Kansas Archeology Training Program Field School -- June 2-17, 2016
Best Chance for Archeology at the Last Chance Store (14MO367)
The simple stone structure, occupying a corner lot at 502 West Main Street in Council Grove, may not appear very imposing, but it is significant in the history of the American West. Situated on the north side of the Santa Fe Trail, some five blocks west of the Neosho River crossing, in the mid-nineteenth century the Last Chance Store was the last place where freighters and travelers could obtain supplies between Council Grove and Santa Fe, New Mexico, a distance of more than 600 miles.
The store stock was brought from St. Louis by boat to Westport Landing and then by mule teams to Council Grove. The Last Chance Store was one of the first stores in the settlement. Through the years it served as a trading post, residence, polling place, refuge for enslaved people, grocery store, corn crib, loan association building, antique store, and storehouse. Uses as a post office and government trading house where Kaw Indians from the nearby reservation could trade for manufactured goods are disputed by later historical research. The Last Chance Store was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
The Last Chance Store is the newest state historic site, having been donated by Connie and Don Essington of Council Grove to the Kansas Historical Society in 2015. All three departments of the KSHS Cultural Resources Division (Archeology, Historic Preservation, and Historic Sites) will be integrated in the investigation during the Kansas Archeology Training Program field school, June 2-17, 2016. The primary goal of the excavations will be to reveal more information about the brief mercantile period of property during the Santa Fe Trail period.
The first detail to note is that the field school dates have been adjusted to avoid Council Grove’s annual Washunga Days festival. The KATP will begin on Thursday, June 2. While the first day of fieldwork is reserved for people who have participated in a previous KATP field school, the introductory classes and the lab will be open to all that day. Field activities will be available to everyone starting on Friday, June 3. The final day of the project will be Friday, June 17. Council Grove Junior-Senior High School will be the project headquarters, including the artifact processing lab, most classes, some evening programs, and indoor and outdoor camping.
Bob Blasing, an archeologist with dual residency in Oklahoma City and Council Grove, will be principal investigator for the project. He recently retired after more than 33 years of federal government service, including the U.S. Air Force, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service Midwest Archeological Center, U.S. Army at Fort Riley, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and 27 years with the Bureau of Reclamation in the Billings, Montana, Grand Island, Nebraska, and Oklahoma City offices. He has BA degrees in geography from Kansas State University and anthropology from Montana State University and a Master’s degree in anthropology from Wichita State University. He has served on boards of the Nebraska Association of Professional Archeologists, Professional Archaeologists of Kansas, Oklahoma Anthropological Society, and Plains Anthropological Society, as well as the advisory board for the Oklahoma Archeological Survey. Blasing has worked in every state in the American Great Plains, and his particular areas of interest are Native American sacred geography and trails, Paleoindians and the first Americans, and geographic information systems.
In conjunction with the KATP field school excavation at the Last Chance Store, several other opportunities will be offered.
- A metal detection survey andtesting effort will take place on a few days at Kaw Methodist Mission (14MO368), a state historic site (kshs.org/11859#history) and National Register property since 1971.
- KSHS Archives staff will conduct a Scan and Share event on Thursday, June 9, 9:30 AM-3:00 PM in the meeting room of the Morris County Courthouse. Historical photographs and documents brought in by the public will be copied and originals returned to their owners. Scanned copies will be added to the State Archives and shared with the Morris County Historical Society.
- SHPO staff members will involve the public in surveying historic properties with the results being entered into our Kansas Historic Resources Inventory online database.
- Four classes will be offered for college credit through Emporia State University (https://www.emporia.edu/socanth/announcements/), for KAA certification credit, or simply for the information: Archeological Fieldwork, Mapping, Between Discovery and Excavation: Testing Archeological Sites, and Architectural Building Survey.
Further details of the KATP field school are included in the registration packet, which can be obtained here on March 1. It is also available in hard copy upon request (785-272-8681, extension 266 or email@example.com). The packet comprises two parts, and applicants need both parts. It contains forms for Kansas Anthropological Association (KAA) and/or Kansas Historical Foundation (KHF) membership; registration, and scheduling forms; options for lodging, camping, and food; a map of pertinent project locations; a list of recommended equipment; instructions for enrollment in formal classes; details about the KAA certification program; and a preliminary schedule of accompanying activities.
Registration forms submitted/postmarked by May 2 qualify for a participation fee of $20 for KAA and KHF members and $80 for nonmembers. After May 2, the participation fee increases to $30 for members and $90 for nonmembers.
Although field and laboratory activities continue without stopping for the 16-day period, volunteers may participate for a single day or the entire time. Participants must be at least 10 years of age, and those younger than 14 must plan to work with a parent or other sponsoring adult at all times. A legally responsible adult must accompany participants between 14 and 18 years of age.
The KSHS and the KAA do not discriminate on the basis of disability in admission to, access to, or operation of their programs. The KSHS requests prior notification to accommodate individuals with disabilities or special needs. To make special arrangements, contact Virginia Wulfkuhle at 785-272-8681, extension 266.