WSW: Digging For Clues About the Fort Of Four Flags

Jul 31, 2016

Digging at Fort Saint Joseph
Credit Andy Robins, WMUK

For nearly 20 years, faculty and students from Western Michigan University have been digging at the site of Fort Saint Joseph in Niles. After 250 years, nothing of the fort is left standing above ground. 


On Saturday and Sunday, the public can see what the archaeologists have been finding. A public open house at Fort Saint Joseph will be held this Saturday and Sunday in Niles from 10:00a.m to 4:00p.m.

WMUK’s Andy Robins spoke with Western professor of anthropology Michael Nassaney – the chief investigator at Fort Saint Joseph – and with public outreach coordinator Liz Mantyck. 

Liz Mantyck (left) and Michael Nassaney
Credit Andy Robins, WMUK

The fort was established by the French in the late 17th Century. Called the “Fort of Four Flags,” Nassaney says after the French, the British held the fort along the Saint Joseph River, and the Spanish took over for a single day. Eventually the American flag flew over Fort Saint Joseph

Nassaney says it’s hard to know what Fort Saint Joseph looked like because there are no drawings, and of course no photographs. He says archaeological digs like this one can help develop an idea of the structure. 

Mantik says people who come to the open house will see recreations of life at the fort. She says they will also see students working on the archaeological dig at Fort St. Joseph. Nassaney says the public can get a view of how tedious the process, and a greater appreciation of the work of archaeology.