NATIVE AMERICAN BURIAL SITE
At the intersection of Franklin Street and Industrial Highway
In the year 1859 in this community of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, a work crew was clearing a field along the banks of the Schuylkill River, an area that would have traditionally been part of the wide-ranging hunting/fishing lands of the Lenni-Lenape people, when they unearthed the remains of a Native American along with artifacts that were probably meant to help him along his path in the afterworld. These included a flint lock rifle along with items of shelter, hunting and food preparation. Seven years later a homeowner in the same area discovered similar artifacts and a skull in the basement of his property. Over a period of approximately twelve years similar remains and artifacts were uncovered in this location. They were put on display at the local Library for a time but eventually all of the remains and artifacts were either misplaced, lost, stolen, sold or simply disposed of. There is no known record of this loss and the only known record of the findings were few news articles that have survived from that time.
In the year 2000, under the leadership and encouragement of Pottstown Borough Mayor Nancy, (Ann), Jones, the borough erected a memorial commemorating these findings on a parcel of land located at the intersection of Franklin Street and the Industrial Highway, near the location of the removal of the sacred remains. The property was donated to the Borough by the O’Connor family, (owners of Humphrey’s Flag Company), and on May 6, 2000, the community gathered to dedicate and honor the memory of the souls once laid to rest near this location. The site consists of a Sonorous Boulder, (a ringing rock), relocated from a nearby glacial field, known as Ringing Rocks Park, in Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania, marked with a plaque stating that “In this vicinity in the year 1859 Borough workers unearthed a Native American Burial Ground. IN THEIR MEMORY WE DEDICATE THIS SITE. MAY 6, 2000”. Unfortunately, the maintenance and care of this site was neglected over time and its message lost to all but a few individuals.
In 2010 a young man by the name of Michael Yacovelli, (Guyer), encouraged by a local resident who occasionally cleared the site of debris and weeds, took to improve the site for his Eagle Scout project. A pergola and bench were designed, built, stained, and erected as well as plantings native to the area. Unfortunately the plants have not survived as they were intended to be represented and the site went untended again.
In 2012, I began a personal effort to clean up the site by clearing the overgrown area of weeds and trash. In October 2013, during a “Pottstown Cares Cleanup” campaign, Mayor Bonnie Heath and I were cleaning the area around the burial site, when she suggested that a PowWow in Pottstown might be a good way to bring attention to the site and help create interest in its appearance. Council offered their support for this effort and I enlisted the support of Pat, (Star), Harbach and her brother, Joe Camaho, to help plan the powwow. In an effort to create a new awareness of our vision for the site, with the help of our police chief and other volunteers, we were able to prepare the memorial for an official re-dedication on May 3, 2014, preceding our First Annual PowWow on Manatawny Creek.
Since that time, with the assistance of friends and neighbors, we have been able to keep the site neat and inviting to the community and visitors. We have held story-telling events and the site has become a landmark for anyone interested in finding out a little bit about our indigenous past. We have been able to light up the site for a short period in the evenings with a small solar light, but it would be nice if we could improve on that and some other items:
These are some thoughts on improving the site:
The inclusion of more appropriate indigenous plants. There are a number of plants that have been recommended to be planted here and I believe that it would be helpful to prepare signage along with any plantings in order to make this garden a learning location as well as a place of solace, I have built a raised garden box for an annual “Three Sisters” planting, (Corn, Squash and Beans), and we are looking forward to placing a few more raised beds that the Mosaic Land Trust has offered to help with, but the lack of access to a water source is an impediment. For the time being, I lug containers of water to the site throughout the growing season.
The Pottstown Police Association generously donated and set up sitting benches at the site, and I am hopeful that we can build a story-telling seating circle in addition to this, (possibly large boulders or tree stumps).
I intend to have a carved wood sculpture installed at the sight and one of our Borough Councilmen has indicated a willingness to contribute toward that effort. I would also like to place examples of Native American Petroglyphs in areas around the gardens, with signage about these records from the past and the stories they may have told. There is also a plan to create a tiled wall representing a wampum belt to enhance the educational aspect of the site as well.
I have also discussed the idea of placing a symbolic Medicine Circle at the front of the Memorial Stone.. There are a number of variations that can be reflected here, but the idea here is that it would be a place of learning and would have signage explaining its purpose.
This is my hope…it is my vision