Saginaw

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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Archaeology Volunteer Recognized!

And the highly coveted Historical Society of Saginaw County Volunteer of the Year award goes to………………..

NICK BACON!!!

Archaeology volunteer extraordinaire Nick Bacon, along with two others, received the award during  the Historical Society’s Annual Meeting on Saturday. At an institution with a roster of 180 volunteers who donated over 7,800 hours of service last year, this is no small accomplishment!

Nick filling out collection bags during the Swan Creek Survey.

For those who don’t know Nick, over the past three years he has become a valued member of the archaeology team. Since 2015 he has logged over 500 hours in the field and many more in the lab. Nick can always be counted on to lend a hand when needed, bringing his experience from working on numerous archaeological projects in Michigan, several states in the Eastern U. S. and as far away as Belize.

Nick and Jana hard at work in the lab.

As any archaeologist can attest, field work is not always easy, or pleasant. Conditions are often cold and wet, or hot and dry. Mud, mosquitoes, poison ivy, and thorny vegetation are frequent companions. Nick meets such conditions with a shrug and a smile and gets the job done. A memorable outing last fall consisted of walking more than two miles off-trail to a remote part of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, salvaging two important features that were eroding into the river, and then hiking back out with backpacks and buckets stuffed full of wet soil samples! Not many would return after that “adventure”, but Nick was back the next week ready for more! (That in itself probably merits this award!)

Nick, with Roxanne, giving the “thumbs up” at the Steltzriede Farm site.

In 2017 Nick expanded his range of contributions to the museum to include working with the museum’s historical collections, digitizing photographs and entering collection records into the database. Over the past two decades, we’ve had some truly extraordinary individuals donate their time, effort, and expertise to the archaeology program at the Castle Museum. Nick is continuing that tradition and definitely deserves this recognition as a Volunteer of the Year!

CONGRATULATIONS NICK!!!

 

Archaeological Society Meeting, 1 February 2018

The February meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will be held at the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History on Thursday, 1 February 2018, at 7:00 PM. Dr. Scott Beld will share his research related to excavations at the Early Woodland Arthursburg Hill site in Ionia County. The title of Dr. Beld’s talk is: The Arthursburg Hill Earthwork Enclosure: An Early Woodland (ca. 400 B.C.) Fortified Village in central Michigan.  With a construction date of around 400 B.C., this enclosure is the earliest known in Michigan (other earthwork enclosures in Michigan are from the Late Woodland Period).

To whet your appetite for the program, here are a few Early Woodland biface types (projectile points and knives) from various sites in the Saginaw Valley.

Early Woodland bifaces found in Saginaw County.

And we can’t talk about the Early Woodland Period without showing an example of some Early Woodland ceramics…

Early Woodland ceramics from Saginaw County.

As always, the public is invited and encouraged to attend.

Michigan Archaeological Society meeting Thursday, 2 November 2017

The November meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will be held Thursday, 2 November 2017 at 7:00 pm here at the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History. Long-time chapter member Bernie Spencer will be presenting a program on the Ike Davidson site. Bernie describes the program as follows:

“Reflections on the Ike Davidson Site, a mixed Late Woodland site adjacent to the Cass River, occupying the bottom of the floodplain from two to four feet above the present water level. The entirety of my collections from the site will be available for observation at the meeting. This site was totally removed as part of the Cass River Dike Project in 2011. My collections began in 1957 and ended with the total destruction of the site in 2011.”

One of many Late Woodland Rimsherds from the Ike Davidson Site, Saginaw County, Michigan.

Bernie’s collection from this site includes an impressive array of Late Woodland (and some probably earlier) ceramics, projectile points and other flaked stone tools, and ground stone artifacts, all of which will be on display at the meeting.

As always, the public is welcome and encouraged to attend. You won’t want to miss this one!

Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting, Thursday, 5 October 2017

Somehow the days have gotten away from me this month, so this notice is rather last-minute. Nevertheless, all are invited to the October meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society. The meeting is tonight, 5 October 2017,  at 7:00 pm, here at the Castle Museum. For the evening’s program, I will be providing an update on our work at the Steltzriede Farm site in Saginaw Township. The official announcement from the chapter is copied below.

Nick and Julia excavating at the Steltzriede Farm site in Saginaw Township.

The October meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will be on Thursday, October 5, 2017, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., in the Morley Room, of the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, 500 Federal Ave., Saginaw, MI 48607.
Jeff Sommer will give an update on the third season of excavations at the Steltzriede Farm site where, in 1838, German immigrants Henry and Katherine Steltzriede settled, established a farm, and began raising a family.

Fieldwork Update – more from the Steltzriede Farm site.

Progress has been slow but sure at the Castle Museum’s archaeological investigations at the Steltzriede Farm site in Saginaw Township, so I think we are due for another update. We noted previously (here) a need to expand our excavation in order to expose the northwest corner of the presumed cabin cellar. The hassle of dealing with bushes and utilities notwithstanding, we have expanded the excavation block and the corner of the cellar is now clearly visible.

The northwest corner of the cellar at 90 cm. Note brick fragments and abundant chinking.

Other than hundreds of fragments of chinking, several brick fragments, and a few square nails, artifacts have been sparse in the cellar fill. This brass buckle is one of the few non-structural items so far recovered within the cellar. Unfortunately, unlike some 19th century buckles, this one does not appear to have a patent date impressed into it.

Brass buckle found in the cellar.

One of our goals has been to determine the overall size of the cellar. Using a small coring tool, we have attempted to trace the extent of the dark cellar fill. It appears that both the north and west walls of the cellar extend to the edge of, or under, the asphalt driveway. Cores show no evidence that the cellar extends all the way across the driveway. Therefore, if we assume the cellar maintains a rectangular shape, and assume our interpretation of the core samples is accurate, the cellar must measure approximately 12′ X 16′.

Projected size of the cellar.

Work has also continued in what we refer to as the “midden” area of the site. This is a trash disposal area in what at the time was a fairly steep slope leading down to a small pond. The pond has long since been filled in (sometime prior to 1954). Recent finds in the midden area include fragments from several ceramic vessels and numerous animal bones. Ceramic types include blue-edgewares, red transferware, black transferware, and hand-painted polychrome, all of which fit well in an early to mid-19th century context. Many of the animal bones appear to be from pigs, but cow (including most of a skull) and duck have also been identified.

Fragments of a small blue-edgeware plate from the midden area.

Assorted ceramics from the midden area.

Fragments of a cow skull in situ in the midden area.

That’s it for now, but for those interested and in the area, I will be sharing the results our work at the Steltzriede Farm site as part of the Thirty-Seventh Annual Saginaw Humanities Lecture Series on Tuesday, Oct. 3rd, at the Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy (SASA), 1903 N. Niagara Street, in Saginaw. SASA students will perform a musical prelude beginning at 7:00 PM with the lecture beginning at 7:30 PM. There is no admission fee.

Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting Thursday, 7 Sept. 2017

Julia, Nick, and Brad excavating at the Steltzriede Farm site.

Julia, Nick, and Brad spent the summer working at the Steltzriede Farm site in Saginaw Township. What did you do???

Please join the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society for their annual Show and Tell meeting to kick off the 2017-2018 schedule. Members will share tales of their summer archaeological adventures and finds. As always, the public is welcome and encouraged to attend. The official meeting announcement is copied below.

The Saginaw Valley Chapter, of the Michigan Archaeological Society
 
September chapter meeting
Thursday, September 7, 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, MI 48607
 
Join us for the Annual Show and Tell meeting.
There will be a short business meeting prior to the evening program.
 
A note of passing, member Nik Smolinski.