TONCAHUA INDIAN VILLAGE
Record of excavations and observations made of a Indian village on the Doc Hiller farm. From historical data the site has been established as a village of the Toncahua Indians who were found living there during the later part of the seventeenth century.
How the Site Was Discovered
Excavation Work Done by Dr. A. M. Woolsey
Summary and My Opinion
HOW THE SITE WAS DISCOVERED
This Indian village first came to the authors notice in 1922-23 while attending bar-b-que's and picnics being given by the Victoria Fire Department and for local candidates for county offices etc. The site then was known as Hiller's Mott because of the many trees there which covered an area of about one half acre on the south slope of a hill or ridge.
Attending one of these picnics one day in 1922, I found all places at the two long eating tables taken and along with several others we repaired to a place in the mott where Mr. Hiller had been removing the dirt for use in gardens and flower beds in Victoria. He sold the dirt by the wagon loads for yard dirt and fill, it being of a dark, rich, sandy loam. While thus occupied with my victuals, I chanced to notice a bone, partly exposed out of the ground. I pulled the bone out and remarked that it was a arm bone out of a human being. Sure it is a human bone says a Mr. Floyd Moore. Doc (Hiller) has scattered these Indians all over town (Victoria). Wherever Doc unloads this dirt, the people are always finding human bones, flint chipping, and sometimes arrowheads. Mr. Ed Dunlap found part of a skull in his mothers flower bed and she had him go and rebury it. Looking further around where the dirt had been taken away, I noticed lots of flint flakes, skull, and more bones, some animal and some human. I decided to look the whole area over.
Now in those days, the Volstead Act (prohibition) was in full force, but despite this fact, four or five tubs of ice cold home brew was always on hand, also coffee and cold soda water. I like a good cold glass of beer with my bar-b-que as well as anybody, but at a picnic out at this same place once, I opened a bottle of this home brew [that] was put up in a used brown Bevo bottle, and as I poured it out into a glass a cockroach came out with it. I could never drink any more home brew after that.
I got a cold bottle of root beer and started out on my inspection of the Indian camp or village. On this surface inspection I found pottery, arrowheads, sea shells, animal bones, flint chipping from stone implements, tools etc. which the Indians had made. I [also] found that the site covered about 5 or 6 acres plus the burial ground where the picnics were held in this 6 acre area. On the northern slope and on the top of this hill or ridge, the whole being overgrown with mesquite and huisache brush, I located a very old foundation of a building made of sandstone. There was a part of this old foundation above the ground about one and a half foot. Indian pottery could be gathered up by the hand fulls. With this cursory inspection I was convinced that the location was in fact the site of a large Indian village. I made up my mind to further explore and excavate the site. However, it was eight years later (1930) before I got around to do[ing] some work on the site. This [document] has reference to only one tribe, the Toncahua Indians, who were found living in this area and along the Guadalupe River by the Spaniards in 1689. (Footnote) The writer has examined many works pertaining to Texas Indians and certain historical data in reference to the Toncahua have been found. Those incidents and the historical notes have been given a place in this work.
It was in June 1930, that I went to the Indian village on the Doc Hiller place. I had also been told that the high bluff was known for many years as the Toncahua Bank and that the Toncahua Indians were living there when Martin De Leon founded Victoria in 1824, so I named the site the Toncahua Village. My first work was to again give the site a real good surface inspection, locate area for test excavations and test holes and make a map drawing of the whole site. [DRAWING] This inspection brought to light many things. I collected fragments of Indian pottery, some Spanish and Mexican ware and some of Anglo-American make. Stone arrowheads were also found partly buried in the ground and a large stone grinder (mano) near the burial ground on the south slope and between burial ground and the river. Near the top of the hill on the surface was found a volcanic rock metate of Mexican origin, very crudely made. [DRAWING] I made 2 test holes 2 feet deep x 2 feet wide, one near the burial ground and one 300 feet from the river and on top of the hill.
