Bill Gartner recounts the ancient history of the Garden Beds
The Story Begins
Raised mounds garden beds -- October 2008
Hulburt Creek Gardens
* Most raised field sites (ca 85%) have been destroyed by modern land-use.
* The Hulburt Creek fields are the oldest radiocarbon dated ridged fields in the Upper Midwest or Western Great Lakes regions (ca 1000 AD)
* The fields date to a time of pronounced culture change (Late Woodland cultural diversification, Effigy Mound to Oneota transition, rise of Cahokia)
* The surviving remnants of the site are unusually well-preserved, particularly for a surface site.
* The relief here, as measured from planting surface to ditch bottom, is among the most pronounced of any surviving Pre-Columbian field systems in Eastern North America.
* The soil stratigraphy at Hulburt Creek includes the pre-agricultural surface of the ground, buried ditches, and buried planting surfaces. (The latter two features document rebuilding episodes). There are also earth ovens at the site. The features listed above provide a unique opportunity to understand the construction and use of Pre-Columbian field systems.
* Soil analyses indicate that the fields improved cultivating conditions in a variety of ways including improved fertility and tilth, water drainage near the planting surface, water storage near the base of the bed.
* The site has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Technically, its an archaeological district).
* The Hulburt Creek fields are part of pre-Columbian landscape in the greater Wisconsin Dells area that includes villages, trails, mounds, rock art sites, and other components. Most of this landscape has already been impacted in one way or another. This landscape is part of the heritage of Ho Chunk peoples and all who call Wisconsin home.
William G Gartner
455 Science Hall, Department of Geography University of Wisconsin-Madison 550 N Park St.
Madison, Wi 53706
Located on Co. Hwy H near Lake Delton -- October 2008
Clearing brush and undergrowth -- January 2009
The Society Receives the Hulbert Creek Garden Beds
December 31, 2008
Tucked away among the trees that line Birchwood Road near Highway H in the Town of Delton, and hiding under the winter’s soft blanket of snow are 1000-year-old garden beds, one of Sauk County’s best-kept historical secrets. At one time the garden beds, almost 200 acres of them, were home to a thriving Native American culture, with trails leading from the garden beds to places far into what today is Wisconsin. Corn, a companion plant of perhaps beans, and squash or pumpkins once flourished on these raised beds that long ago were constructed and managed by the toil of many. The building of County Highway H destroyed a large portion of this incredible cultural resource, but not all. The Sauk County Historical Society was made aware of the garden beds just last summer, and knew immediately that they must – somehow – be preserved.
Though the Hubert Creek Garden Beds were a new discovery for the Society, they had been studied extensively by Dr. William Gartner, of the University of Wisconsin - Madison, as the topic of his dissertation in the early 1990s. According to Dr. Gartner’s study, the Hulburt Creek fields are the oldest radiocarbon dated ridged fields in the Upper Midwest or Western Great Lakes regions (ca 1000 AD). At that time they also were placed on the National Register of Historic Places, after which they waited patiently to be rediscovered.
For years the land that carries the garden beds has been privately owned, and fortunately undeveloped. In late October 2008, landowner Bill Pierce offered to donate the garden bed land to the Sauk County Historical Society, setting into motion a flurry of activity. First the garden beds had to be located. Much to our surprise, two additional sections were discovered. Then the land had to be surveyed and a new parcel created, which subsequently needed approval by the Town of Delton and Sauk County. On December 30 the deed to the land holding three intact sections of the Hulburt Creek Garden Beds was transferred from Bill and Phyllis Pierce to the Sauk County Historical Society. Efforts to attach an archeological covenant to the deed to protect the land as an archeological site in perpetuity are in motion. Long-range plans are for the land to become an educational site for area schools, the University of Wisconsin, and of course, the public at large.
Special thanks are extended to the Ho-Chunk Nation, Bill Wenzel of Orion Land Surveyors, LLC, Rob Roth of General Engineering, the Town of Delton Board of Supervisors, Rob Nurre, William Gartner, Beverly Vaillancourt and of course especially to Bill and Phyllis Pierce, whose generosity made this preservation effort possible.
Spring Cleanup Continues - March 2009
Clearing continues to prevent further distruction by trees and roots - March 2009
Clearing the Beds on a work day -- May 2009
A history lesson before clearing begins
Students from the Reedsburg and Black River Falls schools helped clear brush as the Ho-Chunk chipped the debris
Helping to remove brush from the beds
Creating a 21st Century garden bed
Metal Detecting on State Property
A letter recently received by the SCHS from Larry V. Garvin, Executive Director of the Ho-Chunk Nation concerns the use of metal detectors on public lands. The concern is that efforts are in place to change this policy. The Society is being asked by the Nation to assist in preventing this from happening and to ensure that existing laws protecting Native American artifacts are not changed and that these archaeological resources are not gathered by treasure hunters and sold. Current DNR policy limits metal detector use on DNR lands, except to recover personal items. Special interest groups have expressed opposition to this limited policy as an infringement to their ability to observe recreational rights to metal detect on state lands. Should you wish to become a part of this advocacy, you are asked to contact your local state legislator. To read the entire letter from Mr. Garvin, click here.