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                  Let the digging begin
July 3, 2008

BY CHARLES M. BARTHOLOMEW Post-Tribune correspondent

PLEASANT TOWNSHIP -- Preliminary field work Wednesday by a university professor at the Collier Lodge archaeological site near Baums Bridge will allow volunteers on this year's excavation to begin digging on the first day of the three-week project Monday, instead of waiting a day or two as in past years.

Associate Professor Mark Schurr , chairman of the anthropology department at the University of Notre Dame, spent several hours in the yard around the abandoned building searching for the exact locations where the crew left off last July.

"We usually do this on the first day. I thought it would be good to come down today," said Schurr, who has an ongoing agreement with property owners John Hodson and the Kankakee Valley Historical Society, of which he is president, to oversee scientific work at the site along an un-channelized portion of the Kankakee River.

In the past five summers, Schurr's students and volunteer members of the historical society have made significant archaeological and geological discoveries that Hodson and Schurr hope will lead to the listing of the old Kankakee Marsh hunting lodge and surrounding land on the National Register of Historic Places as an archaeological site.

Before unpacking the $25,000 Ground Penetrating Radar, which resembles a lawn mower with a TV monitor in the handle, Hodson and his assistant had to locate the metal stakes, four to a unit, with which they had marked last year's excavations before the holes were filled and covered with plastic sheets to protect them.

"Once we find the stakes, we'll use the transit to re-establish our grid. We'll re-open one unit and figure out where we want to open new units," he said.

First on Schurr's list is the corner of what he calls the "Mega-structure," the foundation of a five-by-17 foot cabin discovered on the last day of the 2007 operation, possibly dating from the Removal Period in 1838 when the area was known as Pottawatomie Ford, the only way across the Kankakee between South Bend and Momence, Ill.

Hodson said this means much of the dig will be covered by new provisions in the State Antiquities Act, which in past years required permits for anyone digging, even on their own property, for artifacts dating from before 1816, the year of Indiana 's statehood.

"It's been extended up to 1870, so that it covers the Civil War period. It means we have to get a permit from the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology," he said.

He said about 75 people have signed up to dig, about 30 of whom will be present on any given day.


A wealth of history lies close by


Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2008 2:24 PM CDT

Kankakee Valley Post-News

Associate Professor for the Department of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, Mark Schurr , visited the Collier Dig site last week to do preliminary field work for the archeological dig which is taking place July 7-24. Schurr plans on opening up sites where they left off last July. The area appears to hold a wealth of history which has been unearthed in recent years.

Sherri Morrison, kvpost@netnitco.net

Nestled back on the country roads of Kouts lies property along the Kankakee River that is a historian's paradise. President of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society, John Hodson, bought 150 acres of land along the Kankakee Valley River in 2000.

Hodson belonged to a muzzle loading hunting club in the area and on a rainy day when he was unable to hunt, Hodson took a walk with his friend to property that he had hunting privileges on. While walking, Hodson saw a Century 21 For Sale sign and called about the property. "I really liked the area and the property. I originally was just looking for a place to hunt," said Hodson.

Once Hodson purchased the property he began to learn about the history of the land he owned. "The Collier Family built a hotel/restaurant/store, in

1898 on the property," said Hodson. Today the building still stands. By the time Hodson had found out all the history surrounding the property, he was running short on money. "In order to get grants or funding for exploring the property, it has to be a public entity. It was then that I formed the Kankakee Valley Historical Society," said Hodson.

In 2001, after Hodson had become quite knowledgeable in the history of the property, he attended a seminar in which archeology was the main topic.

Mark R. Schurr, Associate Professor for the Department of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame was the guest speaker. During the seminar, Schurr showed slides of various finds during digs he was a part of. Seeing some of the items that Hodson too had found on his property, he raised he has and informed Schurr that he had many similar finds on the land he owned.

"Mark asked me where we were from and when we told him Porter County, he said 'At the Collier Lodge,' we told him yes and he asked to speak to us after the seminar," said Hodson.

Schurr had been told about the Collier property prior to the seminar and after talking with Hodson, arranged a time to come out and explore the property. "Mark came out with some of his students and came up with over 200 artifacts in a matter of hours. The next year we began our annual digs and have done so ever since," said Hudson.

"It's taken on a life of its own. If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be doing this, I would have told them they were crazy," said Hudson.

The area was once an actual Indian trail that they took to get to the river. It was known as one of the world's greatest hunting areas, according to Hodson.

Each year that there has been a dig at the property, over 10,000 artifacts have been found each time. "Everything that is found is recorded.

It's a really unique site," said Hodson. Schurr told Hodson that at the rate they are going, there could easily be productive digs for the next 150 years. Hodson mentioned that at one point before he purchased the land, thoughts of putting a parking lot on the property had been discussed.

Plans for the scientific excavations at the Collier Lodge Site have been prepared by Schurr and presented to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology.

Last year's dig uncovered what is believed to be a spear point that dates back to 6,000-8,000 B.C. Also found were parts of a large tea pot dating back to the 1830's.

"We found some type of cellar that we're hoping to uncover more of this year. We're hoping they threw their trash or something in before they covered it up," said Schurr.

The excavation began from 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Monday and will continue through July 24. Everyone is invited and those who would like to participate in the dig are required to be a member of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society. Forms can be downloaded at the Historical Society's website www.kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org. Anyone under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult member of the Historical Society who has legal authority to sign on his/her behalf.

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July 7, 2008

History hidden under lodge

July 8, 2008

BY CHARLES M. BARTHOLOMEW Post-Tribune correspondent

Like the new Indiana Jones movie, Monday at the Collier Lodge was part scientific expedition, part reunion.

"This is my fifth year here," said Bridget Murray. She brought her son Cray, 12, and her daughter Sequoia, 17, from their home in Greenwood, south of Indianapolis, to participate in the sixth summer dig on the grounds of the old Kankakee Marsh hunt club.

The archeological excavation is southwest of Kouts at Baum's Bridge and the Kankakee River .

"She's going to use this as her high school senior project," Murray said.

