The Cater site takes it name from Charles Cater who purchased 117.88 acres where the site is located in December 1833 and was granted a land patent in April 1835. Judge Albert Miller, the first probate judge of Saginaw County, recorded an account of Charles Cater, this property, and our site in the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections (Volume XIII, page 381):
"In 1833 a young English Sailor named Charles Cater came to Saginaw and purchased land near the forks of the Tittabawassee and returned to his business of sailing on the ocean. In 1834 Abram Cater, a brother of Charles, came to Saginaw to make a permanent residence and was married there in 1835 (I remember the date, for it was the first marriage ceremony I ever performed), soon after which he heard that his brother Charles had been cast away and perished at sea. Abram Cater was sickly and lived at Pine River on the bay with his wife and her relatives, but he was anxious to settle his brother's estate, being the sole heir. I made a journey in the winter of 1835-6 to Pine River and granted him letters of administration on his brother's estate, and before its full settlement Abram Cater died. It seems that Charles Cater had a residence in Ohio, before coming to Saginaw, where he had personal property. After the news of his death his estate in Ohio was administered upon, converted into cash and sent to me to be paid over to Abram Cater's widow, who was considered the person best entitled to receive it.
After the money had been for some time in the hands of Abram Cater's widow, who was not then a resident of Saginaw, the Ohio administrator of Charles' estate wrote to me, expressing some concern about the matter, saying that Charles Cater had returned there and demanded his property. I could do nothing in the matter, as the widow of Abram Cater had married again and left the country. About this time the fact that I had no jurisdiction in the case of the estate of Charles Cater, even had he been dead, came to light, and Charles Cater took out letters of administration from the probate court in Oakland county on Abram's estate, and became the heir of Abram instead of Abram becoming the heir of Charles. I think the want of jurisdiction was discovered before any record of the proceedings was made in Saginaw county."
We have been able to verify much of this story through public documents. Register of Deeds records indicate that Charles Cater purchased the site on December 9, 1833 and was issued a patent by president Andrew Jackson on April 28, 1835. Marriage records at the Saginaw Public Library (Genealogy Section) confirm that Abram Cater was granted a license to marry Lucinia Thompson on April 29, 1835 and subsequently was granted permission to marry Angus McDonald on October 5, 1836. We were also able to locate the probate court case in Oakland County, Michigan (Oakland County Probate Court, Case #144). James Frazier was appointed administrator of the estate and the documents contain a notice of a petition to sell the property, a notice of the sale of the estate, an inventory of the estate (only real estate is listed), and debts owed by the estate to Abraham Cater ($213.94), James Ponton ($10.00), and James Frazer ($62.00). James Ponton and James Frazier are both associated with the Ponton site which is located 500 meters east of the Cater site across the river. The land was sold on May 15, 1837 by James Frazer, as administrator for the Charles Cater estate, to Sherman Stevens of Pontiac for $623.39. About a month latter on June 27, 1837 Stevens the land to Daniel Fitzhugh and Edward Leroy for $625.00. On January 19, 1841 Fitzhugh bought out Leroy's share for $3,500.00. Daniel Fitzhugh (a New York investor) owned the land until August 7, 1879 when it was sold to Elizabeth Ayrault of Geneva, New York.
The archaeological remains from the Cater site date about 1840 as evidenced by the presidential election campaign badge discussed below. We think the cabin was occupied by Charles Cater while he was trying to recover (unsuccessfully) his property. Some of the finds from the Cater occupation are described below.
1840 Van Buren presidential election campaign badge found at the Cater site in the 1970's.
When originally found this badge was in a brass frame with a pin on the back for pinning to clothing. This part of the badge was in poor condition and could not be preserved. The upper surface of the glass is smooth and the underside etched with a design consisting of a safe with a flag to the left and flowers to the right. The inscription "O.K." is located above the safe and "SPECIE" below the safe. The glass part is 1.76 cm high, 2.12 cm wide, and 0.25 cm thick.
