Hedgepeth Mounds

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.

About Jenny Ellerbe

I am a photographer living, and working, in northeastern Louisiana.
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9 Responses to Hedgepeth Mounds

  1. Bill says:

    Another terrific posting, Jenny. And thanks for the radio link with the wise voices of Mrs. Thomas and Joe Saunders. Please keep up your good work.

  2. Tom Holder says:

    Thank you for the pictures of Hedgepeth Mounds. I am a member of the LAS and have been photographing Mound sites for several years. Most of the Woodland and Mississippian sites I have visited are along the Illinois River Valley, Mississippi River Valley, Tennessee, and Louisiana. This weekend I am traveling to the Natchez bluffs to photograph some of the Plaquamine sites. Your photographs are great and remind me that nature is trying to protect these incedibley important sites under a veil of dense forests and coiled vines. I think it is a shame that so many sites have already disappeared.


    • Tom, thanks for stopping by and commenting on the blog. I am jealous of all the mounds you have visited and photographed.

      • Tom Holder says:

        I just returned from a visit to the Crenshaw & Haley Mound sites in the Great bend of the Red River in Arkansas. Would be glad to share pictures. Love your use of Black and white format to bring out the filtered light reflecting off of Hedgepeth Bayou. Very nice pictures!


  3. Tom, how do you find all the sites? Books? Internet? Archaeologists?

    • Tom Holder says:

      Most of my site identifications come from publications. I then use GPS mapping and sometimes Wikipedia to find the sites. For the harder to access sites I would contact the regional archeologist i.e. Joe Saunders to request permission to photograph the site. Joe has retired from the regional office position however there is a regional archeologist in Monroe and another at Poverty Point. Many of the Louisiana sites I have accessed with the help of the Mound Trail put together by the LAS. This last weekend after photographing some of the large Mound sites along the Natchez Bluffs, I used the LAS Mound Trail to visit sites in and around Jonesville and Marksville where some of the most interesting and earliest Mounds nationally can be visited.

      • I’ve been working closely with the archaeologists to locate the sites and to gain access to them. How do you go about getting permission from landowners to visit the sites that aren’t open to the public?

  4. Tom Holder says:

    That’s the hard part because most of the time I don’t know who the landowners are. On some occassions I make my best guess and ask land owners living close to the site. Some of the contacts come from asking the regional archeologist for permission to photograph the site. I try to be careful and respect landowners decisions concerning accessing their property. When I explain that the site is important and I would like to photograph the mounds the landowners are usually agreeable as long as I agree not to pick up or disturb anything.

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