Rev. Peter Dougherty, Presbyterian missionary, was busy saving souls back in 1842 when he built a house on Old Mission Peninsula.

He would no doubt be surprised — nearly 175 years later – to see archaeologists digging up the ground near the original outhouse.

Archeology professor Kerri Finlayson, several of her students at North Central Michigan College in Petoskey and local volunteers have been working methodically in and around the house and its 15 acres of grounds in Peninsula Township. So far they’ve discovered numerous small items used by the Dougherty’s in daily life.

PRELIMINARY FINDINGS AS OF DECEMBER 26, 2017: Preliminary analysis of the relics found include ceramics from the Dougherty period, and ceramics from Staffordshire, England. Cut nails and fragments from ceramic pipes (smoking pipes), a toothbrush, a playing marble, some
coins, a wooden bucket with a pulley mounted on it, and a few arrowheads have been identified. Future research will involve locating artifacts and wigwam bases on surrounding private property. Research will continue to clarify the origins of these artifacts.

The dig is just one part of a plan to unearth and preserve the history of the Dougherty Historic Home Site, which is thought to be the oldest frame home in Northern Michigan. Any artifacts found will represent a direct link to historically important information about life for those early settlers.

“They worked out a grid, then scraped down a layer at a time,” says volunteer Marty Klein of the dig. “They’ve found small bottles, pottery pieces and a couple of metal pieces.”

It is not the first archeological dig at the site. Dougherty and his family lived on the site from 1842 until 1852, then resettled across the bay in Omena. A previous dig focused on artifacts associated with a period starting in 1870 when the Dougherty house began serving as the Rushmore Inn. The property remained in the Rushmore family for approximately 100 years. That search turned up similar items.

Much has already been accomplished to save the buildings and to make the grounds visitor-friendly by adding heirloom gardens and walkways. The latest project – rebuilding the combination carriage house and summer kitchen – is nearly complete. The next big step is to build a strong foundation under the house.

“It will be a modern concrete block foundation with old stone façade. So what you see will look very authentic,” says Klein, who in his professional life is a structural engineer.

In 2013, the Jeffris Family Foundation in Janesville, Wisc., approved a $154,000 matching grant, which gave the effort a significant boost. The Peter Dougherty Society has now raised
enough in donations that the challenge grant has been met. We will continue to need donations as we progress through the completion of the interior and to operate the House as a
museum and community center.

“Part of the matching donations has been raised already through numerous pledges that will come in during the next few years,” Klein says.
Support so far has come from personal donations and contributions by groups including the Biederman Foundation, Rotary Charities, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Oleson Foundation, Bethlehem Lutheran Church Endowment, Acentek Communications and Old Mission Historical Society.

Check our calendar pages from time to time, to see the activities we have planned.

© 2015 The Business News