Volunteers from the Illinois State Archaeological Survey recently conducted a non-invasive geophysical survey of the circa 1816 Fort Edwards site in Warsaw, Illinois to assist with future land management practices.
The construction of Fort Edwards began in 1816 to replace the nearby Fort Johnson and Cantonment Davis. Built across from the mouth of the Des Moines River, the log-palisaded Fort Edwards quickly became the center of fur trade activity for the next decade. The Black Hawk War in 1832, however, effectively ended indigenous trade as Euro-American settlers poured into the area. The fort stood vacant and eventually fell into disrepair as the town of Warsaw grew up around it. Today the fort’s location is marked by the Fort Edwards State Memorial (Talbot 1968). The site of Fort Edwards has undergone numerous historic modifications. A memorial obelisk was placed on the northern end of the fort site, while a street and residential plots cover the southern end (pictured below).
The geophysical survey was conducted on both sides of the road through the site and employed both magnetic survey and a soil resistivity survey. The magnetic surveys were of limited value due to prior disturbances, however, the soil resistivity survey produced some promising results. Soil resistivity simply measures the differential flow of electricity by inserting small probes into the ground on a grid system and measuring the electrical resistance at each location. This method can detect interruptions, or anomalies, below the ground surface.
While a definite outline of the fort was not identified, the resistivity survey was able to identify mostly parallel and perpendicular lines (pictured above). These are suggestive of segments of the fort walls and/or related buildings dating to the early 1800s. These linear anomalies are oriented at oblique angles to the plat lines for the city of Warsaw, indicating an earlier historic association. The survey demonstrated that there is a high probability of intact archaeological deposits in and around the state memorial and that care should be taken with any future developments in this vicinity.
Talbot, William L. (1968) Fort Edwards: Military Post and Fur Trade Center. In, A History of Hancock County, Illinois, by Robert M. Cochran, Mary H. Siegfried, Ida Blum, David L. Fulton, Harold T.Garv. Board of Supervisors of Hancock County, Carthage, Illinois.