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Hetty Pegler’s Tump


The day I ran across Hetty Pegler’s Tump on a British ordnance map, I nearly pissed myself laughing. Hetty has her very own wikipedia entry, so there’s no longer any mystery (I first ran across “her” about twenty-five years ago, while scanning an actual ordnance map, which is the British equivalent of our USCGS maps), and its more proper name is the Uley Long Barrow, a “partially reconstructed Neolithic chambered mound”. However authentic that nomenclature may be, it is and will always be, for me, Ms Pegler’s Tump.

There are similar earthen mounds throughout the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio river valleys of the United States; fewer along the Missouri. The best known is one I’ve actually visited at Cahokia, a pre-Columbian settlement on the Illinois side of the Mississippi near St Louis. Cahokia was once a city of considerable size, with an earthen pyramid whose base is equal to the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan. Much less impressive now, but the visitor interpretive center is worth a visit, should you find yourselves in the vicinity. Some day, I’ll visit Ms Pegler’s landform, if for no other reason than 19th and early 20th century Fargo architects George and Walter Hancock were born about two miles from that earthen breast. That’s a story in its own right.

The church of St John, Uley, was the Hancock family home parish and several members are buried in its churchyard, including the brothers’ father David Hancock. Oddly, I’ve been to the church (and to Owlpen Farm, where the Hancocks lived) but not to the tump itself. Don’t know why I missed the opportunity. It won’t happen again.

The Uley Long Barrow came to mind today because Agincourt once had its very own earth mound, though far newer, called, not surprisingly, The Mound. Sitauted near the intersection of Third Street SE and Alcott Avenue, the mound predates Agincourt’s founding, and in fact interrupts the orderly grid of the original town plat, necessitating a half block of the Third Street right-of-way being vacated. Fortunately for archeological purposes, it partially occupies the southeast school lot and merely forced the reorientation of three residential lots, so no harm no foul.

Archaeologists from the University of Iowa examined the site some time during the Great Depression (WPA, no doubt) and the city erected a modest interpretive kiosk on the school property — but without much impact on the neighborhood, except for Elie Munro, that is, who grew up next door and was sufficiently fascinated to become an amateur archaeologist herself. Elie’s story has its own twists and turns, but that’s different tale for another day. For the time being, some explication of The Mound seems in order.

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