Highway 55 and the Camp Coldwater Settlement: An Independent Investigation
and Historical Surveys of the
Highway 55 Corridor
A look at the reports and evidence amassed in the archaeological and historical surveys of the Highway 55 corridor reveal little or nothing about the effect of the highway on the historic Camp Coldwater settlement.
Early in the planning of the highway, in the 1980s, preliminary and final environmental impact statements were done for the highway corridor. Although the planners should have taken a thorough look at the historical resources of the corridor, references to the Camp Coldwater settlement are indirect and inadequate. The final EIS (FHWA 1985: 4-35) highlighted the military history of the fort and the area and stated that
the field area near the junction of CSAH 62 and TH 55 was likely used for a variety of military purposes including pasture for horses and mules, gardens, military grounds and space for Indian encampments. It is possible that archeological artifacts are present in the field area.
No mention was made of the potentially impacted historic Camp Coldwater settlement. Included with the final EIS was a letter from Russell Fridley, director of the Minnesota Historical Society and State Historic Preservation Officer, reporting that the SHPO had reviewed the project and found "no known sites of historic, architectural, cultural, archaeological, or engineering significance with the area of the proposed project," between 46th Avenue South and the terminus of the project at the juncture with Highway 62. Fridley, who is now retired, has recently said he believes this statement to be erroneous, stating in an affidavit in December1997 and a letter in October 1998 that a new EIS is necessary to adequately study the southern portion of the highway (Fridley 1997, 1998). He highlighted particularly the lack of study of the Camp Coldwater area, noting that it called "for no less than a thorough EIS study that evaluates the remarkably rich and varied historical and natural values that obviously await adequate analysis and deserve the most careful preservation."
At the end of the EIS process a memorandum of agreement dating from the spring of 1984 was signed by various parties, including the Federal Highway Administration, the State Historic Preservation Office, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and others, stating how historic preservation issues would be handled during the construction of the highway (FHWA 1985: 7-4--7-6). Again, this memorandum included no mention of Camp Coldwater, though it did call for archaeological monitoring of particular areas along the highway, including the open field near County Road 62.
The lack of discussion of many important aspects of southern end of the highway corridor has been a subject of much debate in recent years. Throughout this discussion Mn/DOT has maintained that the EIS dealt adequately with the cultural resources in the area, though without specifically addressing many public concerns. For example a recent statement on Mn/DOT's website affirms the adequacy of the studies of the early 1980s, noting that "when put together the 1983  Draft and 1985 Final Environmental Impact Statements adequately evaluated the entire project corridor, including the area south of 54th Street to Crosstown Highway 62" (Mn/DOT 1999, Oct. 6). This webpage specifically defines "adequate" not in a historical or archaeological sense, but in a legal sense, arguing, for example that "the 1985 Final Environmental Impact Statement on Hiawatha Avenue was determined adequate according to MEQB [Minnesota Environmental Quality Board] rules and still remains legally adequate."
State officials also point to the archaeological monitoring provided for in the MOA as being an adequate way to deal with historic resources not identified in the EIS. However, since the current State Historic Preservation Office acknowledges the problematic nature of construction monitoring--not the most sensitive way to look for delicate archaeological resources--an attempt was made to be more "pro-active." An understanding was reached between Mn/DOT and SHPO as early as March 1998 that a survey would be done of areas at the south end of the highway reroute, prior to construction. BRW, Inc., a planning and archaeology firm involved in many highway and public works projects, was hired by Mn/DOT to do the survey work, examining the areas mentioned in the earlier EIS and other areas of significance that might be identified along or near the highway corridor (Gimmestad 1998, March 5).
Later in 1998 the lawsuit was filed in state district court by the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota concerning sacred and cultural sites along the highway corridor. Among other issues the plaintiffs described the "national significance" of the Camp Coldwater area, and presented the statement of former Minnesota Historical Society director Russell Fridley that "intensive archaeological investigation" should be done in the area before the highway was rerouted (Kushner 1999).The judge in the case, H. Peter Albrecht (1999: 1, 3-4) refused a temporary injunction against the highway but ordered Mn/DOT to "conduct a reconnaissance of the phase 3 project path before any preparatory or construction activity begins," and monitor the corridor throughout the construction. In ruling, Albrecht clearly believed that the original EIS had already provided adequate opportunity to study this area of the highway corridor and that anything missed could be handled by construction monitoring. He also appears to have been under the mistaken impression that the highway would not pass through the historic Camp Coldwater settlement. In the memorandum attached to his order, he wrote:
The path of the project is near the Fort Snelling Historic District and the Camp Coldwater Historic Site. This larger, adjacent area is rich in Native American and European history and artifacts, but the Project's path does not directly pass through these established historical areas. To date no artifacts have been found in the Project's path, nor have plaintiffs presented any direct evidence of artifacts in the Project's path.
