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´╗┐Title: A New Hochelagan Burying-ground Discovered at Westmount on the Western Spur of Mount Royal, Montreal, July-September, 1898
Author: Lighthall, W. D. (William Douw), 1857-1954
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A New Hochelagan Burying-ground Discovered at Westmount on the Western Spur of Mount Royal, Montreal, July-September, 1898" ***

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Notes by


Privately printed for the writer by
Alphonse Pelletier
Printer to the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Montreal


The above title is provisional as respects the term "Hochelagan." All
those who are interested in the Indians of old Hochelaga, or in the
Mohawks with whom they seem to have had a close and not yet fully
ascertained race relationship, will be pleased to learn of the
discovery of a prehistoric burying-ground which is probably one of
their race, the only one heretofore known having been on the borders
of their town itself, about upper Metcalfe street, Montreal. The new
one is on the upper level (not the top) of Westmount, which is the
south-western prolongation of Mount Royal, and the four or five graves
thus far found are scattered at considerable intervals over an an
area of about 600 by 300 yards, nearly bounded by Argyle, Montrose
and Aberdeen Avenues and the Boulevard, three of the graves being a
little outside of these limits. A number of years ago a skeleton was
discovered, near the surface, on the cutting of Argyle Avenue on about
a westerly line from the residence of Mr. Earle. As the remains were
rumored to be possibly Indian, Mr. Earle secured the skull, which
had been used as a football by boys, some of the teeth, which had
originally been complete in number, being thus lost. This head is
identical in form with those last found. Roots of grass interlaced
in it show the lightness of the covering. On another occasion many
years ago, a skeleton was found, also lightly buried, and with the
knees drawn up, just east of the residence of Mr. John Macfarlane
on Montrose Avenue, during the digging of a flower-bed. It was over
six feet long. After being exposed for a few days it was re-interred
in the same spot by order of Mr. Macfarlane, and could doubtless
be obtained for examination if desirable. At a later period, the
gardener, Mr. Latter, who had found the Macfarlane skeleton, dug up
and re-interred another just within the bounds of his own property
adjoining the head of Aberdeen Avenue opposite the St. George's
Snowshoe Club-house. On the 22nd of July last (1898) a gardener
excavating in the St. George's Club-house grounds found three
skeletons interred at a depth of from two to two and a half feet and
with knees drawn up. A report of the find was made to the Chief
of Police of Westmount and to Mr. J. Stevenson Brown, and Mr. A.S.
Wheeler, respectively President and Vice-President of the St. George's
Club, the former being also an ex Vice-President of the Natural
History Society. They examined the spot and remains, Mr. Brown
concluding them to be probably Indian from the prominent cheek bones
and large mouths. Having just been paying some attention to the
archaeology of the Iroquois, which had been taken me on a flying trip
to their former country in the State of New-York, I, on seeing in a
newspaper at the seaside, a short item concerning the skeletons, was
immediately interested, and especially in the possibility of their
being Hochelagans, and having particularly commenced some inquiries
into the relations between the latter Indians and the Mohawks, I
wrote, as Chairman of Health of Westmount, asking Chief Harrison to
note the manner and attitude of burial and any objects found, and to
enquire concerning previous excavations in the neighborhood and save
the remains for scientific purposes. (They had been sent by him to the
City Morgue.) The above information concerning the previous skeletons
was then collected and I found that the witnesses concurred in
agreeing that the attitude seems to have been in all cases with
knees bent up. No objects seem to have been noticed in any of the
excavations then made, though some may have been overlooked by the
workmen, particularly as the soil of the locality is full of pieces of
limestone and small boulders, closely resembling arrow heads, hammers
and celts. Several bones which are not human have however been since
found with these three skeletons, one possibly of a dog, another of
a squirrel. They may be those of the funeral feast Sir William Dawson
mentions in his work "Fossil Men," as usually to be looked for over
the Hochelagan graves.

