Batesville site could be included in Mounds Trail 8/9/2013

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 9, 2013

Batesville site could be included in Mounds Trail

By John Howell Sr.

Amateur historian John Nelson III, speaking to the city’s mayor and aldermen on Tuesday, outlined steps to develop the Harmon Mounds on Highway 35 into a visitor attraction that could ultimately lead to the construction of a museum building near the site.

Nelson serves as spokesman for a committee formed by the Panola County Genealogical and Historical Society (Pan Gens) to help develop a museum. The Harmon Mounds were built near the banks of the Tallahatchie River by Indians of the Woodland Period who lived in the area prior to the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes who inhabited north Mississippi at the time of its first visitation by Europeans.

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“We think this would be a great thing for the county,” Nelson said. “I want to emphasize that it doesn’t take that much to get the project up and running.”

Nelson named two recent developments that favor timely improvements at the Batesville site. The first is the establishment of the Mississippi Mounds Trail by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH), a project to place interpretive roadside markers identifying sites of archeological significance along 350 miles of highway in the state.

Mississippi Mounds Trail
“Something like the Mississippi Blues Trail where there will be historical plaques to guide people to where these things are,” Nelson said.

“The good thing about our mounds is that we don’t have to do anything to get on that trail because the documentation has taken place,” he continued. Nelson cited archeological surveys in 1906, 1918 and again in 1992. “We don’t have to do anything to prove that we have historical mounds here.”

The second recent development favoring the project, Nelson told city officials, has been an encouraging reception by the MDAH.

“I would love to add the site to the Mississippi Mounds Trail,” MDAH Chief Archeologist for Historic Preservation Pamela Lieb wrote in an e-mail to Nelson. “In fact, the Batesville Mounds are some of the most pristine in the state.

“I think the Batesville Mounds could quite possibly be the most visited in the state eventually, given its location next to I-55 and Ole Miss,” Lieb added.

Site owned by IDA
Other factors that could facilitate access to the mounds area ownership by the Panola Industrial Development Authority, part of the tract purchased in the late 1980s to develop the W. M. Harmon Industrial Park. However, the 35-acre portion on the north side of the railroad track is protected, “so that land would be available to someone who would develop the mound area,” Nelson said.

“We’re talking about a long-term project,” the amateur historian continued, that develop the mounds area and ultimately lead to the construction of a museum near the site.”

“’Having a museum there is a wonderful idea as well,’” Nelson said, quoting the statement from the MDAH Chief Archeologist. “’We would love to be a part of this project and assist you in any way possible,’” the archeologist continued.

Initial stages not costly
“We all know that doing that would be an expensive proposition, Nelson told the mayor and aldermen. “The good thing about it is that this can be approached in stages, and the initial stages are not that costly,” Nelson said, “but these initial stages could possibly right away start bringing people into Batesville.

“The way to get started is to get on the Mississippi Mounds Trail, and that should be no problem,” he said.

“We could start cleaning up the site out there, removing underbrush. Once we get on the Trail, we could have a marker somewhere on (Hwy.) 35 in a pullover place,” Nelson continued, “but that is going to happen before we have any access into the mound area itself , so we could perhaps look at how some clearing, some removal of trees might allow people who come here for the trail to at least see the mounds.

Nelson recalled that in the early 1960s, the mounds were visible from Highway 35.

Diversified former uses
“When I was in high school, you drive along there and you could see the mounds,” Alderman Bill Dugger said. “Most people haven’t seen it.”

“Surely we can get with somebody and start to clean it up where they can be seen, and probably interest will grow from there,” Dugger said.

We’ve got something big there, and it’s covered up with brush.”

Another alderman said that during his high school days, “we used to ride motorcycles out there.”
Yet another alderman said that during his high school days, the road leading into the mounds area served as a popular “Lover’s Lane.”

(Coming Tuesday: Who were those people? The Indians of the Woodlands period?)