Skip to comments.INSIDE FORT LANE Archaeological study finds fragments of site history
Posted on 07/17/2005 9:55:13 AM PDT by ApplegateRanch
The little pioneer cabin on a terrace overlooking the Rogue River had been torched in 1853 by American Indians.
The only evidence of its existence until last week was a letter written in December 1853 by a U.S. Army officer reporting to his superior about the construction of Fort Lane northwest of Central Point.
A group of anthropology students from Southern Oregon University and volunteers from the Southern Oregon Historical Society found the cabins remains July 5 during a nine-day archaeological dig that ended Friday.
The group, headed by Mark Tveskov, SOU associate professor of anthropology, expected to find the ruins of the fort, established to keep the peace between warring settlers and Indians in southwestern Oregon.
But the discovery of the cabin was a surprise.
"The cabin is really a spectacular find because it was occupied for such a short time and when it burned down, everything burned in place," Tveskov said. "The little daily things in life were frozen here."
The letter indicates a man with the last name of Jennison built the cabin in 1852. He lived there for one year before his house was destroyed.
Later, a man by the name of Albert Jennison filed a claim for reimbursement from the federal government for losses during the conflicts in the 1850s.
"We think its the same guy," Tveskov said.
Finds such as a bronze earring, Hudson Bay beads, porcelain and metal buttons and hooks and buttons suggest Jennison had a wife and possibly children.
"We dont know anything about the family, whether Jennison had an Indian wife, which was common, or an Anglo wife," Tveskov said.
Also uncovered were a mouth harp, a common musical instrument on the frontier because of its portability, duck and deer bones and clay pipe bowls carved with faces.
One elaborately carved clay pipe bowl depicts a man with a long beard and tall fur hat.
Such pipes were common at the time and could have come from a variety of places, including Great Britain, Canada, New England or San Francisco, Tveskov said.
By the end of the dig, students and volunteers had chipped away a square, believed to be the outline of the cabin. Tveskov said the home was likely made of logs with a dirt floor, measuring about 20 feet square.
The Army built the fort on the site of the cabin in 1853 primarily to enforce a peace treaty between the pioneers and the Indians. At the time, the fort was the only civil authority in the Rogue Valley.
In fall 1855, the conflict reignited when pioneers destroyed an Indian village and massacred its inhabitants. In retaliation, a group of Indians burned cabins and killed pioneers.
To end the turmoil, the Army in 1856 rounded up the Indians of southwestern Oregon and forced them to march to the Siletz and Grand Ronde reservations west of Salem.
The soldiers abandoned the fort in fall 1856 after most of the Indians had been taken out of the valley.
"Their mission was over," Tveskov said.
When SOU started investigating the site, nothing was visible above ground, except a nearby pyramid-shaped monument built of stones taken from the forts ruins by the Crater Lake chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1929. The plaque was removed sometime in the 1970s, Tveskov said.
A 1955 drawing by a soldier showed how the fort might have looked and provided a guide for students and volunteers excavating the site.
Built in a horseshoe shape, the fort had more than a dozen buildings, including infantry quarters, officer quarters, kitchens, small infirmary, guardhouse, blacksmith shop and storehouse.
By Friday, workers had uncovered the corners of two foundations, one believed to be the guardhouse, the other, officer quarters.
"Weve really been focusing on the orientation of the fort, and its really been hit or miss," said Zach Rodriguez, SOU anthropology student. "With this foundation, it gives us a reference point for the other buildings."
Brick, believed to be from a fireplace, nails, smoking pipes, military buttons and spurs were found in the fort foundations.
The origin, exact dates and how each item was used will be determined at the SOU anthropology lab during the next two years, Tveskov said.
The dig was the second professional excavation at the site.
Tveskovs predecessor, Ted Goebel, former SOU assistant professor of anthropology, conducted a small sample dig in summer 1997 that confirmed some archaeological remains were intact.
Tveskov said he hopes to continue the dig each summer for the next several years.
"This is kind of like a reconnaissance mission," he said. "We are trying to get a feel for what was here, so we can build on it for subsequent digs."
Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4496 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Among the archaeological finds at Fort Lane is this clay pipe bowl with an elaborate carving of a man with a long beard and tall hat. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli
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Please review our website: http://latgawa.mind.net for information regarding the Fort Lane dig and Lost Creek Lake dig that has taken place without the approval of the local native tribe. Of course heavy politics are involved. We have added this to the documentation on file with the Latgawa Indian Tribal Justice Court and on the Federal Law Suit to be filed shortly. We also have an active burial site on top of the Upper Table Rock here in the Rogue Valley that has recently been vandalized and remains unprotected by the BLM who are the Stewards at this time.
Just updating the GGG info, not sending a general distribution.
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