Archaeologist shares findings of Apple Island

Second dig announced

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published April 23, 2014

ORCHARD LAKE — At a spring forum hosted by the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society, anthropologist LouAnn Wurst, Ph.D., discussed the findings and updates of the 2013 Western Michigan University Apple Island archaeological dig project.

In efforts to submit Apple Island as a candidate for the National Register of Historic Places — the official list of the nation’s historic places noted as worthy of preservation, according to the National Park Service — a Western Michigan University archaeological class, led by Wurst, performed a two-week excavation of Apple Island in May 2013.

Wurst and 10 undergraduate students from an Anthropology in the Community course collected and documented 18,372 artifacts, Wurst said in an interview following the presentation at the Orchard Lake Community Church, Presbyterian April 9.

“A lot of what we were doing was mapping the entire island, so not that much in the way of excavation,” Wurst said. “A lot of the features that we excavated largely gave to the later occupation of the island.”

Some of the items Wurst noted included personal items, such as milk bottles and corset stays, ceramics, and bolts.

“A lot of the artifacts we find are very mundane things — brick fragments, window  panes,” she added. “What we’ve been learning is the everyday life of the folks that lived at the cottages.”

In the Campbell privy, a defunct outhouse, the class found 32 communion glasses, which verified that church services were held on the island, according to Carol Fink, naturalist for the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society.  Caroline Campbell was a key player in forming Orchard Lake Community Church, Presbyterian.

“One of the other interesting things … a cottage site at east end ... was abandoned early, and the cellar may have been used as an ice house,” Wurst said, adding that the artifacts found in the yard were older than the ones in the cellar hole.

The ice house, which was located next to the Campbells’ cottage, may have been used by the Campbell family.

For every hour spent in the field, an additional week is required for analyzing and documenting findings, according to Wurst. Because the group collected 18,372 artifacts, they are still reviewing the first dig. A second two-week Apple Island excavation is scheduled for the beginning of July.

Wurst said following the additional fieldwork, paperwork will be filled out for a nomination for the National Register of Historic Place, adding that she is hoping to have the nomination submitted in the fall.

“The island has such a rich history, starting back from the Potawatomi Indians to current day. Having it become on the registry will further protect the island … and make us eligible for future grants,” said Fink

From a several-hundred-years-old sugar maple tree to building foundations, Apple Island helps teach the natural events of life and death. If the island is placed on the register, the island will continue to make and create stories, Fink explained. 

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