I am pleased to announce that, weather permitting, the Castle Museum’s upcoming archaeological shovel-test survey of Borchard Park will be conducted from Tuesday, August 5th through Friday, August 8th. In the photo below, the building in the foreground is the County Jail, the open area to the right is what is now Borchard Park. Another view of the jail and town square can be seen here.
Why, one might ask, do we want to conduct a shovel-test survey of Borchard Park? Good question! Here are a few reasons…
First, according to Mills’ History of Saginaw County Michigan (Mills 1918), Borchard Park is situated in the general vicinity of several events and locations important to the founding and earliest decades of the City of Saginaw. In 1816, Louis Campau established a trading post and residence nearby. In 1819 the Treaty of Saginaw was negotiated and signed at a “council house” built by Campau adjacent to his trading post. Following the Treaty of Saginaw, in 1822, Fort Saginaw was constructed just a stone’s throw from what is now Borchard Park. Although the precise locations of these buildings are not known (and recognizing that Mills is a secondary source at best), it is clear that Borchard Park is centrally located with respect to early 19th century activities in the nascent community.
Second, the area of Borchard Park has been part of a Public Square, or Town Commons, continually since the 1830 Dexter Plat was surveyed. As far as we know, other than being the temporary location of the old Court House while a new judicial building was being constructed, no permanent large-scale architecture has been erected at this location. Smaller constructions such as bandstands, walkways, gardens, etc. were certainly (and continue to be) present. In the midst of an urban setting, there are few locations that have not been built upon.
It follows from the first two points that Borchard Park may be our best hope for finding relatively undisturbed archaeological deposits in this part of the city associated with the earliest Euro-American residents of Saginaw as well as their Native American contemporaries and predecessors. Assessing the potential for such deposits is certainly warranted.
With luck, the Borchard Park project may become a springboard for the development of a program of “Settlement Period” research at the museum in which we can use the tools of archaeology and historical inquiry to learn more about the earliest years leading up to the establishment of the City of Saginaw and other communities across the county.