Mr. Beauchamp, the New-York authority, writes concerning the Mohawks;
"Burial customs varied greatly among the same people, but usually the
knees are drawn up. The face might be turned either way in contiguous
graves. I have seen many opened with no articles in them." By the
kindness of Dr. Wyatt Johnston, Pathologist to the Provincial Board
of Health, the three skeletons have been preserved and are now in
the Chateau de Ramezay Historical Museum where they will doubtless
be regarded with interest by scholars. The skulls have been fully
identified as of the Indian type, and found to be those of two
powerful males in the prime of life and one young woman. The skull
in possession of Mr. Earl is doubtless of the same race. Some large
stones were found placed above the bodies, and also a number of
naturally flat stones which appear to have been used as scoops to
excavate. The plateau where the remains were found is about half way
up the side of the "Mountain" or hill, as it more properly is, the
total height being only about 700 feet. The plateau slopes somewhat
and looks towards the south-east, and being protected by the hill
behind it from prevailing winds, and having a good light soil,
constitutes a very favorable situation for the growth of the Indian
crops of corn and beans. The Mountain being an isolated rise in the
great plain of the St. Lawrence, the plateau was also most favorably
placed for look-out and defence. A hundred yards or so to the west is
a fine perennial spring, and a short distance further is another which
has always been known as "the old Indian Well," having been a resort
of Indians at a later period. Only a few spots on the plateau have
so far been excavated; but with approaching improvements I have no
doubt that other graves will soon be found. The ground to the west,
in the neighborhood of the two perennial springs, has in particular,
never been much disturbed. If therefore, as on the site of the old
Hochelaga, this burying-ground is on the out skirts of a town site,
relics of a much more interesting character may be looked for in
the undisturbed neighborhood just referred to, the Raynes and Murray
farms, and those on, the southern slope of the Mountain.

Should a town-site be fortunately discovered I have no doubt that
progressive Westmount will see to proper care being taken in the
matter. Such a town would likely be older than Hochelaga and thus
afford a fresh step in tracing the record of this mysterious people.
Such towns were frequently moved, when the soil or supply of wood gave
out, or disease or enemies made removal imperative. As to the remains
already unearthed being prehistoric, there can be no doubt. The Island
was deserted after the destruction of Hochelaga by the Hurons about
1560. The next Indian inhabitants were Catholic converts and therefore
were buried at full length in a consecrated Christian ground.
The village of the converts was at the Old Towers of the Fort des
Messieurs, some quarter of a mile eastward of the plateau referred to.

In tracing back the history of the land in which these discoveries
have been made, we learn from the _terrier_ or land book of the
Seminary of St. Sulpice, that it was conceded about 1708, and that it
has ever since remained in private hands. Had the site been known as
a burial place, even years previous to that date, it is altogether
unlikely that such a concession would have been made; especially as
there was abundance of unoccupied land in the vicinity. The faint
doubt which arose as to whether the interments were made subsequently
to the founding of Montreal, is therefore eliminated. The authorities
of the Seminary, who conceded the land, state not only that they have
no record of a burying-ground there, but agree with me that the space
covered is too large, to be consecrated ground, as it would be in
Christian times, and they also state that the burials of the mission
of the Mountain where the Montreal Indian converts lived, were made
chiefly at the cemeteries of Montreal and were very few. These
Indians had originally been assembled around Ville Marie but were
removed to the Fort des Messieurs where Montreal College stands in
1662, and thence, towards the beginning of the 18th century, to
Sault-au-Recollet and in 1717 to Oka. The method of burial, also, is
not Christian, but pagan, and similar in every respect to early Mohawk

On Saturday the 10th September, 1898, I went with two laborers granted
by the Town of Westmount to the excavation on the club house grounds,
and choosing a spot on its edge cut a short trench some two feet deep.
About ten feet southward of the three skeletons previously found, this
trench revealed two large stones placed in the form of a reversed V,
clearly in order, as it afterwards appeared, to partly cover a body.
On raising these, a skeleton was found of a tall young man laid on the
hard-pan, on his right side, with face down, head towards the west,
knees drawn up, and covered with the mealy dry whitish earth of the
locality, to a depth of about two and a half feet. Mr. Earl assisted
in carefully uncovering the remains, of which Mr. Charles J. Brown
then took two excellent protographs in situ. The form of skull was
similar to the others, the teeth fine and perfect except a grinder
which had been lost years before. One armbone showed that it had once
been broken and healed again. No objects were found, though the search
was very careful. On the 17th, the excavations were continued in the
hope of finding objects of value to science. On this occasion there
was present, besides the writer Mr. Earl, Mr. C.J. Brown, Mr. Wheeler
and others and Mr. R.W. McLachlan, one of the excavators of old
Hochelaga. About four or five feet north of the grave last-mentioned,
large stones were again struck and on being lifted, the skeleton
of a young girl was unearthed whose wisdom teeth had just begun to
appear in the jaw. The large bone of her upper left arm had at one
time been broken near the shoulder. Her slender skeleton was in the
same crouching position as the others but much more closely bunched
together; the top of the head was laid towards the north and looking
partly downwards. Above her were found several flat stones which
may have been used as scoops for the excavation. Under her neck was
discovered the first manufactured object found, a single rude bead of
white wampum of the prehistoric form, and which is now deposited in
the Chateau de Ramezay. As white wampum was the gift of a lover, this
sole ornament tells the pathetic story of early love and death. Mr.
Chas. J. Brown again protographed the remains in situ. The work will
still proceed and no doubt more important discoveries are yet to be

