Man Mound Park, about four miles NE of Baraboo on Man Mound Road, was dedicated by the Sauk County Historical Society, the Wisconsin Archeological Society, and the Wis. Federation of Women's Clubs in 1908. The park encompasses a mound of earth in the form of a man, measuring 214 feet by 48 feet. Long before the white man came to the Midwest, indeed, long before Columbus discovered America, these Effigy Mound Builders were creating their ceremonial and burial mounds in southern Wisconsin and nearby states. At one time over 900 mounds existed in Sauk County alone. Most, over 75%, have subsequently been plowed under, erased by floods and destroyed by looters or construction. One early Honey Creek farmer noted that, "we were rather irked by the large number of Indian mounds we had to plow down. There must have been at least 25 on our landů.Some were shaped like animals and some like birds, and all were from three to five feet high...I suppose we should not have destroyed them. But they were then regarded merely as obstacles to cultivation, and everybody plowed them down." There are three basic forms of mounds: Conical, usually incorporating family burials; flat-topped or platform-shaped, constructed for chiefly homes or ceremonial purposes; and effigy mounds in the form of animals, which may represented various clans and lineages. Others have speculated that they may also have had religious significance or acted as guardians of the village.
Dedication of Man Mound Park in 1908
The Effigy Mound Builders began plying their skills as early as 300 AD, and continued the practice until around 1400 AD when they either abandoned the practice or were assimilated into other Native American cultures. They subsisted primarily by hunting, fishing, and gathering wild vegetables and berries. Few of these early cultures farmed. William H. Canfield first surveyed the Man Mound in 1859. At the time, it was one of only two man-shaped mounds in the state. In 1905, H.E. Cole, local historian and photographer, and A.B. Stout, science teacher at Baraboo High School, were conducting an archeological survey of area mounds, and the Man Mound in particular. They soon learned that the owner of the property was about to commit the property to the plow! The two men launched an immediate appeal to the Wisconsin Archaeological Society and the Sauk County Historical Society in an effort to obtain the grounds upon which the mound was situated. A committee was formed and a movement organized to raise $225 to purchase the property. Among those on the committee, were H.E. Cole and Jacob Van Orden (banker and owner of the home where the SCHS museum is now located). Donations of small amounts between $1 and $15 were suggested so that many more people could participate in the acquisition. The Wis. Federation of Women's Clubs and the Wis. Archeological Society also helped procure funds. By the end of 1907, the money had been raised and the property purchased. Cole immediately began clearing the land of vines and brush, seeding grass, setting boundaries and installing hitching posts. Jacob Van Orden donated a plaque (designed by Ferry & Clas of Milwaukee) commemorating the mound's discovery and preservation.
Man Mound Park Today
On Aug. 8, 1908, a group of 200 assembled at the Warren Hotel, and proceeded to the site of Man Mound Park to dedicate the land and the marker. "...Vehicles of every description being in waiting and the trip through the picturesque county began", noted a reporter. "A cloud of choking dust enveloped the queue of travelers as they traveled to the site over the dirt roads in their open-air autos and horse-drawn carriages." John M. True, of Baraboo, spoke to those assembled. "We are pleased to note the increasing interest that is being manifested in the discovery and preservation of this class of relics of a people long since forgotten, of which the Man Mound is considered of the greatest interest and importance of all of Wisconsin's celebrated emblematic earthworks." Man Mound was partially destroyed in the early part of the last century when the lower parts of its legs were excised during road construction. The Sauk County Historical Society is the current owner of Man Mound.
Man Mound April 26, 2014
The above photo shows the Man Mound after the Spring burnoff. The legs have been recreated here. They were destroyed in the 1800s when the road was put in.
from the tips of his horns to the soles of his feet.
But in 1907 they cut him off at the shins to build the road
called in his honor Man Mound Road. Green amputee,
his horns point north, uphill; once he walked west
with the sun. On this cicada-heavy afternoon, though,
sleep lies lightly enough upon him; when the wind rises,
he drowsily flexes his rippling green muscles for me.
The story goes that once long ago a buffalo bull
rose from the waters of Devil's Lake. He changed
his shape to a man's, and they named him Red Horn,
because he killed monsters, of which there were plenty
back then. He took a human wife. Then, having
fathered the Buffalo Clan, he stretched himself out
on this bellied hill, and sank into earthwork and dream.
I lie down on his chest, and soon find myself embraced
by furry green arms. Waking, I note that, due
to the curve of the slope where he sleeps, there's
only one way you can see his whole lanky body at once:
by standing, of course, within the arch of those horns.
Across the name-bearing road, cows stare
and dream green bovid dreams.
While strolling alongside the huge figure, one can only marvel at the patience and diligence of these primitive peoples. Earth in immense quantities was carried and packed into shape. Taking into account the natural settling of the earth over the centuries, one can only guess at how high the mound must have been originally In all probability, the earth was carried to the site in baskets, and the labor must have taken the entire work of the tribe for weeks, even months, to make a figure of such proportions Most of the mounds found are nowhere so large, leading to the supposition that the Man Mound was the effigy of a far more powerful God than the others.