Monday, July 6, 2009

Native American Burial Grounds?

A few months ago, when the state began preliminary planning for a proposed reconstruction of Main Street, Rochester, local historians alerted MDOT officials to the possibility that Native American remains might exist in the vicinity of Third & Main. I just came across an interesting news article from the summer of 1899 that sheds a little more light on this topic. During the summer of 1899, the old stone store at Third & Main (known today as the Home Bakery) was undergoing a major renovation, including a total replacement of the front facade. (This is why the building's cornice, which was installed during that renovation, is dated 1899, while the building itself was constructed in 1849). The following article, reporting an incident in connection with that remodeling work, is quoted in its entirety from the Rochester Era, August 11, 1899:

A Gruesome Find
Last Saturday morning workmen were engaged in deepening the cellar under the stone store. There was a cement bottom, under which was a layer of cobble-stones. They noticed in the northwest corner of the cellar that the cement was of a different kind, showing that the bottom had been patched. After they had taken up the stone they dug down and about two feet under the patched portion they unearthed two skeletons, one with the head to the east, the other to the west. The bones were gathered up and it was not long before the matter was noised about town and a large crowd gathered to view the remains. One of the skulls was quite perfect, the other one was badly broken. The teeth were remarkably firm and even, although worn down very much, denoting evidently a very old person. No trinkets of any kind were found. It has been suggested that the store was on the site of the old Indian burying-ground, but Mr. T.J. Jones, who has been a resident of Rochester for sixty-five years, says he never heard of such a thing, the burying-ground being on the Michigan Central railroad east of the village, which was unearthed when the road was put through. Another theory advanced was that as The Era office occupied the second story for many years, the remains might have been some of The Era competitors of by-gone days. Still another, and undoubtedly the most feasible theory is, that the bodies were medical subjects placed there by two physicians who forty or fifty years ago did business in the old stone store. It is of course a mystery that will never be solved. Something of a sensation was caused by the discovery, but it soon quieted down. [END QUOTE]

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