Upon its ninety miles of shoreline were numerous Indian villages and camps. These were found due to the debris left by the dwellers. The Indians in Huron County Michigan had a village site every few miles along the shore of Saginaw Bay.
Huron County Michigan’s Active Indian History
In Wild Fowl Bay, the small islands also have remains of villages and mounds. The remnants of mounds that have been mutilated by relic hunters are visible within a mile east of Port Austin near the mouth of New River. A mound group was situated in the southeastern part of Sheridan Township, near the southern boundary of the county, but the section upon which it stood could not be ascertained.
In 1901 Mr. Harlan I. Smith, of Victoria Memorial Museum, Ottawa, Canada, made a survey of the Thumb, reported in 1901 that a number of small mounds stood upon Katechay Island, Fair Haven Township. There is an old record of a circular enclosure where the courthouse at Bad Axe stands. Traces of workshops and camps were found along the Lake Huron shore. The SandRidge trail followed the shore from Oak Point, and a “ferry line” crossed the bay for Point Lookout and Au Sable River a stopping-place at Charity Island. The Indians in Huron County Michigan were active people with significant cultural artifacts that were left to find.
Sebewaing: An Indian Village
In 1901 a survey was conducted of the Thumb area by Harlan Smith, a noted Michigan archeologist. He noted:
A camp or small village was situated on the south side of the Sebewaing River and back from the flood-land which here extends along the shore of Saginaw Bay. It lay upon a low sand ridge near the first shaft of the Sebewaing Coal Company. Chipped points of chert, potsherds, and burned and crackled pebbles have been found in sufficient numbers to indicate the site (Smith, 1901:292).
This was the first survey and another was not conducted until 1931. It’s interesting to note that a major archaeological update has not been conducted since the 1930s.
SandRidge Indian Trail
Indian Sites and Artifacts
- Villages – 13
- Burying grounds – 7
- Mounds – 7
- Circular enclosures – 1
Major Indian Sites Described
Coast Mounds of the Upper Thumb
“Mounds along the northern coast, especially between Port Austin and Pointe Aux Barques, also between Grindstone City and Huron City.”
“Large circular work in Caseville township on a small stream emptying into Wild Fowl Bay, 5 miles southwest of Caseville. “and as relating to ‘‘ large circular mounds.” The stream is probably Mud creek. The region near the eastern shore of Wild Fowl bay is low, with an occasional sand ridge, and is less than eight miles north of extensive outcrops bearing chert nodules”
North Island Workshops
At the western limit of Wild Fowl bay is North island, on the northern side of the highest part of which are traces of workshops where chert implements may be found in all stages of manufacture – from the nodular masses occurring in the substratum of the entire island to the finished chipped points for spears, arrows, knives, and similar objects. Chipped implements of other materials have not been obtained at this place.
Heisterman Island Village Site
Lying next south of North island, at a distance of about a mile, is Heisterman island, where are many traces of an ancient village site in addition to evidences similar to those on North island. These are on the sand ridges the highest land-and on the northeastern side of the island ‘ where it slopes to the marsh lands known as the Middle Grounds. These swamps are especially frequented by fish, and wild fowl assemble there in great numbers to feed on the wild rice. The rice alone, which does not grow off other portions of Heisterman island, may have determined the site of the prehistoric village.
The sub carboniferous series underlying the island outcrops on its western shore, within easy access of this site. Hammerstones, chipped points for arrows, knives, spears, drills, etc., and chipped implements resembling flint hoes in shape, have been gathered here. Fragments of pottery, many of which are neatly ornamented (some by incised designs, others by cord impressions) and a fragment of a pottery pipe have also been found at this site
Mai-sou Island Mounds
Several similar mounds on Mason island southwest of Wild Fowl bay.
Bay Port Village Site
“A village or camp was located on the mainland and lay along the sand ridge which runs parallel to the beach of Wild Fowl bay at a distance of a few hundred feet; it extended at least half a mile to the east from the wharf at Bay Port. Chipped implements of chert in all stages of manufacture are frequent on the ridge. Potsherds, a gorget, one grooved maul, and a paint grinder were also found here. “
Bay Port Cache
“A cache consisting of one cross-section of a chert nodule and forty-seven “ turtle-back ” blanks, was found two feet below the surface in the muck jungle about 100 feet from the shore of Wild Fowl bay and a quarter of a mile east of the wharf at Bay Port.* The specimens in the cache were found in a row, overlapping one another somewhat like shingles on a roof. It is probable that the material of which they were made was obtained near the spot, as the outcrop of subcarboniferous rock, which occurs for some distance along the beach westward from the wharf, bears concretions the material of which is similar to that of the cache specimens.
There are several outcroppings of this rock within a mile. In this cache were blades of peculiar form, having a straight, beveled edge on one side. It seems probable that this was caused by flaking the pieces for “ turtlebacks ” from a round concretion. The first flake removed would be perfect, but after that, if the material were used without waste, each flake would have one side beveled where the immediately preceding flake had been removed from the nodule. They had not all been subjected to sufficient secondary chipping to remove the signs of this bevel.”
Sharpsteen Village Site
The Indians of Huron County Michigan were also found a Camp or small village was located on Sharpsteen point, about half a mile west-southwest of the Bay Port village site. It was on a wide sand ridge of slight elevation. Potsherds, hammerstones, and chipped implements were numerous on the surface. A Celt in process of manufacture was also found here.
Sebewaing Village Site
A camp or small village was situated on the south side of Sebewaing river and back from the flood-land which here extends along the shore of Saginaw bay. It lay upon a low sand ridge near the first shaft of the Sebewaing Coal Company. Chipped points of chert, potsherds, and burned and crackled pebbles have been found in sufficient numbers to indicate.
Sebewaing Burial Place
No description is given specific for this entry.
Pigeon River Mounds
“Large circular mounds at the head of Pigeon river, near the middle of the southern boundary of the county ”
Bad Axe Ring Earthwork
Bad Axe post-office is on a circular mound or earthwork in a swamp, “a spot of dry land twenty or thirty feet above the level of the swamp, with a wall of earth extending around it.”
- Archaeological Atlas of Michigan [by] Wilbert B. Hinsdale.
- Indian Village Image – Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-034816
- Prehistoric Michigan. Smith, Harlan Ingersoll, 1872-1940.
- Preliminary list of the sites of aboriginal remains in Michigan, by Harlan I. Smith
- Catalog of prehistoric works east of the Rocky Mountains, Thomas, Cyrus
- Michigan Indian Trail of the Upper Thumb
- The Sebewaing Michigan Coal Mines
- Michigan’s Indian Trails
- Haunted and Spooky Sites in Michigan’s Thumb
- Indian Place Names in the Saginaw Valley and Michigan’s Thumb