Collier Lodge dig begins Monday
(219) 548-4357 | Tuesday, June 30, 2009
A mysterious cabin and a
river bank potentially loaded with historical artifacts will be the
focus of this year's Collier Lodge dig, which will begin July 6.
"We're always coming up with really neat stuff," said John
Hodson, president of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society. "It's
a great opportunity for people interested in archaeology to actually
participate in a dig."
Hodson said this year the historical society hopes to establish the
parameters of a structure discovered underground that extends under the
existing Collier Lodge, located along the
in Kouts. Hodson said the group also plans to further investigate the
river bank where ancient arrowheads have been uncovered in prior digs.
"It depends on how fast things go along, but we could conceivably
start digging new levels the first day out there," Hodson said.
The historical society will take volunteers for this year's excavation
through July 23, the final day of the dig. Anyone interested in
participating need only apply for membership into the historical
society. The associate professor of anthropology at the University of
Notre Dame will lead the dig, which will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Monday to Thursday.
Equipment for the excavation will be provided, though Hodson suggests
participants bring a pair of gloves, bug spray and any personal items
they might need. Observers are welcome to watch the dig from the
In the past, the dig has unearthed artifacts dating back to 8,000 B.C.
Diggers also have found pennies, pocketknives and sewing equipment from
when the Collier Lodge was a gathering spot for hunters along the river
in the 1800s.
"It's an important thing for archaeology, especially for the
," Hodson said. "We're finding out new things that were not
really known about the
. (Dig participants) can actually be a part of making our history by
rediscovering the past."
Anyone interested in learning more information can visit kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org.
dig will resume
July 4, 2009
By Charles M.
Bartholomew, Post-Tribune correspondent
KOUTS -- Field work for the Kankakee Valley Historical Society's
archaeology project at
begins at 9 a.m. Monday.
He said no experience is necessary to join the crews excavating the
site around the Collier Lodge, the last abandoned hunting club standing
in the area that was once the Grand Kankakee Marsh, which attracted
for thousands of years.
Under contract with Notre Dame anthropology professor
, diggers have removed thousands of artifacts, from 8,000-year-old
arrowheads to 19th-century coins from the former location of a ferry
that was the only river crossing between
In the first year, Schurr said a dig such as this usually goes for
five years, but this is the seventh summer for what he has called
"the richest site I've ever seen."
"Mark says he's 'chasing the cabin' this summer," said
Hodson, referring to the partially-uncovered foundation of a
170-year-old log structure that was the focus of last year's digging.
Hodson said Schurr also has plans to open new units along the
bayou that borders the society's property to look for spear points.
He said the long-term plan is to restore the lodge as a museum and
have it listed on the National Registers of Historic and Prehistoric
Digging will go on Monday through Thursday until July 23, starting at
9 a.m. every morning. If it rains, workers will do sorting and
cataloging of artifacts in a nearby barn.
The all-volunteer project has attracted experienced amateurs from all
over the world, but Hodson said there is work for anyone, from
"screening" shovelfuls of dirt to labeling specimen bags under
the direction of unit leaders.
Spectators can watch for free, but participating requires payment of
the society's annual dues of $30 for individuals or $40 per family.
Equipment is provided, but mosquito repellent is highly recommended.
There is no age limit, but a parent or guardian must sign a release for
Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey pictures taken July 1, 2009
society continues digging out old structure
| Tuesday, July 07, 2009
a mystery lurking under the banks of the
is determined to get to the bottom of – literally.
"We found a large, deep pitch feature that we think might be the
cellar of a cabin," said the University of Notre Dame anthropology
professor. "We're trying to get to the bottom of it and figure out
how deep it is, which could tell us what the structure actually
Establishing the dimensions of the mysterious cabin will be the main
focus of this year's Collier Lodge dig, which kicked off Monday at the
historic Collier Lodge site on Baum's
in Kouts. Sponsored by the Kankakee Valley Historical Society, this is
the seventh year the group has teamed up with Schurr to unearth pieces
of history along the
"Where we start is determined by the questions we have left over
from last year," Schurr said. "We found the cabin by accident
two years ago. Last year we found the north, south and east limits of
the cabin but not the west. We're basically trying to figure out how big
our big feature is."