Nearby, almost 40 more volunteers of all ages waited for associate professor Mark Schurr , anthropology department chairman at the University of Notre Dame, to begin his orientation talk for the three-week project now in its sixth year with the Kankakee Valley Historical Society.

Schurr last week re-established the "grid" on the site to locate the excavation units that he and the crew had covered with plastic and closed after last year's dig. That dig uncovered a promising "feature" that might be a cabin that dates from the days of the original river ferry in the 1830s. 

"We've got a lot of new faces here. Our goal will be to figure out how big that feature is by putting a number of new units over it."

Schurr said he has added water screening for unearthed artifacts to the dig process, which Schurr said "will get really small artifacts."

"We're going to move at a slower pace, trying to understand what's going on as we dig," he said. 

Two students of Valparaiso University geography professor Ron Janke said they're following Janke's recommendation that the dig will benefit their studies.

"I've taken several of his Native American courses," said senior meteorology major Elizabeth Zbacnik, 21, of Fox River Grove , Ill.

"I'm just looking for experience," said Valparaiso native, Chris Nichols , 22, a senior.

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July 8, 2008

Crew catalogues, records finds

July 9, 2008

BY CHARLES M. BARTHOLOMEW Post-Tribune correspondent

Mark Schurr , anthropology department chairman at the University of Notre Dame, spent part of the second day of this summer's archaeological excavation at the Collier Lodge near Baum's Bridge at the Kankakee River expanding the survey grid laid in 2007.

The first order of business Monday was opening a new unit next to the "megafeature" that was uncovered the previous summer, according to John Hodson, president of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society that owns the lodge and is co-sponsoring the dig.

He said the crew of about 30 volunteers opened five units.

Schurr hopes to unearth more of what could be the cabin that was at Eaton's Ferry on the Kankakee in the late 1830s, when the Pottawattomie Indians were marched out of Northwest Indiana by the U.S. Army. He has estimated the dimensions of the cabin at 5 feet by 17 feet, large for the period.

Tuesday morning rain in some parts of Porter County didn't reach the dig site, four miles southwest of Kouts on the Kankakee River .

Hodson said prehistoric items were found, identified by Schurr as of the Late Woodland era, including grit-tempered pottery shards and a piece of a cord-marked pot shoulder dating from 600 to 1,100 A.D.

In the afternoon modern-era curiosities appeared quickly. Hodson said he found an emblem from the trunk of 1970-71 Cadillac and a fire-scarred 1945 penny.

Ralph Klapis , voice instructor at Valparaiso University , found what appear to be items from a 19th-century sewing kit, including a mother-of-pearl button.

Every discovery gets recorded and cataloged.

New volunteers continued to arrive, some with plans to improve their resumes by incorporating the dig into previously made travel plans.

"My brothers and I came to visit our grandmother in Nappanee," said Hillary Sletten , 22, a geologist for an environmental remediation consultant in Syracuse , N.Y.

She said she and Sean Sletten, 21, and brother Wayne, 18, both Air Force ROTC officers, were camping in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and would be at the site for just a couple of days.

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Late Woodland (600-1050 AD), grit tempered, cord marked, shoulder 

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July 9, 2008

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July 10, 2008

More prehistoric items found during Collier Lodge dig

July 11, 2008

BY CHARLES M. BARTHOLOMEW Post-Tribune correspondent

PLEASANT TOWNSHIP --Although the emphasis on this year's archaeological excavation at the Collier Lodge is on the Historic Period, after Indiana became a state in 1816, workers are digging up more prehistoric artifacts to add to the thousands already unearthed in the previous five summers.

Kankakee Valley Historical Society president John Hodson said Thursday's haul included assorted prehistoric pottery and flint flakes found along the Kankakee River southwest of Kouts.

These have been dated generally as far back as the first millennium B.C. when they appear, even though the digging units opened so far have concentrated around the so-called "mega-feature" that has absorbed the attention of dig leader Mark Schurr , chairman of the University of Notre Dame anthropology department.

"Schurr is still going at a slower pace to be more exacting. Today he doubled the size of the grid with the GPR (Ground-Penetrating Radar) to the east of the mega-feature. We've got four units around it now," Hodson said.

He said the mega-feature has yielded a rich store of dinnerware fragments -- china, plates, and cups -- as they try to establish the perimeter of what Schurr thinks might be a cabin that was there with the original Eaton's Ferry around 1840.

One unit was closed up when the excavation reached the bottom of the sand layer that has given up most of the artifacts.

The daily crew count in the first week has been 35 to 40 with new volunteers showing up every day. Hodson noted a mother and father and their two teenage daughters signed up to work today.

Although it's not required, some volunteers from out of the region intend to stay until the dig ends July 24.

Helen Broge, 23, of Ann Arbor , Mich. , is a day-care worker with experience on a field school excavation while she was at Michigan State University .

"I would like to go back to school, I have different ideas about what I want to do," she said.

Like many of her co-workers, she's trying her hand at a variety of tasks, including digging up what are likely items that disappeared from pockets or were thrown away as much as a century and a half ago.

"Nails, glass, a button ... things that people just kind of lost," she said.

Today is a day off for Schurr and the diggers. Hodson said the project will start up again Monday at 9 a.m. and urged anyone coming to the site at Baum's Bridge to get there at 8:30 a.m.

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July 14, 2008

Local archaeologists explore underground structure

By Krystin E Kasak The Times NWI
219.548.4353 | Monday, July 14, 2008

KOUTS | Indiana Jones may have explored the Temple of Doom , but local archaeologists are focusing their energy on an underground feature near Kouts that may have belonged to some of the region's earliest inhabitants.

Armed with shovels and buckets, volunteers for the sixth annual archaeological dig along the Kankakee River began this year's excavations with a focused plan.

During the final days of last year's dig, the all-volunteer group discovered an underground structure measuring at least 14 feet wide and 5 1/2 feet deep. After finding the feature, dig leader Mark Schurr said it could be anything from an ice house to a cabin basement to a summer kitchen.

