HISTORICAL MARKERS OF SPRINGFIELD & GREENE COUNTY, MISSOURI

MARKER NUMBER SIXTEEN

FORT ANCIENT


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A small secluded cemetery, dating back to 1880, is located on an Ozark Mountain ridge in Lawrence County, about three miles southeast of Hoberg. Probably the cemetery site was selected because it was conveniently level; it had served earlier as the location of Fort Ancient.

On Sunday, October 12, 1930, an appropriate marker provided by the University Club of Springfield was dedicated. Dr. F. T. H'Doubler delivered the dedicatory address and the marker was unveiled by Dr. E. M. Shepard. Made of granite, it is six feet high, two feet wide and eight inches thick. Little if any vandalism is evident after more than half a century, probably due to the isolated location. The text on the marker reads as follows:

FORT ANCIENT, BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN CONSTRUCTED BY A GROUP OF EASTWARD MIGRATING MOUND BUILDERS, A BAND OF INDIANS PROBABLY LONG ANTEDATING THE OSAGES, ON THEIR WAY TO WHAT IS NOW OHIO. THESE EARTHWORKS ARE A SMALL REPLICA OF THE GREAT FORT ANCIENT IN OHIO, WHERE THIS PREHISTORIC GROUP REACHED ITS GREATEST CULMINATION. THIS TRIBE PROBABLY HAD ITS VILLAGE IN THE VALLEY AND USED THESE FORTIFICATIONS FOR DEFENCE. FIRST PIONEERS DESCRIBE THE WALLS AS ORIGINALLY ABOUT 5 FT HIGH AND THE MOAT 2 FT. DEEP. SPRINGFIELD UNIVERSITY CLUB HISTORICAL MARKER NO. 16. ERECTED OCT. 1930.

On the reverse side of the marker, possibly to placate the local folk, is inscribed: "Locally known as the Old Spanish Fort". This refers to the fact that the site was formerly known as Spanish Fort, particularly by the local residents of the region. It was designated Fort Ancient after a study of more than 40 years by Dr. E. M. Shepard, an archeologist and geologist.

Dr. Shepard had been employed by the State of Missouri to write about the geology of the district. From his prolonged study, it seems probable that the Mound Builder Indians were the creators of Fort Ancient. They were early Indians who fashioned burial mounds, fortifications and other earthworks found in the Middle West and Southeast. The Lawrence County ruins are much smaller than, but otherwise almost identical with, the immense Fort Ancient (in Ohio) which was known to have been constructed by the Mound Builders. The Ohio site was four miles in circumference compared to only a few hundred feet at Hoberg, but both were irregular circles with gateway openings and moats. Early Missouri pioneers described the walls as about five feet high and the moat as two feet deep; however, it is believed that the original distance from the top of the wall to the bottom of the moat was at least 15 feet.

—Prepared by James Allwood

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