Remains transported state to state for study

By Don Springer
Charleston Gazette, November 29, 2001

This is the third of five articles dealing with the return of 664 Native American remains to their original burial sites near Buffalo, Putnam County

Previously this series pointed out Dr. Edward V McMichael, state archeologist in the early 1930s, took a group of 15 workers to conduct a large archeological dig at the Fort Ancient site near Buffalo. He was joined there by a number of local volunteers who also took part in the dig.

Thousands of Indian relics and at least 664 human remains were removed in a period spanning 1963-64. Some of the relics undoubtedly found their way into the homes of workers and nearby residents, but most remain under the state's control and can be found today at the Grave Creek Mound site in Moundsville, Marshall County. Indian relics can still be found at the site, according to locals who walk over the area frequently

The human remains are, however, another matter, as they have spent most of the years since being removed from Mother Earth in surrounding states.

McMichael took the remains to Morgantown, where he served with the Geological and Economic Survey Office. While there, it has been reported McMichael and others did a number of unobtrusive tests on the remains. These tests included: age, sex, height, weight and similar items. Shortly thereafter McMichael disappeared from the scene.

Transferred to Clarion
In 1966 a young student at Clarion College (now the University of Pennsylvania, Clarion, Pa.) by the name of Seamus Metress showed interest in the remains. Metress said, "With the assistance of Bettye Boyd [sic], then an active archeologist in the state, the entire 664 remains were transferred to his care at Clarion."

Metress was working on his doctorate degree at the time, and he used the remains for more testing and developing his dissertation in the pursuit of his degree. Over the years Metress had responsibility for the remains he "did more than 100 tests on the bones.

Later; Dr. Seamus Metress transferred to the University of Toledo, Ohio, and took the remains with him. He continues to teach there as a professor of anthropology.

"I was impressed with the work done by Dr. McMichael and his crew during the excavations," he commented. "They obviously worked meticulously in removing the remains, as they were in excellent shape. They did a better job than some professionals."

Metress said after his working on the remains he concluded that, as expected, most are Shawnee. "However, we found eight or 10 that we believe to be Delaware, as their heads were shaped differently," he commented. "It is known the Shawnee captured some Delaware Indians, and used them as slaves. These were probably some who died while in captivity."

When informed an effort was being made currently to return the remains to Buffalo and the original burial grounds, he was pleased. "I think they should be reburied at that site."

Nearly Discarded
After Metress completed his work with the remains, they were placed in storage at the University of Toledo. Later, they were removed and placed on a loading dock at the school ready to be discarded with the trash. Metress said a Kent, Ohio, student of Dr. Paul Sciulli at Ohio State University heard the remains were about to be scrapped and informed his professor. Sciulli, not wanting this to happen, arranged to have them transported to Columbus where they have remained for some 30 or so years under his care.

Attempts to contact Sciulli by this writer were unsuccessful. Earle Hamilton, Director of Research Services at Ohio state, later informed us that a few years back, another reporter (reportedly an OSU student) heard Sciulli had these remains in storage and treated him badly in a Columbus article. Hamilton said Sciulli has been unwilling to talk with the press about this matter since that time.

Ohio State Says OK
Hamilton said Ohio State would gladly give up responsibility for the remains "providing it is done properly. We have no problem with the remains being returned to Buffalo for reburial," he concluded. By "done properly," Hamilton explained Ohio State must have assurance they are being returned to responsible persons and a responsible Native American tribe willing to follow through on the project.

Although Sciulli would not talk to this writer, he has told others many additional tests have been done on the remains at Ohio State. It is believed Sciulli has the most complete reports on these remains of any recorded over the past 40 or so years.

Mrs. Basil "Maggie" Crawford, a Putnam Countian with Native American ancestry, and her colleagues are working on that portion of the project requiring a Native American tribe to intervene in behalf of the reburial.

The remains have been removed from their gravesites for nearly 40 years and have moved four times. To Crawford and others, it seems the humane thing to do at this point is to have them returned to Buffalo and their graves where they may rest in peace.

© 2001 Don Springer. All rights reserved. Used with permission
Don Springer may be reached on the Internet at

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CWVA's Introduction to the Buffalo Village Series
Part 1: Obstacles hamper return of Native American remains to Buffalo
Part 2: Many hands involved in excavating remains
Part 3: Remains transported state to state for study
Part 4: Local woman labors to bring back ancestors' remains
Part 5: Buffalo pastor, councilman strive to bring back remains
Part 6: Positive and negative feedback on the 'Remains' series