Archaeological dig scheduled for Fort St. Joseph site

Published 5:32 pm Saturday, June 19, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- An upcoming archaeological dig at the Fort St. Joseph site will be taking a group of community members along with them for a one of a kind experience.
In early July, Western Michigan University professor Dr. Michael Nassaney and a group of his students will be performing a three week archaeological dig at the site for the first time since the summer of 2002.
At the last dig, a group of high school juniors and seniors were invited to tag along with the college students for a lesson in archaeology.
This year, there will be two separate groups invited to join the students for a unique experience. One week will be reserved for high school juniors and seniors and another week will be for adults, who are interested in the history of Fort St. Joseph.
The programs are limited to 10 participants in each week and there is a program fee of $125. The high school week, which is also open to parents, will take place from July 12 to 16. The adult program will be held from July 19 to 23.
In addition to the two programs, this year's project will also include a community day on July 27. The entire community is welcome to attend a free informational day at the site. (People are being asked not to visit the site at any other times for preservation and safety concerns).
Carol Bainbridge, director of the Fort St. Joseph Museum, said this is wonderful opportunity for both students and adults who want to learn more about Niles history and archaeology in general.
Bainbridge said these studies are also important in uncovering some of the mysteries of our local history.
The participants will be directly involved in the archaeological excavations, lab work and the cleaning and processing of artifacts.
With a superb year of discoveries in 2002, it took over a year to research and catalog the project's findings. This extended research time delayed another visit to the 15 acre site located along Bond Street until this year.
Some of the most significant findings of the landmark dig include structural remains, a fireplace and hearth and a French double-sol coin that can be traced to a four year period, 1709-1713.
Bainbridge said the evidence found in the 2002 project was confirmation that they are looking in the right area.
This year's project will build on those "hot spots," or places where they have found items in the past, and expand into some new territory.
Because of the site's proximity to the St. Joseph River, the area must undergo the expensive, but necessary process of dewatering through a wellpoint system.
This process, which pumps the water out of the target area and into the river, cost $8,600 in 2002 and is not covered by Western Michigan University.
Bainbridge said this portion of the project is being funded through donations from the Support the Fort organization, the City of Niles, the Fort St. Joseph Museum, the Fort St. Joseph Historical Association and private donations from businesses and individuals.
For more information or to sign up for one of the programs, call Carol Bainbridge at (269)683-4702.