Borchard Park Fieldwork: Week 2 Update

Tuesday, August 19th, we began our second week of shovel-testing at Borchard Park. The day’s field crew consisted of Brad Jarvis, Ken Kosidlo, and Barry Wittig. Following a morning interview with WNEM TV 5’s Alana Holland, we got to work excavating shovel-test pits (STPs) 6 and 7. We hoped to beat the rain, but didn’t! It was a long soggy day! The weather was better the rest of the week and Ken and I excavated STPs 8 and 9 on Wednesday and Thursday and STPs 10 and 11 on Friday.

Ken Kosidlo and Barry Wittig excavate STP 6.

Ken Kosidlo and Barry Wittig excavate STP 6.

Although each STP was unique, the general pattern of the stratigraphy was similar. The upper 10-15 cm consisted of sod and dark sandy silt topsoil with relatively few artifacts including plastic and other modern debris. This was followed by a slightly darker layer of fill extending down to 20-30 cm. This level generally contained an abundance of slag/cinders along with round and square nails, flat glass, bottle glass, a few ceramic sherds, brick, mortar, foil, etc. In STPs 6 and 8 the subsequent 10-12 cm level contained lumps of clay in a sandy silt matrix along with low numbers of brick and mortar fragments, glass, coal, and nails. The other STPs (7 and 9-11) contained a more substantial, approximately 20 cm thick, layer of clay fill. Below the clay, or mixed silt and clay, fill layers there were two or more layers of silt or sand above the basal clay. The generally abrupt transitions between the silt/sand layers indicate that they were scraped and re-deposited, otherwise disturbed, and/or consist of fill. Basal clay was reached at a depth of between 63 and 88 cm below the surface.

STP 7.

STP 7.


STP 8.

STP 8.


STP 11.

STP 11.

The sand/silt layers below the clay fill did contain a few artifacts of 19th century origin. Some noteworthy items from STP 7 include a paneled glass bottle fragment with an applied finish, a blue transfer-printed white-paste earthenware sherd, and a mandibular third molar likely from a sheep or goat (our comparative faunal collection is sorely lacking in domesticated species so the ID is tentative). STP 8 yielded a white clay pipestem fragment and several pieces of glazed red-paste earthenware. Finally, several additional white clay pipe fragments, most of which refit, were found in a compacted layer of medium to fine sand below the layer of clay fill in STP 11. The bowl is plain save the unfinished mold seams and the embossed initials T D. Unfortunately, while these initials may have originally referred to a specific pipe maker, “T D” pipes became very popular and were produced by numerous manufacturers over many decades.

Blue transfer-printed sherd, sheep/goat molar, and bottle fragment from STP 7.

Blue transfer-printed sherd, sheep/goat molar, and bottle fragment from STP 7.


White-clay pipestem and glazed red-paste earthenware from STP 8.

White clay pipestem and glazed red-paste earthenware from STP 8.


TD Pipe from STP 11.

TD Pipe from STP 11.

Our hopes of finding intact, or even relatively intact, archaeological deposits at Borchard Park have not yet been realized. Given the extent of fill and disturbance we have already documented, there appears to be little chance of locating undisturbed early 19th century or older deposits at this location. Therefore, we will not be conducting any additional testing at this time. Many thanks to all who participated in the fieldwork!

We will now shift our focus to processing the artifacts we have recovered. Indeed, John Heintz and Ken Kosidlo have already made significant progress in getting the material washed. Sorting and cataloguing are soon to follow.



  1. Really disappointing to learn the Borchard Park site was far more disturbed than anticipated. Would the lawn in front of the present court house have a better chance of being undisturbed? That area was a part of the US Military reservation surrounding Fort Saginaw. This would have been a part of the area cleared of trees by soldiers in the summer of 1822. I believe the well bottom from Fort Saginaw may still exist within the parking lot behind the Saginaw News offices and Jimmy Johns. It would require ground penetrating radar to search the area. The exact location and configuration of the fort is unknown, but the well bottom would go a long way to help solve this mystery.
    Keep up the good work!
    Best Regards,
    John Fry
    Castle Museum Researcher

    1. John – Disappointing, yes, but at least we are learning something about the land-use history of the park. Given its scale and position closer to Michigan Ave. then the current Court House, I suspect the construction and demolition of the 1883 Court House would have considerably disturbed the area that is now lawn. Still, it might be worth testing this a some point to confirm. Finding a well associated with the fort would be awesome!

