The Cater site is the location of an early nineteenth century Chippewa wigwam and an 1840 settler cabin as well as low density Late Woodland occupations. It is located on the grounds of Chippewa Nature Center (CNC) on the south side of the Chippewa River. The site was discovered in the early 1970's by CNC archaeologists. From 1974 to 1976, three seasons of excavation were conducted at the site by Chippewa Nature Center and Central Michigan University. In 1994, the Oxbow Archaeologists returned to the site and conducted six seasons of excavations till 1999.
The site was discovered in 1968 by Lois Wang, a long-time Chippewa Nature Center and Michigan Archaeological Society member during an archaeological survey of CNC. Surface collection of the site indicated an early Midland settler site with early to mid-nineteenth century earthenware, white clay pipe fragments, window glass and nails being found.
Because this was the first early settler site identified in the Midland area, excavations were conducted at the site in 1974, 1975, and 1976. The 1974 excavations centered on confirming the presence of the settler cabin. The 1975 focused on determining the extent of the occupation. And the 1976 occupations focused on the Late Woodland prehistoric occupations. The results of the 1974 and 1975 excavations were presented in a report which was prepared for and sold by Chippewa Nature Center (Timothy Klinger, A Nineteenth Century Homestead on the Chippewa River, Chippewa Nature Center, Man, Time and Environment Publication Number One, 1976).
In 1994 the Oxbow Archaeologists began a series of six seasons at the site, initially to identify the location of the settler cabin. During the course of the 1994 season the cabin cellar was discovered. Excavation of the cellar was the focus of the 1995 season. The excavations of the settler occupation on the top of the river terrace covering the excavation seasons to 1997 has been published in a preliminary report on the site (Scott Beld, "A Prelinimary Report on the Cater Site, 20MD36, Midland County, Michigan: Early and Mid-Nineteenth Century Occupations in Central Michigan," The Michigan Archaeologist 48, pages 1-84). Information on the settler occupation can also be found on the "Cater Site Settler" page on this website.
At the end of the 1996 season a sheet midden (trash deposit) was discovered while excavating a test trench down the slope of the terrace to the floodplain. This midden contained numerous animal bones, charred corn cobs and kernels, and fur trade items (trade gun parts, gunflints, lead shot, trade silver fragments, kettle brass fragments, glass trade beads) and indicated the presence of an early nineteenth century Native American occupation. This occupation dated about 1820. Information on this occupation can be found on the "Cater Site Chippewa" page.
1840 Van Buren Campaign badge recovered at the Cater site.
The map above shows the location of the excavation units and cultural features at the Cater site. The extent of the midden is indicated by the dashed line at the north end of the site. The cellar of the settler cabin was Feature 101 located near the center of the map.
The photograph above shows excavation of trenches on the south end of the site in the 1970's.
Excavations at the Cater site in 1994.
This photograph shows the beginning of the excavation of the cellar in 1995.
This photograph shows excavation of the midden on the slope of the river terrace in spring 1997.