The Forts of the Mackinac Part III

Fort St. Joseph

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, CA

June 18th, 2000

The last of the forts along the Mackinac that we did on this trip was Fort St. Joseph. This was a short lived fort by fort standards, existing only for some 14 years. It was built in 1796 by the British as a result of the loss of Fort Mackinac to the Americans. It was abandoned and subsequently burned by the Americans in 1814 at the conclusion of the war of 1812. Little of it stands today. It is, for the most part, an undeveloped archeological sight. A few rocks form foundations and an old chimney are all that is visible to the casual visitor. However as we have often found, there was an underlying story to be told. It started with our meeting of a most dynamic archeologist who just happened to be at the Fort to give a talk on his specialty which was underwater archeology. E Willis Stevens has been working for Parks Canada Agency which has taken on the responsibility for the archeological sites which are now under water. Though most of these are in the Maritime Provinces, Fort St. Joseph presented a challenge of a different sort. Today, he was demonstrating how he was exposing the school groups to the science of archeology. He demonstrated with several of the young children in the group how he would simulate a dive into the waters nearby and measure the side of a bateau which had been found near the canoe dock. This bateau was recovered near the site of the Canoe Dock during a survey of marine archaeological resources at Fort St. Joseph in 1964. The wreck was raised in one piece and immediately placed in a plastic lined tank and soaked in Carbowax (Polyethylen Glycol) for one week. Bateaux such as this would have been used to transport the limestone from nearby islands to the Fort for use in the construction of the powder magazine and new bakehouse and also for unloading the schooners which brought supplies to the Fort from Fort Malden at the south end of Lake Huron. The old bateau is suspended on the wall, low enough for small children to reach up and touch it. The angle presented to one standing in front of it is surprisingly similar to that which would be presented to a diver who was reaching down to measure it. The boat has been divided into a grid with red ribbon and each child is given a piece of graft paper and asked to construct one section of the boat. The graphs are then cut out and the paper boat is assembled before the kids with each adding his graph to the overall picture. It was really neat to see the paper boat come together and it was nearly exact in design as the one on the wall. As he explained, this was all done in subdued lighting with the sound of an air tank breathing in the room.

     <<<<< Back             Next >>>>>      Next