  2. If the Archeology group is interested in a search for the Fort Saginaw well bottom, I would be glad to help in any way that I can. The 200th Anniversary of the Treaty of Saginaw and the establishment of Fort Saginaw comes in 2019 and 2022 respectively. Some archeology projects in preparation for what amounts to be Saginaw’s Bicentennial observation would be appropriate. Unfortunately, site disturbance is a rampant problem all along the river bank in Saginaw proper due to the lumbering period and industrialization of the river, but the discovery of some very interesting objects is still entirely possible. I have one question; How many inches down in the soil would objects from 1816-1825 period generally be found? Would digs in the basements of existing buildings in old town (which would be highly difficult to get permission to do of course) possibly allow a search of soil deep enough to find objects related to the treaty negotiation site, Fort Saginaw, or even the home site of Louis Campeau down by Thompson Ball?

    1. It’s a tough question to answer in a general sense. Material from the 1816-1825 period could be anywhere from the surface to several feet below the surface. It all depends on the interplay between deposition and erosion at a given location. “Natural” processes of deposition and erosion depend on specific properties of the landform – elevation, slope, soil type, ground cover, proximity to the river, etc. Then, of course, there are human activities such as grading, filling, landscaping, and construction projects which can variously bury, expose, disturb, or remove archaeological material. Having said that, and ignoring for the moment any effects of human activities, on rarely flooded higher ground I would expect early 19th century material to be quite close to the surface – probably in the upper foot of soil. Floodplain areas tend to have significantly more deposition and in these locations early 19th century material could be a foot or two below the surface – perhaps even deeper in more extreme areas. Of course, we can’t really ignore the effects of nearly 200 subsequent years of human activities in this urban area!

      1. Thanks for your answer! How far down would the garrison have dug to hit water for a well? Based on my research, Fort Saginaw was in the form of a quadrangle or Parallelogram 200 feet in width (north to south) and 350 feet in length (east to west). It is generally described as being located somewhere in the vicinity of the block of Hamilton, Adams, N. Michigan, and Court St., although its exact location is unknown. With no physical evidence of the fort available I have been relying on letters written by Major Daniel Baker (post commander) and remembrances of early pioneers to ascertain a potential location of the fort. An early Saginaw pioneer named John W. Richards, who reports living in the barracks building located near the subsequent intersection of Court and Hamilton (possibly the officers barracks located near the north wall). He speculates that the barracks building and the north stockade wall likely stood partly on what is now the intersection of the streets. This puts the northern wall out into Court St itself. Measuring 200 feet south, the south wall may be located somewhere between Jimmy johns and J.B. Meinburgs or just to the north of the old foot print of the West Side police Station on Adams St. The site of the well, as described by Fred Dustin, is just to the west of the blockhouse that stood in the southeast corner of the fort (somewhere within the area of J.B. Meinburgs and the building behind it). This would put the well potentially somewhere under Hamilton St. westward into the southern-most area of the parking lot behind Jimmy Johns/Saginaw News offices. Depending on how deep the well was dug, it’s entirely possible the bottom could still be intact. I don’t know how much of the land in this area was graded down for construction through the years as Old Saginaw City grew. What do you think? John Fry

      2. I’m not sure how deep they would have dug to construct a well, but I suppose a remnant of the bottom could still be intact. However, given our hazy locational information, the amount of disturbance, and the almost certain presence of debris-laden fill throughout the area, I suspect, even with ground penetrating radar, it would be quite difficult to find.

  3. Yes, very difficult to find. The well bottom may be the only piece of the fort that actually exists in it’s original position and the only way to actually physically determine the location of the fort. I will continue to data mine all of the information I can find. Look forward to your future projects in the old town area and beyond. Thanks.

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