The symbolism on this badge refers to Martin Van Buren and his presidential election campaign in 1840. "O.K." stands for "Old Kinderhook." This was Van Buren's nickname (he was from Kinderhook, New York). "Specie" refers to the currency policy of the Jackson and Van Buren administrations. Van Buren and the Democrats favored a "hard money" policy based on coinage (i.e. specie), while Harrison and the Whigs favored a "sound currency" policy (i.e. paper money). The safe on the badge refers to the "Independent Treasury" or "Sub-treasury" Bill. This bill required the Federal Government to deposit its money in its own vaults and not banks.
The presidential election is best known for the "Log Cabin and Hard Cider" campaign of Whig candidates William Henry Harrison and John Tyler and their campaign slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler too." The popular "Log Cabin and Hard Cider" campaign and the depression of 1838 with its subsequent "hard times' resulted in the defeat of Van Buren and the election of Harrison in the 1840 election.
In the absence of coins (none were found at the site), this is the best evidence we have for dating the settler occupation.
A cellar or pantry, shown in the photo above (dark brown stain in tan matrix), was identified at the end of the 1994 season and exposed and excavated in the 1995 season. It measured 6'10" by 9'0" and was 27.5" deep below the present surface (9" survived below the plow zone). Three layers of fill were identified during the excavation of the cellar. The top layer (Zone1) was a dark grayish brown silt. This layer is the most recent and was deposited in the hole after the cabin was destroyed. The second layer (Zone 2) was a lighter yellowish-brown silt. A thin layer of charcoal that may be associated with the burning of the cabin was located at the bottom of the second layer and suggests that the second layer was deposited soon after the cabin was destroyed. The third layer (Zone 3) was a very dark grayish brown silt in the bottom of the cellar. This layer was probably deposited while the cabin was still standing.
Artifacts were scattered throughout the cellar. These included bottle fragments, dish (earthenware) fragments, window glass, nails, a sear spring from a gun, percussion caps, lead shot and scrap, buttons, needle fragments, brass fragments, slate pencil fragments, and an axe head. Faunal remains included a pig mandible (jaw) and a mountain lion vertebra (backbone).
This axe head was found in the cellar.
This plain white earthenware bowl was found in the cellar.
The dish and cup and saucer fragments from the site represent types common in the 1830's and 1840's. Most of these are softpaste earthenwares made in Great Britain. Most of the earthenware from the site consists of small white fragments. Decorated varieties include light blue (upper left in the photo above), brown transfer (upper right), purple transfer, blue edge (second from top on right), polychrome (multi-colored) handpainted (third from top on right), green and blue spongeware (bottom center), and a variety with both spongeware and polychrome handpainted decoration (bottom right). The sherds in the bottom right of the photo are monochrome blue handpainted. This pottery is characteristic of the early nineteenth century and may be associated the Cater site Chippewa occupation.
Sherds of domestically produced stoneware and redware have also been recovered from the site.
White clay smoking pipe fragments are common artifact found on nineteenth century sites. Several pipe bowls from the Cater site are plain or undecorated but most have some form of decoration. The most common pipe bowl decoration on the site is a ribbed or fluted decoration (top row in the photo above). This type of decoration was common in the first half of the nineteenth century. One "thirteen-star patriotic" pipe bowl (second row right) was recovered from the site. This type of decoration dates about 1840-1875.
One pipe stem fragment from the site has a manufactures name: "MURR[AY]" on one side and "[GLA]SCOW" on the other side. This manufacturer produced pipes in Glascow, Scotland between 1826 and 1862.
Cutlery from the Cater site.
Tools from the Cater site
Percussion Caps associated with the Cater site settler occupation. Percussion guns were becoming common in the 1840's.
Household artifacts from the Cater site. The scissors and pins were found in the cellar.
The Photo above shows the plow scars that were found below the midden at the bottom of the terrace. These plow scars were covered by about two and a half feet of sediment. They dated to the 1840's and contained dish fragments from the settler cabin.