History of Grand Rapids and Kent County, Michigan - The Mound Builders of Pre-Historic Times
Resting in a glass case in the rooms of the Public Museum of Grand Rapids are the remains of a young woman. 
They were found buried deep in the sands of a hillside in Grattan Township and scientists tell us that, in life, this was the body of one of the ancient and long forgotten race, which, for want of a better name, we call the Mound Builders. 
It is not a pleasant sight-bones, broken and yellow with great age, wisps of long black hair, bits of desiccated flesh, and great empty eye-sockets, staring blankly from the remote past. 
About the arms are broad bands of beaten copper; near the throat were found small copper beads, some still strung together with sinews of the deer. 
Near the head was found a large sea-shell, such as may now be found along the shores of Florida and the Carolinas. 
This is all-and yet it tells a wonderful story of a long forgotten race which once thronged the valley of Grand River. 
The location of the grave, high on the hillside above the rush of waters, shows thought and care; the disposition of the body shows love and reverence and that great hope for immortality which has inspired mankind since the beginning of conscious being. 
The rude copper bracelets tell of the pride of youth; and more - they tell of knowledge of the mineral wealth of the great northern peninsula, of the ability and the effort to mine the ore, and of the work of loving hands to bring the priceless metal over weary miles and to shape it to fit the slender arms of the beloved. 
The sinews of the deer speak of the triumphs of the chase and the glad hunter bringing home his spoils, while the careful stringing of the copper beads reveals the deft touch of a woman's hand. 
The Florida sea-shell, placed so carefully, shows that this was one of the proud possessions of the dead and suggests knowledge of the distant sea and of some means by which this treasure was transported over the mountains and through the forests for many hundreds of miles. .
Thus this single grave gives knowledge that ages ago there lived a race, possessed of all the primal passions--grief, love, reverence, belief in immortality, industry, skill, patience, knowledge, travel, endurance, artistry, pride, the ardor of man's love, and the unending affection of a mother's heart. 
All these are told as plainly to the discerning eye as if sung by Homer or engraved upon the walls of pyramids.
Not only this, but the entire valley of Grand River is strewn with the bones of this ancient race. 
Whole trenches on the west side of the river were filled with like fragments when the mounds of the old civilization were levelled to make the foundation for the civilization of today. 
And thus hundreds of our happy homes are, literally, built upon the bones of a forgotten people. It is easy, then, for the imagination to reconstruct a picture of the Grand River valley, teeming with a brown-skinned race, busy, happy, industrious, proud of accomplishment and probably (?) quite as sure of the permanency of their civilization as we are that our race shall endure until the end of time. 
Scientists are not agreed as to the time of the disappearance of this people. 
By some it is placed as of as recent a date as 800 years ago, thus making their final disaster contemporary with the beginning of modern England. 
Others hold that the race became extinct at least 3,000 years ago-more than a thousand years before the beginning of the Christian Era, and centuries before the fabled wolf suckled the founders of ancient Rome. 
Whether it was war or pestilence, flood or famine which destroyed this people we may not know-but we can but wonder whether it is to be given to some of our loved ones, whom we have laid to rest with love and tears, to reach with dead hands across the centuries and tell some other peoples all they may know of the civilization of which we are now so proud. 
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," and the Scriptures tell us that he required but six days for the task; but again we are told that in His sight a thousand years are but as a day, and science tells us that many thousands of years were necessary to shape Michigan from the fiery mold of volcanic rock into the splendid habitat of man as we now behold it. 
It is not the province of history to enter deeply into the field of geology, and it will here suffice to say that in very early geological times the Michigan Basin extended from the Appalachian range along the Atlantic coast, north beyond Lake Superior and west beyond the Mississippi. 
There were valleys as deeply cut as the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, and mountain peaks but little inferior to the lofty summits of the present Rockies. 
There were vast upheavals as the molten mass of what is now the earth boiled and bubbled like a witch's caldron. 
To the south, a great ridge arose, known to science as the Cincinnati Shale, closing the Michigan Basin and differentiating its formation from that of the states bordering on the Ohio River. 
This change took place in the early carboniferous age, before the vast forests were developed which later, under immense pressure, became the coal measures with which the Ohio Valley is so richly endowed. 
