News

Fieldwork Update – Getting Started at the Steltzriede Farm Site

Nick and Roxanne ready to get started.

The Castle Museum Archaeology team has been busy and the 2017 field season at the Steltzriede Farm Site (20SA562) is now well underway. During the 2016 field season we located a mid-19th century midden zone (trash deposit) and what we believe is the cellar of the original house/cabin built on the site. Readers familiar with the project will remember that the Steltzriede family is said to have built a log cabin when they settled at the site in 1838. They moved to a frame house, which still stands on the property, in 1848. New readers can learn more about the project here, here, here, and here. Our work this year will, at least initially, focus on uncovering more of the cabin/cellar to learn what we can about the size and nature of the structure. We will also expand our excavation in the midden area to obtain a larger sample of artifacts and subsistence remains from the early decades of the Steltzriede’s occupation.

Julia, Nick, and Brad excavating in the cabin/cellar area.

We have opened up three 1X1 meter units in the cabin/cellar area and are slowly working our way through the upper fill layers toward the cellar floor. Two of the units contain clusters of mortar/chinking, but little else, and no sign yet of the expected wall of the cellar. This is probably due to the way the cellar deteriorated, collapsed, and was filled in – a process that, through careful excavation, we may be able to tease out. The third excavation unit in this part of the site was previously excavated (in 2015)  down to 40cm in north half and 50 cm in the south half. At that point there was no clear sign of a structural feature so the excavation was halted and backfilled. Given what we learned last year about the location of the cellar and what the collapsed and filled in area above the cellar looks like, I decided to reexamine the previously excavated unit and go a bit deeper to see if we had given up on it too soon. This may have been a good decision because at the 60cm floor we can now see what appears to be the north edge of the cellar!

Probable north wall of cellar. A rotted root runs along the edge.

Artifacts have been pretty sparse in all three units. Other than the previously mentioned mortar/chinking, we have found a few nails, bone fragments, one or two small ceramic sherds, and a couple of glass fragments. One glass fragment is from a pressed glass goblet or tumbler with the “Wildflower” pattern by Adams and Co. More research is needed, but a quick internet search indicates that the Adams and Co. began producing the pattern in the 1870s and it was widely reproduced well into the 20th century. Regardless of whether this is a 19th or 20th century example, it clearly post-dates the occupation of the cabin.

Pressed glass – “Wildflower” pattern.

Monday, we also opened up two excavation units in the area above the 19th century midden. This part of the site is capped with approximately 50cm of sod and topsoil and clay and gravel fill. We shoveled out these relatively recent (probably mid-20th century) fill layers and are now ready to begin excavation of the 19th century deposits.

Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting, 4 May 2017

The May meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will be held 4 May 2017 at 7:00 PM at the Castle Museum. This will likely be the final meeting before the summer break, so you won’t want to miss it! Chapter member Don Simons will be the featured speaker. He will discuss the prehistoric use of Flint Ridge, a colorful type of flint/chert (stone) found in central Ohio and widely used across the region. In the Saginaw Valley, Flint Ridge is found most frequently, though not exclusively, on sites from the Early and Middle Woodland time periods. Here is an example of a few random  Flint Ridge artifacts from the Saginaw Valley:

Early and Middle Woodland Flint Ridge Artifacts from Saginaw County.

As always, the public is invited and encouraged to attend the meeting…it’s FREE! There will be artifacts made of Flint Ridge on display at the meeting. If you have artifacts that may be made of Flint Ridge, please bring them to show the group!

The official announcement from the Saginaw Valley Chapter is copied below.

 

Saginaw Valley Chapter
Thursday, May 4, 2017

7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., in the Morley Room of the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, 500 Federal Avenue, Saginaw, Michigan 48607.

We will have a short business meeting before the program.

Don Simons will present an overview of Flint Ridge artifacts and related subjects from sites in the Saginaw Valley to the bedrock mines in southern Ohio.

Flint Ridge chert is the state gemstone of Ohio. For Thousands of years it’s exceptional quality as a stone tool material and colorful beauty made it a major item which served in many ways the needs of the ancient cultures of the Midwest and beyond.

Bring in your Flint Ridge artifacts for display to the chapter members.

Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will hold their monthly meeting here at the Castle Museum on Thursday, 6 April 2017. Don Simons will give a presentation on Iroquois ceramic technology and will highlight several examples of Iroquois artifacts from Michigan. Don always presents an interesting and informative program, so this is one you will not want to miss! As always, visitors are welcome and encouraged to attend the meetings. The official announcement from the SVC is copied below.