A team of volunteers from across the Midwest is set to accompany Schurr
during the three week dig along the
, sifting through dirt for artifacts dating as far back as 1100. Schurr
said while it is impossible to tell what might be discovered over the
next three weeks, he believes new findings could come as soon as next
"We find stuff from every time period," Schurr said. "In
the past, we've found prehistoric roasting pits, pottery and tools.
We've also found pottery dating back to the 1820s, musket balls, even
trade silver from when the Native Americans were here."
Schurr said one of the most unique aspects about the site is that it has
seen a steady flow of human traffic over the past thousand years, making
it possible to compare how different people lived and utilized the
marshes along the
"The cool part about the site is that the only disturbance it's
experienced is what historic people have done to it," Schurr said.
"We can look at how Native Americans lived 700 years ago and
compare that to how the pioneers used the same land."
For others, the cool part comes simply from digging in the dirt.
"It's not quite like Indiana Jones, but that's OK," said
participant Albert Hong, an archeology student at Notre Dame. "We
learn about this in text books, but it's cool to get hands-on
Los Altos Hills
, was one of several aspiring archaeologists to try his hand at field
work for the day. Other volunteers with no prior experience showed up to
help as well.
"Our digs are always a success," said historical society
president John Hodson. "On the first day, there's not that much
going on, but there have been a lot of good things happening."
Hodson said the historical society will continue to take volunteers up
through July 23, the final day of the dig. The dig runs from 9 a.m. to
3:30, Monday through Thursday.
for Collier Lodge begins
Charles M. Bartholomew, Post-Tribune correspondent
-- On the first morning of the seventh annual archaeology dig at the
Collier Lodge, the air was filled with anticipation and the aroma of
people, a typical daily work crew in past years, followed University of
Notre Dame anthropology professor
as he led them through orientation and brought newcomers up to speed on
previous summer excavations at what he has called "the richest site
I've ever seen."
a surveyor's transit to a shaded spot in the field by the abandoned
hunting lodge, he told Jared Carter from
and Albert Hong from
, two of his students, "You're going to have to do this
Hodson, president of lodge owners, the Kankakee Valley Historical
Society, and Schurr are expecting more than 100 volunteers from all
parts of the country and beyond to spend at least a day working on the
three-week project, some getting their very first taste of archaeology.
mistake I'm telling you, I learned the hard way," Schurr said.
used a video camera to document the work for the society's applications
to have the site listed on the National Registers of Historic and
Prehistoric Places, an important step in getting grants to fund
restoration of the deteriorating building.
Geurts, 23, who graduated from
last December, said she's new to the dig at the lodge.
met him (Schurr) last summer while doing a field school at Angel Mounds.
I heard about this and e-mailed him. He said I could be a unit
leader," she said.
said Geurts will be overseeing work on one of several unit excavations
at Feature No. 25, which may have been the basement of a cabin about 170
years old, a few meters from the southeast corner of the lodge.
want to get to the bottom of the feature. If we find household items, it
may be a home. If we find piles of sawdust, it may have been the sawmill
that was here somewhere," he said.
of any age, with or without experience, can show up any morning at 9
a.m. and pay the $30 annual membership dues to join the dig for as many
days as desired. Spectators can watch for free. The lodge is located on
Baums Bridge Road
at the river across from Baums Bridge Inn, 1.5 miles west and three
miles south of Kouts.
half dime, dinner plate unearthed at
July 11, 2009
By Charles M.
Bartholomew, Post-Tribune correspondent
BAUMS BRIDGE -- Highlights of the first week of digging at the
Collier Lodge include a collector's ring, a 172-year-old "half
dime," a gold-trimmed dinner plate, and the first visit to the
project by American Indians.
Notre Dame anthropology professor
and volunteers of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society, which owns the
lodge, wrapped up the first week of this summer's three-week
archaeological dig on Thursday at the abandoned building on a
Schurr and his workers opened five square-edged units up to 3 feet
deep next to the lodge, some that were filled in after last year's dig.
This is the seventh year for the project.
"We found another roasting pit. We're working very carefully
through the different levels, so we're going slower," he said.
Schurr said the immediate goal is to determine the extent of what he
calls Feature No. 25 that was uncovered last year, the cellar of a cabin
that could be either a home or a sawmill from the days when the river
crossing was known as Eaton's Ferry.
"We'll know next week," he said.
