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AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
The Saginaw Valley
FRAGMENTS OF ANCIENT POTTERY FROM SAGINAW VALLEY, MICHIGAN.
Harlan I., Smith
Assistant Curator of Archsology
SUPPLEMENT TO AMERICAN MUSEUM JOURNAL
VOL. I, NO. 12, NOVEMBER=l)ECEMBER, looi
3 - Hi Sf
THE CULTURE OF THE PEOPLE ONCE INHABITING
A LIMITED AREA NEAR SAGINAW, MICHIGAN,
AS ILLUSTRATED BY MATERIAL IN THE AN-
THROPOLOGICAL DEPARTMENT OF THE AMER-
ICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY.
By Harlan I. Smith,
Assistant Curator of Archaeology-.
The rude archaeological objects found in the Saginaw valley,
Michigan, and exhibited in the American Museum of Natural
History show that the prehistoric people who lived in that area
were largely occupied with striving for the necessaries of life.
The region, although not at all desolate, was still too far north to
support a civilization that would leave traces of a culture so
largely given to art and ritual as those to be found in Mexico, the
Southern States or even in the Ohio valley. Such a collection
of rather rude implements and objects has value, however, in that
it gives evidence regarding the lives of the early inhabitants of
The objects from the Saginaw valley were found in such places
that we now know where there were a number of rather important
villages and a still larger number of small villages or camp
sites, besides what were probably scattered habitations and
burial-places — all of the early people of this region. It is quite
evident from areas where certain stray objects were found, and
from the scarcity of other evidences in such areas, that the peo-
ple also made trips to points remote from the villages, probably
for fishing and hunting, the gathering of fruits and roots or the
securing of material out of which to make arrow-points and
pipes; and that the objects were lost on the way. It would
seem that the character of the country, with the scattered dis-
tribution of its products, was the cause of the segregation of the
people into small villages, and possibly of their establishing
small outlying camps for the purpose of being, at certain seasons,
near points suitable for such occupations as are above noted.
The importance of the collection exliibited in these cases is
chieflly that it indicates the character of the culture of the people,
the location of their habitations, burial-places, caches and
t I I I I I -
HEOLOGiC MAP OF MICHK
A larger map of the cross-lined area will be found on page 8.
->■ = UUDEFINEB ANTipunitS
\u = CXMtTESY.
The Saginaw Valley Collection
mounds, as well as that it shows something of their resources, in-
dustries and customs. It is undoubtedly the largest archaeological
collection from the Saginaw valley, and was made and presented
to the Museum by the writer, whose investigations of the region,
although supplemented by later work, were chiefly accomplished
during the period from 1883 to 1891. Practically all the objects
to be found on the surface of the particular sites from which the
W. Orchard, Photo.
CELTS OR CHISELS.
About I Natural Size.
collection was obtained have been secured; but it is probable
that further search, especially below the surface and in the
neighboring fields, would bring to light other specimens of similar
The Saginaw valley, including the entire area draining into Sag-
inaw Bay, occupies the east-central portion of the southern penin-
sula of iSIichigan. It is a well-watered, level country, formerly
covered by dense forests of pine, oak, elm, ash, maple, hickory
and other trees. The lowlands are occupied by swamps, which in
places are largely grown up with wild rice, known to botanists as
6 The Saginaw Valley Collection
Zizania aquatica Linn, a staple produced by nature in such abun-
dance that it was of great importance to the primitive people of
the region. The streams which were of the most importance to
the prehistoric inhabitants of the valley were the Saginaw river and
its main tributaries, including the Shiawassee, Flint, Bad, Cass,
Tittabawassee and their branches, while the Pigeon, Sebewaing,
Kawkawlin and Rifle were not unimportant. Bordering the lower
W. Orchard, Photo.
CHERT NODULE IN LIMESTONE.
