Thief targets Fort St. Joseph archaeology site

Published 1:24 pm Friday, June 28, 2024

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NILES — The Fort St. Joseph Archaeology Project is asking the community for help after learning its equipment was stolen over the weekend.

According to a Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project Facebook post, a trailer storing archaeological equipment was recently stolen from the site of Fort St. Joseph, an 18th-century trading post, mission, and garrison located on the St. Joseph River in Niles. The trailer and gate locks were cut and the trailer was taken through the site gate. 

While the Niles Police Department is working to investigate, the project is moving forward with a plan to make sure it has the supplies needed for the start of field school in less than two weeks. The project is asking for donations as it works to acquire supplies:

  • Empty prescription/medicine bottles used for storing small artifacts
  • Yellow Tidy Cat Buckets (or a similar bucket) that are used to collect soil removed from the units in order to be screened.

Material and monetary donations can be made to the Niles History Center during business hours by noting it is for “archaeology.”

The Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project is a collaboration between Western Michigan University Archaeological Field School and the City of Niles, with support from the greater community. 

From its founding in 1691 until its abandonment in 1781, the Fort was controlled by three European countries: France, Britain, Spain, and was also occupied by several Native American groups, including the Potawatomi. That distinction is why Niles is known as the “City of Four Flags.”

For more than twenty five years, WMU archaeology staff and students have worked to reveal the history of Niles’ Fort St. Joseph. Each year, hundreds of visitors came out to see the site during the annual Archaeology Open House.

The NPD encourages anyone with knowledge of the incident to come forward and contact the Niles Police Department at (269) 683-1313.