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Scientists Uncovering Kankakee's History
Notre Dame archaeologist plans to study area near Boone Grove this summer.
By Robin Biesen
Times Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Ancient animal bones and arrowheads are attracting the attention of archaeologists and anthropologists who see potential historical significance in a spur of high ground near Baum's Bridge along the Kankakee River.

John Hodson, a local history enthusiast who is helping to lead the charge toward uncovering the history of the Kankakee River Basin in Northwest Indiana, said he has assurances from University of Notre Dame archaeologist Mark Schurr as well as an Indianapolis anthropologist that they will spend time in southern Porter County this summer trying to unlock the secrets of its past.

Schurr, who has spent time in Porter County studying the burial mounds of the Hopewell Indians, who lived in the area near Boone Grove 2,000 years ago, said he is excited about the idea of studying the tribes who lived in the region even before that time.

To Schurr, the Kankakee Basin, as it existed in pre-historic times, would have been an ideal place for people to live because it was blessed with an abundance of food sources and a trade route along the river. What Schurr will be looking for is evidence that man lived in the region as long as 10,000 years ago.

"This is a very interesting spot of high ground. It is one spot on the landscape that appears as though it might have been very significant," Schurr said. "It could have been a trail for thousands of years."

Through Indiana's share of federal funds available through the Department of the Interior, Schurr said he would like to begin researching and documenting the site.

"I'm looking forward to looking at the site," he said. "I need to go down and look at what the prospects for preservation are like. It's something you can't tell until you see it." Hodson said the Kankakee Valley Historical Society has members who know some of the region's pre-history from the artifacts they have found along what was the Maysville settlement -- an Indian camp that extended along what is now 1050 South.

Hodson originally became interested in the area because of its more recent history as a hunting and fishing mecca for the rich and famous -- the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Grover Cleveland who put the region on maps more than a century ago.

The St. John resident, who bought 117 acres in Pleasant Township three years ago, said the more he learns, the more he wants to know about the area. "There are people who live here who have found artifacts that date back thousands of years," he said. "It's amazing the history that is so rich at that one spot along the Kankakee."

Robin Biesen can be reached at biesen@howpubs.com or (219) 462-5151, Ext. 349.