Reading this statement one might assume that the judge had been assured that the archaeological remains of historic Camp Coldwater would not be harmed by the highway. Instead, a close look at Mn/DOT's evidence in the case shows that in using the term "Camp Coldwater Historic Site" the agency referred not to the historic resources surviving from the Camp Coldwater settlement, but rather to Camp Coldwater as a historic site designated under state law. One source for this definition was an affidavit by Richard Wolsfeld, vice president of an engineering firm, who was one of the persons primarily responsible for preparing and reviewing the draft and final EIS from the 1980s. Wolsfeld's statement was originally filed in another lawsuit contesting the validity of the EIS in early 1998, but it was also used in the more recent lawsuit. Wolsfeld (1998: 3) stated that since the state law defined the Camp Coldwater Historic Site as being within the Fort Snelling Historic District, and "since the Project does not pass through any portion of the Fort Snelling Historic District; therefore it would not also pass through the Coldwater Historic Site."
It is unclear whether Judge Albrecht was aware of the difference between the defined historic site and the actual remains of the historic Camp Coldwater settlement. In any case his order that a "reconnaissance" be done and that the area be monitored during construction simply reflected what Mn/DOT was already doing or intended to do. Mn/DOT, however, appears to have believed that enough issues had been raised in and out of court, concerning the possibility of burials and sacred sites in the highway path and the potential impact of the highway on the spring, that the agency arranged with another of its frequent contractors, The Cultural Resource Group of Berger & Associates, to look into these questions. In late winter and early spring 1999, Berger & Associates did an ethnohistorical examination based on primary documents, ethnographic sources, and the data obtained in the BRW survey.
Both the BRW and Berger reports included extensive use of historic maps to show the nature of the highway corridor in the past. The Berger report did not cite the Smith map from 1837, instead citing and reproducing portions of Smith's less detailed map from 1838. Despite the extensive and detailed use of historical maps, the BRW report contains only one discussion of Smith's 1837 map, a short entry in a list of maps (BRW 1999: 18) which states:
This map has somewhat limited coverage of the Fort and vicinity, extending to just south of the Fort proper and extending to just beyond Camp Coldwater (location of Coldwater Spring and Reservoir). The map depicts limited vegetation and topography, but includes associated buildings and areas of the Fort, and many structures near Camp Coldwater and landings on both sides of the Mississippi. The location of Survey Areas 4 and 5 has no buildings or facilities present.
This statement could mean that the Smith map had been used very precisely to demonstrate that while passing through the Camp Coldwater settlement area the highway would not pass over the locations of any of the structures shown on the map, or it could simply mean that the archaeologists assumed the highway would not cross the map's area at all. The examination of the map provided in this report suggests that both assumptions are wrong.
It was in Areas 4 and 5--more or less corresponding to Joseph Buisson's fenced enclosure and house at the north end of the Smith map--that BRW did "shovel testing" in 1998 and early 1999. Shovel testing is a process of sampling in pre-determined patterns in a search for archaeological resources, particularly in an area that is otherwise little known. How likely shovel testing is to produce useful results depends on the methods used and the frequency of the locations at which the testing is done. In this case shovel testing was done after discussion with Scott Anfinson, archaeologist with the State Historic Preservation Office, as noted in the BRW report (1999: 40-41):
Prior to finalizing areas selected for survey, BRW archaeologists met with Scott Anfinson, National Register Archaeologist, from the SHPO as requested in the comment letter from SHPO dated March 5, 1998. Dr. Anfinson is familiar with the potential for archeological resources near the location of the proposed re-route and information that should be included in the survey. A total of seven areas were identified for investigation.
In the areas identified for survey, shovel tests were done at 15-meter (50-foot) intervals within the highway corridor. The shovel testing consisted of digging a hole larger than the width of a shovel to the depth of "sterile soils, a soil break, bedrock, or impenetrable weathered bedrock fragments." In most cases this involved digging to around 30 to 80 centimeters (around 1 foot to 2.6 feet). The testing in the two areas that include the historic Camp Coldwater Settlement--Areas 4 and 5--was done in two rows along the center of the highway and western edge. Except for three sites, no shovel testing was done along the eastern edge of the highway or in other areas such as the proposed frontage road parallel to Area 4 (BRW 1999: 39, figures 17, 18, shovel test forms 68-97)
Initial testing was done in the summer and fall of 1998 of a portion of Area 4. Objections by protestors prevented the completion of work in this area and it was not until February 1999 that shovel testing could be completed here as well as in Area 5. At that time, according to BRW, frost removal equipment was leased to thaw the ground so that it might be tested. BRW reported finding nothing in Area 5. In Area 4, a variety of glass, tile fragments, bits of asphalt and other material was found, said by BRW, without documented analysis, to have been associated with the VA buildings that were there in the 20th century (BRW 1999: 53-62).
Assuming that the area shovel tested included portions of the Camp Coldwater settlement, how likely was it that any remnants of the settlement would have been found? Despite obvious disturbance in an area--as in the case of farm fields or sites built upon at various times over the years--it is often possible to find material relating to earlier uses of a property, sometimes going back hundreds of years. An example is the North West Company fur post dating from 1804, located near Pine City, Minnesota (Birk 1999: 24, 37). Archaeologists excavated this site only after it had been plowed for many years by a farmer. Despite this repeated disturbance, a great deal was learned from what remained in the ground and it was used in the reconstruction of the post, now a Minnesota Historical Society historic site.
