|By Charles M. Bartholomew
|December 9, 2002
KOUTS — A Notre Dame professor will begin excavations next spring that could put Porter County on the map, archaeologically speaking. Assistant professor of anthropology Mark Schurr outlined plans Sunday at the Kankakee Valley Historical Society’s regular meeting for fieldwork in June near the Kankakee River southwest of Kouts.
“Porter County is in this great situation for research. It has real interesting archaeological sites,” said Schurr, whose summer course will look for historic and prehistoric artifacts at the Collier Lodge, the last of the old hunting retreats of the former Grand Kankakee Marsh that is still standing.
The lodge that had hosted President Theodore Roosevelt and General Lew Wallace was ready to collapse when KVHS president John Hodson bought the land in 2001 and deeded it to the society after uncovering the building’s history.
It was rescued with the help of a loan from the Historic Landmark Foundation, and Hodson said an application has been filed to list it with the National Register of Historic Places, possibly as an archaeological site pending the results of Schurr’s research.
“We’ll spend four days there and one in the lab,” said Schurr, adding that the public is welcome to come watch them when they begin work at 1099 S. Baum’s Bridge Road. Schurr’s efforts will build on the work of John McAllister, who documented the one-acre site while surveying the Indian mounds near Boone Grove for the state in the 1930’s, and Charles Faulkner, who did the same in the 1970s.
“History in Indiana goes almost as far back as the Mayflower,” he said, recalling French explorer La Salle’s trip down the Kankakee in 1679.
He said La Salle camped near Baum’s Bridge, raising the possibility that he might unearth traces of Europeans’ first visit to the region.
“That would be cool,” he said.
Schurr said artifacts that society members had found on their farms and brought in for him to look at were a good indication of what prehistoric remnants are waiting to be discovered. “These axes are from the Archaic Period about 3,000 to 8,000 years ago, some points (arrowheads) around 500 to 3,000 years, even this little clay doll is from pioneer days,” he said. Schurr said care will be taken not to disturb any burials, Indian or otherwise, that might be found.
“We don’t want to be disrespectful. There could have been some kind of pioneer cemetery in the area,” he said.
Schurr outlined Indiana’s 10-year-old historic preservation law, under which it’s all right to pick artifacts up off the ground, but requires a permit if you want to dig for them. “Anything before Indiana became a state, is an artifact, and agricultural activities are exempted,” he said.
Schurr said the prehistoric burial grounds, sites in the National Lakeshore, and presence of universities with students to carry out research make Northwest Indiana ideal for what he called “archaeological tourism.”
“Egypt has the Pyramids and we have our own resources here,” he said. Hodson said the KVHS has a three-year plan to restore Collier Lodge, which was built around 1905, when the Grand Kankakee Marsh was ranked among the world’s great hunting grounds.
Hodson said the society is seeking new members, which will make it easier to apply for grants and attract researchers. They are also formulating educational programs, including an “artifacts road show” in the spring for people to bring their finds in for examination by a state archaeologist.