By Gary Brenner. NEW......WATCH A YOU TUBE MOVIE ABOUT THE LAST HOPEWELL MADE IN THE PARK BEFORE IT WAS A PARK..
INTRODUCTION: The Renner-Brenner Park is a project that I was a part of from 1979 to 1992. It is an archaeological preserve of a prehistoric village that mainly dates from 1,000 BC to 750 AD. This time period is generally known as the Woodland Period, but also known as the Kansas City Hopewell although artifacts have been found on the site that date to as early as the Nebo Hill and as late as the Mississippian period. The site is generally located at 3009 NW Vivion Road in Riverside, MO, 64150. Several previous professional excavations have taken place in the 20's, 30's, 50's, 70's and from 1980 to 1991 by myself as well as numerous written reports about the site and the surrounding former burial mounds.
West: 1877; Curtiss: 1878 ; Fowke: 1910 ; Shippee: 1921,1934,1937, 1940, 1941, 1959, 1960, 1964, 1967, 1969. 1972; Wedel: 1938, 1943; Roedl: 1954; Davis: 1955; Roedl & Howard: 1957; Cole: 1966; Mori: 1967; Johnson: 1969, 1971, Katz: 1974; Butler: 1974; Doren-Hazard-Satllings: 1975; Evans and Ives: 1976; Bell: 1976; Wright: 1978; Bray: 1979, 1980; Logan: 1979, 1980; Coombs: 1980; Feagins: 1980, 2009; Sturdevant: 1981; Grantham: 1982, 1985; Schmits: 1982; Chalfant: 1983; Parisi: 1984; Brenner: 1986, 1990
The Renner-Brenner Park is known by several names. In the scientific community its mostly known as the Renner Site. The official state number for the site is 23PL!, where the number 23 stands for the State of Missouri and PL1 stands for the first site officially recorded in Platte County.
The site is called Renner-Brenner Park for several reasons. The main reason is the land was owned by the Brenner family from 1844 to 1920. My great Aunt Carolina Brenner married Leslie Renner in 1920. Her dad gave the newlyweds 20 acres of land as a wedding gift. Mr. Renner was a banker by trade and leased the land back to his father in law to farm which he continued to do to the late 40s. At one point, the land was used only to raise strawberries. After that, the land was leased to others to farm. Leslie and Carolina had no interest in farming, although they did raise chickens for personal use. The current gazebo at the park is at the location where the chickens were raised.
Mr. Renner passed away in 1968 and Mrs. Renner in 1978. By 1978, the original 40 acres had been sold off and was a mere 6 acres. Shortly before her passing, Mrs. Renner asked me to paint her home. Through the summer of 1978 I painted her home and discovered the aunt I never really knew, much of my faimly history and discovered ARCHAEOLOGY!!!! In 1978, I was 23 years old and very interested in family history and otherwise just needed the money. The one thing I remember the most about Aunt Carolina was she loved to cook onions in everything. To this day I can still smell the aroma coming through the screen windows while I was painting. It drove me crazy and having not been an onion fan before, you can bet I do the same now!! During my three month painting experience and learning the love of onions, I also learned of Mett Shippee and some of Aunt Carolina's experiences with archaeology.
I'm now 54 and this page is probably as much a reflection of my past involvement as it is with details and photos about the park itself. Some will say its probably more of a "pat my own back" thing and that's fine with me. I'm darn proud of doing something so important.
This is me in 1987, just hours after the monument was set.
The wording was in conjunction with Jim Feagins and has the name of Shippee and Mr. and Mrs. Renner as required with the contract the city had to purchase the property.
As of today, 25 years later:
Gary Brenner in 2007 with his dog, Bob Barker.
Artifacts found in Riverside on and around the Renner Site date back as far as 4,000 BC and as recently as 1000 AD.
Other recorded sites within one mile are; 23PL 2, 12,18,23, 24, 25, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 285 & 286.
Around 4,000 BC, the NEBO HILL people occupied the upper bluffs. During that time there was flooding in the lower areas more than we could ever imagine. Their artifacts are found near the Renner Site. A few have been recovered at the site.
There is some evidence of actually several different cultures in the are before 1,000 BC, that apparently inherited the site and the area. The NEBO HILL people produced the most perfect artifacts in 4,000, which was rarely exceeded since. Almost 4,000 years lapsed between the NEBO HILL and the first WOODLAND people around 500 BC. There is little or no connection between the two cultures during the 4,000 year transition as the NEBO HILL people were far superior for their time at making spear points.
About 1,500 BC, the very early WOODLAND PEOPLE made it to Riverside. They are known as the BLACK SAND PEOPLE. Not widely reported, these people are known for their crude pottery that resembles oatmeal cookies. Their site is 23PL285 and is about a quarter mile north of the Renner Site. I found no evidence of their pottery or occupation at Renner.