From this inspection of the site, I found that at least four different races of people with different cultures had at one time or other lived at this location; namely, the original aborigines, native Indians, the Spaniards, who lived there or worked with them, Mexicans from Mexico who came with the Spaniards or to settle in Texas during Spanish Colonial times and Anglo-Americans, who were the last to occupy the site. This all being determined by the artifacts found there on the surface and in test holes through the various layers of kitchen midden, refuse, etc. I decided to run a trench 2 feet wide from east to west on the south slope and just above the excavations made by Mr. Hiller in his yard dirt hauling operations. Accordingly, I began back at where I found subsoil or undisturbed ground. As I worked west and into the midden the trench got deeper. [DRAWING] As I advanced along cutting this trench I began to run into some flint flakes (chipping), shell and other rubbish such as burned rock, ashes, etc. This rubbish continued through to the 2 foot depth and was the same as above, except that now I was cutting into lots of bones very much decomposed. Some of the bones were human bones and they fell all to pieces when exposed to air and light. These bones were generally 1 ½ foot below surface. Midden was all [the] way down to the 2 foot depth. At 1 3/4 feet below surface, I found my first arrowhead in this trench. [DRAWING] This arrowhead was broken, the blade most entirely gone, but it had a good contracting stem and base. I was able to note by the characteristic of the point that it was of a type used long before Christ (B. C.). I have no idea as to when these types of projectile points were discontinued [but] that they are pre-historic is beyond question. From surface to depth of 2 ½ feet was nothing but mussel shell, flint chipping, bones, burned rocks and such rubbish. I cut my trench 5 feet further west and was about near the center of the midden area and was down 3 feet. At the 2 ½ foot depth and 1 foot from the surface, I made my best find in this excavation, a stone awl. [DRAWING] Also, at 1 foot from surface in [the] same area as the awl, some very crude potsherds were found. The first in 24 foot of trench in this midden. No pottery was found below the 1 foot level. The pottery was of the terra-cotta type, not fired or glazed. At 2 3/4 feet depth from surface, I located a burial, but like the other bones, this burial was in a bad condition and began to disintegrate before I could work around it and brush it out. From the pile of bones, I judged the burial to be a flexed burial and very old. With no pottery below the one foot level, one very pre-historic arrowhead, a kitchen midden 3 feet deep and with no sign of historic habitation below the one foot level all indicated to me that this was a very old Indian village or at least the part that I was working was pre-historic. Leaving the south slope of the hill, I made some good finds on the top of the hill, about 1 foot and 6 to 8 inches from the surface, however, I ran into trouble here. Mexicans and Anglos had occupied the site after the Indians had left and I did as much discarding this modern refuse as I did trying to locate something that was of pure Indian manufacture and use. I knew it was there and after scraping away the refuse and rubbish on the surface that was left there by the Mexicans and Anglos, from 4 inches to a depth of 1 foot, the Indian midden showed up in a good quantity. These excavations on the top of the hill was made where I first dug my test holes. [DRAWING] In the excavation at test hole No 1 was round darts, arrowheads and scrapers. Most were broken (See DRAWING for various types of darts and arrowheads and also for stone scrapers and other implements). Also found here was a mano 7 inches below the surface and was very peculiar as it had a groove cut on both sides and a worn groove around a knob on top. The mano itself was made from a natural shaped rock or gravel from a river bed. There was much pottery found here above ground or on the surface. I should say and in the midden from 4 inches to 12 inches below the surface. I think this is a very significant point to remember when this survey is completed and the age or approximate age of site is estimated as there was only a very few small potsherds found near the burial grounds on the south slope of the hill where I had cut a 24 foot trench 2 feet wide to a depth of 3 feet through kitchen midden. Also the pottery found was of a much better grade than that found on the south slope. I am going to contend that the original aborigines who lived here was very primitive and did not know how to make pottery and that the tribe of Indians occupying this site when found by the Spaniards in 1689 was a later tribe and that they had been living here for several hundred years prior to 1689. (In that year and after they were named and called Toncahua by the Spaniards and of course from that date, 1689, they became well known and were visited by white people. We have a fairly good historical record of them).
I think it would be in order here to describe and say more about these potsherds found here and in fact all over the top of this hill. Most of the pottery was terra-cotta type. Some glazed and some not, but all was well made. The clay used was easily obtainable on the north side of the hill or ridge and was mixed with what appeared to be a very fine grained sand. The pottery was full of very small white specks. This did not appear to be a flaw in the material used but was a part of the mixture. All showed use as the peaces [sic] were all blackened by fire. The color was mostly a light brown or tan and gray. Some of the potsherds showed decorations along the top edges or rims of the same type or kind as used by the Indians of New Mexico. These decorations were black and were on straight even spaced lines. This seems to indicate a trade or intercourse with other tribes, but by far, the most pottery was undecorated and was made right here. Another class of pottery found here on the top of this hill was of distinctly European make. Most of this pottery or ware was found on the surface and from 2 to 3 inches below surface among the midden refuse. It is not what we call chinaware. It is glazed and the texture appears soft and does not have a slick fine feeling to the hand. [It] is a decorated type with a blue design and is definitely not modern. My contention is that the pottery or ware are Spanish in origin and was gotten hold of some way by the Toncahuas after the Spaniards began to build forts and missions in Texas.