It is this feature that is the main focus of the 2008 dig.

"When something like this happens, the first thing you want to do is figure out where its boundaries are -- how big it is," said Schurr, who also heads the anthropology department at the University of Notre Dame. "It looks like it is four times as wide as we originally thought it was."

Although Schurr still doesn't know exactly what the structure is, nearby artifacts, dirt and materials continue to provide helpful pieces to solving the puzzle.

Scattered bricks suggest remnants of a chimney base, while broken glass and pharmacy bottles show that the structure may have been used as a trash pit by inhabitants from the early 1800s.

In another area, 1840s pottery was found about 5 feet below the surface. If the cabin-like structure is dated to this time, it would coincide with when the region's earliest inhabitants were first settling the area.

The main portion of the unit also has a layer of brick a few feet down -- something Schurr said would provide a "clean slate" for his group.

"It means anything under the bricks has not been disturbed," Schurr said.

Volunteers -- who showed up for the first week in near record numbers -- listened intently to Schurr's teachings, observing the meticulous process of washing, cataloging and recording each artifact.

"You always think you have to go a long way to find this kind of stuff," said Doreen Gregori, of Lowell . "But it's neat when it's right here in your backyard and you can see the local history."

Gregori and her family were among several first-time volunteers this year. Many workers from previous digs also returned to continue the excavations.

Since Schurr began conducting the digs at Collier Lodge, his group has found tens of thousands of artifacts from various time periods, including arrowheads, pottery, archaic points and animal bones.

So far this year, most of the artifacts have come from the historic era, Schurr said. Some of the more interesting finds include remnants of an old clay pipe, pottery shards and items from a 19th century sewing kit.

Local dig gets global look

 July 14, 2008

BY CHARLES M. BARTHOLOMEW Post-Tribune correspondent

PLEASANT TOWNSHIP -- This year's dig at the old Collier Lodge has attracted attention from around the globe as well as a note from the Creation Museum in Kentucky .

Kankakee Valley Historical Society president John Hodson said reports on the dig and that of Valparaiso University geography professor Ron Janke on the sand islands in the former Kankakee Marsh are gaining notice from scientists.

"I received an e-mail this week about Ron's work offering "some valuable tools that could be of help" in Janke's studies," Hodson said.

The message from the Creation Museum , in Kentucky near Cincinnati , according to the Web site www.creationmuseum.org, suggests the dates of the dig and the sand islands are wrong.

"Creation happened around 6,800 years ago, with the worldwide flood occurring 4,500 years ago, resulting in the developing of the continents, the Grand Canyon , and the fossil record," Hodson's correspondent wrote.

The museum is filled with exhibits prepared by scientists who support the Creationist view that the Earth was created a little more than 6,000 years ago, including a Tyrannosaurus rex bone, not a fossil, with red blood cells, tissue, and  blood vessels, suggesting the dinosaurs have been around recently.

In the first week of his sixth summer overseeing the archaeological excavation at the Collier Lodge on the Kankakee River southwest of Kouts, associate professor Mark Schurr is tightening the project's focus on what he calls "the mega-feature" that was unearthed on the last day of the 2007 dig

On Friday, an off-day at the site near Baum's Bridge, Hodson said Schurr has spent mornings going over his plans to explore what he thinks is a 170-year-old cabin foundation with the crew of 30 to 40 volunteers from over 100 who have signed up  to participate in part of the three-week program.

Hodson said Indiana Department of Natural Resources archaeologist Amy Johnson will visit Baum's Bridge next Wednesday to inspect the site, which is operating a new revision to the state Antiquities Law that advance the date of artifacts for which a permit is required to dig from 1816 to 1870. Johnson is involved with the KVHS application to list the lodge as a prehistoric site on the National Register of Historic Places, for which the group received a grant of almost $5,000 last year.

In addition, staff of the Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Bureau will be at the lodge next Friday on what marketing director Becky Fox calls a monthly "familiarization trip."

Hodson said they will also check on the progress of the society's first Aukiki (an Indian name for the river) Festival in August.  He said he's doing daily updates of the KVHS Web site at www.kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org with new reports and pictures, and is receiving requests to join the dig for the last two weeks.


Sixth Year of Excavation at Collier Lodge

By Erin D. Smith

Lowell Tribune

             This is the sixth consecutive year that Mark Schurr , associate professor of anthropology and department chairman at the University of Notre Dame, and John Hodson, president of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society, have excavated at Collier Lodge.  The lodge is a landmark on the National Registry for Historic Landmarks just southwest of Kouts along the Kankakee River .  The focus this year is on the “mega-feature” located on Baum’s Bridge near the Kankakee River found in the final days of the three-week dig last summer. 

            Nearing the end of the dig in 2007 volunteers discovered an underground structure measuring at least 14 feet wide and 5 1/2 feet deep. Schurr is anxious to unearth more of what could be a variety of structures such as the cabin that was at Eaton's Ferry on the Kankakee in the late 1830s. After finding the structure, dig leader Mark Schurr said it could be anything from an icehouse to a cabin basement to a summer kitchen.

This particular find has been dubbed the “mega-feature” and will be the focus of this year’s archeological excavation.  The mega-feature has yielded some interesting dinnerware fragments including china, plates, and cups thus far. Yet, there have been many other artifacts, ancient and modern alike, that has been discovered elsewhere on the site.  In past excavations a magnificent find was a bird stone theoretically used as a weight for spears. Hodson said some of the prehistoric items that have been discovered were identified by Schurr being from the Late Woodland era, including grit-tempered pottery shards and a piece of a cord-marked pot shoulder dating from 600 to 1,100 A.D.  

Other Native American artifacts have been uncovered as well such as flint shards, spear points, and pottery chips.  More modern artifacts, most likely from early inhabitants in the 1800s, were found as well such as bricks suggesting remnants of a chimney base.  Furthermore, findings of broken glass and pharmacy bottles show that inhabitants from the early 1800s may have used the area as a garbage pit. In another area, about 5 feet below the surface 1840s pottery was found. If the cabin-like mega-feature were dated to this time, it would coincide with when the region's earliest inhabitants first settled the area. One of the most recent finds was a 1970-71 Cadillac emblem, a 1945-penny, sewing kit, and a mother-of-pearl button. Everything discovered is recorded no matter what time period it may have come from. 

