Fred Dustin

Saginaw Valley Archaeologists: Contributors to the Field IV – Eliza L. Golson

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 in the series include Fred Dustin, Harlan I. Smith, and Ralph Stroebel.

Eliza Golson is less well-known in local archaeological circles than the previous subjects of this series, but she exemplifies the contributions that avocational archaeologists have so often made to the field. And she did so at a very early date! Much of the following biographic information was compiled by the Castle Museum’s Chief Curator, Sandy Schwan and can be sourced to the introduction to a transcription of Eliza Golson’s diary prepared by Golson’s granddaughter, Theo Alice Klisch and great-granddaughter, Margaret Klisch and to conversations with Margaret Klisch.

Born Eliza Martin on December 9, 1853 in Buffalo, New York, she moved to Saginaw with her family in 1863 where they took up residence on a houseboat. Though formal education was precluded by family responsibilities, young Eliza had a curious mind and a desire to learn and she managed to educate herself.

Eliza Golson

In 1871, Eliza Martin married Frank Golson. They resided in South Saginaw and had six children. While raising her family, Eliza developed an avid interest in the prehistoric artifacts she found near her home – many from right in her own flower beds, others from elsewhere in the neighborhood. Although she had no formal training in archaeology, she recognized the significance of her finds and the importance of documenting them.

Eliza Golson’s Journal

Between 1881 and 1906, Eliza Golson kept a journal of her archaeological activities. Entries describe outings with her children and other family members to search for artifacts. They record what the family found and where. She also describes various classes of artifacts in her collection and speculates on how they were made and their possible functions. The journal entries paint a picture of a woman not simply content to amass a collection of objects, but rather, interested in learning about what those objects might mean.

Selected artifacts from the Golson Collection.

One of Eliza’s children, Edward (Edd), was a schoolmate and good friend of Harlan I. Smith. [Smith, of course, later became a celebrated archaeologist/ethnologist most widely known for his work in the Pacific Northwest.] Edd is mentioned several times in Golson’s journal and seems to have been rather adept at finding artifact caches. Edd’s first cache, consisting of 83 Bayport chert cores and/or preforms, was found 26 April 1890 and was donated to the Peabody Museum at Harvard University that same year.

Edd discovered six bifaces from a second cache on 1 May 1892. Over the next two days, he and Eliza recovered 53 additional specimens from the cache. They sent a report on the cache to the Smithsonian Institution on 8 May 1892 and on 28 June 1892, Harlan I. Smith arrived to photograph the cache.

This image is a copy of Harlan I. Smith’s photo of the Golson Cache #2, found in Saginaw in 1892 by Edward and Eliza Golson and exhibited by Smith at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.

In 1893, the archaeology of the Saginaw Valley was presented to an international audience when Smith chose to exhibit this cache and several additional items from the Golson collection at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Eliza made note of the loan in a 21 March 1893 journal entry.

March 21st 1893
Today Harlin I Smith came for some of my specimens to take to the Worlds Fair for Exhibition. I let him have in Edds name
1 Cache of 59 Implements
1 Copper Axe
1 Copper Awl
103 Bone Points
4 Deer Horns (Pieces of Deer Horns)
1 large tooth
15 Bear Teeth
58 Horn Points

Her 7 December 1893 entry documents that the artifacts were well taken care of and all were returned in good condition.

Dec the 7th 1893
Mr H I Smith Returned my specimens all of them in good condition

Eliza Golson died on 23 February 1923 in South Saginaw. Her memory endures through her continuing contribution to the body of knowledge about the archaeology of the Saginaw Valley. In 1980-1981, her descendants honored her memory and efforts by transcribing Eliza’s journal and distributing copies to various institutions including the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, and the Historical Society of Saginaw County. In 2012, Eliza Golson’s original journal was donated to the Historical Society of Saginaw County. Although much of her collection seems to have been dispersed, portions can be found today at the Peabody Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, and in the archaeological collections of the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History.

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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 6 October 2016

The Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will hold its monthly meeting Thursday, 6 October 2016 at 7 PM at the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History. Don Simons will once again discuss a variety of archaeological and historical topics based on original photographs taken by Fred Dustin. More information about Dustin can be found here. Last January Don gave a wonderful presentation based on photographs taken by Dustin in the lower Flint River Valley. This new program, focusing on the Cass River Valley in Bridgeport and Frankenmuth Townships, promises to be equally interesting and entertaining! To whet your appetite, here is a copy of a photograph of Ralph Stroebel standing in a cache pit along the Cass River in Frankenmuth Township. This photograph was taken by Dustin on 29 April 1934.
stroebel2
As always the meeting/program is open to the public and people are invited and encouraged to attend. The official meeting announcement is copied below.

