Bat Creek Stone: At a Glance

John W. Emmert

John W. Emmert was a devoted Democrat, a Constable, and a Master Mason that was born in Bristol, Tennessee. While he was relatively uneducated, he did rise to the position of Quarter Master in the Confederate army during the Civil War. Unfortunately, the war did not go well for him. In addition to losing the war, Emmert was struck ill on many occasions. He developed some disabilities that remained with him through out his life including a wounded leg that he received during the war.

A while after the war ended, Emmert found work with Cyrus Thomas as a field agent for the Bureau of American Ethnology’s Mound Survey Project. However, due to his health he was not the most successful agent at the Bureau.

It is reported that Emmert developed a drinking problem that led to many bad habits. He was not very welcomed by those whom he had stayed with while excavating mounds for the Bureau. Thomas received a complaint that he was very rude and not very graceful to his host. He would come in to their house and go to bed with his muddy boots still on his feet. Many suggest this was due to an proven alcohol problem.

Emmert was terminated from the Bureau for lack of funds, but in a letter to Major John Wesley Powell, Thomas explains he was very well justified to terminate him. In addition to the supposed alcohol problem, he had also turned in forgeries in the past. Nonetheless, later on he was rehired by Thomas.

It was about a month after Emmert’s rehire that he discovered the Bat Creek Stone. Emmert was desperate to find proof that the ancestors to the Cherokee were in fact the mound builders. The stone is believed to have saved his job at the Bureau. However it was not without scrutiny. Thomas did not trust Emmert’s word on the excavation site. He sent Middleton to the site to confirm and deny Emmert’s findings. Middleton reported it was just as Emmert had stated in his reports.

He went on to discover many other artifacts at several different mounds, but none would top the Bat Creek Stone. Due to his unsuccessful attempt as a field agent for the Bureau, he is not very well known. Even worse for him, because of the accusations that the Bat Creek Stone is a fraud, his credibility may forever be tainted. However, a monument to him has been erected at his burial site in Bristol, TN as a beginning to recreating his image.


Section from Bat Creek Stone: At a Glance by Mandel Cook