            About 75 people have signed up to participate in this year’s excavation at Collier Lodge.  All being volunteers from all over the place, some traveling and staying in hotels throughout the duration of the dig. Some of the volunteers are students, some have come to enhance their resumes, many bring out their children and teenagers for the experience, and others come just because of personal interest. Each day averages about 30 to 40 volunteers.  This is enough to have five different excavation sites open at once.

           The archeological excavation is turning up important clues of what life was like for inhabitants of Porter County from 1100 A.D. to the 20th century.  The lodge is providing useful information to archeologist, anthropologist, historians who desire more insight on the past inhabitants who utilized the rich resources of the Kankakee River area. Being the only major river to run through the region, it is the largest moving body of water in Northwest Indiana . Although the biology of the River has been altered due to pollution, habitat loss, and human intervention, the Kankakee River once provided vast bountiful natural resources of food, shelter, and water to humans and animals alike.  Unfortunately, the Collier Lodge Site is only archeological excavation site along the Kankakee River in Indiana and Illinois . Hence, what is found there maybe the only gateway to knowing what life was like for the earliest inhabitants ever to live along the banks of the Kankakee . The excavation has been open since the 7th and will run through the end of the month, and will hopefully result in furthering knowledge of the Collier Lodge site’s colorful past. For more information please visit the Kankakee Valley Historical Society’s website at www.kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org




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July 15, 2008


Joining Collier Lodge archaeological dig just a click away

July 15, 2008

BY CHARLES M. BARTHOLOMEW Post-Tribune correspondent

PLEASANT TOWNSHIP -- The Kankakee Valley Historical Society is inviting armchair archaeologists to participate in the summer excavation at the Collier Lodge from the comfort of their computer stations.

Don't worry about burning gas that costs more than $4 a gallon or paying the society's annual membership dues to sign up at the site near Baum's Bridge on the Kankakee River . Would-be Indiana Joneses can go to www.kankakeevalley

historicalsociety.com and click on "2008 Dig Picture Gallery," according to KVHS president John Hodson.

"We're finding old bottles and other things that we just don't know what they are," Hodson said Monday as the dig began its second week under the supervision of associate professor Mark Schurr , anthropology department chairman at the University of Notre Dame.

Other objects include one that looks like a metal collar with straps attached and some kind of hand-sized weapon or tool that resembles an arrow with the end of a peg stuck in it.

Hodson said he's going to post photos of this and other large finds on the KVHS Web site in hopes that one of the thousands of hits on the picture page will be from someone who can help identify one of the specimens.

Daily signup sheets tallied 37 volunteers and eight observers, with new people continuing to show up eager to work.

Dylan Retherford, 9, came with his father, William, an information technology resources manager in Noblesville, to spend his birthday exercising his interest in archaeology.

"He likes Egypt and mummies," William Retherford said. "We found this on the Internet. It was the only thing that let someone his age participate."

"I found this piece of (ceramic) pipe," said Dylan, sifting through fresh dirt at one of the work tables.

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Late Archaic point 1,000 - 3,000 B.C.

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July 16, 2008

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Dr. Mark Schurr, Dr. Robert McCullough, Dr. Amy Johnson

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Dr. Robert McCullough, Dr. Craig Arnold

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July 17, 2008

Diggers find layers of history


| Thursday, July 17, 2008

KOUTS | The main event at this year's archaeological dig just keeps getting bigger and better.

Diggers along the Kankakee River have focused this year's excavation on a large cabin-like structure below ground. Work during the second week of the dig indicates that the 'megafeature' might actually be two separate structures in one.

On Wednesday, local archaeologists reached an uneven layer of brick within the feature. Above the brick were remnants of various kitchen debris, such as a butter knife, flask and spoon. The items were dated to between 1890 and 1910.

Although the group has not made it below the brick yet, a nearby area shows that same depth to be dated around 1840. Dig leader Mark Schurr said the layer of brick could be a separating point for two separate structures erected at different times in history.

"What we really have here is layers of different time periods, snapshots of what people were doing, what they were throwing out," said Schurr, who also heads up the anthropology department at the University of Notre Dame.

Schurr theorized that an initial cellar-like structure existed during the 1840s that was eventually demolished and filled with brick. A second structure was later erected on top of the brick, with a possible kitchen feature.

Because of the high number of bricks, artifacts and debris, getting to the bottom of the feature is a daunting task.

"It might take us all day to get below this," Schurr said, pointing to a unit filled with bottles, bricks and mortar. "It would be great if we can get to the bottom, but it's highly unlikely."

Schurr said his ultimate goal this year is to determine the exact boundaries of the historical duplex. Based on current units, he estimated the feature to be about 30 feet by 30 feet. Three additional units were opened this week, creating a giant cross over the center of the feature.

If the group can get below the brick, the debris could paint a historical picture about the region's early inhabitants. Because of the separate historical layers, cross-sections would provide a timeline of sorts.

"We know that in the 1840s there was a mixed economy, with fishing, hunting and trapping," Schurr said. "How long did that last? What was the economy like? What were their ways of life?"

Schurr also expressed hope for a layer of artifacts from the Civil War era.

"We know a lot about the pioneers in the 1840s and the post-civil war time of the hunting lodge," Schurr said. "The Civil War is probably the least known time period of the region. We know people lived here during that time, so it would be really neat if we could find a layer of it.


State support archaeological dig near Kouts

July 17, 2008

BY CHARLES M. BARTHOLOMEW Post-Tribune correspondent

PLEASANT TOWNSHIP -- State money to fund the Kankakee Valley Historical Society's archaeological excavations at the Collier Lodge is well spent, an Indiana Department of Natural Resources official said Wednesday after visiting the site at Baum's Bridge.

