History in the Hills: Middleton’s Effigy Mounds

Middleton’s history is rich, but did you also know it goes back two thousand years?

Stroll through Pheasant Branch Conservancy and you’ll come up an unmistakable sight – Frederick’s Hill. Picturesque and tall, this hill was once a communal tomb for Indigenous people inhabiting this land. When the tomb became full, they formed an earthen dome over top of it and Frederick’s Hill was born. Hundreds of years later, between 700 and 1300 A.D., descendants returned and built more, smaller mounds.

The reason for choosing this location was its proximity to a small spring, the source of the Pheasant Branch. It was thought that springs were “portals to the Lower World” and so by burying the dead on the mounds, they were halfway between the sky (the “Upper World”) and the spring, linking the two journeys of the dead. For more about the Pheasant Branch Conservancy, click here.

Nearby in Governor Nelson State Park you’ll find five conical mounds and a 358-foot panther effigy near the southern section of the park on the Woodland Trail. It’s a gradual climb and a beautiful hike with views of the state Capitol. The area is a great spot for birdwatching, so bring your binoculars. An 18th century Winnebago village has also been discovered there. Pick up a map of the park at the office for help locating the exact spot of the mounds. Remember you’ll need a state park sticker to enter the park – a day pass is $7 for Wisconsin residents and $10 for non-residents.



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