From Bay Port Quarries.
courses of the rivers there are numerous bayous with low sand
ridges scattered over the land between them. At the head waters
the streams flow more swiftly and undercut their banks, and large
bayous and swamps are less frequent.
Chert or impure flint was extensively quarried and chipped
into implements by the prehistoric inhabitants of the valley, and
in the chipped implements found on the village sites and hunting-
grounds this material largely predominates. A specimen of
limestone of Subcarboniferous age bearing a nodule of chert, ob-
tained at the modern quarries at Bay Port, Michigan, is illus-
The Saginaw Valley Collection 7
trated on the preceding page, and may be seen in the case. This
outcrops in a nearly circular line cut by the head waters of the
Cass, Shiawassee and Tittabawassee and intersecting Saginaw
Bay near Point Lookout and Kay Port.
When white men first visited this region, it was inhabited by
the Ojibwa Indians. The name of this tribe is variously spelled,
as Chippewa, Otchipwe, etc. Their descendants preserve tra-
ditions that the Sauk or Sac Indians formerly occupied the valley
and were driven out by the Ojibwa and their allies, while the Sac
and Fox Indians of Iowa, for their part, have traditions to the
same effect. A collection from these Ojibwa Indians is shown
W. Orchard, Photo.
SLATE TABLETS POSSIBLY ORNAMENTS.
About f Natural Size.
in another part of the Museum (Hall No. io6, on the ground
floor). They were found subsisting on a variety of natural
])roducts, chief among which were wild rice, maple sugar, squash,
corn, wild fruits and game.
The prehistoric villages were located along the streams, be-
cause of the importance of water, wild rice, fish and the land
animals which frequented the river banks for food or visited
them for water. Furthermore, the canoe was an easier means
of transportation than the trail, and even trails were more easily
formed along the ridges parallel to the rivers or along the banks
than elsewhere. The outcrops of chert and pipestone also are
ENLARGED MAP OF THE CROSS-LINED AREA ON THE MAP OF THE STATE
ON PAGE 4.
ARCH^OLOGICAL MAP OF THE SAGINAW VALLEY,
MICHIGAN, SHOWING THE PRINCIPAL
SAGINAW BAY, EASTERN SHORE, Huron County.
1 North Island Workshops. 4 Bay Port Cache.
2 Heisterman Island Village Site. 5 Sharpsteen Village Site.
3 Bay Port Village Site. 6 Sebevvaing Village Site.
SAGINAW RIVER VALLEY, Saginaw County.
7 Hoyt Camp Site. 12 Esterbrook Camp Site.
8 Wright Graves. 13 Mobray Camp Site.
9 Saginaw Graves. 14 Ka-pay-shaw-vvink Village Site.
10 Germain Village Site. 15 Green Point Mounds.
11 Ayres Camp Site.
SHIAWASSEE RIVER VALLEY.
16 Merrill Cache. 19 Albee Workshop.
17 St. Charles Graves. 20 Chesaning Mounds,
iS St. Charles Mounds.
FLINT RIVER VALLEY.
21 Foster Village Site. 23 Stewart Cache.
22 Peonagowink Village Site. 24 Morse Cache No. i.
CASS RIVER VALLEY.
25 Wille Cache. 30 Cass Village Site.
26 Fisher Village Site. 31 Bow Village Site.
27 Fobear Mounds. 32 Cook Village Site.
28 Andross Village Site. 33 Simons Prehistoric Cemetery.
29 Lull Earthwork.
TITTABAWASSEE RIVER VALLEY.