Saginaw Valley Chapter meeting
October 6, 2016
7:00 p.m.
Castle Museum of Saginaw County History
500 Federal Avenue, Saginaw, MI 48607

Program:

Don Simons will present part two of a potpourri of historic and prehistoric subjects which are based upon original photos taken by Saginaw Valley archaeologist Fred Dustin. In general, the topical area is the Cass River Valley in Bridgeport and Frankenmuth townships.

Saginaw Valley Archaeologists: Contributors to the Field II – Harlan I. Smith

This post is the second in a planned series highlighting individuals who have made substantial contributions to our understanding of the archaeology of the Saginaw Valley. The first installment, on Fred Dustin, can be seen here.

Harlan I. Smith

1872-1940

Celebrated for his archaeological and ethnographic work in the Pacific Northwest, Harlan Ingersoll Smith cut his archaeological teeth in the Saginaw Valley, Michigan. Smith was born in Saginaw on 17 February 1872, to Alice E. (Ingersoll) Smith and Harlan P. Smith. He spent his formative years in Saginaw and attended the East Side High School. It was during those years that he developed a keen interest in local prehistory – an interest he shared with his schoolmate and close friend, Edward Golson.

Following in his father’s footsteps (an attorney and real estate investor), Smith enrolled at the University of Michigan to continue his education. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1893. Either before he enrolled at U of M, or shortly thereafter, Smith’s chosen career path quickly moved in the direction of archaeology. In the three years between 1891 and 1893 Smith served as a curator of the anthropological collections at the University of Michigan Museum and an assistant curator at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. He also served as an assistant to the Department of Anthropology for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago where he exhibited a cache of bifaces and other artifacts found near the Green Point area of Saginaw by Edward Golson and his mother, Eliza Golson.

This image is a copy of Harlan I. Smith's photo of the Golson Cache #2, found in Saginaw in 1890 by Edward Golson and exhibited by Smith at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893.

This image is a copy of Harlan I. Smith’s photo of the Golson Cache #2, found in Saginaw in 1892 by Edward Golson. It is not the same cache exhibited by Smith at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. [edit – Eliza Golson’s diary indicates that this is in fact the cache exhibited at the WCE in 1893.]

During this period he also conducted fieldwork at several sites in Ohio and Wisconsin and he continued his explorations in the Saginaw valley.

Notes associated with this photo suggest it depicts work on a site along the Cass River while home from college. P. R. Bush, Will Melchers, and Harlan I. Smith are listed - presumably Smith is shown reclining at right.

Notes associated with this photo suggest it depicts work he conducted on a site along the Cass River while home from college. P. R. Bush, Will Melchers, and Harlan I. Smith are listed – presumably Smith is shown reclining at right.

In 1895, he joined the staff at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.  During his tenure at the AMNH he served as the lead archaeologist for the Jesup North Pacific Expedition to the Northwest Coast, under the direction of Franz Boas. Much more about Smith’s role in the Jesup North Pacific Expedition can be found here.

In 1911, he accepted a position with the Geological Survey of Canada (later the National Museum of Canada), retiring as Chief Archaeologist in 1937. During his years with the Geological Survey, Smith investigated a number of archaeological sites in Canada and in 1920 began several years of ethnographic work in the Bella Coola Valley of British Columbia. More information about Harlan I. Smith and examples of some documentary photographs taken by Smith in the Bella Coola Valley can be found here.

During the course of his career, Smith wrote dozens of scholarly papers, including several about the archaeology of Michigan and the Saginaw Valley. A few of his publications related to the Saginaw Valley are listed in the References page. Though his career in Michigan was short, his early influence was great. As noted by Fred Dustin, Harlan I. Smith was the first to make a systematic study of the archaeology of the Lower Peninsula and he, more than anyone else of his day, helped put Michigan archaeology on the map (Dustin 1936).

Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting 7 January 2016

The Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will be holding its first meeting of 2016 on 7 January at the Castle Museum. Don Simons will discuss the archaeology and culture history of the lower Flint River Valley and feature photographs taken by Fred Dustin. More about Dustin can be read in a previous post here. As always, visitors are welcome and encouraged to attend. The official announcement is copied below.

 

Date: Thursday, January 7, 2016
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, 500 Federal Ave,. Saginaw, MI 48607

Don Simons will give an overview of the record of cultural change in the lower Flint river valley; including, unique photos taken at Peonagawink by Fred Dustin, Saginaw archaeologist and historian.