Although there is evidence of occupation in and around the site for the last 4,000 years; it was the Woodland Culture who made their small village there from approximately 150 AD to 750 AD. Ohio was the center of America then. It was the center of the Hopewell. Immigration from Ohio led across the Midwest. Small troops of people began migrating outward through hundreds of years. As these people migrated out, they lost a lot of the Hopewell influence through time and distance. The climax of the period was 350 AD. and there is no evidence after 750 AD.
Communication and trading was their staple, and often a simple request or whatever, would take months, if not years to filter though their trade network. These were people before the bow and arrow. Their weapons were the spear, otherwise known as the atlatl.
We are fairly certain the Renner people left Ohio between 500 and 350 BC, and this group migrated to southern Illinois where they established a village. We know this from pottery comparisons.
From there, they eventually expanded westward via the Missouri River.
Along the way, they set up small camps to keep in contact as best they could with the home village.
By the time they made it to Renner, they found the Missouri River turned there. That made it too difficult to cross. Later, some did cross the river to venture into Kansas and Nebraska, but the Renner Site is THE WESTERN MOST KNOWN VILLAGE OF THE HOPEWELL INFLUENCE TO HAVE A VILLAGE FOR NEARLY 1,000 YEARS.
Up and down the Missouri River valley, these people almost always chose the second terrace, just out of the flood way, beside the Missouri River.
The area in Riverside was a perfect choice because they didn't need to go no further. It was a flat site along the second plane and afforded security and protection for 1,000 years. Here's the only carbon dates:
Uncalibrated Radiocarbon Dates for 23PL1
A.D. 687 +/- 250 (M-454), from four pits [Crane and Griffin 1958: 1119]
A.D. 430 +/- 200 (M-573), village debris [Crane and Griffin 1958: 180]
A.D. 108 +/- 200 (M-571), village debris, [Crane and Griffin 1959:180]
A.D. 8 +/- 250 (M-572), village debris,
70 B. C. +/- 100 (Gak 702), pottery
A.D. 108 +/- 100 (Gak 702) pottery
A.D. 438 +/- 100 (Gak 702] pottery
A.D. 687 +/- 100 (Gak 702] pottery
A.D 100 +/- 90 (Gak1166), pottery
The carbon dates range from 250 BC to 937 AD. Other readings from nearby similar sites show 750 BC to 750 AD as an average. It's also important to note in the area artifacts have been found that range from the Nebo Hill and before through the Woodland culture into the Mississippian Culture.
The first investigations were conducted by West, Fowke and Curtiss between 1877 and 1910. Their investigations focused on the mounds on the nearby bluffs. At that time, no one was aware of the "Renner Village".
During this time, all that was known were the mounds, nearly 20 in all and of various sizes and types. Some were stone vaults covered with timbers and earth and some were just earth mounds. The photos below were from two burial mounds known as Brenner Mounds #1 and #2. These mounds are recorded as 23PL25 and 23PL29.
There are two dates of both of these mounds.
M400- Charcoal from burial mound. AD 300
M-399 - Charcoal from burial mound. AD 400.
Below are three of several photos I have of these two mounds. Later publications by Mett Shippee, would show these vaults may have been used over and over with some evidence showing the remain were burnt. Archaeology was in an infant stage at best and there is no written record of just exactly how these vaults worked, other than the fact they did have an obvious doorway. They both were nearly exactly constructed the same with 2' thick rock walls. Both door ways faced the east. Each rock wall was about 3 feet tall. The doorway or entry was about 5 feet long. Except for the report from Fowke that he called these mounds, we don't know what type of structure may have been built above the 3 foot rock wall.
After having several years to reflect back, it is not out of the question these "vaults" not only required intensive labor, but were often made for several internments over several years. The only other purpose for a door would be to reuse the facility. I have more on this later after the photos. And thanks to my Uncle Lowell Brenner, we have the photos which were given to him by Mett Shippee and then to me. Each photo is fortunately marked on the back (thank God)!
West wall in #1 Brenner Mound approximately 1/4 mile east of the Renner Site on a ridge which is now a subdivision called Indian Hills. These mounds are long gone, but this is the first of several photos I have of Brenner Mounds #1 and #2. They all show generally a 8 x 8 foot square vault with 2 foot thick rock walls. There were door ways and the assemblage resembled an ingloo. They would have been covered with timbers and brush and then covered with dirt, thus making a mound. There is evidence some were reused as in burning the contents and brushing them aside to make room for a new burial. Over the years the timbers would have collapsed and trees and natural decay would have taken over. The first thing a person probably saw in 1800 was a man made mound with trees growing out of it. I doubt a door way was visible on first inspection.