34 Little Camp Site. 37 Frazier Village Site.
35 Morgan Camp Site. 38 Tittabawassee Village Site.
36 Andrews Workshop. 39 German Camp Site.
The Saginaw Valley Collection n
exposed by the rivers, wliile in other places they are covered
with soil. From such exposures canoes could easily descend to
villages along the rivers, while to carry the material by trail to
inland settlements would have been laborious. The evidences
from the numerous village sites and the burial-places, mounds
and other remains, indicate that the conditions of life in pre-
historic times were similar to those which existed when the
Indians were first met by white men. Fragments of pottery;
pebbles which have been burned and broken, probably while
used as supports for the round-bottomed pottery cooking-vessels;
ashes and charcoal ; the broken bones and shells of animals;
arrow, knife, spear, scraper and drill points of chert; points
made of bone for arrows or awls; celts or chisels; hammer-stones;
grooved axes; ornamental objects, etc. — all are to be seen in
this case. A number of such objects when found on the sur-
face of the ground at a particular place, especially if pottery is
present, constitute the evidence which proves the spot to have
been a village site. Charcoal and ashes alone are not conclusive
proof of a village site, since such remains may have been left by
white people of recent times.
North Island Workshops. — At the western limit of Wild
Fowl P5ay is North Island, on the northern side or highest part of
which chert implements were found in all stages of manufacture,
from the nodular masses occurring in the substratum of the entire
island to the finished chipped points for spears, arrows, knives
and similar objects. Here also were found chips, flakes and
other discarded fragments of the same material, — the waste from
the i)rocesses of manufacture, — indicating the site of an ancient
workshop. Chipped implements of other material than chert
have not been obtained at this locality.
Heisterman Island Village Site. — The highest portion of
Heisterman Island is the northeastern side and there the sand
ridges slope to the marshes known as the Middle Crounds.
These marshes are frequented by fish, and wild fowl assemble
here in large numbers to feed on the wild rice. The rice alone,
which does not border other portions of the island, may have
The Saginaw Valley Collection 13
determined the site of this prehistoric village. The limestone
bearing chert suitable for the manufacture of arrow-points under-
lies the island and outcrops on its western shore within easy
access of this site. Hammer-stones, chipped points for arrows,
knives, spears, drills, etc., and chipped flint implements resem-
bling small hoes were gathered here, as well as fragments of pot-
tery and a piece of a pottery pipe. Many of the potsherds are
neatly ornamented, some by incised designs, others by designs
made by pressing twisted cord or twine into the clay while it was
soft. Another important locality is the one known as Bay Port
Village Site, from which the grooved stone hammer used for our
illustration was taken.
Near some of the villages hidden deposits or caches have been
found, fourteen in all having been discovered in the Saginaw
valley. The specimens from a number of these may be seen in
this collection. That the quarries from which the Indians ob-
tained their raw material have yet to be found is possibly because
signs of them may have been obliterated by modern quarrymen
or by the grinding of the ice or the beating of the surf against the
lake-shore outcrops during the many years which must have
elapsed between the time when the Indians abandoned the
quarries and the time when the first archaeologist saw the site.
The caches seem to indicate that expeditions were made to these
quarries and a large number of the partly finished forms were
chipped, and that they were taken to the vicinity of the permanent
camp and cached in the earth, where the stone would be kept
from becoming weathered.
Bay Port Cache. — One cross-section of a chert nodule and
forty-seven "turtle-back" blank forms, constituting a cache,
were found two feet below the surface, in the muck jungle, about
a hundred feet from the shore of Wild Fowl Bay, and a quarter
of a mile east of the wharf at Bay Port. The place is between
the bay and the sand ridge on which the Bay Port village site is
located. The specimens in the cache were found in one long
row, overlapping one another somewhat like shingles on a roof.
It is probable that the material of which they were made was
obtained near the spot, since the outcrop of Subcarboniferous
rock, which occurs for some distance along the beach westward
from the wharf, bears concretions the material of which is similar
14 The Saginaw Valley Collection
to that of the cache specimens. There are several outcrops of
this rock within a mile, especially along the beach to the west.
In this cache there were some blades of peculiar form, having a
straight beveled edge on one side. It seems probable that this
was caused by flaking the pieces for turtle-backs from a round
concretion. The first flake removed would be symmetrical, but
each of the succeeding flakes, if the material were used without
waste, would have one side beveled where the one before it had
been removed from the nodule. Not all of the flakes had been
subjected to sufficient chipping to remove the signs of this bevel.
