The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. The ABCs of Lowell History continues with a look at how the site of the Daniel de Marsac Fur Trading Post was discovered. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.
When searching for historical treasures we don’t usually have treasure maps with a big “X.” So how do we find where historical places were located?
An example of a Lowell area place of historical importance is the Daniel de Marsac Fur Trading Post. His trading post was important because it bridged the time period of trading with the Odawa native people, and the American settlers. We say Lowell was established in 1831 because that is the year Marsac built his cabin as a permanent trading post. Later he also platted part of what was to become Lowell and named his town ‘Dansville.’ We look back knowing his trading post existed, but where was it? How do we find out? We start by finding information. Many times information we find has conflicts that need to be worked out, but first we find, then we evaluate.
Information can be found out in many different ways.
We read books and newspapers…
The older the information we can find, the better the chances that the authors were working with first or second hand information instead of something repeated and changed multiple times. Here in Lowell we have firsthand accounts of John S. Hooker, who came to Lowell as a child in the 1840’s. He actually worked for Daniel de Marsac at the trading post and later purchased it.
We find historical records…
Historical records indicate that the Marsac trading post operated from around 1831 – 1857, on the south side of the Grand River, just across from the mouth of the Flat River.
We read the notes of researchers…
The site of the Marsac trading post was discovered in the fall of 1957 by Donald Peru, T.D. Thompson, Dr. Ruth Herrick, and Edmund P. Gibson, members of the Wright L. Coffinberry Chapter of the Michigan Archaeology Society. Using maps and historical clues, they found metal, ceramics, and glass about 9 inches below the surface. Further investigations uncovered indications of a pioneer dwelling including a former chimney. Items were found clearly indicating that this was a trading post site instead of simply a household site. Trade goods were found including items that would have been sold to American pioneers, not native Odawa. Over 56 different patterns of earthenware were found! Most of these patterns were from the Staffordshire China Co. and were made between 1830 and 1840.
The Marsac site was excavated a second time in the 1970’s by the Coffinberry Chapter, led by Dr. Richard Flanders, George Davis, and a crew from the Anthropology Department at Grand Valley State University (then College).
Unfortunately not all historic sites are found, but thanks to researchers and preservationists of the past, Lowell maps can put a big “X” on the Daniel de Marsac Trading Post Site. Note: This site is on private property.
The image above is a sketch made by John S. Hooker in 1916 of Daniel Marsac’s trading post which stood on the south side of Grand River facing the river. Its size was 16’x 26’. The logs were laid horizontally. Hooker also traded from this building.