Decatur man says canoe believed crafted by Native American

Decatur, Alabama (AP) 9-07

A collector of Native American relics says the dugout canoe that he got in 1969 is estimated to be between 400 and 600 years old.

Roy Mitchell of Decatur said the canoe, which is 17 feet, 2 inches long and weights 300 pounds, was crafted by an American Indian from a poplar tree and had been preserved under a bluff shelter with a sandstone overhang.

Mitchell said he got it in March 1969 from a farmer who was a regular visitor at his Texasburger restaurant in Moulton.

“He’d drop by every Thursday or Friday afternoon, and we became friends,” Mitchell told The Decatur Daily in a story Tuesday. “He knew I collected American Indian relics, and every now and then he’d bring in an arrowhead or two, and I’d give him a milk shake and a hamburger.”

Mitchell said the farmer, who is now deceased, told Mitchell he could have the canoe, which was at the back of a shelter about 75 feet deep, turned upside down and covered with two feet of dust.

“It was so dry under (the shelter), and I believe the dryness is what protected the canoe from deteriorating,” Mitchell said.

Lamar Marshall, executive director of Wild South in Moulton, said Mitchell’s canoe story is feasible and agreed that dryness of bluff shelters preserved the canoes.

“It was standard procedure for Southeastern Indians to make and utilize dugout canoes out of yellow poplar,” Marshall said. “That was their traditional craft. They would cut (the tree), let it season and begin to shape it, sometimes leaving it as a log shape.”

Mitchell said he sold the canoe to a Prattville man in 1973 for $6,000 cash because he needed the money. He said the man brought it back from his home in Macon, Ga., three weeks ago because he had no room for it at his one-story house.

Mitchell said he gave the man Indian relics he valued at about $10,000 for the canoe.

“I’ll keep it for a while,” he said. “I’m in no hurry to sell it.”

Information from: The Decatur Daily,