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Rooney Burial Mound

Those of us who are involved in researching our families frequently visit places that contain records from which we hope to extract information concerning our living or deceased relatives. These places included libraries, history centers, courthouses, churches, cemeteries, etc. Many times, as we depart on one of these trips, we jokingly make a comment, such as “going to dig up some ancestors”.

For Leonard and Viola Rooney, the discovery of someone’s ancestors occurred right at their own doorstep. The following information was extracted from an article found in the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul titled: ROONEY BURIAL MOUND, The Science Museum, St. Paul.

...The Rooney Mound, located five miles northwest of Brooten, Minnesota, was excavated by the Science Museum crew during August, 1959. The mound was uncovered when Mr. Rooney and some workmen began excavating a new basement for an addition to the Rooney farmhouse. After finding several skeletons, Mr. Rooney notified the county sheriff. One week later, the museum staff visited the site. Several human skeletons had been removed and placed in cardboard boxes by this time, and the basement excavation for the house had been completed.

The Science Museum obtained permission from Mr. Rooney to excavate that area of the site which had not been disturbed by the basement excavation. A crew of six volunteers was selected to aid museum staff members in the excavation.

The farmhouse is located on a small hill, the burial mound, rising about six feet above the surrounding land and is approximately 100 feet in diameter. The mound contains bands of gravel and clay.

Mr. Rooney had placed the skeletal material which he had uncovered in seven cardboard boxes. One human skeleton was excavated by The Science Museum. These were taken to the museum to be studied. Nine fairly complete individuals are represented in the Rooney Mound collection at The Science Museum. More people could have been buried in the mound as curiosity seekers carried bones away with them, and a former owner of the Rooney farm is said to have had a skeleton in his granary.

The people buried in the mound were American Indians. Five were probably male, three were probably female, and one is of indeterminable sex. They were probably taller than the average Minnesotan of today. A male was over six feet tall, three other males were about six feet, and the others, including females, were probably under five and one-half feet. Ages range from two middle-aged (36-55) men, six young adults (20-35), and one teenager.

Only five stone artifacts were discovered that included one projectile point, two side scrapers, one engraver, and one small flint object. No pottery was uncovered from the mound. Because of the small sampling of cultural materials, it is very difficult to do any further analysis of the site and impossible to connect the site to the Minnesota sequence of prehistoric groups.

The following are unknown: time of burial, which prehistoric group these individuals belonged to, whether these persons were buried at the same time or separately, cause of death, why there are no children among the burials, and many other unsolved questions...