All of the artifacts shown [in the drawings] were found at this Toncahua village site on the surface or below the surface from 2 inches to 2 3/4 feet except the spear point. [DRAWING]
This point was found on the Felix De Leon Ranch about 7 miles up the river (Guadalupe River) on the west side at a place where the aborigines made or roughed out flintstones. The area is a long ridge covering about 10 or 12 acres of ground. These chipping and broken flint stones are very plentiful on the surface and below surface for a depth of 2 to 8 inches. The flint is white. (I have some of the chipping or flakes of this type of flint along with this spear point) It is peculiar, as this type or kind of flint stones are not found to be very plentiful in this area except in this one spot.
Campsites and their locations adjacent to this Indian village and belonging to the same family clans are shown and also shown for the record, is a drawing or map showing roads and lanes to the location of the village as it was in 1930. [DRAWING]
Before closing this part of this survey, I wish to call attention to a few more sites. These are habitations I believe of the various family clans as the middens are only about 1 foot in depth and are not large in area, showing I think, only a few Indians lived there. There are 10 or more of them along the Guadalupe River between Victoria and the upper end of Mission Valley, above the town of Nursery, Texas and there are several sites below town on both sides of the river to a distance of 7 or 8 miles. I have run test trenches in a few of these and they will be taken up at another time. One very old campsite is located in the city limits of Victoria. As the campsite middens show the same kind of pottery, projectile points and refuse, etc. this leads me to believe that they were all Toncahua and were connected with the main village in this area located at the Toncahua Bank on the Doc Hiller farm above town. Another noticeable fact is that all of these campsites show but very few seashells which would indicate. I believe, that these Indians did not eat or could not get but very little salt water fish or oysters. It could be that they were kept away from bays by the hostile tribes that lived along the coast, though the coast was only about thirty miles away.
The campsite within the city of Victoria is located in the 300 block of W. Second St. on the east bank of the Guadalupe River and at the rear of the Anchor Lumber Yard. The kitchen midden is 2 to 3 feet in depth and full of rubbish and refuse from top to bottom. From the size and depth of midden it appears that this campsite had been in use for several hundred years or more before historical times. There are dwellings on it now and I was only allowed to sink a test hole 1 foot in diameter near the front porch of the dwelling that appeared to be near the center of the site to a depth of 2 feet. At this depth, I had not got to the bottom of the midden. Bones of all kinds of animals, flint chips, burned rock, mussel shells, etc. was all the way down. No pottery was found which is another reason that I believe this site to be very old.
The up river campsites are listed as follows. One on Spring Creek, about a mile from main village on southeast side of the creek, west side of Cuero Road on the Hiller place. [DRAWING]
The site on the Rosenquest farm and on the west side of Spring Creek is one mile further up the creek. Surface inspections of these two sites produced the same kind of flake-based drills, hide scrapers, flint chips and pottery as were found at the main village. The next campsite up river is located on the Manley Williams Ranch about 300 yards from this ranch house. It is about 400 yards from the river on a small knoll overlooking the low river bottom lands and on the east side of river. A campsite on the Jesse Adcock farm, west side of river. A campsite on the Johnston farm, west side of river and a campsite on the Felix De Leon Ranch, just below the Mexican cemetery. Note...this Mexican cemetery was layed [sic] out by the DeLeon's for the use of the Mexican laborers that was employed by the DeLeon's early in the 19th century. On the adjoining De Leon farm is another campsite but it appears to have been used only while making or roughing out flints. This is the location where the white flint spear point was found. Another campsite on the Hausmann farm, west side of river and about 100 yards from the river. This site is in a field. Arrowheads can be found here after a hard rain over a very large area. This does not indicate a large encampment as the plowing has scattered the artifacts and other refuse of the campsite. The next campsite also on the west side of the river is on the Quincy Davidson Ranch and near the old Spanish Mission, which is also on the Davidson Ranch. Just south of these old mission ruins, the kitchen midden is 8 inches to 1 foot in depth. Here on the surface was found pottery of Indian make and also pottery of Spanish make, glazed and with the same blue design as that found at the main village at the Toncahua Bank. I also found arrowheads [and] scrapers, all flake based and much flint chipping, animal bones , etc. I want to come back to this site and do some digging as I think this whole site, mission and all should be looked into and a record made before the whole is lost. The last campsite, but by far not the least in importance, is located on the east side of the river at the upper end of Mission Valley. It and just across the river at a place where the Spaniards had undertaken to dam the river for irrigation of the lower valley. This was a tremendous undertaking and was never finished by them. The campsite does not show by the midden depth to have been long occupied. The same kind of pottery and flint chipping were found at this site. I counted 4 very distinct places where their cooking fires were. Mussel shells, bones and burned rock were plainly visible on the surface at each fire spot. The old dam and campsite is just below where Price's Creek flows into the Guadalupe River.