SAGINAW VALLEY ARCHAEOLOGISTS: CONTRIBUTORS TO THE FIELD

The Saginaw Valley has more documented archaeological sites (over 1400 sites recorded in Saginaw County alone) than any other comparable region in Michigan. For over a century, the richness of the archaeological resources in this area has drawn considerable attention from avocational and professional archaeologists alike. Those who enjoy learning about the past, and perhaps even endeavor to add something new to the growing body of knowledge, owe a debt of gratitude for the sturdy foundation built by our archaeological predecessors. This post will be the first of a planned series highlighting individuals who have made substantial contributions to our understanding of the archaeology of the Saginaw Valley.

The base of this region’s archaeological foundation can be traced back to waning decades of the 19th century. Although he was not the only, or even the first, of his generation to take an interest in the archaeological record, the duration, breadth, and lasting impact of his contributions leave little doubt that Fred E. Dustin deserves the mantle “Founder of Saginaw Valley Archaeology.”

Portrait of Fred Dustin Castle Museum of Saginaw County History Cat. # 1987.008.129

Portrait of Fred Dustin
Castle Museum of Saginaw County History
Cat. # 1987.008.129

Details about Dustin’s life and accomplishments are described in a volume published by the Saginaw County Hall of Fame, into which he was inducted in 1965 (Miller and Beach 2000). Many of his archaeological contributions are detailed in an article published in the Michigan Archaeologist (Peebles 1978). Much of the information that follows is derived from these two sources.

He was born Fred O’Donnell on October 12, 1866 in Glens Falls, New York. He adopted the surname “Dustin” after the uncle who raised him following his mother’s early death. After moving to Saginaw in 1887, he earned his living at a number of jobs including carpentry, coal mining and serving as one of the first rural mail carriers. His avocational interests were just as wide ranging and included geology, history, natural history, and, of course, archaeology.

Dustin began to amass a substantial collection of artifacts from the Saginaw region. Significantly, he realized the importance of recording site locations and keeping artifacts from different sites separate. In the 1920s Dustin developed a system for numbering archaeological sites in the Saginaw area. In Dustin’s system, each river in the valley was assigned a number – the Saginaw River was 1, the Tittabawassee River was 2, etc. Archaeological sites were then given the number of the river by which they were located and, following a dash, a second sequential number in the order they were discovered. For example, site 2-1 (the Green Point Site) is the number for the first site Dustin located along the Tittabawassee River. This system was widely shared among local avocational archaeologists and it encouraged and provided a method for keeping archaeological material from different sites separate.

In subsequent years the state adopted a site numbering system developed by archaeologists at the Smithsonian Institution in which all Michigan sites were designated by the number 20 followed by a two-letter county abbreviation and then a sequential number. Dustin’s Green Point Site (2-1) became 20SA1 in the new system. However, many avocational archaeologists continued to refer to and use the Dustin system. A hybrid system was also implemented in which the Dustin number was used in place of the final sequential number in the new system (e.g. 20SA 2-1, or sometimes 20-SA-2-1). A testament to the efficacy of Dustin’s system is the fact that many of the artifacts in the Castle Museum’s archaeology collection are labeled with Dustin site numbers. Now, decades later, their provenience information and their archaeological value remains intact.

Dustin’s own collection, carefully marked with the site numbers he devised, was by and large donated to the University of Michigan’s Museum of Anthropology in the years between 1929 and 1957. However, at least one artifact in the Castle Museum’s collection appears to have been found by Dustin. A large celt with pitting on both faces and each lateral edge is labeled “Dustin (1930)” along with the site number 20-SA- 6-9. Presumably this item was actually collected by Dustin in 1930. The pitting indicates that this celt was also used as an anvil stone.

This celt may be the only artifact in the HSSC Archaeology Collection found by Dustin. Note the inscription "Dustin (1930)" on the edge. Pitting on each face and lateral edge indicates use as an anvil stone.

This celt may be the only artifact in the HSSC Archaeology Collection found by Dustin. Note the inscription “Dustin (1930)” on the edge.

Dustin was not just a collector of artifacts. He was truly a “citizen scientist” and an exemplar of the best of avocational archaeology. He read widely, took meticulous notes, corresponded regularly with others in the field, and published numerous papers. Fourteen of his most important works relevant to Saginaw Valley archaeology have been compiled into a single volume of the Michigan Archaeologist edited by James E. Fitting (1968).

Throughout his long and productive life, Dustin did much to promote the study of archaeology and history through excavations, publications, and programs for adults and children. He was a charter member of the Michigan Archaeological Society, a member of the Society for American Archaeology, the Michigan Historical Society, the American Military Institute, and the Saginaw Valley Historical Society, and he was a fellow of the Cranbrook Institute. He received a Citation of Honor from the Regents of the University of Michigan in recognition of his work as an historian and archaeologist. Dustin was an inspiration and a model for other avocational archaeologists and historians of his and later generations. It is largely through his efforts and influence that much of the early history and archaeology of the Saginaw Valley has been preserved. Dustin died in 1957 at the age of ninety.