"This is a unique project in that there's a standing structure that makes a strong connection between restoration of historic buildings and archaeology," said Amy Johnson, senior archaeologist with the DNR Division of Historic Preservation.

Johnson said part of her office's mission is to make the public aware of the importance Indiana places on research of state history and prehistory.

She said the Collier Lodge project, now in its sixth summer, has received several grants of money from the U.S. Department of the Interior awarded through the state's Historic Preservation Fund.

"Part of these grants have been set aside for community outreach. One of the strong components of a grant application is community involvement, and we're really pleased this one has received continuing public interest," she said.

Associate professor Mark Schurr , chairman of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame said the most recent grant, for just under $5,000, is being used to prepare an application to place the lodge and grounds on the National Register of Historic Places as a significant prehistoric site.

Johnson said she will take her photos and observations from Collier Lodge, her first visit to the dig, to state archaeologists and grant officials to help in the review of this and future funding applications.

Working Wednesday with the changing group of 30 to 40 volunteers who show up each day to dig, sift, and sort for artifacts with Schurr was a summer field school class under Bob McCullough, director of the archaeological survey at Indiana-Purdue/Fort Wayne.

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July 19, 2008

 Kankakee dig site could become tourist draw

July 19, 2008

BY CHARLES M. BARTHOLOMEW Post-Tribune correspondent

Someday there will be a park or a museum -- or both -- showcasing the history and prehistory of the Kankakee River Valley , a tourist destination to balance the Indiana Dunes at the north end of Porter County .

At least that's the dream of Kankakee Valley Historical Society president John Hodson as he outlined it to Ruth Keefover , public relations director of the Porter County Convention, Visitors, and Recreation Bureau and four staff members Friday at the site of this year's archaeological excavation at the Collier Lodge near Baum's Bridge at the Kankakee River .

"This is a 'fam' trip. We visit businesses and organizations once a month to familiarize ourselves with our product," Keefover said.

Friday was an off-day for the three-week project, now in its sixth year, that will wrap up the field work by associate professor Mark Schurr of the University of Notre Dame and 30 to 40 daily volunteers next Thursday.

The society is working with the Division of Historic Preservation of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources on an application Hodson hopes will get the former Kankakee Marsh hunting club building and grounds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and a double designation as a prehistoric site.

"My plans for the building are to turn it into a center for the whole area, with history, prehistory, and wildlife, which is my chief interest," Hodson told the tourism group.

He said he's acquired more than 100 acres, including the lodge and surrounding land, along a bayou that is an unchannelized section of the original river that he intends to donate eventually, if site management and other issues can be worked out.

He said he found out from a 1950s Valparaiso newspaper that the property was once in line to become Porter County 's second state park.

"The land was owned by the Porter County Conservation Club. I don't know what happened, but the state had a rule that a park couldn't be any smaller than two acres. We're kind of re-activating it," he said.

Keefover said the Tourism Bureau is compiling nominations as the first phase for establishing a countywide ecology and history trail that the agency hopes to publish for visitors next spring.

"I think this would be a great thing to have in the trail, because people usually just look at the dunes and it would bring them to south county with more business for Kouts and Hebron ," she said.

For more info: www.kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org

 July 21, 2008

Local dig garnering state attention

| Monday, July 21, 2008

KOUTS | First-time visitors to the Collier Lodge site often are amazed at the amount of history below the surface.

The academic appeal of such a historically fertile site has drawn amateurs and professionals alike, including professors, students, field groups and even the state's Department of Natural Resources.

"This site is very interesting," said Collin Graham, a staff archaeologist from Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne. "It covers a broad time span and has multiple components. It's neat to see that this has been used for thousands of years."

Graham, along with nine other students and staff members from IPFW, made a trip to the dig last week to help.

"It's also nice to see what other professionals are doing in the area," Graham said.

Dig leader Mark Schurr , who heads the anthropology department at the University of Notre Dame, had the field group open a new unit for excavation. Students and staff helped remove the top sod layer and work on a previous unit from last year.

Student Nick Hess said the experience is a good teaching opportunity and helps give a broader scope on the methods used by other leaders during digs.

Also visiting the site last week was Amy Johnson, senior archaeologist and archaeology outreach coordinator from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Johnson's visit was in relation to a grant awarded through the state's Historic Preservation Fund. The project has received several grants from the department, including one this year for slightly less than $5,000. Schurr said the money is being used for necessary paperwork to place the Collier Lodge and archaeology site on the National Register of Historic Places.

"I'm impressed with the level of community support for the project," Johnson said. "It's great to see professionals, amateur archaeologists and the community together. It's just a great combo."

Johnson also said she was impressed with the historical significance of the site and the beauty of the county.

Along with a high level of professional interest in the site, Collier Lodge has been generating interest from residents throughout the state. This year's volunteer turn out was one of the highest since the dig began six years ago.

Traffic on the group's website, www.kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org, also has skyrocketed since last year.

John Hodson, president of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society, said the site is receiving five times the number of visitors since this time last year. "Usually, when the dig is going on, we have about 1,000 or 1,500 hits a day," Hodson said. "This year we're showing 4,000 to 5,00
0 ."

Archaeological dig gets a little help from college crew

July 21, 2008

BY CHARLES M. BARTHOLOMEW Post-Tribune correspondent

PLEASANT TOWNSHIP -- The second week of the 2008 archaeological dig at the Collier Lodge near Baum's Bridge ended with a visit from the summer field school of Indiana-Purdue University at Fort Wayne kicking the project into high gear for the final four-day week that starts today.

Welcomed to the 1.5-acre site along the Kankakee River Thursday were Robert McCullough, archaeological survey director at Fort Wayne , four members of his staff and six students.

"They contacted us, and we're glad to have them come over for the day," said excavation supervisor Mark Schurr , associate professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame.

In his first few years under a contract with lodge owner, the Kankakee Valley Historical Society, Schurr brought his own summer class along to work beside amateur volunteers, who are history society members.

The program is now in its sixth year.

McCullough said he's particularly interested in prehistoric pottery and the Contact Period in Northwest Indiana that ended with the forced removal of the Pottawattomie Indians in 1837, the time on which this year's dig is focused.

