Delf Norona Museum

Submitted by Phyllis Slater

Wheeling Intelligencer - February, 1994

The Delf Norona Museum in Moundsville, which is next to the Grave Creek Mound, offers several exhibits on Adena and Hopewell Indian culture based on archeological finding, including displays of what an average American Indian family group might have looked like. Delf Norona Museum, according to director Susan Yoho, is the only archeological museum in West Virginia.

The museum in Moundsville features archeological remnants from American Indian tribes which built the original Grave Creek Mound from which the city got its name. She said the history of the mound began with the migration of nomads to this continent from the Siberian mainland across the frozen-over Bering Strait. The Siberian nomads formed the basis of the Adena and Hopewell American Indian tribes which settled the Ohio and Mississippi valleys.

Those two tribes existed during the Woodland Era of North American Indian culture. They built many mounds, but the Grave Creek Mound survived due to its size. The mound was built in two stages between 250 and 100 B.C. The Indians later migrated down the Mississippi Valley, but the mound remained.

It is actually a burial mound. The Grave Creek Mound differs from Egyptian burial pyramids in that it does not have any tunnels or entry passages. It was actually built for two burials featuring three skeletons. The bottom vault is one male and female. We presume that was the king and queen, because the early Woodland culture cremated most of their population and would put them in small mounds.

In the 1700s Joseph Tomlinson was granted a large tract of land in the Ohio Valley around Moundsville. He named the settlement he created Elizabethtown after his wife. The land - including the mound stayed in the family after Joseph's death. In the early 1800s Jesse Tomlinson read an article about an excavation in Egypt. Forklore has it that Jesse thought treasure might be discovered if the Grave Creek Mound was excavated. He and a cousin started digging but their hopes for buried gold and silver were dashed. What they did find were artifacts left in the burial mound by the Adena and Hopewell Indians, including skeletal remains, pottery and beads.

The excavation was a success in that it sparked interest in the North American Mounds, and books began appearing on pre-historic Indian culture. At one point, a tunnel was dug in the mound and people could walk inside. The tunnel was later closed because of wall and ceiling collapses.

So unless you were around between 1838 and 1840, you didn't walk inside the mound. Visitors can still walk to the top of the mound on steps that wind around the side. In the early 1900s, the state of West Virginia bought the mound and declared it a state park. Yoho said, in the 1930s, a small grey stone museum was built next to the mound bordering 10th st. It was constructed with dirt floors and passageways to give visitors' the impression that they were actually inside the mound.

The Delf Norona Museum was opened in December 1978. The multi-purpose facility includes an artifact area and a gallery.