 

Saginaw Valley Chapter

April Meeting
Thursday, April 6, 2017
7:00 p.m., Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, 500 Federal Ave., Saginaw, MI 48607.
 
Don Simons, will present a photos showing ceramic technology featuring “The last Iroquois potter,” followed by several Michigan finds of diagnostic Iroquois ceramic artifacts and a revisit to material from Sanilac County found by Theresa Breza. During the early Euro-American settlement period the Iroquois were a major cultural group located in the general area of Lake Ontario, especially New York and Pennsylvania. Historic records indicate a series of expeditions to the west during periods of warfare. Was Michigan one of those destinations?  Archaeological researchers may find the answer.

 

Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting Thursday, 2 March 2017

The Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will hold their monthly meeting here at the Castle Museum on Thursday, 2 March 2017 at 7:00 PM. Glen Boatman, an avocational archaeologist from Toledo, Ohio, will present recent research on the Middle Woodland Hopewell “Mound Builders” of the northern Ohio region. When it comes to archaeology of the Midwest, it doesn’t get much more iconic than Ohio Hopewell! This will no doubt be an interesting program that you won’t want to miss!

The Saginaw Valley, of course, has its own expression of Hopewell Middle Woodland culture. There are several known Middle Woodland sites in the Saginaw Valley and between 2001 and 2004 the Castle Museum conducted test excavations at two of them. Here are a couple of photos from site 20SA1251 to whet your appetite for the upcoming program.

Middle Woodland Bifaces from 20SA1251

Middle Woodland Bifaces from 20SA1251

Middle Woodland Ceramics from 20SA1251

Middle Woodland Ceramics from 20SA1251

As always, the Saginaw Valley Chapter meetings are free and open to the public. Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend! The official meeting announcement from the Archaeological Society is copied below.

Date: Thursday, March 2, 2017
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, 500 Federal Ave., Saginaw, MI 48607
Glen Boatman will give a presentation on results to date, of his research on the development and range of the Hopewell, “Mound Builder” Middle Woodland in the northern Ohio region.

Glen Boatman is an avocational archaeologist from Toledo, Ohio. He is the current president of the Western Lake Erie Archaeological Program, and a very active member of the Sandusky Chapter of the Ohio Archaeological Society. For 17 years, he assisted in many research projects directed by both avocational and professional archaeologists. His education includes 26 classes in archaeological related subjects. His work with Dr. David Stothers, and Dr. Brian Redmond was predominantly with Woodland era sites in the northern Ohio area.
Recently he co-authored a paper, “Metz Transitional Ware:  A Case for Continuity in North Central Ohio from the Leimach Culture to the Sandusky Tradition” published in volume 44, of the Archaeology of Eastern North America, on the findings of the Sandusky Chapter’s work on sites in that region.

Saginaw Valley Archaeologists: Contributors to the Field III – Ralph W. Stroebel

Note: As the title implies, this series of occasional posts is intended to highlight individuals who have made significant contributions, in one way or another, to the archaeology of the Saginaw Valley. Subjects of previous posts include Fred Dustin and Harlan I. Smith.

 

Ralph Stroebel has been mentioned at least three times previously on this blog (here, here, and here), so a post describing and honoring his contributions to the archaeology of the Saginaw Valley is probably overdue. Much of the following biographical information was compiled by Ira W. Butterfield and published in The Michigan Archaeologist (Butterfield 1988).

Born 17 July 1899, Ralph Stroebel grew up on a farm in Saginaw Township, not far from the home of his maternal grandparents, Henry and Katherine Steltzriede. [As followers of this blog are well-aware, the Steltzriede Farm site has been the focus of two seasons of archaeological research by the Castle Museum. Our interest in the site and our knowledge of its history can be traced directly to stories and research shared by Ralph.] Stroebel’s interest in archaeology and history was sparked early in life and as a child he collected artifacts he found on his father’s farm. While still a teenager, Stroebel had the good fortune to meet Fred Dustin, with whom he forged a friendship lasting until Dustin’s death in 1957. Under Dustin’s guidance, Ralph learned to document site locations and to number and catalogue the artifacts he collected.

