Hunting for clues along Wadena County's Leaf River
At an undisclosed location somewhere along the Leaf River in Wadena County, there lies buried beneath the ground a hidden, mysterious world; a vestige of the French fur traders who explored the wilds of Minnesota more than 200 years ago. It is Reaume's Trading Post, the charred remains of an outpost that served as a trading station between Native Americans and Europeans during the late 1700s, until it was abandoned and subsequently burnt to the ground, said Amelie Allard, an archeologist at the University of Minnesota.
Why the post was destroyed is one of the many questions Allard and her team of researchers from the U of M have been working to answer. Over the past two summers, U of M researchers have mapped and excavated portions of the site, working to find clues as to what happened there. Allard said the site is unique in that it has been remarkably well-preserved after centuries of being abandoned.
"We knew that some people with metal detectors had been to the site before, but other than that, everything was just kind of pristine," she said.
John Crandall of the Wadena County Historical Society (WCHS) said his organization is taking special care to ensure the post remains undisturbed by the general public.
"Only a handful of people know where we're actually digging," Crandall said. "We have not brought tours out there because ... it is on private property and this is one of the promises we made to the landowner."
Allard and the U of M team will return in June, but with a special trick up their sleeve that will allow them to both explore and protect Reaume's Trading Post at the same time. With funds from a grant provided by the Minnesota Historical Society, they will be equipped with underground maps from a firm called Archaeo-Physics, LLC, using ground penetrating radar to discover what lies beneath the soil without damaging whatever they may find, said Wadena County Historical Society Executive Director/Curator Rose Bakke.
"It's vital that we know what part Wadena County played in the fur trading, which led to more people coming to the Wadena County area," Bakke said.
Bakke said little documentation exists on the discovery of the Reaume's Trading Post archeology site, but experts were first alerted to the post in 1967.
The goals of this year's investigation of the site include determining where each of the destroyed palisade walls originally stood, as well as attempting to find any additional structures at Reaume's Trading Post, including Native American encampments, Allard said.
Bakke added that artifacts found this summer will be held by the U of M temporarily, but eventually returned to the WCHS for display.