In western New York state, the terrain contains a “remarkable” and “beautiful” water system. Numerous lakes communicate by an ample river with Lake Ontario. The hills in many places are “terrace like elevations, with steep sides and level tops… in many places the small hills have a peculiar conical and even pyramidal character.” It is “eminently probable that many of these [terraced hills] will prove to be sepulchral mounds, containing human bones of the same gigantic race of which many skeletons have hitherto been found in the neighboring valleys.” (“The Onondaga Giant”, New York Herald newspaper, November 18, 1869, page 17)
In the above citation, the New York Herald almost – but not quite – says “mound builders.” Hills with terrace like elevations likely to be “sepulchral mounds” and having steep sides and level tops imply an artificial construction. Were the mound builders ever in New York state?
The Hopewell culture is an ancient American Indian civilization that arose in Ohio and other parts of eastern North America perhaps as early as 100 B.C., says “Ohio History Central” (An Online Encyclopedia of Ohio History). It is characterized by, among other things, gigantic mounds and earthen enclosures in a variety of shapes.
According to the Wikipedia entry of August 15, 2012, “The Hopewell tradition (also called the ‘Hopewell culture’) describes the common aspects of the Native American culture that flourished along rivers in the northeastern and midwestern United States from 200 BCE to 500 CE.” A map included in the Wikipedia entry clearly shows a “New York Hopewell” embracing what is now western New York state. This “New York Hopewell” was part of the “Hopewell exchange system,” a common network of trade routes. “At its greatest extent, the Hopewell exchange system ran from the Southeastern United States into the southeastern Canadian shores of Lake Ontario.”
In his book, Antiquities of the State of New York (Buffalo: Geo. H. Derby & Co., 1851), E.G. Squier, M.A. writes that “…many evidences of ancient labor and skill are to be found in the western parts of New York and Pennsylvania…” These include occasional mounds, or tumuli, “concerning which history is mute, and the origin of which has been regarded as involved in impenetrable mystery.”
E.G. Squier, M.A. guardedly ventured his opinion “that the ancient remains of western New York belonged to the same system [of mound builders] with those of Ohio and the West generally.” Throughout the region of western New York, “ancient remains are found in considerable abundance.”
Squier wrote this circa 1851. In 1869, one of these “ancient remains in considerable abundance” may have been unearthed in Onondaga County, New York.