Illinois State Archaeological Survey - Illinois State Archaeological Survey Examines the Remains of 280-Year Old French Fort, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


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Illinois River Blockhouse Search by ISAS Continues


Grafton Dig Field CrewIn 1811, Captain William B. Whiteside constructed a blockhouse that, according to oral tradition, was located near the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers just north of Island 59. This was a strategic location because it was here one could observe movement on both the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Referred to as the “Illinois River Blockhouse,” this structure was a stronghold reinforced for protection from enemy attack. Such blockhouses often had ports or small windows for defensive fire. The US military constructed a series of such fortification along the Mississippi and Illinois River during the War of 1812 to monitor British and Native American movement along these waterways. Interestingly, Samuel Whiteside, who was cousin to and served under Captain William B. Whiteside, was apparently stationed at the Illinois River Blockhouse before he was at Fort Johnson, which was previously investigated by the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS, see Warsaw Forts information synopsis).

Grafton Dig Field Crew Pix 2ISAS employees, Dr. Claire Dappert and Robert Monroe—with help from the Grafton Historical Society—have been searching for the Illinois River blockhouse this past year. Documentary research and advanced scouting efforts identified a stone foundation suspected as being part of the blockhouse. Using vacation time and weekends, Dappert and Monroe, along with volunteers from the ISAS Western Illinois Field Stations (WIFS) in Jacksonville and Macomb, conducted an archaeological survey at this location under a permit from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Members of the Grafton Historical Society and Boy Scout Troop 492 (Jerseyville, Illinois) assisted with the investigation. 

The archaeological survey included establishing a collection unit grid over a twenty-meter area. This grid was used as the basis for a controlled metal detecting investigations. A series of auger tests were excavated inside of the grid, as were two 1 x 2 meter hand units. Archaeologists collected hand-forged iron, a spoon, wagon parts, pierced brass, square-cut nails, and refined ceramics. Unfortunately, no military related artifacts—lead musket balls, gunflints, gun parts, or military-related buttons—have yet been recovered from the site. It is possible that this foundation represents a structure associated with the nearby town of Camden, which was established in the early 1820s. Given this uncertainty, Dappert, Monroe, and the ISAS crew plan to continue their search for the Illinois River Blockhouse.



[posted October 10, 2012]

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