Now before I sum up and evaluate my finding at this old Indian village and burial grounds, I think it would be in order here to state that I thought it would be wise to show this village and two other sites close by which were only kitchen midden campsites to a credible archeologist. I had been for some time reporting my findings in Victoria County to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D. C., sending them artifacts, notes, drawings, etc. Now it chanced while doing some archeological explorations south of Victoria on a site that I suspected of being a mound made by the Mound Builders, that I needed an archeologist and I wrote to Smithsonian for information as to how best to explore the mound and if possible to send an archeologist. They gave me the information wanted and assured me that an archeologist would be sent here accordingly. On the 24th of April, 1931, Dr. Frank M. Setzler, one of the best archeologists in the U. S. and representing the Smithsonian, came to Victoria to visit and work with me on some of my problems and it was while he was here that I showed him the Toncahua Village. We inspected and went over this Toncahua Village thoroughly. First on the south slope (burial ground area), then on the top of the hill, the north slope which was very steep [and] this bluff at the river. In fact the whole area was inspected. With this and the historical data on the Toncahua together with the artifacts found there, we agreed that the site had two different habitations in times past and that it took several hundred years for the midden to accumulate to the depth found on the top of the hill and a much longer time for the midden on the south slope (burial ground one). However, much more excavation work would necessarily have to be done in order to come nearer to exact dates of habitation of the pre-historic Indians who first occupied the site.
Dr. J. E. Pearce, curator of the Texas University Museum
at Austin, had by this time heard of my work in Victoria County and early in
1932, he came to Victoria and I again with Dr. Pearce went over this Indian
village and showed him ten or fifteen more campsites and one mound in Victoria
County. Dr. Pearce was very much interested in this whole area and stated that
a lot of work should be done here before all trace of the aborigines would be
forever lost to us. He also promised if possible to do some work in this area
in the summer months just ahead. Later on in 1932 he sent here a Dr. Arthur
M. Woolsey from the Department of Anthropology , Texas
University and a few students who were working their way through college to
do some research work on the various campsites and mound that I had shown to
Dr. Pearce early in the year.
EXCAVATION WORK DONE BY DR. A. M. WOOLSEY
Dr. Woolsey had the boys dig a trench in the midden on the south slope (burial ground area) running south and north and intersecting the trench which I had dug in 1930. Dr. Woolsey's crew did not find any burials. This was caused by the fact that he would not excavate where I showed him were burials. However, in the middens a few artifacts (arrowheads and flint chipping) were found mixed with bones, mussel shells, fire cracked rock, etc. Not finding any burials was a disappointment to Dr. Woolsey and it appeared to me that he was more interested in bones, particularly skulls than any other kind of material, artifacts usually found in a n Indian kitchen midden. What was of particular interest to me and also to Dr. Setzler was the kitchen midden on the top of the hill which contained much pottery (sherds). But I was unable to get Dr. Woolsey interested in this part of the Indian village. Notwithstanding the fact that he had all of the field notes, drawings, etc. that I had made of the site and which I had loaned to Dr. Pearce when he was in Victoria a few months previous. For the record, I want to say here that Dr. A. M. Woolsey was an anthropologist and that he knows the anatomy of man. The identification of bones with him was as simple and easy as if it was his second nature, but he was also contrary to a degree which I called bull headed. Dr. Pearce had ask[ed] me to cooperate with Dr. Woolsey, introduce him to the property owners on whose land the campsites were located, show him the most promising locations to excavate etc. and to help in the work if I could find the time to do so. This I was trying to do but always leaving the decision as to where to excavate up to Dr. Woolsey.
