Geographically there’s nothing special about the half-mile hill along Hwy. 95 between Hixton and Alma Center in Jackson County. But geologically speaking, the Hixton Silicified Sandstone that is found in layers had a profound impact for thousands of years.
Also called orthoquartzite, the stone is harder than flint and was used by Native Americans to chip stone tools. Some of the spear-tips from Silver Mound date back nearly 12,000 years and have been found as far away as Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, according to the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
The site was visited by Paleo Indians some 12,000 to 9,500 years ago when mammoths and mastodons roamed the region. Weapons were also fashioned from the stone during the Archaic culture 9,500 to 3,500 years ago when bison herds were nearby. The last two prehistoric cultures that used the site for weapons and stone tools are the Woodland (1,000 to 1,500 years ago) and the Oneota (500 to 1,000 years ago) who still relied primarily on hunting for their food supply.
The hill is neither a burial mound nor contains silver, but various attempts to find the metal were launched in the 1800s, fueled by legends of a lost silver mine and physical evidence of quarry pits that previous mining had been done. Even after geologists dismissed the notion of silver in 1860, prospectors as recently as 1895 tried to find the precious metal.
Over the years archeological surveys and excavations have turned up evidence — with the help of carbon dating — that a rock shelter there has been used for nearly 10,000 years. Two rock art images remain.
The mound is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.