Russell Eugene Burrows Interview

By Wayne May

as Printed in Ancient American Magazine Issue #4


W. May: What did you think of the current article in T.A.A. on your find as presented by Dr. White and Mr. Moseley?

R. Burrows: I wasn't given the opportunity to review that article. If I had, I never would have approved the reference to Barry Fell. His position on this subject is well known and such a reference can only lead to more problems. I do know his assistance has not been requested by me and I don't think Dr. White and Mr. Moseley made such a request either! They would have had to clear that with me and I would never have approved such a request. Their presentation on the artifacts from the cave is their own interpretation, not mine.

W.M. When can we see the cave?

R.B. The preservation law of the State of Illinois is currently the obstacle for viewing the cave. It is the intent of the land owner of the cave to keep the cave's contents intact. Especially the remains of those interred there. We will not allow those remains to be removed and transported to the State museum where they will be stored in the basement. It is our position that those people, whoever they were will be left where they are. As for an on-site study, that can be done, but not under the current State law. It is up to the land owner as to whether or not an excavation is done because he has to pay for it. This land owner is one of the old fashioned kind. He doesn't believe in digging up the dead. In case there are some who read this and do not understand what I am talking about, the new Illinois State law states that the State will, upon notification of the discovery of a burial, assume jurisdiction of the site. It also stated that when an excavation is done, the State claims ownership of the remains as well as grave goods and further, it states that those remains will be removed, along with all grave goods and transported to the State museum.

W.M. There are several rumors about the number of artifacts that are out of the cave and in some degree of circulation. Can you tell me how many artifacts have been removed from the cave and their location?

R.B. Early on, in 1982, 2,000 artifacts were removed from the cave and sold to finance the exploration of the cave and sold to finance the exploration of the cave. These artifacts were sold to a private collector who agreed, at the time, to make those artifacts available for study and public view. I have, since the time of this interview, been informed by that collector, that this is no longer the case. Also, early on in 1982, this collector introduced me to John Ward, of Vincennes, IN. Ward informed me that he was running a museum in Vincennes and that he would like to obtain some of the artifacts for display. It took him a year to convince me to even come to Vincennes. After that occurred, I placed in his care 1,993 artifacts. The agreement was that he and another gentlemen in Vincennes would cover the cost of cave exploration and for that, I would place all recovered artifacts in the museum, which was named the Sonoftobac Museum. It was State approved. I have, in my possession, a signed receipt from Ward for the 1993 artifacts. In February of 1989, Jackson Judge and I inventoried the artifacts and found there to be 445 on display. In April 1989, Dr. Scherz ( Dr. James Scherz, University of Wisconsin, Madison), came down to do some photo work and while he was doing that, I counted the artifacts again and found there were only 356 remaining. 1,637 were missing. The total number of artifacts removed from the cave was 3,993.

W.M. How many ( artifacts) do you currently have?

R.B. On the night when Ward died, I went to Vincennes and recovered 117 artifacts, with Mrs. Ward's consent and in the presence of three witnesses. That leaves 239 which, as I understand it, are in the possession of her attorney. I know exactly where the 117 are. Since Ward's death, I have been contacted by several collectors who informed me that they purchased cave artifacts from Ward and they asked if I would verify that what they had purchased was in fact, from the cave. I told them that I would, but that I would have to photograph what they had so that a record could be established, which would reveal where all of the artifacts were located. They all refused. So, there are a lot of artifacts floating around out there and I have no idea where they are. I think that at this point, I should make something else clear. In the agreement between Ward and myself and the other gentleman, should it ever come to pass that some of the artifacts would have to be sold to raise funds, a division of thirds would be made between the three of us. That, by the way, was a written agreement. I was never given a cent from artifact sales. As a matter of fact, Ward insisted that he had never sold them. Again, this statement was witnessed. Dr. Scherz heard Ward say this, as did Jackson Judge. Ward also liked to tell people that I owe him a large sum of money from loans and advertising receipts which prove that I repaid every penny he loaned me, as well as advances, for work in the cave. I do not want to turn this into a "bash Jack Ward" thing, because he worked hard to find the answers. Unfortunately, he made some mistakes which will remain stuck to his memory. It should also be mentioned here that the organization which Ward, the other gentleman, and myself started in 1987, or there abouts, was dissolved in 1989. I insisted upon that because of an IRS. audit of Ward's finances. According to the IRS. agent's report, and here again, I have that report, they were about to file a claim against him. He was claiming all kinds of funny stuff. He told the agent that he had hired me to dig out HIS cave and that what he had paid me was wages. Thank goodness that was cleared up by the appeals officer. After that, I told Ward and the other gentleman that there was no way that I was going to continue with them when they tried to hand me over to the feds to protect themselves. They were out of it you hear me! Out of it!