W. Orchard, Photo.
SEGMENT OF NODULE, RUDE BLANK AND CHIPPED POINT.
From the surface of the Esterbrook Village Site.
About I Natural Size.
More or less evidence has been found of the existence of a
number of village sites, burial-places, mounds and prehistoric
battle-grounds from Bay Port southward along the shore of Sag-
inaw Bay, on the western shore of the bay and along the lower
course of Saginaw River. There are Ojibwa traditions also
which tend to confirm the archaeological evidence. From such
sites the quantity of material in this collection is not sufficient
to warrant a detailed description of it in this place. This, how-
ever, is given in a summary of the Archaeology of Saginaw Valley,
Michigan, published in the American Anthropologist beginning
with Part II, 1901. The fragments of pottery, arrow-points and
The Saginaw Valley Collection
other objects found on the surface of the sand ridges along the
eastern side of Saginaw River in the city of Saginaw, indicate a
number of village sites which were separated by bayous. I'roni
one of the latter series
there has been obtained
one of the so-called
" bird-shaped " stones
which is evidently in
process of manufac-
ture. The greater por-
tion of the surface
shows the pits caused
by " pecking," as it is
technically called, that
is, the bruising of the
surface of the stone
and the brushing away
of the crushed particles
until it has assumed
the shape desired. At
either side of what was
to have been the head,
the next process in the
manufacture had been
taken up, as is shown
by the rubbed surfaces.
It is probable that this
rubbing was done with
a rather coarse stone,
and that the implement
would have been fin-
ished by polishing.
Site. — This site, which
is on the east side of
the river in South Sagi-
naw, had on its surface
a sandstone pipe decorated with neatly arranged pits. Rock
which outcrops in the bottom of the Cass river was mentioned as
W. Orchard, Photo.
"FLUTED" OR CORRUGATED STONE CHISEL.
'Fluted " celts are found only in Michigan and Wisconsin
and this form is rare. Collected by Mr. Albert Harkels.
i6 The Saginaw Valley Collection
early as 1859 in the State geological reports as being material
used by the Indians of the region for their pipes. It is possible
that this pipe was made of similar material which was brought
down the Cass by canoe, that being the most natural way; an idea
which is strengthened by the fact that the early pioneers depended
on the canoe, at first, for transportation along the same route.
Ka-pay-shaw-wink Village Site. — This is a large village
site on the east bank of the Saginaw river, just below the junc-
tion of the Tittabawassee and
Shiawassee rivers. The ar-
chseological evidence found
at this locality coincides with
the Ojibwa traditions, which
state that in ancient times a
great villageof the Sac Indians
was located here. A cache
consisting of fifty-nine blades
was found about a foot below
the surface at this spot. The
implements found in it are
leaf-shaped, average about
one and one-fourth inches in
length and are of chert. One
of the blades had been special-
ized by notching at the base.
This cache is known as Golson
Cache No. 2. There are two
large dome-shaped mounds on
the western side of the river,
opposite the Ka-pay-shaw-
wink village site, and it is
related by the Indian tradi-
tions that a part of the exterminated Sacs were buried in
them. They are known as the Green Point mounds.
Wille Cache.— A cache consisting of two celts and about 175
chipped blades of triangular shape averaging an inch and a half
in length was found in a small marsh hole or periodic pond near
the north bank of the Cass river about three miles from Saginaw.
Specimens are shown, also, from various sites on the Shiawassee
W. Orchard, Photo.
PIPE MADE CF SANDSTONE.
Collected by John Rainbow on the Mobray
Camp Site. Natural Size.
The Saginaw Valley Collection 17
and Flint river, but, as in the case of many of the other sites in
the region, they must be here passed without further mention.
