located near the shores of Dauphin Island Bay. According to an historical marker near the entrance to the park, Indians, centuries before Europeans arrived, fished in the bay and visited the site of these ancient mounds for hundreds of years. Archaeologists later determined that these massive mounds contain many layers of oyster shells, charcoal, fishbones and broken pieces of pottery. Archaeologists believe that these layers were created by repeated visits to the same location by Indians over the course of many centuries.
On our way home, I began to think about Indian mounds elsewhere in Alabama. As most people know, the most famous Indian mounds in Alabama are located in the Hale County town of Moundville, which, as the crow flies, isn’t that far from Camden, a distance of roughly 80 miles. Of course, it should come as no surprise that more than a few Indian mounds can also be found within the boundaries of Wilcox County.
Later, at home, I turned to an old book called “Alabama Encyclopedia, Vol. I: Book of Facts,” which was published in 1965 by the American Southern Publishing Co. in Northport. According to that book, there is a group of three Indian mounds four miles south of Furman and there’s another mound about three-fourths of a mile southwest of Webb’s Landing on the Alabama River. That book goes on to say that there is an “extensive mound” at Burford’s Crossing, about a half-mile south of Holly Ferry on the Alabama River.
Another Wilcox County mound can be found about three miles north of the mouth of Pine Barren Creek, on the south side, about 100 feet from the bank. This mound is four feet high and 100 feet in diameter, according to the “Alabama Encyclopedia.” In addition, a group of four mounds can be found near Matthews Landing on the Alabama River.
Historical researchers believe that Indian mounds served a wide variety of purposes. Dwellings and temples were sometimes built on top of them and at other times they were used for ceremonies like funerals and ritual dances. Others were used as burial sites and others had a more practical purpose, like the shell mounds at Dauphin Island.
In the end, there are likely many more Indian mounds out there in the wilds of Wilcox County, especially near the Alabama River and along major creeks. If anyone in the reading audience knows of a Wilcox County Indian mound not mentioned above, please let me know. Also, if you know more about the Wilcox County mounds mentioned in “Alabama Encyclopedia,” I’d like to hear from you. I suspect that many readers would be surprised to learn that they live a short drive from important, local Indian sites that are almost in their backyards.