Fort McCoy News June 26, 2015

Artifacts from 1910 added to History Center

Public Affairs Staff

Several artifacts from the early days of Fort McCoy's history recently were turned over to the installation's History Center.

The artifacts most likely are from the 1910 occupation of Camp Emory Upton, one of Fort McCoy's predecessors, said Alexander Woods, Ph.D., an archaeologist with Colorado State University's Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands under contract with Fort McCoy. Recovered during a 2013 dig on South Post, the artifacts include a three-in-one oil bottle, glass bottle stoppers, key openers for food cans, a milk glass cold-cream jar, and a brass uniform insignia for the 28th Infantry Regiment.

Photo 1
The 1st Section Gun Crew was among 10,000 troops arriving for training in August 1910 at Camp Emory Upton. Artifacts from the time period were recently recovered from the site of the camp and were added to the Fort McCoy History Center. File photo.

The dig was conducted as part of a project to survey known historical sites on the installation to evaluate their eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places. Archaeological assessments are required on sites where federal funds will be used for construction, and Fort McCoy has been surveying all of its land to both protect history and aid in future maintenance and project planning.

The Camp Emory Upton site is a good example of why such digs are important. "We went out there assuming it was a farmstead," Woods said. The 28th Infantry insignia was the first indication they were dealing with something different.

The site now is protected from development to preserve the remaining artifacts.

Remnants of early training at Fort McCoy are relatively rare. Only one pre-World War I building, a storage building constructed in 1911, remains standing today. The training sites have remained in nearly continuous use throughout the past 106 years.

Photo 2
Three-in-one oil bottles were found in the archaeological dig on Fort McCoy.
Contributed photo.

More than 10,000 artifacts were found during the dig. "A lot of what we found out (there was) personal artifacts, military effects, or food remains," Woods said. Many of the artifacts were cattle bones, glass bottles and shards, and food-tin fragments.

The dig also uncovered two brick structures, which Woods said were probably foundations for incinerators. The types of artifacts found, along with the presence of ash stains and the fragmented conditions of the objects, pointed to the use of the brick structures as incinerators.

"(The site) shows us a lot about diet and how Soldiers were getting supplies, as well as a few fun little glimpses into their personal lives," Woods said. The cold-cream jar, which was found while archaeologists were digging up a privy, was a good example.

Photo 3
This 28th Infantry insignia pin was found during the archaeological
survey, as well.
Contributed photo.

Woods said he thought the cold cream was used to treat saddle or marching sores. "It would be a smart thing for someone to have, but maybe a … 'throw it in the latrine when you're done with it' kind of thing," he said.

"Archaeologists really like trash," Woods said. "It tells us a lot about people's lives, and people don't really write much about this kind of stuff. They certainly don't write about cold cream."

A number of factors helped date the site to 1910. A brass uniform insignia for the 28th Infantry Regiment was a primary clue in dating the camp, Woods said. The 28th Infantry Regiment, then based at Fort Snelling, Minn., is known to have trained at Camp Emory Upton in 1909 and 1910, according to the 1910 Unit Returns for the 28th Infantry Regiment.

Ammunition casings discovered at the site are dated between 1904 and 1908. The three-in-one oil bottles were marked with "3-IN-ONE" in raised letters and designed for cork stoppers. The lubricating oil still is used today, but this type of bottle only was manufactured from 1905-1910.

The cattle bones even helped date the site, Woods said. When the bones were examined, it was determined the 1910 "Manual for Army Cooks" was used to divvy up the meat. The previous edition, the 1896 manual, called for a very different method of preparing sides of beef, Woods said.

Since the main excavation site most likely was an incinerator, it's possible it contains the refuse from several encampments, Woods said. The majority of evidence points to the 1910 encampment, however.

Any artifacts spotted while on Fort McCoy or other federal properties should be left alone. It is illegal to dig for or remove artifacts from federally owned land without permission. The History Center currently is being renovated but is scheduled to reopen Sept. 11. The artifacts from the Camp Emory Upton dig will be displayed with other items illustrating Fort McCoy's history.

For more information about archaeological digs at Fort McCoy, call the Directorate of Public Works Natural Resource Branch at 608-388-4793. For more information about the History Center, call the Public Affairs Office at 608-388-2407.