Ocheyedan Mound

Few of Iowa's natural features have excited so much curiosity as the Ocheyedan Mound in northwest Iowa's lakes region.

Few of Iowa's natural features have excited so much curiosity as the Ocheyedan Mound in northwest Iowa's lakes region.

Just southeast of the town of Ocheyedan, the Mound rises an impressive 170 feet above the surrounding flood plain. It is one of the highest point in Iowa-1655 feet above sea level. Only two miles south of highway nine, the Mound is reached by a concrete and blacktop road, and is readily accessible to visitors.

The Ocheyedan Mound is one of the most beautiful hills in the northwest part of the state and its outline can be seen for miles in all directions. The region along the Ocheyedan river flood plain is made up of rolling hills. Some are in groups, with a distinctive arrangement. Others are isolated somewhat-the Mound is the most striking example of this.

General trend of the Mound is northeast and southwest. Its extreme length is only about one third of a mile. Portions of its narrow summit are but a few yards wide.

It is long thought that the Mound was an Indian burying ground. This was disproved when geologists investigated and found that it was a kame, of glacial origin. Kames are hills and ridges of stratified drift deposited by glaciers at the mouths of ice tunnels or ice channels, and in angles of ice. The Mound was formed during the recession of the Wisconsin ice sheet, the last glacier to invade Iowa, many thousands of years ago.

The material making up the Mound is chiefly sand and gravel with small boulders of various types, including rocks of many different kinds. There are granites, Sioux quartzite's and limestone's.

The esthetic value of such beautiful and interesting geological phenomena as the Ocheyedan Mound should be appreciated by our people, and every effort should be made to prevent their destruction. Already the Ocheyedan Mound has been somewhat marred by the removal from its summit sand and gravel which was used for commercial purposes. To be sure, the Mound is valuable for the many tons of material that might be taken from it, but far greater value is it to the state as a beauty spot, a landmark, which should be conserved for future generations just as zealously as we should conserve our material resources.

Just where Ocheyedan gets its name is really not known. In the early Dacotah (Sioux) dictionary compiled in 1852 were two names, Acheya and Akicheya, meaning to mourn as for a dead relative. The Indians of the area applied these to landmarks in the area to commemorate two Indian boys who were killed here by a party of tribal enemies. Acheya (white settlers pronounced it Ocheyedan) is a mourning ground. Ocheyeda was the name applied to Nobles county's (Minnesota) largest lake. An "n" was added and the town in Osceola county was named "Ocheyedan".

There is a tradition that the Indians used the Mound as an observation point and as a place of mourning. White men have used it as a guide across the prairies, and it is now popular for picnics, steak fries, fireworks displays and winter sliding, toboggan parties and skiing.

It is assumed that the highest point yet remains in Osceola county. Since discovering in 1971 that the Mound was no longer the highest point, two or three points (east, north and west of Sibley, have been brought forth as contenders for the highest elevation above sea level. The U.S. Geodetic Survey determined that a point on the Merrill Sterler farm north of Sibley is 1670 feet and so marked on maps the new location.

The summer of 1884 the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railroad, now the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific, crossed the northern part of Osceola county. The coming of the railroad was a great event on the prairie and in the sparsely settled region here-one of the last in Iowa to be settled.

In the fall of 1884 building activities began and the prairie town of Ocheyedan was a busy place with every available person at some kind of work. The first building put up on the town site was a shanty-more popularly called shack. The post office was moved to the town site that year from Rush Lake where it had been located from 1875. Rush Lake is a mile northeast of the town site and is noted for its excellent waterfowl hunting.

Ocheyedan, like many small Iowa towns, has lost population through the years. It now has a population of only 545 but has been recognized by the state betterment committee for many projects of improvement in business, housing, retirement, recreation, churches, schools and other lines of endeavor.

-Transcribed by Roseanna Zehner

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