Fobear Mound No. i. — A group of four mounds was found
on tile land of Mr. Leonard Fobear on the south side of the Cass
river nearly opposite the Wille cache, or about four miles above
Saginaw. One of these was thoroughly explored in 1894 and a
number of skeletons, besides fragments of pottery, chips of chert
and other objects of like nature were found in it. Persons not
acquainted with archaeological field-work often ask how the ex-
plorer knows where to dig, hence a brief outline of the begin-
ning of operations at this mound may be of some interest. On
'£?T'" • M ,,^rSSfc
Harlan I. Smith, Photo.
THt EASTERN OF THE GREEN POIi-JT MOUinIDS FROM THE SOUTH.
first visiting this locality, the author viewed it from several
directions and felt that the mound was of such slight elevation
and so much like the natural knolls in the same meadow with it
that it might be only a natural rise in the ground; but, on walking
over the middle of it, he noticed in the short meadow grass some
yellow soil which had been thrown up out of a woodchuck bur-
row. Such material must have come from below the reach of the
plow, since all the surface soil was black. In the yellow earth
were several fragments of pottery, but such bits are to be found
anywhere in the surface soil of the neighboring fields. A human
tooth lying among the potsherds suggested the idea that a human
j sif.imiiiin^^ . m.mf
The Saginaw Valley Collection 19
skeleton might be underneath, and that the knoll was in reality
a burial mound and not a natural elevation, for human teeth have
not yet been brought up from the interior of natural knolls.
On excavating the mound, several human skeletons were found
near the base of the burrow. Thus tlie wood-chuck, of interest
to the student of mammals, was of assistance to a worker in
another department of science.
CASS CACHE No. 2.
Cass Cache No. II. — This cache, consisting of 22 blanks
and 12 pieces of nodules of chert, very similar to that of the
Subcarboniferous outcrop, was found just below the surface of
the earth, near the south bank of the Cass river, at a point about
four miles above Saginaw. The 12 pieces of raw material lay in
a pile and the 22 blades were spread out near them. Chips and
W. Orchard, Photo.
THE ANDROSS URN.
The Saginaw Valley Colleetion 21
flakes, also, were abundant near the cache, and it is possible that
this was a workshop, the raw material being piled in one place
and the worked rock in another, beside it. The blanks found
here included both forms described under Bay Port Cache.
Andross Village Site. — This site is at Bridgeport, about
six miles from Saginaw, and is one of the many which have been
found on the Cass river. It is worthy of note, because it fur-
nished the large pottery urn which is illustrated on page 20, and
which is, perhaps, the most interesting specimen in the collec-
tion. While a pioneer was plowing on the site, the foot of one
of his oxen suddenly sank into a hole. On investigation, the
farmer found that the ox had broken through the bottom of an
urn which had been turned mouth downward over the head of a
human skeleton. This urn is three feet nine inches in circum-
ference and one foot eight inches in height, but before it was
broken it must have been at least two feet high. It is reported
that a number of similar urns have been found near Detroit, and
one was dug up at Point Lookout on the west side of Saginaw
Bay; but unfortunately all these specimens have been broken or
lost, so that the Andross urn is probably unique.
Andrews Workshop. — On the Tittabawassee river, as on
the other streams, we find a number of village sites and burial-
places. One is on a sand ridge east of the river, near Paine's
Station, about five miles west of Saginaw. Here the wind had
blown under some buildings and removed the light sand, leav-
ing a deep hole of considerable area. Over the surface of the
sand remaining in this hole were left wagon-loads of chips and
flakes of chert, arrow-points in various stages of manufacture,
small hammer-stones and a few other objects, all indicating that
the place was once a workshop. The hammer-stones are merely
pebbles that have been battered in pounding, or pebbles which
have been provided with a pit on either side, so that the thumb
and middle finger may grasp them more securely. These were
used in breaking up the pieces of chert and bringing them some-
what into the form of the chipped points for arrows and similar
implements. It is probable that a bone implement was used for
the finer flaking necessary to finish the object.
