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Aztalan State Park
The video below is provided by the Friends of Aztalan State Park.
For tours of Aztalan State Park Contact the Friends of Aztalan State Park or the Lake Mills DNR office.
Current Sign at Aztalan State Park
Former sign at Aztalan State Park
Former sign at the mounds along the road
Author Robert Birmingham
Robert Birmingham points out the location of large ancient earthworks on the east side of the river. Mr. Birmingham has a book out about Aztalan. Aztalan: Mysteries of an Ancient Town by Robert Birmingham and Lynne Goldstein. Wisconsin Historical Society Press.
Warner Earth, a spiritual leader of the Nebraska Winnebago enjoying a quiet moment at Aztalan State Park.
A bygone winter day at Aztalan State Park
A couple on a mound at Aztalan
Restoring the stockade (1953)
A peaceful day at Aztalan State Park
Postmark on back of postcard is 1909
Old photo of the mounds along the road
Wisconsin's foremost and largest archeological site was discovered in 1835 by Timothy Johnson. Nathaniel F. Hyer gave the name "Aztalan" to the site the pioneers called the "Ancient City." The truncated pyramidal mounds within a stockade on the banks of the Crawfish River seemed to be the site described in an Aztec legend. Reported by Baron Alexander von Humboldt, an early student of Indian antiquities, the legend said the Aztecs had come from a land by flowing waters far to the north of their Mexican home.
The necessity of preserving the ancient earthworks of Aztalan was recognized early. In 1837, Hyer wrote, "We are determined to preserve these ruins from being ruined."
In 1838, Edward Everett, the famous statesman and orator, asked President Van Buren to withdraw Ancient Aztalan from public sale. There was no popular response to Everett's plea and the land was sold for $22.
The mounds were plowed mercilessly. Ground was hauled away from the pyramidal mounds to help level them. Souvenir hunters picked up countless artifacts and several wagonloads of potsherds and "Aztalan brick" were hauled away to fill holes in township roads.
The remains of Aztalan were fading fast when the Landmarks Committee of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, headed by Publius V. Lawson, raised the battle cry of "Save Aztalan!" in 1920. Such groups as the Friends of Our Native Landscape and the Wisconsin Archeological Society joined in. The Jefferson County Board contributed some money and the county's school children, inspired by Superintendent A.J. Thorne, gave their pennies and nickels. Three acres of land containing eight conical mounds west of the stockade was purchased in 1921 and Aztalan Mound Park was presented to the Wisconsin Archeological Society.
Work for preservation continued. In 1936, the state's archeological and historical societies petitioned Washington for funds to reconstruct the stockade and the old Aztalan church without success.
In 1941, the newly-founded Lake Mills-Aztalan Historical Society began an energetic campaign to preserve the stockade area.
A bill was sponsored in the State Assembly in 1945 by Palmer F. Daugs, Jefferson County Democrat, Alfred Ludvigsen, Waukesha Republican and Earl Mullen, Dane County Progressive which directed the State Planning Board to study Aztalan as a possible state park. The bill passed.
In 1947, the Wisconsin Legislature passed a joint resolution sponsored by Senator Chester E. Dempsey requesting the State Conservation Commission to purchase Aztalan.
In 1948, 120 acres of farm land were purchased for the park. The Wisconsin Archeological Society and the Lake Mills-Aztalan Historical Society donated their holdings. In 1952, Aztalan State Park opened.
Aztalan was designated a registered National Historical Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior in 1964.
Ancient Aztalan was safe at last.
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