A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Note: this is based on the chronology section of the Historic Site Management Plan for the development, use, interpretation, study, and preservation of the Newark Earthworks State Memorial, which can be downloaded here. It is greatly abbreviated and re-arranged; for much more detail, presented in a strictly chronological format, please see that document.
The Newark Earthworks were "discovered" in 1800 by pioneers Isaac and Catherine Stadden, two years before the city of Newark was founded.
The Newark Earthworks in Squier and Davis's Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley (1848)
Mapping the Earthworks
Several local efforts surveyed and mapped the earthworks during the 19th century, the earliest maps, however, not being published. Newark Earthworks appeared in what might be called the "Big Three" of 19th-century surveys: Caleb Atwater's A Description of the Antiquities Discovered in Ohio and other Western States (1820), Squier and Davis's Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley (1848), and Cyrus Thomas and James D. Middleton's in "Report on the Mound Explorations of the Bureau of American Ethnology," Twelfth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology (1894).
Destruction of the Earthworks
Construction of Ohio and Erie Canal (1825-32) and the Central Ohio Railroad (1852-55) destroyed earthworks and many mounds. Further damage was caused by use of the Great Circle as a fairground (see under "Fairground").
Excavating the Earthworks
The first excavations took place in 1836 when the Calliopean Society of the Granville Literary and Theological Institution excavated Observatory Mound at Octagon Earthworks. In 1928, The Ohio Historical Society (OHS) dug at Eagle Mound at the Great Circle and the nearby Wells Mound Group. Excavations by OHS in the 1990s included a trench investigation of the construction of the Great Circle and excavation at Octagon State Memorial.
The Earthworks and the Army
During the Civil War, the Great Circle served as a training camp for the 76th Ohio Volunteer Infantry from the fall of 1861 through early 1862. In the 1890s, the Octagon hosted the First Regiment of Light Artillery of the state militia. The militia undertook restoration of the site; it abandoned the camp in 1908.
Golf and the Newark Earthworks
In November 1901, play began on a six-hole course at Octagon Earthworks established by a Newark high school teacher. In 1911, Moundbuilders Country Club opened (it had leased the Octagon from Newark's Board of Trade a year earlier). In 1997, the Moundbuilders Country Club lease was extended to 2078 by OHS (OHS was deeded the earthworks in 1933).
Fairs at the Earthworks
In 1854, the first Licking County Fair was held at the Great Circle, as was the Ohio State Fair. William Henry Holmes of the Bureau of American Ethnology warned in 1892 that "if the present use of the [Great Circle] as a fair ground is not discontinued, a few generations will witness its practical demolition." But the County Fair continued to be held there until 1933. While use of the earthworks as fairgrounds did damage the site, it prevented the wholsale destruction of it.
The Earthworks in the Great Depression
The OHS was deeded Octagon Earthworks and the Great Circle in 1933, Wright Earthworks the following year, and another parcel at the Great Circle in 1937. In 1933, OHS undertook restoration at Great Circle using "City unemployed, paid from the Newark Relief Fund." The Civilian Conservation Corps set up a camp at the site in 1934, removed fairground buildings, and restored earthworks.
The Earthworks from the Air
Early aerial discoveries and documentation of the Newark Earthworks took place in the 1930s. Local businessman and aviator Warren S. Weiant, Jr., discovered a circular enclosure south of the Octagon in 1930, and traced the walls of the Great Hopewell Road (visible as crop marks) for at least 10 miles. Dache Reeves of the U.S. Army Air Corps photographed Newark Earthworks in 1936.