Lodge dig wraps up for summer
By Amy Lavalley
Last Modified: Jul 22, 2011 02:00AM
KOUTS ó The heat
may have cut short some of the dig time at Collier Lodge, but it
certainly didnít wilt enthusiasm for the project.
Indiana University-South Bend and the University of Notre Dame, as well
as several volunteers, started the annual archaeological dig at the
lodge July 5. They wrapped up the brunt of their work by lunchtime
Thursday, stopping their efforts early because of soaring temperatures.
"I gained a lot
of excavation experience," said Barb Roman, 21, a senior at St.
Xavier University in Chicago who took part in the dig through Notre
Much of what she
uncovered was prehistoric, from 800 years ago or so, and included
pottery and knife points. Roman, who is from Rockford, Ill., is working
on a minor in anthropology and hopes to go on to graduate school; the
dig, she said, will definitely help.
The dig, along the
Kankakee River and the former site of Eatonís Ferry, is in its ninth
year. Itís sponsored by the Kankakee Valley Historical Society and is
spearheaded by Mark Schurr, an associate dean at Notre Dame.
He and Joshua Wells,
an assistant professor at IUSB, said this yearís dig has gone well.
Finds included prehistoric roasting pits. While they donít produce
much in artifacts, Schurr said the charcoal from the pits could be sent
to a botanist, who can identify the kind of wood that was used and the
types of vegetables that were roasted. The charcoal also can be carbon
students participated in the dig for the first time, said the site,
which offers both historic and prehistoric artifacts, was "a
valuable educational experience."
gotten to see artifacts from several different prehistoric
cultures," as well as items from the 19th century, he said,
"all concentrated on this site."
president of the historical society, was concentrating on his theory
that another building, in addition to the lodge and ferry, might have
been on the site. Based on coins from the late 1800s, and research heís
done into similar sites elsewhere, Hodson thinks a store also may have
been on the bank of the river.
He called it
"my own little quack theory" and admitted heíd come up with
a conclusion before he really had any evidence, which is "not the
way science works."
Volunteers, students finishing up project at
By Mallory Jindra Times Correspondent |
Posted: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 8:00 pm
KOUTS | Volunteers and students
battled Tuesday's sweltering heat and humidity in the last week of
Kankakee Valley Historical Society's archaeological dig at Collier
While the work was slower due
to the heat, people kept hydrated during one of the final days of the
This year's dig expanded from
past years to include two different field schools, with students from
four colleges participating. Notre Dame Associate Professor of
Anthropology Mark Schurr said the change has allowed the volunteers to
open more excavation units than in previous years.
Many of the units contained
what used to be sections of Upper Mississippian roasting pits, where
prehistoric Indians would roast things like edible plants up to 500
"You can tell what was
done in the area by measuring the different colors of the sand,"
After mapping out the areas
with charcoal coloring, volunteers continue to dig around them according
to the levels of colored sand.
Pottery, sewing pins and nails
have all been found this year during the dig, but those things will be
difficult to date. However, recovered coins are easily dated. A
three-cent piece from 1853 and a half-dime from 1847 were discovered by
diggers this year.
"It's exciting to know the
exact date of something you find because it rarely ever happens,"
Indiana University South Bend graduate and Brandeis University student
Rebecca Gibson said.
First-time digger Jan Nass,
from Mokena, Ill., said she volunteered because she has always had an
interest in archeology but never had the chance to experience it. While
dry screening part of the ground, Nass found charcoal remains, fire rock
The Collier Lodge dig was also
a first for Indiana University Northwest anthropology senior Harriett
"We found this burned log
and some pottery pieces," Demetrakis said. "It's just amazing
to hold something that old. You get to hold it before the museum gets
Lodge dig finds include coins, pottery
By Amy Lavalley
Last Modified: Jul
13, 2011 10:26AM
KOUTS Ė More than
a week into a three-week archaeological dig at Collier Lodge, the 30 or
so students and volunteers at the site are already uncovering a steady
stream of interesting finds.
up with a lot of really neat stuff," including historic and
pre-historic finds, said John Hodson, president of the Kankakee Valley
Historical Society, which has sponsored the dig for the past several
Volunteers, as well
as students and professors from Notre Dame and Indiana University-South
Bend, are pitching in with the effort, which takes place Tuesday through
Friday, through July 22.
Finds so far on this
yearís dig, which started July 5, include an 1853 3-cent piece, in
keeping with coins from 1847 and 1848 also found at the site along the
Kankakee River. The area used to house Eatonís Ferry.
"Weíve got a
real, solid time frame in there," Hodson said.
The oldest item
found so far was an arrow point from around 2000 B.C. Also among the
finds was an assortment of items from the Upper Mississippian period,
around 1300 A.D.