KVHS president John Hodson displayed several finds from the first
* an 1837 half dime
* pottery and handmade bricks dating from 1795-1820
* a large fragment of a gilt-edged dinner plate.
Joining the dig Thursday morning were three young members of the
Pokagon band of the Potawatomi Indians and a fourth American Indian from
another Midwestern tribe. They declined to be interviewed, referring
questions to the Pokagon office in
The tribe's Education Department could not be contacted for this story.
Hodson said the Potawatomi had approached them last year about coming
to the site, but a mutually agreeable time couldn't be worked out.
Collier Lodge dig in 7th year of unearthing artifacts
- firstname.lastname@example.org, (219) 548-4357
Posted: Tuesday, July 14, 2009
It may not be as exotic as Africa, but the Collier Lodge dig site
along the Kankakee River still holds appeal for Sophie Wojihoski, who
has spent her life traveling around the world unearthing bits of ancient
history in places such as
"We did things a little differently in
, but this is better than sitting at home," Wojihoski said Monday
while sifting through dirt for animal bones outside the historical
Collier Lodge in Kouts. "In
, I once found an elephant bone that was 2.5 million years old, but I
like seeing what I can find out here."
This is the fifth year the 89-year-old has participated at the annual
Collier Lodge dig, sponsored by the Kankakee Valley Historical Society.
She said that while she often finds animal bones, occasionally something
more interesting shows up.
"Last week I found a silver ring. It had a face on it that
looked like a devil," Wojihoski said. "If these artifacts
could only talk to us and tell us the truth -- it's exciting. It makes
us want to know more."
Later identified as a Waffen-SS German ring from World War II, it is
one of many finds to come out of this year's dig. Historical society
President John Hodson said the dig, now in its seventh year, also has
found pieces of pottery and coins, as well as a number of unanswered
"It's all so interesting -- like a story unfolding year after
year," Hodson said. "We always come up with something at the
end of the dig, and then we have to wait a whole year to find out
Mysteries that remain from last year include an underground structure
believed to be some sort of cabin. Figuring out the cabin's dimensions
has been the focus of this year's excavation, now in its second week.
"Our main game plan for this week is to figure out how the cabin
was built and how big it is," dig leader
said. "We're still searching for the bottom of it. They think they
found the south edge of the feature, but we're still looking for the
Schurr said volunteers also are focusing on a prehistoric roasting
pit discovered last week, as well as a variety of 1-cent pieces dating
back to the 1830s and '40s.
"The way this site is, you have historic stuff with prehistoric
stuff underneath it," Schurr said. "We have successive layers
of human activity."
The dig is scheduled to run through July 23 and still is taking
volunteers. No previous experience is necessary for participation. For
more information, visit http://kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org.
calling all diggers
July 22, 2009
Charles M. Bartholomew , Post-Tribune correspondent
This week is the last chance for amateur archaeologists looking for
real digging experience to "Come on down!"
Kankakee Valley Historical Society president John Hodson said more
people than ever before answered the call last week to view and
participate in the unearthing of history and prehistory at the Collier
Lodge on the
southwest of Kouts.
"About two dozen in their cars arrived in a convoy from
to watch," Hodson said.
On Thursday, a second group of two adults and two children from the
Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Indians came to join in the excavation of
a newly uncovered Native American roasting pit that will share the focus
of the final week of this summer's project with the foundation of a
cabin-like structure that has already produced a number of pioneer
"There's been so much going on. The last few days are always the
most exciting," said Hodson, remembering the traces of the cabin
that first appeared on the final day of the 2008 dig.
He has spiced up the Web site www.kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org
with daily updates that include the "Hit of the Day," such as
the 1849 one-cent piece found on July 13, an 1880 brass button found on
July 14, and a Civil War-era uniform button from the Waterbury Button
Co. in Connecticut on Wednesday.
"The company started in 1812. I checked their Web site. We've
found a lot of buttons of bone, metal and mother-of-pearl," he
A few of the half-dozen "units," some down to almost four
feet deep, have yielded a large number of bricks, both handmade and
manufactured from molds that the society would like to use in some way.
"We thought of having some of them engraved to sell as
souvenirs, but the state Antiquities Law was revised last year to cover
everything up to 1870. Now we're looking into using them to partially
rebuild a wall to demonstrate different brickmaking technologies,"
The last day for the 2009 dig is Thursday.
