Archeologists say finds on 61 are part of post-Fort activity

Scientists with Bear Creek Archeology work several weeks ago on some finds under the surface of Avenue H as the roadway is under reconstruction. Timbers found under the roadway have been tested and are not a part of the original Fort Madison. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC


FORT MADISON – Archeologists with the company digging through the dirt under Avenue H, have determined timbers found under the roadway do not appear to be a part of the original Fort.

Lowell Blikre, an assistant director with Bear Creek Archeology, of Cresco, Iowa, said Thursday tests done on samples taken from the site, which was just south of the former Sheaffer Pen plant, indicate they may be structure related to a train spur or an old trolley car line.

“Well we’re confident they are not fort related at this point,” Bilkre said. “Most likely the interpretation is that they’re a late 19th century structure related to the train spurs that went into the factory prior the Sheaffer Pen facility. Or possibly an old trolley car line as records show there used to be trolley cars in the town.”

Blikre said crews sampled sediment within the timber feature and sampled some of the earth underneath and in a few other locations. He said the timbers were built on previously excavated soil and crews didn’t pick up any additional findings from under the timbers.

He said it would be some time before all the samples are cleaned and tested, but right now he said he doesn’t believe anything under Avenue H has anything to do with the Fort.

He said if the city were to ever pull up the parking lot west of the Sheaffer building they may see findings that there could relate to the Fort.

Blikre said there was a farm implement factory on the site before Sheaffer Pen and there were rail spurs associated with that factory. But he said pouring through the soil was exciting despite not having found anything related to the Fort.

“Coming across anything was pretty exciting for us,” he said. “Under Avenue H it doesn’t appear anything is intact relating the Fort, but if you go north into that parking lot and maybe even passed it, there are locations where there would be something intact.”

On April 15, scientists with Bear Creek were hand sifting sediment and soil after coming across two sections of timbers with iron rods securing the timbers together.

At that point Blikre said they had nothing to prove it was part of the original Fort, but said they had to treat it as such because they didn’t have any evidence at that time, conversely, to indicate it wasn’t a part of the Fort.

Bear Creek is the same firm that did sampling and coring when the Hwy. 61 bypass was being constructed. Blikre said Bear Creek has also done some additional core sampling as part of future reconstruction of Bus. 61 through Fort Madison.

He said as soon as everyone signs off that the archeology work is done, the construction team will be able to put the new sewer line in.

The $2.4 million project is the first phase of a project that will turn the highway from a 4-lane roadway to a 3-lane with center turning lanes and the elimination of two one-way stretches on 18th and 20th Streets.

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