The Archean Rocks of the earliest geological times are now seen in the region of Marquette and in the glacial boulders scattered throughout the State, and they were molded in such fiery furnace that no evidence of stratification remains. 
It was during what is known as the Huronian period that the first sedimentary rock was laid, and the deposit of sediment presupposes a sea. 
There were also great volcanic disturbances and upheavals, and foldings, and vast streams of lava were belched forth from the fiery interior. 
Michigan may then have been robbed, in a measure, of its coal by these convulsions of nature, but this Huronian period gave to it its wondrously rich deposits of iron and copper ore. 
The long centuries of the Cambrian age gave to Michigan great sand and stone formations and painted the "Pictured Rocks." 
There followed a time during which the Niagara limestone was laid, forming, finally, a rim about the great, clear, inland sea. 
This limestone deposit, about 500 feet in thickness, speaks of the countless years which must have been required for its formation; but this was but an episode in the creation of Michigan, for above the Niagara and within the Michigan Basin, we are told that there are some twenty-six different rock formations of an aggregate thickness of about 4,500 feet. 
The Salina formation, which immediately followed the' Niagara, was at a time when the well springs of the earth were dry and the hot winds like furnace blasts caused the deposit of much salt and gypsum, although the great plaster deposits of the Grand River Valley are outcroppings from the lower carboniferous formations. 
All these formations were laid prior to the great floods of ice which slowly forced their way from the far north, filled the contours of the basins shaped in former ages, melted and receded, and advanced, again and again. 
It is not difficult to measure the movement of the comparatively miniature glaciers on the steep mountain sides of today. 
The advance is but a few feet in a year and furnishes, perhaps, a basis' for computation of the length of time covered by the glacial period. 
The work of these glaciers was to give the finishing touches to the contour of Michigan, to deposit its soil of rare fertility, and to leave us the precious legacy of the Great Lakes.
Again, it is estimated that the close of this glacial period was not less than 50,000 years ago. 
Of this glacial period Prof. L. H. Wood says in his geography of Michigan: "The events of the Glacial Period so completely effaced the records of the past in Michigan that it became as if old things had passed away and all things had become new.
The ice changed the great river valleys to the Great Lakes, reduced the range of relief of the Michigan area, chiefly by filling valleys, some 600 feet; filled the old valleys and united the uplands into a compact and definitely bounded area. 
The elder pre-glacial valleys that would have furnished the habitable space were dammed up, and the life that might have spread over 95,000 square miles of the Great Lakes area was compelled to concentrate either on the peninsulas between the lakes or on their periphery. 
Water boundaries were thus established that unite much more closely in trade the 30,000,000 people about the lakes than they could possibly have been united by the old upland-valley bed-rock surface of the state. 
The new lines of the relief have determined the location of the railroads, sites were established for all the cities of the state, the soils were redistributed, and the relations to the outside world so changed that a new distribution was determined for all the future industries; and in general all the geographic lines of development of the state radiate from the new epoch inaugurated with the Glacial Period."
The sign writing of the Glacial Period is found in the tracings of erosion on many rocks; and the soil of Michigan, practically all of it is the result of the work of these great ice rivers. 
The recession of the glaciers left large bodies of water in the deep valleys formed in prior ages, but with the western lakes emptying into the ocean by way of the Mississippi Valley. 
Still further recessions opened other outlets and the receding waters were cut off from the gateway to the Mississippi and found an outlet through the St. Lawrence River. 
The Great Lakes are then a direct legacy from the glaciers, a priceless legacy to commerce and to the salubrity of Michigan's climate. 
Grand River so named because it is the largest in the State, and the largest river emptying into the Great Lakes, is believed also to be a direct gift of the Glacial Period and to have been for a long time the outlet of Lake Saginaw and other glacial lakes, and to have been one with the Kalamazoo and St. Joseph rivers, later finding its own outlet from Grand Rapids to Lake Michigan. 
Nothing can be more fascinating than this wonderful story of the earth's development, as pieced together by the trained minds of scientists from the evidence of rocks and soils and fossil remains, which latter tell of the many strange forms of animal life which teemed in pre-historic lakes and roamed through pre-historic forests. 