He called his undergraduate class "a good batch, interested in continuing."

"We opened up a lot of new units today.  We're taking the sod and screening it, finding lots of brick, plaster, and shingle pieces," said senior Shelby Putt, 20, of Fort Wayne , as she worked at a screening table.

She said she hopes the experience will help her get into a graduate study program for paleo-archaeology.

Week two at the lodge also saw visits from state archaeologist Amy Johnson of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Historic Preservation and the marketing staff of the Porter County Convention, Visitors and Recreation Bureau.

Johnson lauded the ongoing project, which has received several state Historic Preservation grants.

She called the site with a standing historic building next to a rich field of prehistoric artifacts "a unique project" that makes a valuable contribution to her office's mission of raising public awareness of Indiana 's history and prehistory.

At the start of the week, historical society president John Hodson issued a call for the many people who have followed his daily posting of findings and photos online to help identify some of the larger items, such as an intact 19th-century pharmacy bottle and what looks like a metal collar with straps attached.

Work resumes at 9 a.m. today on the grounds at 1097 Baums Bridge Road , about five miles southwest of Kouts.

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1838 One cent piece (front)

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1838 One cent piece (back)

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Rain day, washing artifacts

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Rain day, washing artifacts

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Rain over, back to work!

July 22, 2008

Period coins found at ferry crossing at Collier Lodge dig

July 23, 2008

BY CHARLES M. BARTHOLOMEW Post-Tribune correspondent

Kankakee Valley Historical Society president John Hodson sounded excited.

"We found something really interesting today," he said, reporting on the 10th day of this summer's archaeological excavation at the Collier Lodge near Baum's Bridge on the Kankakee River .

Over the past six years, the crews of society volunteers working under supervisor Mark Schurr , associate professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, have found more than a dozen coins buried around the last of the hunting clubs that used to dot the Great Kankakee Marsh before it was drained.

But in the past two days, units opened up to investigate what Schurr calls "the mega-feature," possibly a cabin built in the 1830s when the crossing was known as Eaton's Ferry. They found two U.S. 1-cent pieces, dated 1838 and 1848. The 1848 coin was beneath the 1838 penny, one level down.

And for the first time after thousands of "field specimens" have been unearthed, Hodson envisions a definite story for how they arrived there.

"We know the toll was 2 1/2 cents for a horse and 1 cent for a man. I think someone was waiting for the ferry and had a hole in his pocket," he said.

According to Ruth Jones of B.J.'s Coins in Portage , more than 6 million of each coin were minted, and both are worth at least $5 each if there are no gashes or holes in them. Inflation over 170 years would give them an equivalent face value today of 30 cents, she said.

"I'm really, really excited, because these are from the Removal Period (when the U.S. Army drove the Pottawattomies out of the region), when we had been a county for only two years. They're from the very beginning," Hodson said.

With the 2008 dig ending Thursday, he said the pace is picking up, with almost a dozen units open, some going down three feet.

"We're getting a lot of bones out of one of them away from the feature," he said.


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1838 & 1848 one cent piece front

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1838 & 1848 one cent piece back

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Helen Broge & Elizabeth Zbacnik find 1848 one cent piece

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Upper Mississippian pottery

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Flint point-unknown age

July 23, 2008

Collier Lodge in Last Week of Excavation

Erin D. Smith

Lowell Tribune  

Erin Smith.jpg (113154 bytes)

Erin Smith working excavation unit

This week will be the final week for the Collier Lodge excavation just southwest of Kouts along the Kankakee River .  Heading the excavation, Notre Dame Anthropology Director Mark Schurr seems pretty happy with the results.  Excited about record-breaking numbers of visitors to the website and volunteers on the dig site, it has been yet another successful year.

Schurr has taken the initiative to apply for grants each year, which make the excavation possible.  Awarded $5,000 this year from the National Register of Historical Landmarks and Notre Dame matching part of that.  At the beginning of the day Schurr goes from unit to unit and explains what is happening at that particular unit.  Most of he units are only about 6 x 4 and vary in depth.  Usually only two persons can fit inside to trowel the surface.  Other units are considerably larger. Schurr explains techniques and procedures extremely well for about a half hour to unit leaders and volunteers.  Then, everyone “digs in” so to speak.  Volunteers are not assigned jobs, but can do as they please, trawling the floors of the units, screening for artifacts, helping with paperwork, washing artifacts, or just observing all the action. The environment is very relaxed, even with the scorching heat and suffocating humidity that everyone has had to endure.  Schurr is jumping from unit to unit, updating and making suggestions. Volunteers approach him for questions as he works on documentation momentarily in the shade of trees.  .

John Hodson, President of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society, said that running the excavation is like making a movie. “Mark is the director, I take care of the details.”  Hodson diligently updates the web page every day posting the finds of the day, new results, and articles. Hodson is working very hard to get the media involved as much as possible.  He and Steve Dubovich have been working on video documentation throughout the six-year period.  Dubovich and his trusty video camera are constantly overseeing the project.  Hodson and Dubovich have compiled hours upon hours of video each year and have to go through and usually keep only a few minutes here and there.

Hodson is very ambitious to have some results from the new What the Heck is It page on the Kankakee Valley Historical Society website.  The page has already struck great interest, people checking it out to see if they can help Schurr and Hodson figure out what they are finding and possibly its origin.  Volunteer Scott Bocock checked out the What the Heck is It page and recognized a food bottle that had been found recently.  Bocock brought in documentation and illustrations to Schurr and Hodson and pinpointed that the fully intact glass bottle indeed was a food bottle from the 1880s for olives, cherries, or other small jarred foods.

The crew at the site has found some great things so far this year.  A needle valve for a carburetor was found belonging to a vehicle from the 1920s.  A volunteer knew right away what it was remembering that her father would make her adjust the needle valve to their family car.  Many hand crafted nails have been excavated in abundance. A wonderful find last week was a handcrafted pipe bowl engraved with a carving of a leave print.  Pieces of pipe stems have also been found. Many buttons have also been found, pieces of glass, fire-cracked rock, prehistoric pottery, and spear points.  Last week spear points were surfaced dating about 3,000 years old. Pieces of dishware and fully intact silverware including some that are German silver have also been discovered after sifting slowly through large amounts of mortar that is becoming quite a hassle for some of the diggers.    

