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.


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.

Collection Notes: A Probable Middle Woodland Vessel from the Caster Site (20SA316)

During the summer of 1969, avocational archaeologists from the Saginaw area conducted a test excavation at the Caster Site (20SA316) in Swan Creek Township, Saginaw County, Michigan. They staked out a 10’X30′ block divided into 5’X5′ excavation units and began their work. They recorded their findings on graph paper scaled 1 inch to the foot and supplemented their records with color movies documenting their progress at the site. According to a brief report published in the Saginaw Valley Archaeologist (Ray and Woodworth 1969:26), by September of that year they had recovered 12 projectile points, numerous ceramic sherds, a few chips and flakes, one celt, much fire-cracked rock, and numerous fire pits, post molds, and bone fragments. Some of the material excavated from this site eventually ended up at the Castle Museum. Unfortunately, maps, notes, photos, or other documentation did not accompany the artifacts and are now presumed lost.

The artifacts from this site now held in the Castle Museum Archaeological Repository include lithics and ceramics typologically consistent with Middle Woodland and Late Woodland occupations. At least nine grit-tempered ceramic sherds (seven after refits) appear to be from a single vessel, probably Middle Woodland in age.



Probable Middle Woodland Vessel from the Caster Site.

The vessel is decorated with bands of oblique and horizontal dentate stamping on the smooth exterior rim and neck and additional dentate stamping on the interior lip/rim juncture. The lower rim also exhibits a row of exterior nodes/interior punctates within the band of dentate stamping. The body/shoulder of the vessel is cord-roughened below the band of horizontal dentate stamping on the neck. From the neck up, this vessel closely resembles the Middle Woodland ceramic type Tittabawassee Dentate Stamped as defined by Fischer (1972) at the nearby Schultz site. Below the neck is a different story. None of the Tittabawassee Dentate Stamped vessels described by Fischer at the Schultz site, or by Halsey (1976) at the (also nearby) Bussinger site, exhibit cord-roughened bodies. When cord-roughening is evident on Tittabawassee Dentate Stamped vessels it is generally well smoothed-over. That is not to say that cord-roughened surfaces are outside of the local Middle Woodland repertoire. Undecorated rim cordmarked (cord-roughened) vessels were present in nearly every stratigraphic level at the Schultz site, including Middle Woodland levels (Fischer 1972:185). Cord-roughened vessels decorated only with a row of nodes around the rim or neck were also present in Middle Woodland levels at both the Schultz and Bussinger sites. At Bussinger, Halsey (1976:193) defined a provisional type, Tittabawassee Cord-marked Noded, to describe such vessels.

Despite the unusual surface treatment, this vessel is probably best described as a variety of Tittabawassee Dentate Stamped. Like other vessels of this type is likely to date within the period of 100 B.C. to A.D. 400.

Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting 3 November 2016

The November meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will be held here at the Castle Museum on Thursday, 3 November 2016. I will be presenting a talk on our recent work at the Steltzriede Farm site. We have previously highlighted our work at the site here, here, here, and elsewhere on this blog. Now is your chance to get the most recent up-to-date information in person! The meetings are free and, as always, the public is welcome and encouraged to attend. The official announcement is copied below.


Ashleigh Travis Patrick


Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society
November meeting
Thursday, November 3, 2016
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Castle Museum of Saginaw County History

500 Federal Avenue, Saginaw, MI 48607

Jeffrey D. Sommer will give a presentation on the Steltzriede Farm site located in Saginaw Township. According to family history, the Steltzriede’s purchased the land and built a log cabin on the site in 1838. A frame house, which still stands was constructed in 1848. The program will chronicle our efforts to locate evidence of the log cabin and highlight our findings from the past two field seasons.