Aside from these "sermons in stones," the page of history is a blank for all these 50,000 years and the silence of the ages is first broken by the evidence of human life left to us for study by the Mound Builders.
The traces of the Mound Builders are found at many points throughout the United States and especially in the Ohio and Scioto Valleys and throughout this western section of Michigan. 
Mounds recently excavated on the farm of Senator Tremper, of Portsmouth, Ohio, yielded rich treasures because the work was directed with intelligence. 
The mounds of the Grand River region were opened largely under less favorable conditions, thus preventing extended, careful scientific study of the structure of the mounds and which also resulted in the loss and destruction of many relics of this unknown race. 
The Public Museum of Grand Rapids contains, however, a very interesting collection, among which are many articles which show a much higher order of intelligence, patience and skill, as well as of artistic ability, than was shown by any of the Indians, then living in the United States who first came into contact with the whites. 
Speaking of the Mound Builders and their work in Michigan, Henry H. Riley, of Constantine, said in a paper read before the Pioneer Association, in 1879: "My belief in the existence of the so-called Mound Builders of our continent increases from year to year. 
There is a witchery about the subject that inflames the imagination and warps the judgment. 
I never look upon the remains of a people which stand so silently and so solemnly around us-what people I do not know-without feeling myself stretching away into the past, with my head in a whirl, and my brain exhausting itself among the phantoms of antiquity. 
The mound builders seem to belong to a race who finished up their work on earth before the real life-work of men and nations began, and who just left their monuments behind them when they passed away, to puzzle us with curious investigations and strange questions never, perhaps, to be answered." 
Among the relics found in the many mounds are finely wrought implements and ornaments made from the copper which they mined in the Lake Superior region, doubtless by the slow and wearisome process of heating and pouring on water. 
The evidences of these mines on Isle Royal are very wonderful. 
There are pits of as much as 30 feet in diameter and with a depth of 60 feet. 
There are underground passages and drains and at one place, remains of a timbered passage. 
There were also found in the mounds, implements made of silver, porphyry, obsidian and green stone, while the copper has been worked into chisels, axes, bracelets, beads, and toys; and there are many beautiful designs of pottery. 
The hand which shaped and smoothed and polished some of these specimens, and which formed them in perfect symmetry with the natural markings of the stone, was possessed of both skill and cunning and was guided by a mind which had a high appreciation of the beautiful. 
Again, there are evidences of intensive agriculture in what are supposed to be well laid-out gardens-gardens of which, it would seem that our thriftiest truck farmer might well be proud. 
Some cities have had wholly artificial origin, while others were ordained by nature as the habitation of man. 
The Mound Builders showed a high degree of intelligence in the selection of the sites for their centers of population, and their locations at Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Grand Rapids, have been approved and followed by our present civilization. 
They showed the same appreciation of the value of the Grand River as affording a broad and safe avenue from Lake Michigan to the rich interior as later did the Indians and the whites. 
They also found that at the portage, made necessary by the rapids to connect with the highway of water extending many additional miles through the forest, was the most suitable place for their residence. 
That they lived here in great numbers is attested by the many mounds filled with their bones, while the fact that conflict waged for the possession of this favored region is shown by the multiplicity of arrow heads and other implements of war which have been plowed up in many a Kent County field. 
Is it not possible that once the valley of Grand River ran as red with blood as has the valley of the Marne, and that here was witnessed the final extermination of a race? 
The entire absence of Indian tradition concerning the Mound Builders, and the fact that the trunks of trees of great age have been found buried deep above these Mound Builders' graves, and beneath living forests also of great age, indicate that centuries must have elapsed between the last of the mound builders inhabitants of the Grand River Valley, and the first Indian inhabitants. 
Students of the Indian tribes have presumed that the Tuteloes formed the first' known tribe dwelling in this region. 
By some writers they were said to belong to the Six Nations, and by other writers they are said to have been Dakotans, who were gradually exterminated by the warlike Algonquins and Iroquois. 
The earlier tribes made free use of the mounds left by the earlier race, both as lookout stations and as places of burial, and held them in great reverence. 
It is the complication caused by these intrusive burials which has made the work of research so much more difficult for the antiquarian. 
In truth, the Indians left fewer traces than did the Mound Builders, and their history before the coming of the whites can only be vaguely surmised.