South wall, Brenner mound #1.
J. Mett Shippee is the father of post modern archaeology in the area. He was simply the father of KC archaeology. Even after more than 40 years after his work, archaeologists still rely on is writings. In 1915, at the age of 19, he began his archaeology career. Although he had a real job as a millright, his devotion to the evolution of KC archaeology would continue for the next 70 years. He spent his free time exploring and noting everything he saw using his learing experience as a draftsman for the US Navy. Far ahead of most professionals of the period, Mett charted and recorded everything he discovered over the entire KC area.
In 1921, at the age of 25, he was walking from his home in Gladstone to Parkville. At that time the only road from there to Parkville, happend to go through what would become the Renner-Brenner Park. Back then, it was only a freshly plowed field for the first or maybe the second time. His unique eye saw the abundance of material turned up by the recent plowing and sought permission to make a map of what he saw.
That same summer, Carolina Brenner and Leslie Renner were married and just had their new house built, which is still there on the south end of the Renner-Brenner park. Mett asked the newlyweds if he could excavate an area. Mr. Renner was hesitant, but they agreed to allow Mett to excavate in the chicken yard (where the current gazebo now stands).
That summer, Mett excavated 4, 5 foot square grids to a depth of about four feet which was the first excavation ever attempted. What seemend like a simple excavation for a 25 year old amateur, turned out to be one of the most amazing discoveries in the Kansas City area.
Through his simple excavation, he was able to draw a conclusion the Renner farm was connected with the mounds. He also concluded the farm was once a village. That summer, he further investigated the remaining known mounds on the west side of the village on the bluffs.
Realizing he had literally stumbled upon something incredibly important, he sent a letter to the National Museum (now known as the Smithsonian Institute) for help.
After several communications, it would be nearly 15 years before Waldo Wedel from the National Museum, would bring his team to the Renner Farm.
During those 15 years, Mett continued to surface collect all over the KC area.
He had discovered the Hopewell complex influence in Kansas City.
Skipping ahead for a moment, the State of Missouri had set up a program to record all sites with historic and prehistoric significance.
This is a copy of all the known sites in 1949 that were hand drawn by Mett and submitted. In the left center is the Renner Site. To the left are the mounds on the west ridge. To the right are the 20+ mounds on the east ridge. On the northern part of the scan are the other sites he had investigated and recorded.
During the 15 years it would take Wedel to get there, Mett would have found and recorded what you see in the scan from 1949. He would also have found the Renner Site to be about 6 acres.
I should also note I'm sorry the scan is so bad. Basically the center is the Renner Site and everything else with the dots and dashes are gone. Most of the roads shown still exist.
In 1937, Wedel finally made it to the Renner Site where his team would spend the summer at the Renner Farm. Shippee had previously made arrangements where the tream could dig as not to disrupt the corn growing. That would be the chicken yard where Mett first made the discovery.
Photo of Shippe and Margaret at the Renner Site about 1937.
The Renner house is still on the site. About 300 feet to the southwest, was another building which was a former house. Today, there is nothing there but a new bridge.
That house had housed a radio communications center for the old Fairfax and Municipal airport. Now, it would be a bunk house for the Wedel team.
The house remained until shortly after the flood of 93. From the 60's into the 90's, it was the home of the Galletti's. In 1980, I was hired to re roof this house. In the background, you can see the east bluff now known as the Indian Hills subdivision. This is where Fowke's explored the mounds and where that hill at one time had 20+ mounds.
I don't want to skip too far ahead, but basically the home is owned by my ex wife and her husband and is now known as the Smith home.
By 1937 the old road through the Renner Farm was gone and a new road, now called Vivion Road had been cut through the west end of the site. When you see the Renner-Brenner/Smith home today, it appears to face the wrong direction. It once faced the old road to Parkville. The "old road to Parkville" bridge foundations is still there between the park parking lot and Patriot's Bank.
Wedel didn't know that despite be resolved to only dig in the chicken yard, that by accident he was able to excavate in one of the richest parts of the site. This area had never been touched by a plow or any other type of modern disturbance. The closest modern disturbance beside the construction of Vivion Road, was the installation of gas pipelines by the Great Lakes Pipeline Company.
I'm not sure when the pipelines went in, but they are shown in Shippee's report in 1949. The three most destructive acts in modern times were as follows:
1. The construction of Vivion Road which cut through the western half of the Renner Site. Shippee did make a remarkable attempt to salvage artifacts during the construction, but was often pushed aside so construction could continue.
2. The installation of the Great Lakes Pipeline, now known as the Williams Brothers Pipeline. The construction required a 30 foot easement and cut right through the middle of the site.
