Hatchel-Mitchell Site

By: Darrell Creel

Type: General Entry

Published: January 1, 1995

The Hatchel-Mitchell complex, one of the largest and most important Caddoan archeological sites in Texas, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Texarkana Phase Archeological District. It lies ten miles northwest of the center of Texarkana in Bowie County. Although originally designated as two sites, A. J. Hatchel and Paul Mitchell, these portions of the complex are more meaningfully considered as one site. Hatchel, first referred to as the Janes Farm, is referred to as the Barkman-Hatchel Site on its historical marker and in certain records. In some records, the Mitchell area is referred to as the Runnels Site.

At one time the complex contained at least five earthen mounds, but only two of these remained when professional investigations were begun in 1931. The largest mound, over twenty-five feet high and also known as the Janes Mound, dominates the Hatchel section, while the other, much smaller mounds appear to have been in the Mitchell Site portion. Additionally, the complex contains extensive village and cemetery areas.

The earliest professional investigation at the complex occurred in 1931 or 1932 when Alvin T. Jackson of the University of Texas excavated a test pit at an unspecified location on the large Hatchel mound. In 1932 Jackson visited the Mitchell portion of the complex and conducted extensive excavations in the area where levee construction previously had disturbed aboriginal burials. No additional burials were found there, though Jackson excavated four in the yard of the nearby Mitchell house. In 1935 W. H. Mathews, Jr., of Texarkana excavated twenty-one burials at the Mitchell Site near Jackson's first work. The next year Harry Mathews, presumably the same man, and Glenn Martin, also of Texarkana, excavated two additional burials, apparently near Mathews's previous work. In 1938–39 major investigations were conducted in both the Hatchel and Mitchell portions of the complex as part of the University of Texas WPA archeological program. These investigations, directed by William C. Beatty, Jr., Glenn Martin, Arthur M. Woolsey, and Alden Hayes, included major excavations of both the large and small mounds. The large mound at Hatchel was found to contain the remains of sixteen circular houses, each fifteen to twenty-five feet in diameter, with the entrances pointing east or southeast. Four human burials were also present, as was a pit in which two bald eagles had been interred. In conjunction with the mound investigations, six large excavations were made in village areas, four east of the large mound, one southeast, and the sixth southwest. There was, in addition, a large excavation at the location in the Mitchell Site area where the previous work had yielded several burials. More than fifty burials, midden deposits, and possibly the indications of a structure were found in this area by the UT-WPA crew. A large contiguous area was excavated in 1946 by Pete Miroir and Babe Henson of Texarkana, and four more burials were found.

The collections from the UT-WPA investigations at the complex include whole pottery vessels, as well as potsherds, ceramic pipes, and chipped, ground, and polished stone artifacts such as arrow points, milling stones, and adzes. The collection also includes tools and jewelry carved from shell and bone, as well as a very few copper artifacts. In addition human, dog, and bald eagle skeletons from burials and a few other miscellaneous specimens were found. Charred remains of corn and beans found on the site indicate that the site's inhabitants had some agriculture and probably supplemented their diet by hunting, fishing, and gathering wild foods.

Most remains at the Hatchel-Mitchell complex can be confidently identified as late Caddoan. They were the basis upon which A. D. Krieger defined the Texarkana Focus, presumed to be the latest prehistoric Caddoan culture complex in the vicinity. Significant earlier Caddoan remains (probably post-A.D. 1200) are also present, though investigation and knowledge of them has been quite limited. There are, moreover, a few artifacts indicating pre-Caddoan occupation.

On the basis of a thorough analysis of available historical documents, Mildred Wedel has suggested that the Hatchel-Mitchell complex, along with the nearby Eli and Hargrove Moores sites, is the archeological remnant of the Upper Nasoni Caddo village visited or viewed by Henri Joutel in 1687, Henri de Tonti in 1690, Domingo Terán de los Ríos in 1691–92, Jean-Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe in 1719, and the Freeman and Custis expedition (see CUSTIS, PETER) in 1806. If Wedel is correct, the greater Hatchel-Mitchell-Moores complex represents most of the Upper Nasoni settlement illustrated on the map that relates to Terán's 1691–92 visit. Thus, continuous Caddoan occupation of this complex may have begun perhaps by A.D. 1200 and ended in the early 1800s.

All of the records and collection made under the auspices of the University of Texas are housed at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, University of Texas at Austin. This facility also houses the records and collections from Mathews's excavations in 1935 and the records from Martin and Mathews's 1936 burial excavations. Brief notes and a small surface collection, gathered apparently from the area of the large Hatchel mound in 1933 by E. B. Sayles for Gila Pueblo of Globe, Arizona, are housed at the Arizona State Museum, Tucson. The University of Arkansas Museum, Fayetteville, owns the original records and at least part of the collections from the 1946 Miroir and Henson excavations (under the name Runnels Site). This museum also has a few artifacts from Hatchel. Additional materials collected in 1979 from throughout the Hatchel-Mitchell complex are at the Institute of Applied Sciences, North Texas State University.

The Hatchel-Mitchell complex has long been the scene of much other digging by numerous individuals, including excavation of a large number of burials by commercial looters. Most of this excavation is undocumented, and the collections are dispersed and largely inaccessible. However, records of some of this activity are housed at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory and the Texas Antiquities Committee. The latter facility also has various other records on the complex, mainly pertaining to the Hatchel Site.

The quantity of data gathered from this site complex is so great that it has prevented full analysis and publication. The result is a limited and often inaccurate general knowledge of one of the most important archeological sites in Texas. Although a few brief and incomplete accounts have been published, the more numerous unpublished analyses on file at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory are of considerably greater research value. Kathleen Gilmore and Olin McCormick present limited information on their surface inspection of 1979. Wedel's study is the basic reference for the tentative identification of the site complex as part of an Upper Nasoni settlement.

Dee Ann Suhm et al., "An Introductory Handbook of Texas Archeology," Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 25 (1954). Mildred Mott Wedel, La Harpe's 1719 Post on Red River and Nearby Caddo Settlements (Austin: Texas Memorial Museum, 1978).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Darrell Creel, “Hatchel-Mitchell Site,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hatchel-mitchell-site.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995