In a spot that is
maybe a foot in diameter, Hodson said volunteers found a knife blade, a
hammer stone, pottery pieces, and mussel and other shells.
"To me, itís
like somebody had a bag and dropped it," he said. "Itís all
in one spot. Thatís what was neat."
For pictures, links
to a blog and more information on this yearís archaeological dig at
Collier Lodge, go to www.kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org/.
Students bone up on local
By Heather Augustyn Times Correspondent |
Posted: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 6:30 pm
| Boxes of shovels and wood-framed screens stood around the grounds
outside of Collier Lodge in Kouts as students and volunteers sifted,
dug, and sweated underneath canopies erected over archeological sites.
It was another dig conducted by
the Kankakee Valley Historical Society in conjunction with Notre Dame's
Mark Schurr, professor of anthropology, as well as numerous other local
college and university programs.
The dig, which aims to uncover
artifacts from settlers of the area, both historic and prehistoric, is a
way to not only find the history of the culture-rich land in South
Porter County on the Kankakee River, but also to educate students of
anthropology and archeology.
"So what's your next
step?" asks Schurr of a group of students as they present their
findings from their morning's dig.
"We start filling out the
form for level two," answers Annie Jordan, a student of
anthropology at Ohio State University.
"Most of these students
have never been on an archeological dig, so they have the chance to
learn procedure regarding the artifacts we find and how to record
them," Schurr said.
Wednesday's dig involved
investigating prehistoric roasting pits found on the site, which
contained bones of small animals, and the cellar of a structure, perhaps
a cabin once erected on the site.
Josh Wells, assistant professor
of anthropology at Indiana University South Bend, said the dig provides
an opportunity to work together with local groups, and to educate the 10
students he brought with him.
Some students of the dig were
just observers but perhaps will become more hands-on when they are
older, such as Teresa Lansdowne, a 10-year-old from Valparaiso, who came
to the site with her grandfather, Mark Johnson, of Valparaiso.
"I'm really interested in
stuff from a long time ago," said Lansdowne, who said she hopes to
see the students uncover an arrowhead.
The dig continues today with
ground penetrating radar and resistivity testing, as well as more manual
digging and sifting through July
join annual archaeological treasure hunt
By Amy Lavalley
Last Modified: Jul 6, 2011 09:17AM
KOUTS ó More than
30 students and volunteers gathered Tuesday at Collier Lodge for an
annual ritual of discovery.
Four days a week
through July 22, the group will sift through the layers of soil to find
hidden treasures left by riverside residents of long ago.
This is the ninth
year for the project, which is sponsored by the Kankakee Valley
Historical Society and is spearheaded by Mark Schurr, an associate dean
at Notre Dame.
Joining him on-site
this year for the first time is also a contingent from Indiana
University-South Bend, a group that includes a couple of students from
Indiana University Northwest.
Schurr said he first
became involved when the historical society acquired the site, and
members wanted to know if anything was there as they came up with plans
for the land along the Kankakee River. The area was an archaeological
site in the 1930s.
Schurr came down for
a couple of days to check out the land. Several years later, heís
still coming down, with a growing number of participants.
"It turned into
a combination field school and volunteer project," he said.
"Thereís a lot of artifacts and thereís a lot of really deep
Past finds at the
site include a cellar and fireplace from a building that was probably
the first one there, though it doesnít exist in any records. Diggers
also have found pre-historic pottery and tools in 600-year-old trash
Tuesday, the group
was just getting started, marking off the six plots where the dig will
take place and removing grass. Joshua Wells, an assistant professor at
IUSB, has known Schurr professionally for several years and looked
forward to working with him again.
"This site is a
really great educational opportunity for the students. Itís within an
easy distance of all the campuses, and it has historical
components," he said.
For IUN students
Mollie Morris, a sophomore from Hebron, and Harriett Demetrakis, a
senior from Merrillville, the dig offers the chance to learn more about
the regionís history, especially since neither was familiar with the
Morris, 20, said she
didnít know about the site, and said it was "weird" that
other folks donít know about it, either.
"Itís in our
own back yard and nobody is talking about it," said Demetrakis, 55,
a teaching assistant in the Merrillville schools.
ready for Collier dig
By Amy Lavalley
Last Modified: Jun 19, 2011 02:00AM
KOUTS ó Janet Landato retired from teaching
at a college in the Chicago suburbs five years ago and moved to North
Judson to be closer to her family.
Ever since, sheís wanted to spend part of
each summer helping with the archaeological dig at Collier Lodge, along
the Kankakee River. This, she decided, would be the year she did it.
"Iíve always wanted to do something
like this, so this is my Ďsummer vacationí from housekeeping
responsibilities," said Landato, who taught astronomy, physics and
earth sciences, adding she doesnít have to travel across the globe to
take part in the dig.
