Open house at Fort St. Joseph to feature food, culture

contact: Deanne Puca
| WMU News
Photo of historical re-enactors.

Historical re-enactors from the 2012 open house

KALAMAZOO—Eat, shop, play games and learn in 18th-century style at one of the Midwest's oldest historical sites from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 10-11, 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.

The theme this year is "Foodways" and will focus on the food that was part of life at Fort St. Joseph, including French and British, as well as native America food.

Visitor activities

  • See an archaeological dig in progress.
  • Meet and talk with the archaeologists.
  • Play children's games.
  • 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, food demonstrations and children's games.

About 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 in northern Michigan planned an ambush. British regulars, French militia, and hundreds of allied Native Americans gathered at Fort St. Joseph to attack the Virginians. A lack of supplies thwarted Clark's plans, and the British troops finally returned to Michilimackinac.

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.

About the archaeological project

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. Since 2004, an annual public open house has helped showcase the site and each year's new findings for the general public.

The open house is made possible by sponsors including WMU's Department of Anthropology and the City of Niles.

For more information, visit