Montreal, September 20th, 1898.


No. I.--A Young Woman

The bones of this skeleton, are fragile, broken and considerably

The skull is in fair condition, though the lower jaw is broken in

The skull is round and arched above the breadth index being 77.7, of
brachycephalic or Mongoloid type. _The superciliary_ ridges are not
very prominent, but the frontal, parietal and occipital eminences
are very distinct. _The forehead_ is non receding and the breath
measures 9 c.m. The cheekbones are not unduly prominent, the official
measurement being 119 m.m. The gnathic index is 93, or orthognathous.
The teeth are well preserved and not much worn, the 3d. molars not
having erupted in either jaw. The face is short and broad, the height
being 108 m.m. in and breadth 119 m.m., the orbit is inclined to be
square with rounded angles and the type megaseme, the nasal index is

A very striking feature of this skull is the well marked central
vertical frontal ridge and some tendency to angularity of the vertex.
In the whole this skull is of a more refined type than the others and
suggestive of some fair intellectual development of the individual.
There are two wormian bones on the left side of the skull, one at the
pterion and one below the asterion each being 9 m.m. long.

The bones generally are fragile and the long bones slender, with no
marked impression for muscular attachment. A curious fact is that the
ends of all the long bones are absent, presumably from decay, and as
these ends are united to the shafts between the age of puberty (14-15)
and adult life it is suggestive that the individual may have been
of about the age of 18 or 20 and this is somewhat confirmed by the
noneruption of the third molars.

With this skeleton are two animal bones. White and very dense in
structure. They are both femura, one probably that of an ungulate; the
other of a carnivore.

No. II.--A Brachycephalic Man

This skeleton is that of a large and powerfully built man, the bones
being very heavy and strong with marked impressions and prominences
for muscular attachment. The skeleton, with the exception of some of
the small bones of the hands and feet is complete.

The skull is large and massive, and the lower jaw very strong and
heavy. The teeth are well preserved but much ground down at the crown.
The superciliary ridges are very prominent. The fore head is narrow
(102 c.m.) receding.

Judging from the size and strength of the bones and their impressions
for muscular attachment, this man must have been very powerful and
calculating from the length of the femur, at least six feet tall.
With this skeleton we found a small humerus of some mammal possibly a

No. III.--The Tallest Man

This skeleton is also that of a large powerfully built man, even
taller man the last. The skull is larger, though not quite so massive.
It is longer and narrower and dolicephalus, the occipital region very
prominent. The height index is low (70.5).

The face is broad as compared with the length 124-112 and the cheek
bones are prominent, lower jaw is heavy and strong.

The bones of this skeleton are well preserved and it is almost entire,
there being only a few of the bones of the hands and feet missing. The
pelvis is masculine. The bones are long, large and heavy with marked
impressions and processes.

The femur measures 17-7/8 inches so that this man must have been six
feet or more and of muscular frame.

Among the bones of No III skeleton were 2 small rib bones of a bird.

Judging from the general conformation of the three skulls, it would
appear that No. I, was that of the most intelligent person of the
three and No. III of the least No. II being intermediate.

It is difficult to estimate the height of No. I as the femur is so
decayed at both ends, but allowing for this, the height would not
be more than 5 feet and probably less than that. The skeletons
undoubtedly belong to the Mongoloid type and are distinctive of
the North American Indians.

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