Saturday, Landato and other volunteers helped
clean up a trailer at the Collier Lodge site in preparation for this
yearís dig, which will be held Tuesdays through Fridays, July 5 to 22.
The digs started in 2003, not long after John
Hodson purchased the land and started doing research into the lodge, on
the site of a ferry crossing during the 1830s. He and his wife, Mary,
who live in Kouts, founded the Kankakee Valley Historical Society, and
he serves as the societyís president.
Budding and experienced archaeologists have
found artifacts dating back 10,000 years, and are bound to find
something during the three weeks volunteers are at the site each summer.
"We come up with roughly 10,000 artifacts
each year," he said. About 57,000 artifacts have been found over
Mark Schurr, associate professor and chairman
of the anthropology department at the University of Notre Dame, oversees
the work, and graduate and undergraduate students can obtain credit for
the dig through a Notre Dame summer session program.
Indiana University-South Bend students also
are helping out this year, Hodson said, as the school develops its
With the exception of a septic tank on the
site, which has since been removed, Hodson said much of the site by the
lodge has been left alone over time.
"It was never plowed. It was never a
farm, so it was undisturbed," he said.
Kankakee Valley Historical Society seeks
By Heather Augustyn Times Correspondent |
Posted: Sunday, March 20, 2011 12:00 am
KOUTS | For the past 10 years, scholars,
volunteers and members of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society and
associated universities have been conducting archaeological digs along
the Kankakee River near Kouts.
Discovering ancient artifacts such as pottery
shards and stone tools, along with foundation remains from settlements
hundreds of years old, is part of everyday excavation at the land around
Collier Lodge off Baums Bridge Road. But it's always been tough to find
supervisors to lead those digs.
"For each archaeological unit we have to
have a unit supervisor, and it's been difficult to find trained people
to do the work," said John Hodson, president of the Kankakee Valley
Historical Society. "So this year we decided to really get the word
out and seek people who have any experience at all."
Hodson said the group is looking for people
who can commit to a three-week dig from July 5 through 22. But
volunteers also need a little experience or education.
"Applicants could have some school
training, such as a minor in anthropology, or even just a high school
education but have worked other digs. It's not like a degree is a
requirement. Because everything has to be documented, we need someone
who is detail-oriented and follows instructions well," Hodson said.
The Kankakee Valley Historical Society has set
up the Collier Lodge archaeological dig presentation April 19 at
Valparaiso University in room 112 at Christopher Hall. The program,
which is jointly hosted by VU's Department of Geography and Meteorology,
will begin at 6:30 p.m. with the showing of the Collier Lodge National
Register nomination video, followed by a PowerPoint presentation by Mark
Schurr, associate professor at Notre Dame, who leads the digs.
For more information, visit kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org.
Lodge dig volunteers needed
By Charles M. Bartholomew
The Kankakee Valley Historical Society is
looking for diggers ó and not just the kind with shovels in their
The society is inviting anyone interested in
archaeology and history to a meeting to kick off a recruiting drive for
workers at what has become a unique summer activity in south Porter
County, the annual three-week summer excavation project at the Baums
Bridge southwest of Kouts.
Society president John Hodson says planning is
under way with Notre Dame anthropologist Mark Schurr to resume field
work at the Collier Lodge, the last of the early 20th-century hunting
clubs still standing in what used to be the Grand Kankakee Marsh.
"One of the biggest problems weíve had
is getting unit supervisors. Weíve always had plenty of people to do
the digging, but we only have so many who have been with us long enough
to oversee the opening of new units. We hope to get some new people who
have anthropology backgrounds or experience," Hodson said.
Hodson and Schurr will host a presentation for
signing up prospective field workers for the amateur dig at Valparaiso
University in room 112 of Kallay-Christopher Hall at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday,
"Dr. Schurr will show the video that we
prepared for our application to place the dig on the National Register
of Historic Places, and then we will have a question-and-answer
session," Hodson said.
He said Schurr will also talk with candidates,
who are encouraged to bring a resume or other evidence of their interest
A degree is not required, but previous
archaeological work is a plus. The dig has thrived for seven summers
with over a hundred talented amateurs of all ages each year who need
only to pay the societyís annual membership fee and sign a release.
Artifacts dating back up to 8,000 years ago
have been unearthed, but with excavations concentrating on the
historical period from the 1830s to the present in the past two years,
the ability to dig into research for facts is just as important, Hodson
Last summerís work filled in gaps in the
story of a cabin that stood in the days when the site was the only way
to cross the river between South Bend and the state line.
"This year Mark is working with Indiana
University-South Bend to get enough students together for a field
school," Hodson said.
He said this yearís dig will be conducted
Tuesdays through Fridays from July 5 to July 22.