With so many mounds clustered along the Ouachita River and stretching east to the Mississippi, the Hedgepeth Mounds, tucked away in Lincoln Parish, seem like an anomaly. What are they doing so far from the rest of “civilization”? Were the builders of the site banished? Or free spirits in search of their own place? Or were they drawn to the abundance of rock which still litters the ground? Or was it something else that brought them to the banks of Bayou D’arbonne 5000 years ago?
There are 5 mounds at the site, in the typical circular fashion with an enclosed plaza. The same pattern repeats itself over and over and over again. Though the mounds would have been clear when the site was active, they are now covered in trees and blanketed with a soft cushion of decaying leaves. It is silent there except for the birds and locusts and the distant thump, thump, thump of oil being pumped from a well. If you stand right next to it, you can hear the bayou make its own music as it tumbles through the branches of downed trees.
While walking the site with Joe Saunders I found myself going up and over the slight undulations of plowed rows of cotton that were grown there after WWII. They are nothing now but reminders of a past that seems so distant but, according to the ancient Hedgepeth clock, were only yesterday.
After belonging the to the same family for generations, the site now belongs to the Archaeological Conservancy and is protected from plowing and other destructive forces. Since there’s nothing there of value to the average person – no pottery, nothing to be sold for money – it should be able to sit there quietly, forgotten, a temple for the ancient outsiders who created it.
I was honored to meet recently with Mrs. Elizabeth Thomas whose family owned the site for generations. She spearheaded the movement to protect the mound and, along with the cooperation of the rest of her family, has been able to do just that. Kate Archer Kent, now with Red River Radio in Shreveport, did an interview with Mrs. Thomas a few years ago. She has graciously given me permission to include it here. It is listed in the “links” panel to the right – “Hedgepeth Audio Interview.” Mrs. Thomas asked that I correct one mistake … her maiden name is Gipson, not Hedgepeth. The interview is a wonderful account of her love of this sacred site.