3. The construction of a new City Hall, Public Safety building. This was a remarkable error on the City's part. This happened about 2004 and the City government had changed with the influx of money from the Argosy Casino. No regard was taken into account they were destroying 25% of the Renner Site.
4. Subsequent destruction of the site moving a playground.
Between the three, 50% of the site was eliminated. The most obvious disregard was the construction of the new City Hall.
I do have to add in that by now the Renner-Brenner Park was there like it is today and I did bitch to the City administrator about the destruction. The administrator at that time told me it was a "city council" decision. I was allowed to surface find if I had permission and only after hours of construction. You'll find out later, but this was not only a slap in the face to me, but the entire archaeological community as well.
Even though the Renner Site is on the National Register of Historic Places, the City could do whatever it wanted because no federal funds were involved.
This map shows a view of all known excavations up to 2010. Wedel's excavation is in red. My excavations from 86 to 91 are green. The City 2009 project is blue.
Wedel's 1937 excavation was to be contained in the chicken yard. After debate, the Renner's allowed Wedel to expand his excavation into the corn field, which was usually a corn field, but this summer, it was a potato field
Wedel's excavation provided important data to identify the Renner Site as a Woodland component of the Hopewell Culture. (A.D. 1 to A.D.650) It was years later before Mett Shippee was finally given the actual credit for "Wedel's" discoverty. Mett isn't included in the photo above, but he was there. Mett worked in his own space away from Wedel.
A view of Wedel's excavation looking north and at about the center of his trench. You can clearly see cleaned out pits. These are pits #8,9 and 10. These pits were generally located under the current gazebo and ramp.
Wedel's team in 1937. Wedel is in the center. They are standing about where the current
Flaked blade and groundstone gorget recoverd by Wedel.
Although the work was the most scientific and professional at the time, little was screened and most work was excavated with a hand shovel. By todays standards this was no more than a salvage operation. Wedel's problem was he had the man power, but limited time for the summer. In today's world, he would be considered a treasure hunter. The difference is that he did his best and took his work back to a lab where he catalogued and analyzed everything and wrote a report. However, the artifacts he recovered remain amazing considering he used simple shovels.
This is a complete small bowl recovered by Wedel [above]. This is the only complete pottery vessel know recovered and the markings indicate this is an early bowl from the Woodland Period.
Two Two partially restored bowls a little smaller than a 5 gallon bucket. They show the Renner cross hatched rim with rocker design and cross hatching.
Another partially restored vessel. Note the rocker marks that were applied with a bone tool while turning the piece. See photo below for an artist rendering of the bowl.
An artists concept of the pottery bowl above.
Various reconstructed bowls showing definate Hopewell influence. Most likely around 750AD.
This drawing from pieces of pottery again shows the Hopewell influence. This drawing depicts Havana type aspects of the Hopewell. Most likely between 350AD and 750AD.
A typical rim sherd from Wedel showing the cross hatched rim with dentate stamping with cross hatching at the body of the bowl.
These Examples show rim sherds from earlier in the Woodland period.
Wedel's greatest accomplishment at Renner, was to set up a datum point and thus a numbering system based on grids. Every excavation since then has used the same datum point. The datum point is still marked by a metal pin today. Although the datum point was picked because the excavation was contained at first in the chicken yard, most importantly it just happened to ba about the center of the Renner Site.
Aside from the historical aspect, what's most important with archaeology, is that all subsequent excavations used the same datum point. In simple terms, this means if you took an artifact I found and used the numbers where it was located, using Wedel's map above, you could put that artifact right back where you found it.
Wedel finished his excavation the summer of 1937. On December 10th, 1946, Shippee submitted this document to the Smithsonian Instute.
Almost 20 years went by before the next excavation at Renner. I'm sure Shippee continued to surface collect when he had the time. After Wedel's 1937 report, the site was generally known in the scientific community.
In the meantime, the Renner's kept their farm going as normal. Leslie Renner had a condition which prevented them from having children. Unknown at the time, they had prepared a second story in the house for children. (more on that later)
Professors, Roedl and Howard from the University of Missouri, sought permission to conduct a summer excavation based on the same base line as Wedel's in 1954. They were granted permission and immediately sought Shippee's help. Their excavation required going outside of the chicken yard into the corn field along Wedel's previous excavation. Roedel and Howard agreed to pay for any corn damage to Mr. Renner. Although their techniques were much farther advanced than Wedel's, it was still primitive by todays standards. Their findings were written noted the Hopewell influence in their findings, mainly with pottery markings. Their excavation is marked "1954" on the first map of the site near the top of the page.
Leo Roedl excavating [above] a storage pit in 1954 just south of Wedel's large rectangle excavation into the "potato" patch.
This photo [above] from 1954, was believed to be a cooking feature composed of rubble and limestone rocks.
This photo was taken in 1960 beside the Roedl excavation.