Indian Tools

By William T. Hathaway

Indian Tools

In the early 60's our local naturalist Johnny Westbrook was often seen standing at his work table for hours at a time. The Nature Museum in the basement of Dr. McMann's home on Main Street in Danville was the drawing attraction for all persons interested in nature lore. If you collected insects, rocks, arrowheads or any sort of nature specimens, you were enthusiastically encouraged when visiting the Nature Museum. There was an atmosphere of joyful fascination when consulting the Johnny (the professor) who seemed always to share a common interest in your subject matter or project. Indian pottery and Indian work tools were often piled up on Johnny's work table; all were to be cleaned and examined.

I managed to take pictures of the colonial glass fragments which Johnny theorized to have been used as work tools by historically recent Indian populations. Often matching sets of various shaped fragments were located at different sites, and these sites were usually on hilltops overlooking nearby swampy areas. In those days Indians were perhaps hunting beavers. Some of the glass fragments may have been used as a substitute for flint scrapers. Smaller pieces of glass with a prolonged tip could make good gravers (that is, a tool for grooving wood, leather or pottery designs.) Many historical home sites have scattered fragments of old glass, especially old rum bottles.

The professor's fragments are unique, because of the isolated distribution of the hilltop sites and duplicate matching glass sets. Certainly, many uninformed observers could conclude that such fragmental findings were the result a pioneer's family squabble. A few of these fragmental specimens are on display at the Estelle H. Womack Museum of Natural History, located on the DCC campus.

See also other Native American evidences.