Kankakee Valley Historical Society

KVHS in the News
KVHS Publications
Other Publications
KVHS Archaeological Project
From the Archives
KVHS Newsletters
Contact KVHS
KVHS Archaeological Project
What Lies Beneath
By Charles M Bartholomew
Post Tribune Correspondent
Tuesday, June 15, 2004


A second summer of archaeological investigation at the last of the old Kankakee Marsh hunting lodges began in a downpour Monday morning.

Notre Dame assistant professor of anthropology Mark Schurr, 47, began laying out a new survey grid on the one-acre grounds of the former Collier Lodge on the river shore at Baums Bridge, assisted by volunteers with the society, which owns the property and hopes to restore the building as a museum.

Based on test diggings at the Lodge last summer after he was contacted by the society, Schurr hopes to unearth a rich lode of undisturbed artifacts dating back as much as 10,000 years in an area that is known to have been an ancient crossroads for trade among Native Americans.

Closer to the present, he would like to uncover items that will add details to the story of the lodge’s glory days as a hunting destination for the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Gen. Lew Wallace.

For Kankakee Valley Historical Society president John Hodson, the archaeology isn’t so much a matter of digging holes as it is filling in gaps in the local historical record.

This summer’s work, scheduled to continue through July 1, is open to free public view, and for the price of a society membership, available at a tent on the site, anyone can participate in the excavation, according to Hodson.

“I always wanted to be part of a dig. I was always interested in fossils and finding arrowheads,” said Colleen Travis, 43, a Lowell homemaker who had joined the society after driving to the site.

Schurr is teaching the amateur volunteers how to keep records, maps and lists of anything they find, documenting precise locations and carefully labeling and packing everything that comes out of the ground.

“There’s a tremendous amount of history around here, but little awareness of it. The archaeology titillates people,” Hodson said.

Hodson said that the society’s ranks have reached 95, swollen by 30 to 35 new members since announcement of the dig this spring.

“Pull it taut — it has to be a totally straight line,” Schurr shouted at Hodson’s wife, Mary, at the other end of a tape measure attached to his transit as not-too-distant thunder rolled. Manning a surveyor’s prism pole was Michigan State University archaeology student Charlotte Cable, 24, a native of Alaska.

Schurr said the grid will be used to do a geomagnetic survey to locate the best places to dig before any shovels of dirt are turned, probably later today or Wednesday.

But only 15 minutes after the official start, the skies opened up, driving the 20 participants and observers, including Hodson’s 15-month-old grandson Kyle Moskalic, into a neighbor’s barn to wait it out.

Returning this year as an official volunteer was Ben Parks, 8, of Hebron, who said he had found objects dating back 2,000 years while lending a hand during last summer’s field survey of the site.

Hodson said the project, which is expected to take several years, is included in the new local history book, “Porter County Lakes and Resorts” by local author Larry G. Eggleston, part of Arcadia Publishing of Chicago’s “Images of America” series that also features volumes on Valparaiso, Portage Township and the neighborhoods of Gary.

The lodge is located on Baums Bridge road right at the Kankakee River bridge, three miles south of Indiana 8 between Kouts and Hebron.