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Facts on the Ground

map
Pinpointing the location of Sha'chahdínnih, or Timber Hill, required plotting locations of known Indian villages from historic maps onto a modern map and using distances provided in historic documents. Photo by Mark Armstrong.

My interest in Caddo archeology is one of a deep interest in people, of personal feeling for the people who lived then. If you separate the people from archeology, it becomes a very dry, scientific analysis.
-Claude McCrocklin

1842 map
Map produced in 1842 boundary survey showing "Old Indian Village" in same location as on earlier Louisiana map. Courtesy Texas General Land Office.
woods near Caddo Lake
Woods near Caddo Lake. Thick layers of leaves in the groves of hardwood and pine trees often obscured the ground surface during survey. Photo courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
various artifacts
McCrocklin collected numerous artifacts of the right age to be from a village inhabited ca. 1800-1840, including items of American or European origin. Top row, left to right: ferrous metal spoon; metal knife fragment; scissors fragment; bottom row, left to right: brass spigot cock, bail ear from brass kettle, sheet-brass patch.
Dr. James Bruseth and Mark Parsons
Dr. James Bruseth, left, and Mark Parsons, right, both of the Texas Historical Commission, directed excavations at the site.

As far as anyone knows, it was the first time Caddos had returned to the last place in their ancestral land they had called home.

Richard Subia
Caddo tribal education officer Richard Subia discusses finds at the site with Neal McGinness.
Derek Edmonds
Derek Edmonds of California worked at the site throughout the week-long excavation.

Historians knew for a long time that Timber Hill was somewhere in the Marion County area near Caddo Lake, but exactly where was a mystery. In the 1990s Louisianan Claude McCrocklin set out to find it.

McCrocklin is a former cattle buyer from Shreveport (and World War II pilot and POW) who after retirement took up archeology as a hobby. He quickly became something of a legend at ferreting out sites, and by the 1990s he and a crew of volunteers had located several historical Indian villages near the Red River. One was a Coushatta village whose members had interacted often with the Timber Hill people, according to historians Dan Flores and Jacques Bagur. The two historians urged McCrocklin to try to find the Kadohadacho village as well. McCrocklin, for his part, was also eager to locate it. "To find one village and not the other," he wrote, "would give an incomplete picture of the two principal tribes in the area."

Early maps and historical records indicated that Timber Hill was probably in the vicinity of Jim's Bayou near the present Texas-Louisiana line. That information, combined with a passage in an account of the Freeman and Custis Expedition of 1806, gave McCrocklin a good clue about the site's whereabouts.

The Freeman and Custis Expedition along the Red River recorded that Chief Dehahuit and 40 of his warriors left their village (Timber Hill) on the morning of June 30 and arrived on the west side of the river opposite the Coushatta village about noon on the same day. Flores calculated that men on horseback traveling at a normal rate would cover approximately 20 miles in one morning. McCrocklin added three miles to approximate the additional distance across the river to the Coushatta village. He used a pair of dividers to measure off 23 miles on a modern map and then drew an arc with that radius west from the Coushatta village. The place where the arc crossed Jim's Bayou gave McCrocklin a general place to look.

McCrocklin and his helpers tramped through the pine forest there, but found nothing that could definitely be linked with Timber Hill.

Meanwhile, Bagur continued scouring old records and was finally rewarded with the discovery of two extremely helpful maps. In the Louisiana State Land Office, he found an 1839 map that shows an "Indian Village" immediately south of Jim's Bayou. And in the Texas General Land Office, Bagur found a map produced in 1842 after the U.S.-Republic of Texas boundary survey in 1841, which shows an "Old Indian Village" at the same spot as the "Indian Village" on the Louisiana map. By 1842 Timber Hill would have been deserted, or nearly so, and thus termed an "old" Indian village. Both maps depicted the same small tributary of Jim's Bayou and a distinctive bend of the creek just below the village location. What's more, this "Old Indian Village" was in approximately the same area as the spot McCrocklin pinpointed with his arc.

"It was then just a matter of going and confirming the location of the Kadohadacho village," McCrocklin explained. "Beginning at the loop in the creek and moving eastward, we checked favorable habitation locales until the village components were found." The artifacts he collected were of the right age to be from a village inhabited ca. 1800-1840. Most numerous were items of American or European origin—cast iron and brass cookware, fragments of "china" and bottle glass, a spigot cock, pieces of knives and spoons, gun parts, "square" nails, and even an umbrella part. But the most conclusive evidence of a Native American presence at the site was a conical brass arrowpoint of a type commonly manufactured by historical tribes.

Chances were excellent that Timber Hill had finally been located.

Preparations for a Homecoming

After hearing of the discovery, officials from the city of Jefferson, about 15 miles from Timber Hill, got in touch with the Texas Historical Commission (THC) and offered to sponsor testing to confirm that the site was indeed the Kadohadacho village. Excavations were scheduled for February 1999. The city would pay the hard costs, the THC would provide salaries for the archeologists, and other labor would be supplied by volunteers. Due to the press of other duties, only six days of excavation were scheduled. That might be enough, however, to confirm archeologically, and once and for all, that the site was the long-sought settlement.

Dr. James Bruseth, director of the THC's Archeology Division, was to be general supervisor of the project, and THC East Texas Regional Archeologist Mark Parsons would direct the field operations.

A call for volunteers went out, drawing members of the THC's Texas Archeological Stewardship Network, a group of trained avocational archeologists, and other volunteers. A special invitation was extended to the Caddos in Oklahoma to join in the effort. Cecile Carter (Caddo historian), Richard Subia (tribal education officer), Abraham Pedro, and Derek Edmonds were among those who shoveled and troweled the soil side-by-side with the archeologists. Tribal Chair Vernon Hunter, Stacy Halfmoon, Bobby Gonzales, and Brien Haumpo had already visited the site soon after it had been discovered. All are probably descendants of the Timber Hill people, according to Cecile Carter. As far as anyone knows, it was the first time Caddos had returned to the last place in their ancestral land they had called home.


Claude McCrocklin
Claude McCrocklin, the avocational archeologist who located the site, shown at work with a map. Photo by Mark Armstrong.

Click images to enlarge  

 

1839 Louisiana map
Historian Jacques Bagur located an 1839 map from the Louisiana State Land office showing an Indian Village (circular pattern at top, center) just south of Jim's Bayou. (Click to enlarge.) Map courtesy of Louisiana State Land Office, Division of Administration, Baton Rouge.
map location of Timber Hill
Location of Sha'chahdínnih shown in relation to previously discovered village sites. (Click to see full image.)
excavations
Archeologists focused excavations on a ridge top believed to have been the site of a small hamlet or farmstead. On private land, the area today is used for timber production.
Abraham Pedro and Cecile Elkins Carter
Abraham Pedro, an Arapaho with Caddo connections, and Caddo historian Cecile Elkins Carter take a break from excavations. The two were among a number of Native Americans who came together to work at the site. According to Carter, all are probably descendants of the Timber Hill people.
Brien Haumpo
Brien Haumpo, who traveled from Oklahoma to visit the site, hopes archeology can help restore the nearly forgotten past of his Caddo ancestors. Photo by Russ Bronson, courtesy The Dallas Morning News.