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Looking back: Furthering the archaeological examination of Apple Island

West Bloomfield Beacon | Published April 20, 2018


ORCHARD LAKE — During the summer of 2013, with the support of Dr. David Brose and the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society, Dr. LouAnn Wurst and Mark Hoock co-instructed a unique anthropology class for Western Michigan University students using Apple Island as their classroom. All who participated were given the opportunity to engage in a thorough investigation of the history of the Campbell family, owners of Apple Island from 1856 to 1915.

During this field season, the team collected a sample of artifacts from the Campbells’ privy, two cottages belonging to guests of the Campbells, and a large dump located just west of one of those cottages.

Wurst and Hoock returned to the island the following summer to teach another class and conduct more research. That second year, they added to the collection of artifacts associated with the Campbell household, as well as artifacts associated with the cottage of Jessie and John Harvey, the Campbells’ daughter and son-in-law, respectively.

The artifacts yielded during these two field seasons help in understanding what the Campbells and their island guests were doing on the island. Reoccurring themes include Presbyterianism and their religious worship, their Scottish heritage, their curiosity in local Native American groups and practices, their interest in sportsmanship, gender roles, and middle-class life in the 19th and early 20th centuries in conjunction with vacation customs and routines.

During the 2017 field season, Hoock’s goal was to further investigate an area that had the potential to yield artifacts reflecting vacationing in the later part of the 19th century.

The collection of artifacts — both from the Campbell and Harvey households, as well as from the east side of the island, including Forrest Campbell’s cottage — help in understanding if or how their behaviors on the island changed from the mid-19th century into the 20th century, a period of drastic change in the United States stemming from the Industrial Revolution, an influx of immigration and rapid population growth in American cities.

The Campbells’ opportunity to escape the anxieties of urban life during this period, even temporarily in the form of vacation, is unique. Yet they were urban dwellers, small-business owners and immigrants who came to the United States to achieve some form of success.

The investigation of the Campbells’ experience on Apple Island has the potential to help in understanding the importance and meaning of vacation for those who were part of the rapidly growing United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

There will be a presentation about the research being conducted on Apple Island at 7 p.m.  April 25, in the main meeting room of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library. The event is sponsored by the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society and the library.

— Mark Hoock and the GWBHS