Some copper beads which were found on this site are of particu-
lar interest, since they show that the native coi)per from Lake
2 2 The Saginaw Valley Collection
Superior, was hammered into the form of beads which are alto-
gether different from those made of the thin rolled copper fur-
nished the Indians by the white people during more recent times.
These beads had evidently been at this place for a long time, a
circumstance indicated by the corroded condition of the copper.
The copper salts due to corrosion are of a preservative nature
and have kept from total destruction portions of the cord on
W. Orchard, Photo.
FRAGMENTS OF POTTERY FROM FRAZIER VILLAGE SITE.
Nearly Natural Size.
which the beads had been strung. Had these beads been of
shell or stone, or of any other material that did not produce
such a salt, the cord would not have been preserved, and we
should not have known that it was of vegetable fibre, but might
quite properly have supposed that the beads had been strung
upon a thong of buckskin.
Frazier Village Site.— This was a very large village site and
was located on the south side of the Tittabawassee river near
Paine's Station, about five miles above Saginaw. It is mentioned
in the Ojibwa traditions as being the place where a large village
was captured by the invading force. At this spot some fragments
of pottery were secured which have decorations made with cords
The Saginaw Valley Collection 23
like those of the Heisternian Island pottery. A mound of un-
usually large size is said to have been located on this site and the
many human skeletons found here are supposed to have been
those of the unfortunate Sacs. This mound has been entirely
removed for the commercial purpose of obtaining the sand of
which it was con-
str acted. It
that the site was
really a burial
ground in a nat-
ural knoll of sand.
A cache consist-
ing of over 300
pieces was found
about a foot be-
low the surface
on this site. In
the cache, which
within a few hun-
dred feet of the
were found four
large, black, leaf-
shaped i m p 1 e-
ments, about 8
of black, concre-
tionary chert and
having a very
formed at the tip of the base by two notches ; Second,
similar implements, about 3 inches long, showing concre-
tionary structure very plainly, the centre being black and hard,
the tips grading off by successive rings to a comparatively soft
yellowish chert; Third, small forms made of yellow chert and
\V. Orchard, Photo.
REPRESENTATIVE SPECIMENS FROM FRAZIER CACHE No. 1
About 5 Natural Size.
24 The Saginaw Valley Collection
evidently intended for specialization; Fourth, a few of the latter
specialized by notching. Objects made of the same material are
only rarely found in the region, hence these were probably
brought from a distance. A cache, a few feet from the preced-
ing, consisted of one large, black, leaf-shaped implement, similar
to those of the last mentioned and surrounded, it is said, by
thirteen rubbed stones.
The foregoing description contains but a general indication of
the archaeology of the Saginaw valley, as outlined by a single
collection. Those who care to pursue the inc^uiry further are re-
ferred to the more detailed descriptions published in the Ameri-
can Anthropologist, though even these are not supposed to ex-
haust the theme presented by this limited area alone. Thorough
explorations in the mounds, graves and village sites are neces-
sary to supplement what is now known from the surface evidence
and from the few explorations which have been made beneath
Of the archaeology of many other parts of Michigan still less is
known, and it is of the greatest importance that thorough work
should be done in several centres of culture, not only in the
Saginaw valley, but also in other parts of Michigan and in fact
throughout the Central States, in order to solve the enigmas that
have long puzzled the students of the early iVmericans. The
Mississippi and St. Lawrence valleys are rich in archceological
material, but it is almost useless to indulge in speculations de-
rived from scattered bits of evidence from widely separated parts
of the country. The time has come when our studies must be
based upon exhaustive and detailed investigations made in a
scientific manner, at one place. These may then be compared
with the results of similar studies carried on at all other parts of
the region of which knowledge is desired and substantial prog-
ress will be made toward unraveling the history of the early
Indian tribes in this country.
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