Preliminary Survey Report For the Brantwood Menhir Site in Price County, Wisconsin

Preliminary Survey Report For the Brantwood Menhir Site in Price County, Wisconsin


James P. Scherz Prof. Emeritus

Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering University of Wisconsin,

Madison 26 July, 2000


The so-called Brantwood Menhir Site consists of a large upright standing stone, locally called the Menhir, organized rocks, low and irregular earthen mounds, ditches, and deformed trees similar in shape to Indian Marker Trees. The site is located in the south half of Section 5, T35N, R3E, in Price Co., Wisconsin on land primarily owned by William Hoffman. However, the border between the SE¼ (Hoffman’s land) and SW¼ runs through the western part of the site. and some of the features are also in the western part of Section 5. Although there have been historical modifications in parts of the site, the presence of expected alignments to the rising sun at the summer solstice, equinoxes, and cross quarter days (once very important calendar dates to ancient people), supports the possibility that this site was an ancient ceremonial site used in the warm part of the solar calendar, with emphasis on the fall cross quarter day period, which we know as beginning at Halloween. And the presence of numerous and small earthen oblong mounds (similar in size and shape to mounds that can be found in historical Winnebago and Sauk grave yards in Wisconsin and Nebraska) suggest that this site was once used an a burial grounds by Native Americans. But the suspected burials have not yet been confirmed by ground penetrating radar from the Hochunk (Winnebago) Nation. And the presence of small deformed trees in the shape oflndian marker trees (similar to those found at other sites which are  apparently still part of Native American verbal traditions) suggests that the Brantwood Site was visited within our generation as a ceremonial site or a cemetery and that the graves of certain individuals were marked or “re-marked” by such trees within quite recent times.

The Field Surveys and the Maps:

Field surveys of the Brantwood site were done between April and July, A.D. 2000, by Bill Hoffman (landower of most of the site), and by Deon Sarkkinen, working under the supervision of James Scherz, retired professor from the Univ. of Wisc., Madison, Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering, where he specialized in surveying and map making. Directional control for such surveys was by use of sunshots (accurate to the nearest 0.01 deg.). Positions of selected survey points were determined by use of a total station borrowed form William Wenzel (professional land surveyor from Prairie Du Sac, Wisc.), and by use of a theodolite and the stadia method. The points located with the total station are considered accurate to the nearest 0.1 ft., and those by use of stadia to the nearest foot.

Details of the site (edges of mounds, individual rocks, etc.) were determined by stretching surveying tapes between the survey points and creating a grid related to the tape base line by use of level rods. Locations of the details in the field were transferred to field sketches on grid paper at a scale of 1 inch l 0 ft. or 1 inch = 20 ft. Positions of details are considered accurate to about the nearest foot when these details are near survey points and the tape. Errors can be as large as several feet for points at, say, 10 to 15 feet from the tape. When the field survey data was reduced in the lab, maps were created showing the position of the survey points at the appropriate scales. Then the details from the field sketches were transferred to the compilation maps on a light table.

The Location of the Site:

Figure 1 shows a portion of a USGS topo map covering the area of the site. Figures 2 and 2a show that the site is located at the watershed divide between waters that run into the

Chippewa River (and the Upper Mississippi) to the west, and the waters that run into the ancient travelways of the Ontonogan-Wisconsin river system to the east. Rain falling on the Brantwood Site drains to the Chippewa River and the Upper Mississippi to the west. Rain falling 1.5 miles to the east of the site drains to the Wisconsin River to the east.

Like the Summers Site near Timms Hill about 10 miles to the south (also shown in Figure 2a), the Brantwood Site is strategically located near natural borders of different watersheds, which in turn were often borders between different peoples. The state border between Wisconsin and Michigan at Watersmeet (north of Brantwood) was located there because Watersmeet was a portage area (about 1 mile long) between the waters of the Ontonogan River to the north and the Wisconsin River to the south. Figure 3 shows an old map highlighting waterways in the area, in days when the rivers were the equivalent of modem highways.

Maps From Our Field Surveys:

The field data from the Brantwood Site was compiled on a large sheet of grid paper, 36 by 48 inches in size, at a scale of 1 inch = 20 ft. All measurements for angles and distances are made from this larger map. However, such a large document is too cumbersome to make available to many people, so reduced versions are included in this report. Figure 4 shows a greatly reduced version of the compilation map showing the entire area mapped, on a sheet that is 11 x 17 inches. At this scale, some of the writing is too small to read, so Figures 5 and 6 show the southern and northern portions of the map in Figure 4 at a larger scale, more easy to read.

Features to Note on the Maps:

Prominent at the site, and the reason that brought the site to our attention, is a large rock, about 8 feet tall standing upright in what is now a field, near the edge of a woods. This is the so-called Brantwood Menhir. Unlike a normal glacial erratic, which normally would be lying with long axis along the ground, this feature is oriented upright and so oriented, it draws our attention. Surrounding the Menhir are smaller rocks in a shape of a distorted circle (as shown). This distorted circle is bordered by a wall of rocks, and the area within the distorted circle was also covered with rocks to a lesser depth. Unfortunately, many of these rocks have been moved recently by people probing the mysteries of the Menhir. An area has been cleared away to the natural soil (indicating that the Menhir is imbedded in the soil). In addition, some rocks cleared from the surrounding field have been added to the collection in historical times. The ancient rocks are covered with lichens, and the rocks removed from the fields in historical times lack the ancient lichen and normally have implement marks on them. But fortunately there are portions of the rock circle surrounding the Menhir which are in their original place, and as such can await the day when scientists expert in lichens, radio carbon dating, and soil profiles might eventually study the area.