Excavation and “Rescue”

Salvage Archaeology

Figure 12: Excavation of the DuBay site, November 1941. (Wackman 1991:214).

During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration, one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal programs for public works, employed thousands of unskilled workers and unemployed professionals in fields including archaeology, ethnology, and history. Other New Deal programs such as the construction of dams, suburbs, and interstate highways endangered the DuBay site and myriad sites like it. As a consequence, archaeologists were hired to excavate sites as quickly as possible to prevent them from being lost forever. Archaeologist Dr. Philleo Nash was given the last two weeks of November 1941 to complete his excavation of the DuBay site. With the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941 and the United States’ subsequent involvement in World War II, the collections were consigned to storage in the Milwaukee Public Museum for fifty years.


The Site

The site where John Baptiste DuBay’s homestead once stood is located in Knowlton,
Figure 13: The DuBay site as it appeared during J.N. Nash's survey of the area prior to its flooding by Consolidated Water Power and Paper Company's dam. (Wackman 1991:211).
Portage County, Wisconsin, 12 miles north of Stevens Point. Consolidated Water Power and Paper Company wished to build a dam on the Wisconsin River for a paper mill, prompting Nash to survey the area that would be covered by the dammed river. He hoped to excavate some of Wisconsin’s historical, European-American sites, feeling that part of Wisconsin archaeology was not widely documented. Going on rumors of an old trade post once located on the river, Nash, in cooperation with Consolidated Water Power and Paper Company, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Milwaukee Public Museum, excavated the site in late November 1941.


John Baptiste DuBay’s daughter, Minnie Swickard, who visited the site during the excavation process, confirmed that the area was the DuBay family homestead, where she grew up. She said that a peltry shed, where pelts were stored for the winter, existed on the premises as well, which may have been the basis for John DuBay’s rumored trading post. She said the house burned down in 1886 when coals used to make lye soap were left in a barrel on the front porch and caught on fire.

No vertical data or field notes on the site were ever released, so conclusive, stratigraphic dating is impossible.
Figure 14: John DuBay's daughter Minnie DuBay Swickard visited the site during the excavation process (Wackman 1991:215).
In his field report, University of Toronto Master’s student J.N. Emerson determined the site was a homestead that had been destroyed by fire, not a trading post as previously thought. Excavation of the main house was completed by the end of November 1941. Because of the onset of World War II in December, the collections were not studied at that time. The site is now covered by Lake DuBay, which was created by the DuBay Dam on the Wisconsin River.

Key Players

Dr. Philleo Nash, assisted by Ph.D. students J.N. Emerson and Earle Reynolds from the Universities of Chicago and Wisconsin-Madison, respectively, led the excavation in November of 1941. Nash enlisted Winslow Walker of the Works Progress Administration and the Smithsonian Institution to direct the field work.


Dr. Philleo Nash (1909-1987)

Figure 15: Dr. Philleo Nash with artifacts from the DuBay Site. (The Milwaukee Journal, 20 November 1941).
Dr. Philleo Nash was born October 25, 1909 in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. He received his BA in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1932 and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1937. He then taught at the University of Toronto (1837-1941) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1941-1942). During the Truman administration, he served as an advisor to the president on minority affairs, working with Thurgood Marshall to end segregation in the armed forces. After Truman left office, Nash returned to Wisconsin to chair the state Democratic Party and became Lieutenant Governor under Democrat Gaylord Nelson. Nash later served as Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs during the administrations of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson (1960-1966). He died October 12, 1987 of renal cancer in Marshfield, Wisconsin.


Winslow M. Walker (1903-1996)

Figure 16: Winslow Walker working on the DuBay Site. (Wackman 1991:212).
Winslow Metcalf Walker was born in 1903 in Evanston, Illinois. Walker worked for Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Civil Works and Works Progress Administrations, supervising archaeological excavations. He also worked for the Smithsonian Institution and the United States Bureau of Ethnology. His main area of study was Mound Builders of the Lower Mississippi Valley, especially in Louisiana. He retired to Laguna Beach California, but made frequent trips to Hawaii, eventually serving as curator at the Bernice P. Bishop Museum in Honolulu. He died in California in 1996.


Dr. J.N. Emerson (1917-1978)

Figure 17: Dr. J. N. Emerson (University of Toronto Online Archive 1990).
Dr. John Norman Emerson was born in Toronto in 1917. He received his BA in Sociology from the University of Toronto’s Trinity College in 1940. He went on to receive his MA in Anthropology, also from the University of Toronto in 1941, and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1954. While working on his doctorate, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He deferred to the Canadian Armed Forces, where he served from 1943 until 1945. He lectured in Huron archaeology at the University of Toronto from 1946 until his death in 1978.



Dr. Earle L. Reynolds (1910-1998)

Dr. Earle L. Reynolds was born October 18, 1910. He earned both his BA and MA in Anthropology from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After World War II, he joined the National Research Council’s Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) and he and his family sailed a yacht to Japan to study the effects of nuclear radiation on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As a result of his research, he became a Quaker activist, sailing his yacht around the world protesting the development of nuclear weapons. He died January 11, 1998.


Consolidated Water Power and Paper Company

Formed in 1904 from a consolidation of Wisconsin Rapids paper companies, Consolidated Water Power and Paper Company (now Consolidated Papers, Inc.), began using the world's first electrically-powered paper machines in 1904. In early 1942, the company dammed the Wisconsin River near Wausau to create a more powerful mill. They contributed significant funds to the excavation of the DuBay site, which would be destroyed with the creation of the dam; they later named the dam and the lake it created after John DuBay. After Dr. Philleo Nash contacted the company in 1987, Consolidated Papers, Inc. officially donated the DuBay collection to the Milwaukee Public Museum. The company is now owned by the Swedish/Finnish company, Stora Enso Oyj.

Archaeological Rescue Inc.

In 1987, Archaeological Rescue Inc., a now defunct, non-profit group of amateur and professional archaeologists, took an interest in the collection because of its relevance to Wisconsin history. The group inventoried, re-housed, and catalogued the material before conducting intensive laboratory analysis and identification. They published their findings in a report of the collection, written by John F. Wackman in April of 1991.