W.M. Did you get or obtain any of these artifacts from the Slack Farm Site?

R.B. NO! I had nothing to do with that! That is the most dastardly attack upon my character to date. The Slack Farm incident occurred 1987 to 1989. No artifacts have been removed from the cave since 1986 because the cave has been sealed up. It has been rumored that I was involved in that, and rumors like that are a bold faced lie and you know how I hate liars! One person has stated in a public letter that Burrows Cave is just across the river from the Slack Farm. The truth of the matter is that I have no idea where the Slack Farm is located, except that it is in Kentucky. Burrows Cave is about 100 miles, as the crow flies, from Ohio River and Kentucky. I've never seen any artifacts from the Slack Farm but, from what I've been told, they are totally different from those of my cave. It is also rumored that I had eluded the police and gotten away with my part in the crime. As for those who were involved, I think from what I read in the newspapers and heard on TV, there were 10 involved. It is my understanding that all 10 were sent to prison or heavily fined. Court records will reveal who they were and that I was not one of them. Do you honestly think that if one, like myself, had gotten away, that the others would not have blown the whistle? That kind of stupidity shows what I have been fighting for eleven years now, and I'm getting tired of it.

W.M. Why not work with the State of Illinois?

R.B. I would love to work with the State, but in order to do so, I must then watch while the site is destroyed and the remains of whoever those people were are removed from their graves, stored in cardboard boxes or drawers in Springfield. That is what the law says will happen if official notification is made. We are diametrically opposed to this. The law says that when notification is made, the State assumes jurisdiction of the site, even on private property. It also states that if an excavation or study is done, the above still occurs. So long as that law is in effect, the land owner and I will not make notification.

The cave was sealed in 1989, before the current law was enacted and it has not been entered since and, it will not be, period! I am not interested in causing this site to be destroyed just to prove it is authentic, and the land owner, who does have the final say, is also against it. The State cannot move on the cave, because it is private property and by State law, the landowner must approve of any study or excavation. The State of Illinois cannot violate its own laws and that is just what it would be doing if it forced the issue. I think that the state archaeologist is being very wise by staying out of this because it is a no-win situation. Whoever forces the issue is going to get burned because they're going to have the Native American groups all over them. Look at what happened at the mound and burial museum recently and you will see what I mean (Dixon Mounds Museum).

W.M. How is it possible for someone to have a survey of the cave when they supposedly haven't been in the cave?

R.B. The map you refer to is the actual cave map which I surveyed. I do know how to survey a cave and the information from which he obtained his data is very accurate, down to the inch in measurement. It was no problem for an engineer like Dr. Scherz to compile his information layout. If you look at the Burrows Cave map in is book, on page 88, you will see that it was sketched by me and that I hold the copyrights to it. On page 106 of Dr. Scherz's work is a schematic of my map and it is intended to provide a clearer idea of what the cave layout is like. In the upper right hand corner of my map, on page 88, you will see the actual point to point measurement and compass bearing. That is how you map a cave. There is more to it, but if I went into all of it, your next journal is going to become a Sears Roebuck size. Also, you will see, on page 92 and 93, sketches of the burials. I actually sat sown in that crypt and sketched what you see there. I have recently been informed that Ward's manuscript, PEOPLE OF BURROWS CAVE, was reproduced without my knowledge and consent and that does violate my copyrights. I don't care who did the reproducing, I own the copyrights, I will not stand for that and I'm going to punch them out for it.

W.M. Why have Dr. Scherz and Mr. Rydholm not been in the cave?

R.B. The activity of these two gentlemen was late in the development of the Burrows Cave saga, after it was closed up. I did not meet Dr. Scherz until 1989, and only met Fred a year or two before that. They did not become involved in the cave work until 1989 and it had already been sealed by that time. They have, however, been to the valley and know of its location. They also know who the land owner is and his concerns for the welfare of the cave.

W.M. Does the location of the cave, that is the area around it, indicate any other possible sites of former habitation?

R.B. Yes! There are 5 other caves in the valley which have yet to be explored. There is also evidence of a very large village site which could be seen when the land was tilled for planting. Because of that, the land has not been worked for about three years now. There is also to be seen, several mounds in the area. No attempt has been made to fence off the area because it would be a sure tip off that something other than farm land is there. I do not want that!........

 


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