Many visitors have stopped by the excavation site including Amy Johnson from DNR and field school students from IUPUI of Fort Wayne.  Sequoia, an upcoming high school senior from Greenwood , Indiana came along with her mother Bridget this year.  Bridget has been involved with the excavation since the beginning.  Her daughter, Sequoia, is participating in the excavation for her senior research project that she called an “open ended learning stretch.” For the first week she followed Schurr around like a little apprentice.  “He is my mentor for this project,” she said.  “Schurr started out as a chemist, and I think I want to be a chemist too.  So, this experience is also helping me find out whether or not I want to pursue that.  Whether or not I want to be in a laboratory or out on the field.” She will be helping Schurr in the future analyze artifacts in the lab. 

Thursday is the final day for the excavation.  There will be a picnic and a clean up party.  Schurr and Hodson are in agreement that this year has been a great success and extend their gratitude to all that have helped make it so.  For more information visit the Kankakee Valley Historical Society at www.kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org to see how the excavation has unfolded.  Get involved and please visit the What the Heck is It page to see if you may recognize any of the artifacts there and please respond to the email address on the home page with any information because it is greatly appreciated.

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Middle Woodland point

150 BC - 350 AD

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Pocketknife, around 1840

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.36 caliber bullet mold for muzzle loading rifle

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Clay tobacco pipe parts

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Bone concentration 

July 24, 2008

Digs ends with some answers, more questions

| Friday, July 25, 2008

KOUTS | Just like it's happened for the past few summers, local archaeologists ended their annual dig with more questions than answers.

Archaeologists and volunteers this week wrapped up their sixth excavation along the historically fertile banks of the Kankakee River . This year's dig produced a number of historic and prehistoric artifacts but focused mostly on the cliff-hanging finale from last year.

At the end of the 2007 dig, volunteers found a large underground "mega-feature" believed to be some kind of cabin or basement. Dig leader Mark Schurr said his sole goal for 2008 was to figure out its size.

Tracking a layer of scattered brick around the feature, Schurr was able to determine the length to be about 19 feet. What would have been the western wall of the feature extended under the existing Collier Lodge, so Schurr was unable to get an exact width. Overall, he estimated the size to be 19 feet long, about 14 feet wide and 6 feet deep.

"It's got to be some kind of cabin or basement to be that big," said Schurr, who heads up the anthropology department at the University of Notre Dame. "Maybe it was a half-basement or what people refer to as a Michigan basement."

Artifacts near the feature helped Schurr get a better idea of what happened to the structure over time. His theory is that an initial structure was erected in the 1830s, and torn down around 1890 or 1910.

"Was it Collier himself who did it?" Schurr said. "Was it torn down when the lodge was built? It's about the same time period."

After the initial cabin was demolished, inhabitants likely threw their trash in the pit and built a second structure over it, Schurr said. A layer of brick dividing the two structures will be the focus for next year's dig.

"I know people are dying to get under that brick," Schurr said. "This would be a really good find if we can get to the floor of the basement. There's no other archaeological site from that period (the 1830s) in this region of the state."

To get below the layer of brick, volunteers will have to dig around each individual brick and remove it -- likely a long process. If they can get below the brick, however, some of their looming questions may be answered.

Diggers are still wondering what the structure was used for and what daily life was like for its inhabitants. Questions remain about the time period as well, including what the economics and trade were during the period in this region.

Schurr hopes to compare the structure floor with a different unit worked on this year. Not far from the mega-feature, volunteers worked on a unit that contained a variety of prehistoric artifacts, including trash, deer bones, turtle shells, fish bones and archaic points. Several of the artifacts dated to the Upper Mississippian period of 1100-1450.

"I'm hoping we can find the same kinds of daily features in the mega-feature," Schurr said. "If we had the same 'trash bin,' we'd be able to compare the time periods and see what changed, what was different for the inhabitants. How does it compare? What happened between the times?"

Until next summer's dig, the group will head to the labs to begin the yearlong process of cataloging and identifying each artifact.

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Closing up units

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Closing up units

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Group picture

Archaeological dig ends after three weeks


by Charles M. Bartholomew

Post-Tribune Correspondent

PLEASANT TOWNSHIP – Valparaiso University voice instructor Ralph Klapis used the picnic by volunteers on the last day of the 2008 archaeology dig at the Collier Lodge to introduce the theme song he wrote for the project.

In a ringing baritone Klapis, who participated on every day of the three-week excavation, sang his parody of “Old Man River,” recalling the hours he labored to “tote that screen, left that pail/Working so hard that your eyesight fails.”

Roundly applauded by his colleagues, Klapis was asked to perform it at the Kankakee Valley Historical Society’s Aukiki River Festival on the lodge grounds Aug. 23.

By the time KVHS president John Hodson had the grill ready to cook burgers and hot dogs, workers had filled  half of the “units,” or holes that they had opened under the direction of University of Notre Dame associate professor Mark Schurr as he searched for the limits of what he believes is a cabin dating from the days of river ferry operator George Eaton, around 1840.

Schurr had decided at the outset this year to focus on the Historic Period in Indiana , seeking evidence of early settlers to add to the thousands of prehistoric artifacts from the previous five years of activity at the site along the Kankakee near Baum’s Bridge.

“We won’t get to the really interesting stuff this year,” said Schurr, kneeling in a 17-inch-deep rectangular pit that was about to be closed.

Bridgette Murray of downstate Greenwood , a volunteer on the project for the previous four summers, said the unit had been filled with mortar or plaster and lined with bark.

“It was really cool, trying to think about why it was done that way and what it was used form,” she said.

The sewing kit with pearl buttons found by Klapis on the first day proved to be the start of a series of personal items that Schurr dated to the time when the ferry was running, 160 to 170 years ago.