Anyone who wants pay the $30 annual society membership fee and join
in the dig is welcome and spectators are free. There are jobs for
everyone, regardless of experience. Work usually lasts from 9 a.m. to 3
To reach the Collier Lodge, from
49 in Kouts go 11/2 miles west on
8 and 3 miles south on
Baums Bridge Road
. Mosquito repellent is advised. Food is available at the Baums Bridge
Inn across the road.
Digging down to the root
- email@example.com -
| Posted: Thursday, July 23,
2009 12:00 am
KOUTS | The Kankakee Valley Historical Society hit bottom Wednesday
as the final week of the annual Collier Lodge archaeological dig came to
"We finally made it down to the bottom of our mystery
feature," said dig leader
. "The feature is some kind of root cellar. It's smaller than we
thought it was."
Extending 4 1/2 feet under ground, the cellar feature has puzzled
Schurr and his team of amateur archaeologists for the past two years as
they've excavated the site surrounding the historic Collier Lodge on
in Kouts. The main goal of this year's dig was to identify the structure
and discover its dimensions.
"Part of the mystery is solved," Schurr said. "The
problem with archaeology is that every time you solve one mystery, you
Previously thought to be a cabin, Shurr said the cellar likely
extends beneath the lodge, indicating that another building once stood
close to that location. What that building was, however, remains to be
"Neat stuff always comes up at the end of our dig, and then we
have to wait until next year," said Historical Society President
John Hodson. "It's been a successful year."
A number of artifacts representing 3,000 years of history have been
discovered since members of the KVHS started digging three weeks ago
. Prehistoric arrowheads and roasting pits have been among some of the
treasures unearthed at this year's dig, along with pieces of pottery and
one-cent coins dating back to the 1800s.
Hodson said volunteers with ranging archaeological backgrounds came
from all over the
to help dig units, sift through dirt and identify artifacts.
Scott Duncan, of
, said he had never had any prior experience doing field work when he
decided to participate in this year's dig. He said it's something he's
always wanted to do.
"It's fascinating to watch,"
said. "It takes time to go through the layers, but it's a very
rewarding experience. You find things from all different time periods.
It's amazing that different cultures existed in this same spot for
thousands of years."
Kiersten Friend, of Wheatfield, said her love for history drew her to
the Collier site. Like
, she said she had never participated in any kind of dig before coming
"I'm gaining an appreciation for the history of this area,"
Friend said. "I didn't realize how far it goes back."
reveals cabin foundation, artifacts
July 23, 2009
By Charles M.
Bartholomew, Post-Tribune correspondent
-- Since before the start of the 2009 archaeological dig at the Collier
has described it as "chasing the cabin."
On Tuesday, with two full days left before the end of this summer's
three-week project, the University of Notre Dame professor and his crew
of volunteers caught the cabin.
"Yes, we think we did. You can see that wood there, it's like a
timber," he said, pointing at the remains of a beam at the bottom
of a four-foot-deep section of the system of trenches near the southeast
corner of the former hunting lodge.
Starting with a small corner of a foundation that emerged at end of
last year's excavation, "the cabin" absorbed everyone's
interest as they deepened old units and opened new ones, trying to
determine the extent and purpose of the structure that dates to the
1830s when the location was known as Eaton's Ferry.
"This could be a root cellar," said volunteer Art Nelson,
looking up from his work.
Schurr said the wood may have been put there as a wall reinforcement
in the sandy dirt.
"You'd need a line of logs to hold it up. This gives us firm
evidence we're digging in a cellar. We're going to get to the bottom
before we close it up for the year," he said.
He said that the digging still hasn't reached the west wall of
whatever occupied the ground, but it's clear the lodge building covers
part of where the cabin stood.
"We know now that it was demolished before the lodge was
built," Schurr said.
He said work has been going slow, because the digging gets "more
and more interesting" as they uncover more of the cellar.
"We're finding lots more stuff, getting more of the story as it
becomes more defined," said volunteer Bridget Murray, scraping the
soil in another trench. She said bigger pieces of pottery and dishes
have turned up, allowing them to begin to fit some of them together.
"We could use a jigsaw puzzle expert in the lab," she said.
Schurr said the volunteers will spend most of the last day of the
2009 dig covering the units to protect them until next year.
See pictures of activity and artifacts in the "2009 Collier
Lodge Dig Photo Gallery" at www.kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org.