Exhibition displays artifacts from NMU field school

Nolan Krebs

The Beaumier Upper Peninsula Heritage Center will be hosting an exhibit exploring the history of Beaver Island through SaturdaySept. 22.

“Scattered to the Winds: the Vanished Community of Cable’s Bay and Beaver Island” was created, designed and planned with the help of students in the sociology and social work programs.

“Beaver Island offers a pretty unique site for archaeology students because of it’s isolation and history,” said assistant professor of archaeology Scott Demel. “Being two and half hours away by ferry limits a lot of outside influences.”

The exhibit features artifacts that were excavated from two historical sites on the east side of Beaver Island by NMU students during a field school in 2010.

Students enrolled in AN355 conducted excavations to study life on the island during the 1800s.

Cable’s Bay, an early fishing village, and Burke’s Farm, a farmstead owned and operated by Irish immigrants were the two main sites visited by students enrolled in the field school.

Cable’s Bay was started by James Cable in 1838 and was occupied by fishermen and their families, as well as traders, merchants and clerks. By 1850, Cable’s Bay had 27 houses with 108 people living there.

“Cable’s Bay was one of two villages on the island from about 1840 to 1865,” Demel said. “That’s a relatively short duration in terms of archaeology, so by excavating we’re able to get a real good glimpse at how they lived at the time.”

Burke’s Farm was established in the 1850s by a Mormon family called the Clarkes, but was abandoned during a forced exodus in 1856.

“For about six years, from 1850 to 1856, the island was ruled by King Strang, who kicked most of the non-Mormon inhabitants off the island,” Demel said.

The island was later reclaimed by fishermen and the homestead was taken over by the Burke family.

“Burke’s Farm is an important site because it showed us how an inland village operated compared to a coastal community,” Demel said.

Students working at the site surveyed the surface of the farm and searched the ground for any artifacts laying on the surface, which were then tagged and mapped out using a compass and electronic distance reader.

Students returned to Beaver Island this summer for the AN355 field school, which visits the island every other year.

This year, students visited a new location.

“We discovered a late woodland prehistoric site this year, dating from around AD 900 to 1100,” Demel said. “We found fishing tools and other artifacts somewhat similar to those found around other settlements of the island.”

NMU has recently been working with students in the construction management department to create plans for a proposed research station on a 20-acre plot of land purchased by the NMU Foundation.

“We hope to keep returning there in the future,” Demel said.

The Beaumier Heritage Center is located in 105 Cohodas Hall and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The exhibit was funded by the Michigan Humanities Council and is free to students and the public. For more information, call (906) 227-3212 or email [email protected].