I had a few weeks before he came to work on this Toncahua Village a disagreement
with him on the original height of a mound (Morhiss Mound) below Victoria. I
had began to have a feeling that he did not like to have me around as it appeared
to him that at all locations, I had been there first and had the most information.
This in a way was true. I had gone very thoroughly over this Toncahua village
site and had done so with one of the best archeologists in the U. S. but there
was still a lot of work to do here before a full evaluation of the site could
be made. It was quite different with Dr. Pearce. He was much interested in the
whole site and on the top of the hill where the most pottery was found. Dr.
Pearce appeared to be more familiar with pottery and also with the local history
of the Indians that lived in this area than did Dr. Woolsey. It was Dr. Pearce's
opinion that this was indeed at one time a very large village of the Toncahua
SUMMARY AND MY OPINION
First we have a considerable amount of historical data on the Toncahua Indians and this data and historical notes on these Indians will be put together at another time and reference to this village will necessarily have to be made. (See footnote Sandstone Foundations) As I read the record [on] excavating the site it appears that the Toncahua's was not the first to occupy this site. There was evidence that this campsite had been used for several hundred years prior to the time the Toncahuas came to settle down here. [DRAWING] Where I dug the 24 foot trench through the 3 foot deep kitchen midden and often referred to as the burial ground you will note that there was absent at the lower levels of this midden the type of artifacts found at the upper top stratum such as fragments of pottery which was plentiful at test holes made on the top of the hill or ridge and where the kitchen midden was only about 1 foot in depth. From historical data on the Toncahuas they at one time was a great nation of people controlling a very large part of Central Texas and were allied with the East Texas Indians and it is certain that they knew how and made their own earthen ware (pottery) and were a sedentary tribe. This all leads me to the conclusion that Indians other than the Toncahuas first inhabited this site. Now it is possible that the original people that lived here on the south slope of the hill or ridge were of Coahuiltecan stock, Indians considered as of a low cultural status and had been pushed further south and southwest where they were found living by the early explorers. The site could of been used by the descendants of the Mound Builders who inhabited the Guadalupe River bottom lands south of Victoria Texas and who was probably the first inhabitants of Victoria County. Two of their works (mounds) leaves no doubt of their having lived in the county. One mound is 6 miles south of town and on the east side of the river. The other one is located on the west bank and is about 16 miles south of town (Victoria).
Now as to the arrowhead [DRAWING] being of a type of projectile point used before Christ (B. C.), does not mean that this particular point was made before Christ (B. C.), but that the design in the arrowheads are generally thought to have been discontinued in America about one thousand A. D. This and the fact that very little pottery was found on the south slope of the site leads me to believe this part of the village to be very old. The village covered at one time when the Toncahua occupied the site the whole hill or ridge and down the south slope and beyond the burial ground to the flat level land where they had their fields of corn [and] melons.
All of the various campsites from Victoria to the upper end of Mission Valley showed the same kind of stone projectile points, stone implements, pottery and food economy as did the village on the Toncahua Bank. This all indicates to me a very large tribe of Indians had been living in this area along the Guadalupe River before historic times and that they were the same Indians found by the Spaniards and named by them in 1689. Note...Historic times as usual in the whole narrative will mean after 1540 in this area.
J. Littlefield Jarratt
You will recall that I made mention of historical data on the Toncahua Indians. There has been much excavating and historical research work done along the Guadalupe River and the Garcitas Creek since 1930 by myself and others in relation to old Spanish forts and missions. In these explorations, the old sandstone foundation at the Toncahua Bank has become a important link in the chain of forts and missions that was established by the Spanish in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
1965/ J. L. Jarrett
-- Pearce, Dr. J. E
-- Setzler, Dr. Frank M.
-- Woolsey, Dr. Arthur M.
-- arrowheads, age of
-- flintstone, site
-- mano (stone grinder)
-- spear point
-- stone awl
-- Victoria (in city)
---- Adcock (Jesse) farm
---- Davidson (Quincy) Ranch
---- De Leon Farm
|--- De Leon (Felix) Ranch
---- Hausmann farm
---- Johnston farm
---- Mission Valley
---- Rosenquest farm
---- Spring Creek
---- Williams (Manley) Ranch
cultures, 4 inhabiting area
-- earlier than Toncahua):
---- Coahuiltecan Indians
---- Mound Builders
-- Hiller, Doc
-- Dunlap, Ed
-- Moore, Floyd
-- 1922 inspection
-- 1930 excavation
-- map, with adjacent campsites