Prehistoric People
The Council Grove area was inhabited by people eight to ten thousand years ago. Little is known of the life ways of these "Paleo-Indian" people, although the findings of archeologists reveal some general conclusions as to how they lived. These early people were hunter-gatherers who lived on bison and mammoth meat, fish, mollusks, and miscellaneous smaller mammals. This diet would have been supplemented by seeds, nuts, and berries. The size of these groups of natives may have been twenty-five to thirty. They were probably nomadic.
The people of the Archaic period, which extended from eight thousand to two thousand years ago, lived in an environment considerably warmer and drier than the Paleo-Indians. Populations levels in the Flint Hills appear to have declined significantly during this period. A variety of tools were produced from raw materials including awls, punches, knives, and scrapers. During this period the Archaic people learned to make projectile points by fire-forging chert, which was in abundant supply in this area.
A major archeological dig conducted in 1962 and 1964 by the Kansas Historical Society unearthed an Archaic-period camp site located a few miles north of Council Grove. The location, known as the William Young Site, appears to have been inhabited as early as 5,500 years ago. It provided cultural evidence ranging from the surface to as deep as seven feet. Archeologists uncovered burned stone hearths, shallow pits, and a few postholes. Stone artifacts were abundant. Points, knives, axes and gouges were recovered here along with two ceramic effigy heads.

About two thousand years ago, Hopewellian Indians, characteristic of eastern woodland tribes, moved into the region near present-day northeast Kansas. The Hopewellians brought domesticated plants, primitive agriculture, and ceramic-making with them. Long-distance trade was also a feature of this group.

From 500 to 1,000 years ago the natives in the region were evolving into the central-plains tradition. The Central Plains Indians increased their use of agriculture and developed scattered farmsteads, small hamlets, and villages. Their dwellings were built on terraces overlooking rivers and streams. These people evolved into the first distinguishable tribes to inhabit Kansas. The Pawnees to the north and the Wichita to the south lived in Kansas one thousand years ago. They tended gardens, raising squash, beans, and corn, and hunted bison during two major hunts each year.

Trade with other regions was a common characteristic of these prehistoric inhabitants, although the frequency and extent of trade varied with each cultural group. There is little doubt that prehistoric Indians had for centuries used a trade route to the Southwest which in 1821 became the Euro-American Santa Fe Trail. And given the abundance of wood, water, grass, and game here, Council Grove had been a favorite campsite for the Indians long before white people arrived.

The Prairie
The Flint Hills
The Grove
Prehistoric People

Find out about the two cultures who came to live here.