Historical re-enactors and archaeological dig highlight event

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Historical re-enactors at Fort St. Joseph

KALAMAZOO—Historical re-enactors will stage a militia muster at one of the Midwest's oldest historical sites from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 11-12, at the Fort St. Joseph archaeology site in Niles, Mich.

The event showcases the year's findings by Western Michigan University's archaeological field school at the site of the 18th-century fort, which is located at Niles' South Riverfront Park near Bond and Fort streets. Admission is free.

This year's open house also features an 18th-century encampment put on by the Northwest Territory Alliance. History re-enactors will stage military training of the kind seen on the eve of the American Revolution, as well as act out a public gathering for trade, music, dancing, religious sacraments and general celebration. Re-enactors portraying the King's 8th Regiment of Foot—the only military unit in the region in 1775—will represent the British regular troops at the event.

Archaeologists and re-enactors will offer visitors many opportunities to experience life in the 18th century.

Visitor activities

  • See an archaeological dig in progress.
  • Meet and talk with the archaeologists.
  • Witness militia musket drills.
  • Play children's games.
  • Enjoy colonial dances performed to the sounds of a Celtic trio.
  • Ride in 35-foot voyageur canoes from Sarett Nature Center for a $3 fee.
  • Watch artillery demonstrations.
  • Witness tomahawk throwing and a Voyageur Run competition.
  • Enjoy an 18th-century tea tent.
  • Shop for 18th-century goods.
  • See presentations by public scholars about the dig and the history of Fort St. Joseph.
  • View artifact displays and faunal analysis.

Re-enactors will invite visitors to participate in many of the activities, including dancing, musket drills and children's games.

Fort St. Joseph

Fort St. Joseph was one of a handful of Michigan sites to play a role in the American Revolution. Virginia troops under George Rogers Clark captured Fort Sackville in present-day Vincennes, Ind., in 1779, and then planned an assault on Detroit. Knowing that Clark's force would pass near Fort St. Joseph, the British at Michilimackinac planned an ambush. British regulars, French militia, and hundreds of allied Native Americans gathered at the fort to attack the Virginians. Lack of supplies thwarted Clark's plans, and the British troops finally returned to Michilimackinac.

Since 1998, WMU faculty researchers and students have been working to identify, investigate and interpret the physical remains of Fort St. Joseph, one of the most important Colonial outposts in the western Great Lakes. WMU has conducted its annual archaeological field school at the site since 2002 in partnership with the city of Niles, the Fort St. Joseph Museum and Support the Fort, a nonprofit organization focused on preserving the fort's history.

This mission-garrison-trading post served as a hub of commercial, military and religious activity for local native populations and European powers for nearly a century during a critical period in the colonization of North America. The flags of four nations—France, England, Spain and the United States—flew over the fort at different times in its history.

The Aug. 11-12 event is made possible by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council; sponsors include WMU's Department of Anthropology, the city of Niles, the Northwest Territory Alliance and the Fort St. Joseph Archaeology Advisory Committee.

For more information, visit wmich.edu/fortstjoseph.