Both on his own and together with Dustin, Stroebel discovered and explored many archaeological sites throughout Saginaw County. Among the thousands of artifacts he collected was a cache of 42 roughly chipped Bayport chert “blades” (including bifaces and flakes) now known as the Watson Cache (20SA420). Ralph published a description of this find in the journal American Antiquity (Stroebel 1937). Over the years, Ralph donated much of his well-documented collection to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. A portion of his collection was also donated to the Historical Society of Saginaw County.

stroebel2

Ralph Stroebel standing in a cache pit along the Cass River in 1934. Photo by Fred Dustin.

The Michigan Archaeological Society was first organized in the 1920s and Ralph Stroebel was a charter member. While the institution languished during the depression and war years, Stroebel, Dustin, and a small group of like-minded individuals continued to meet informally to discuss local archaeology. When the society was reestablished in the 1950s, this group formed the core of the Saginaw Valley Chapter. Stroebel was active in the Chapter and served several terms as President of the group. He was looked upon by many as an informal mentor, always willing to offer guidance and encouragement to those just beginning to pursue their archaeological interests.

Stroebel’s interests weren’t confined to archaeology. As the years passed he devoted himself more and more to historical research and he was one of the founders of the Historical Society of Saginaw County. He assembled an extensive reference collection containing newspaper clippings, photographs, library references, and other scraps of information organized into files covering hundreds of topics on local history. He collected oral histories, scoured public records and archives, and compiled data into usable formats. Two of his larger research projects included locating all known cemeteries and burial plots in the county and identifying every sawmill and associated company that operated along the Saginaw River. Ralph amassed a substantial collection of tools and other items related to lumbering, farming, and the day to day activities of previous generations. Through library research and interviewing “old-timers” he learned how the various tools were actually used. Ralph became widely known as THE historian of Saginaw County and was named the official County Historian for the Saginaw County Board of Commissioners.

Teaching the next generation, 1969.

Ralph at home, teaching the next generation, 1969.

Perhaps Stroebel’s greatest contribution was demonstrating his belief that artifacts, knowledge, and information gained through research are only valuable when shared. He gave dozens of presentations to groups of school children and adults, he spent countless hours helping to develop exhibits at the Castle Museum, he researched and responded to hundreds of inquiries regarding local history, and he donated copies of his research materials to several local libraries and historical societies.  Ralph Stroebel’s efforts in the fields of history and archaeology continue to be widely recognized and greatly appreciated. His contributions of collections, original research, and archival materials to the Historical Society of Saginaw County are still very much in evidence at the Castle Museum today.

Exhibit honoring Stroebel at the Ralph W. Stroebel Archives located in the Castle Museum Annex.

Exhibit honoring Stroebel at the Ralph W. Stroebel Archives located in the Castle Museum Annex.

Stroebel received recognition and a number of awards from local, state, and national organizations including an Award of Merit from both the Michigan Archaeological Society and the Historical Society of Michigan. The citation that perhaps best exemplifies Stroebel’s lifelong dedication and contributions to knowledge and understanding is the Robert H. Albert Community Service Award from the Greater Saginaw Chamber of Commerce.  The award states “What a man does for himself dies with him; what he does for his community lives forever.”  It is a fitting tribute to an extraordinary person. Ralph Stroebel died in Saginaw on 12 December 1987.

Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting 5 January 2017

Please join the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society here at the Castle Museum on Thursday, 5 January, for their first meeting of the new year. Kyle Bagnall, Manager of Historical Programs at Chippewa Nature Center, will present the evening’s program. He will describe a period of Michigan’s history (1840) between the close of the fur trade and the onset of the lumbering period. Those who follow this blog will recognize that this time frame overlaps nicely with establishment of the Steltzriede farm site (1838), where the Castle Museum has been conducting archaeological research over the past two years.  Kyle’s program will provide an interesting perspective on what Michigan would have been like as Henry and Katherine Steltzriede built a cabin and began establishing their farm and starting a family on the outskirts of Saginaw.

As always, the public is welcome and encouraged to attend the meeting and program. The official announcement from the Chapter is copied below.

 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

7:00 p.m. – 9:00
Castle Museum of Saginaw County History
500 Federal Avenue, Saginaw, MI 48607
 
Kyle Bagnall, manager of historical programs Chippewa Nature Center.
The In-Between Day:
What was Michigan like as the fur trade came to a close after 200 years of frenetic activity? Only three years old in 1840, our new state was a wilderness of virgin forests, filled with surveyors, explorer, settlers and small towns popping up on the frontier. Join Kyle Bagnall in an intimate look at this exciting time of great change in the history of Great Lakes State, before the day of lumbering transformed our landscaped forever.