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KVHS Archaeological Project
Interest growing in archeological finds along Kankakee
Artifacts Roadshow in the works for residents with pieces of the past
By Kathy Ceperich
Times Correspondent
December 8, 2002

KOUTS -- An artifacts roadshow is planned for this spring in response to growing interest in the mysteries along the Kankakee River, with help from the Kankakee Valley Historical Society.

Residents got a preview dating of their field finds during the Historical Society's Sunday meeting, which included guest speaker Mark Schurr, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. Schurr is planning an archeological field school in the area this summer. He and archeologist Bill Mangold, of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, are proposing the roadshow for area residents to bring artifacts they may have found on their property for identification and dating and to possibly help with research being done in the area.

Schurr said the Collier Lodge, which the Historical Society is working to preserve, could possibly serve as a place to gather information brought forth by the public.

The Historical Society is working to raise money for the project through a membership drive. The stabilization of the structure, which was just completed about three weeks ago, cost more than $15,000. Hodson said he expects the project will be a three-year process and is estimated to cost $250,000.

A recent discovery of prehistoric spear points dated to 12,000 years ago near Baum's Bridge has sparked community interest to learn more about the area near the Kankakee. Schurr said the area has the earliest recorded history in Indiana. Artifacts dating before 1647 are termed prehistoric because that is the earliest recorded history in the area.

"I never thought that in this stage of my life I'd be involved in something like this," Historical Society President John Hodson said at the meeting, held at the Kouts Fire Station. Hodson said most think of the Mayflower landing in 1620 as early history but the findings in this area are nearly as old, dating to 1647.

Jim Lambert, of Pleasant Township, brought arrowheads, pottery pieces and drills he found on his farm nearly 30 years ago to learn their history.

"I've always been interested in history," he said.

Schurr said that Lambert's larger pieces of pottery were rare finds because they are often broken during plowing. Some of the pieces had markings which he said he had not seen in the area before and could reveal they pieces had been traded or skills that were learned while out on hunting expeditions. He said a stone ax head took about 20 hours to make.

Schurr said he is often asked if artifacts belong to the property owners or if it is illegal to collect artifacts. Schurr said it is fine to "surface" collect as long as the finder didn't dig for the artifacts. He added that farm plowing is not considered digging unless there is evidence the site may be a burial site.

The simple fragments revealed tales to the researcher and he is hopeful more people with bring their finds to the roadshow, along with an accurate location of where they were found, to add to his research.

This summer, Schurr and his students will spend four days investigating the area adjacent to the Collier Lodge and down to the Kankakee River. High-technology remote sensing equipment will be used to do a magnetic survey of the site to possibly scope out foundations of former buildings in the area and uncover prehistoric artifacts. They also plan to do shovel probings to see what they uncover. Provisions for giving proper respect for burial sites are being planned, especially with rumored bodies known to have been buried there, Hodson said.

The goal is to assess the site and see if any of the archeology below the surface is still intact, Schurr said. He said Porter County has "a really good density of archeological sites" including Baum's Bridge, the Kankakee River area, the National Lakeshore and the Dunes.

Fair Oaks resident Carolyn Parks came out to the meeting to find out more about the local archeology and wasn't disappointed. She brought her daughter Carly, 9, who is learning about Indiana history in school.

"I thought it was very interesting," she said.

For more information on the archeological projects, call John or Mary Hodson at (219) 766-2302 or Gary or Beverly Overmyer at (219) 759-4956.