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Published: Wednesday, 7/24/2002

U.S. to aid hunt for history at Monroe plant site

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - The National Park Service has awarded the City of Monroe a $30,000 grant to allow archaeological monitoring during the demolition of the Jefferson Smurfit East Mill plant, which rests atop the original Frenchtown settlement site.

Earlier this year, the city received a $1.4 million grant from the Clean Michigan Initiative to pay for the demolition of the plant, located near the intersection of East Elm Avenue and North Dixie Highway.

The first stages of demolition are scheduled to begin in September. The grant funds will be used to allow volunteers from the Monroe County Historical Society and students from Eastern Michigan University and Heidelberg College to monitor the demolition to determine if battle artifacts exist below the plant.

The Jefferson Smurfit East Mill plant , which is more than 85 years old and closed in 1995, was built on land that was once the original 1789 Frenchtown Settlement and the site of one of the bloodiest land battles of the War of 1812, the River Raisin Massacre. More than 300 died on or near the site on Jan. 18 and 22, 1813.

A site survey will be completed to determine areas that need special protection during the demolition process, city officials said.

“They're going to review and look at that thing to make sure [the demolition] is done correctly and without disturbing anything,” Monroe Mayor C.D. “Al” Cappuccilli said. “It is going to be a tremendous addition. The whole area is changing. The whole landscape of the city is changing. That's just one of the nice changes that's going to be added to the city of Monroe. ”

January will mark the 190th anniversary of the historic conflict that dramatically changed the balance of power in the Great Lakes until Oliver Hazard Perry defeated the British in the Battle of Lake Erie in September, 1813.

The day after the final battle in Monroe, Shawnee and Potawatomi warriors returned to the battle site, killing those who remained on the field, including 52 British soldiers. Of 623 American soldiers in the battle, 33 made it back to Fort Meigs in what is now Perrysburg.

The entire Frenchtown settlement was burned and lost to history until archaeologists discovered the remains of its puncheon walls during digs in 1998 and 2000.

Archaeologists have expressed an eagerness to return once demolition begins to study what evidence of the former settlement might lay below the plant and an adjoining parking lot, believed to be the locations of at least some of the approximately 14 structures that were inside the settlement's walls.

Toledo-area historian and Eastern Michigan University Professor Ted Ligibel and Heidelberg College's Dr. G. Michael Pratt, who discovered the true site of the Battle of Fallen Timbers battlefield near Fort Meigs, have worked on the Frenchtown settlement project in the past.

Both are expected to participate again, city officials said.



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