An empty face at Burr's Hill

Posted 4/26/17

Reprinted from the Warren-Times Gazette, April 17, 1913:

With its eyeless sockets upturned to the skies, with a few scattered wisps of what once was hair clinging to the yellow bone, it lay upon …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Register to post events

If you'd like to post an event to our calendar, you can create a free account by clicking here.

Note that free accounts do not have access to our subscriber-only content.

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.

An empty face at Burr's Hill


Reprinted from the Warren-Times Gazette, April 17, 1913:

With its eyeless sockets upturned to the skies, with a few scattered wisps of what once was hair clinging to the yellow bone, it lay upon the bank, whither it had been tossed by the shovel of some laborer toiling to fill the waiting cart with gravel.

About it were scattered yet other reminders of the human form that once inhabited that house of bone. A few arrow heads, what once was a chieftain's spear, the corroded remnants of a copper kettle or dish. The neck and nose and other portions of a queer shaped bottled, that whispered of other lands, a handful of varicolored peage or wampum, that once served as neckless or armlets. All mute but forceful reminders of passing time, the uncertainty of life, the glory and freedom of that race that once roamed these fields and pastures; that launched the frail canoe, and with strong arm sent it coursing through yonder waters; that with singing bow and swift flying dart brought down the bird, the deer, the sly fox and the growling bear in surrounding forest.

And now sightless, without hearing, tongueless, the home that sheltered a brave, a fearless, a guileless Indian, is tossed upon a sand pile, a skull. Naught save a skull and a few trinkets to mark what once was a noble man, who coursed the paths of the woodlands, slept with only the stars and clouds to cover him, and after a life of happy freedom, slept with his fathers, buried deep in the sands by the sea shore, only to be disturbed in his quiet rest by the ruthless hand that sought his shroud of the centuries, to make the highway more passable for busy men.

And so the silence and the peace, and the quiet sleep are violated, the tools of men break through the winding sheet and toss the last remnant of a human body out upon the hillside to the bleaching sun, the pelting rains, the driving winds. 

Naught but a skull. To scoop, to pick it up, to hold it in one's hands, and think. Long years ago before the white man came, he lived. Long years ago 'ere man had harnessed the fire and the lightnings to his chariots, he struck his first flint and built his fire and stood awe stricken at the ether's marvelous play in flashings and thunderings. And here were his primitive weapons, the arrow head and spear, to be compared with repeating rifles, his tools of homely need as beside those used by busy housewife now; and here his simple coin, the shells we crush beneath our feet, while we fondle the precious gold and silver which he never saw.

Like the grave digger in Hamlet, we fondle that yellow bone, exclaiming "Alas poor Lo." Why may not that be the skull of an Indian? Where be his pains and passions now, his courage for the chase, his unrelenting hate when foiled or wronged? At our feet the few simple possessions of his life.

Whereabouts the inhabitant of these yellow rounded plates called skull sans eyes, sans nose, sans teeth, sans everything save contour that stamps it the head of man, where the spirit that dwelt within? To the happy hunting grounds, to the Great Maniton hath it flown and there dwelt while the clay rotted in the earth.

Naught but a skull, an Indian skull, and we peer within those great holes where once were eyes, thinking perhaps to see engraven upon the walls within the picture and the vision of that which he once saw, when in company with scores of his companions, he wandered up and down by the blue waters of the pleasant river; travelled on these green acres, or in some woody lair waited the flight of ducks, or watched the coming of the deer.

Naught but a skull, a house not made by hands. Bury it reverently again in some new resting place where it can finish its long sleep, or till the hand of busy man, after other centuries again encroaches upon its slumbers brings it once more to light, and holding it, wonders, who lived within as we have wondered and meditated upon the one turned up by the shovel, from the Burr's Hill sand pit last week.

Who was it?

2024 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.