“This past week, we’ve found pennies from 1838 and 1848, a pocket knife with a wooden handle, and a .36-calibre bullet mold that a settler would use to make ammunition by melting a bar of lead.  These guys had to be independent,” Hodson said.

He found it exciting to suppose the “guy” who may have lost some of the items through a hole in his pocket was Eaton himself.

Schurr said he won’t let anticipation of finding “the really interesting stuff” next year consume him during the winter. “I’ll be studying what we found this year,” he said.

Hodson said some workers may return Saturday to wash artifacts.

Time’s Old River

to be sung to the tune of “Ol’ Man River


Diggin’ up finds on the old Kankakee ,

Looking for clues ‘bout the old-time ways,

Trimming those walls from the dawn to sunset,

Screening that soil till the judgement day.


“Trowel that floor, and draw those zones,

And piece plot all those animal bones!

Bend your knees, and lift those pails,

Fill out those forms till your vision fails…”


Yet we’re all drawn to the old ‘Aukiki’,

To the Collier Lodge on the quiet stream,

Working with Mark, we let science guide us,

Seeking the past, we’ve become a team.


Archaeology, that old Archaeology,

It must know something,

It don’t say nothing,

It just keeps rolling,

It keeps on rolling along.


It don’t plant ‘taters,

It don’t plant cotton,

And them that plants ‘em are soon forgotten,

But Time’s Old River ,

It just keeps rolling along.


You and me, we sweat and strain,

Body all achin’ and wracked with pain,

Tote that screen! Lift that pail,

Miss that level and you land in jail!


Though we’re weary, our knees are cryin’,

We’ll be back next year, to keep on tryin’,

For Time’s old River,

It just keeps rollin’ along.


-Ralph Klapis, with apologies to Oscar Hammerstein II  


 July 26, 2008


Archaeology dig in Porter County uncovers many artifacts

Andrew Sweeney

WSBT 22 South Bend

PORTER CO. — A lot of us played in the dirt when we were younger. Some of us are still digging around in the dirt but for a lot more than just playing. Dozens of people gathered in Porter County near Kouts for a three-week archaeological dig. The dig finished up on Thursday.

"For thousands of years and almost 10,000 years people have lived on this site off and on," said Mark Schurr , a professor at Notre Dame.

And that makes it ideal for a dig.

"It hasn't been damaged by cultivation or erosion and it has a really long record of archaeology because this was one area where you could cross the Kankakee marsh," Added Schurr.

They used ground penetrating radar to pick the exact spot to dig and they were happy with what they found.

"I think the most exciting was to see how the different units found different things based on their context and based on the location," said Chris Keller, a graduate student at Ball State .

Volunteers dug down in increments of four inches and scanned the area for artifacts. But there’s more to it than just digging.

"I didn't realize the extent of the paperwork that was involved in it. I just thought it was grab a shovel and go for it, but it wasn't," said William Paulus, who has been a volunteer for five years.

All the artifacts that are discovered are carefully catalogued.

"Everything there is bagged with the level that it was found in, the artifacts were found in," explained Mary Hodson , who owns the land.

So what kind of things did they find?

"We found pre-historic spear points and arrowheads, pre-historic pottery. A lot of animal bones, like deer and raccoon and turtle. We found all kinds of historic artifacts — bottles, kitchen things like spoons, we found a pocket knife, some old coins from the 1830s and 1840s. We found a brass thing that was used to mold musket balls," Schurr said.

All the artifacts found will be cleaned and used for teaching and research at Notre Dame.

"This is just a great place to be, it's very hands on, it’s really easy to work your way into it," said Sequoia Murray, a high school senior using the dig as her senior project.

Dr. Schurr and the rest of the team will be back out at the same site digging for new artifacts next year.

 Link to video: http://www.wsbt.com/news/local/25898054.html   


July30, 2008


The French in Porter County

BY JOHN WOLF | Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Four hundred years ago the English settled in Plymouth and Jamestown in the same century the other great European power, France, settled in Canada and claimed the whole continent for France.

Porter County is bordered by Lake Michigan and the Kankakee River, both claimed by France by virtue of exploration. Priests visited followed by voyagers seeking furs. Had they succeeded, Hoosiers would be speaking French instead of English.

The French left their mark at Fort Quiatenon near Lafayette , Fort Vincennes and in Porter County . Chief among the French adventurers was Robert Cavalier Sieur de La Salle (1643-87) he was the first white man to cross Porter County, Indiana.

Francis Parkman considers La Salle "The discoverer of the great west" as his discoveries ranged from Lake Superior to Cuba . Most interesting is LaSalle's entrance into Indiana in December 1679.

La Salle had the ingenuity to build a small ship on the Great Lakes and reach Lake Michigan . It sunk. His birch bark canoes and Indian guides reached the mouth of the St. Joseph River . Here they built Fort Miami . They were looking for the portage to the Illinois River thence to the Mississippi . Which he hoped would lead to the Pacific Ocean .

In a small booklet, Charles Bartlett and Richard Lyon describe the search of the St. Joseph from South Bend to the headwaters of the Kankakee . It wasn't easy.

The Miami tribe controlled the portage that runs for five miles through German Township in St. Joseph County . It was used for centuries by the Indians but La Salle missed it.

Careful research has mapped the original route from the beginnings of the Kankakee , known to the Indians as Kiakiki, or place of wolves. The route crosses a rolling prairie (today's town by that name), a large marsh and a chain of small lakes before a birch canoe can float through the meandering river full of game to Porter County .

In the Highland Cemetery in South Bend is a bronze plaque at the stump of what once was a huge cedar tree. Here in May 1681 LaSalle held a council with the Miami chiefs. LaSalle was an eloquent speaker who had studied the Indian ways. He knew the fierce Iroquois of New York had sought to win the Miamis to the English. The council treaty held the country to the interests of the French crown and control of the fur trade.

It took the French and Indian War to change that. Today perhaps the Collier archeology dig will find French traces.

Amen until next Wednesday.