The work of historical archaeologists does not usually consist of identifying large, intact structures through the process of shovel testing, but rather in finding many small bits and pieces in more frequent, intensive, and methodical excavations that all together can give a general picture of a place or an activity. Often such evidence can be supplemented through written documents. Although the degree to which archaeologists use documents varies greatly, for many a dream site would be one that could be fully documented in the written record. This would offer an idea about who had lived there and, together with the material record, would provide a richer history of the place. In this sense Camp Coldwater is really a dream site. The people who lived there were well-known settlers and pioneers, though they were ordinary people without great wealth. Their lives are told in some of the earliest history books published in Minnesota. They are mentioned in early letters. What they ate and how they dressed are mentioned in old account books and their families are listed in early censuses. In some cases we know what their houses looked like.
Yet for all that is known about the settlers of Camp Coldwater there is much that written records will never reveal. Archaeologists do not simply examine buildings but also trash pits, latrines, areas in which things are thrown away or lost. Because the material evidence of people's lives represents what they do not choose to say about themselves, archaeological sites can be revealing about the way people have lived their lives. A site like the Camp Coldwater also provide a way of checking the information found in documents. For example, even if the Smith map is totally accurate about where people lived in 1837, it is only a kind of snapshot of an area in which people lived from the 1820s into the 1840s and later. Buildings in existence before, but gone by 1837, would not be shown on the map, nor would buildings from after that date. It is also possible that there were structures to the west of the area shown on the map. These are all reasons why an archaeological study of the area is so important.
Archaeologists are quick to point out that there are many ways to do archaeology. No one way is necessarily better than another. Yet what archaeologists are seeking to find out will necessitate particular archaeological methods. The process of investigating a prehistoric site will differ from that involved in excavating a historic one. Sites in towns are very different from rural sites. If the archaeologist knows that the remains of buildings are in a particular area, they may pattern their digging differently than if they are looking for debris broadly scattered across a landscape.
Conversations with experienced archaeologists not involved in the Highway 55 process suggest that in general shovel testing alone, particularly at wide intervals, is not the best way of locating historic structures. Depending on the size and orientation of Joseph Buisson's house and the fence around his field along the highway corridor, it is certainly possible that shovel testing done at 15-meter or 50-foot intervals could miss them. The "footprint" of a small house could easily fit between two such sites.
That BRW had any idea that structures relating to the Camp Coldwater settlement might be found in the project corridor is not evident from the firm's report. Several historical archaeologists suggest that if they themselves had known about the Smith map--a map which one archaeologist describes as a matchless source for any site of that time period--they would have attempted to use it to guide the testing. They would, however, do so by establishing a grid over the entire area in which Buisson's fence and house were believed to be located and conducting a pattern of testing designed to catch any remnant of the structures based on their size and orientation. They would have looked not just for the locations of buildings but also with the trash pits and other areas around such structures in which material objects of importance might be found. During the actual testing they would have sought any evidence of something more substantial nearby. Slight bits of charred wood, scrap metal, nails--anything that had significance for the historic structures or activities of importance would have been objects of intense interest. These fragments would not be considered trash by the knowledgeable historical archaeologist. Such fragments are interesting for what they can show collectively about patterns of land use in an area. The discovery of such fragments would have set off intensified digging in particular areas outside the arbitrary pattern of their testing.
Of particular importance in historical archaeology is the way in which the archaeologist deals with fill. In a classic book on historical archaeology, James Deetz (1977: 15) made clear that the historical archaeologist interprets the layers of fill--or layers of more or less sterile soil over the previous location of a structure or activity--differently from the way prehistoric archaeologists interpret it:
In excavating a prehistoric site, once such clean soil is encountered, the base of the deposit probably has been reached. However, on historic sites, it is not uncommon to encounter soil that seems undisturbed but is in fact a deposit of sterile fill that might be three feet thick or more.
Deetz's point is that archaeologists who went no further in their digging, stopping in the three-foot layer of fill would assume that there was nothing worth finding at a site, simply because they had not gone deep enough.
Fill, of course, is not always sterile. Deetz noted that fill was "an artifact itself, and the study of it can be most instructive." This view of the importance of studying the fill was echoed by Fort Snelling archaeologist Dr. Robert Clouse. The fill deposits from which a great deal of the history of Fort Snelling has been studied, "represent deliberate and incidental human action such as efforts to raise the grade, the creation of special surfaces, the disposal of trash, or resulted from specific activities (such as repair and/or replacement of facilities)" (Clouse and Steiner 1996: 52).
As will be shown, the BRW report suggests that the survey archaeologists and they agency that employed them did not seek evidence relating to the historic Camp Coldwater settlement. Given the Mendota Dakota lawsuit, and the issues under public forums and Mn/DOT concerns at that point, their focus was primarily on Native American burial sites or sacred sites. In many cases they stopped their digging after encountering fill or disturbed soil. Historic artifacts consisting of small bits and pieces typical of many historic archaeological sites were assumed to be without value. The possibility that more intensive analysis of the historical artifacts might have suggested association with the historic Camp Coldwater settlement was not addressed.
Even on its own terms, the BRW survey was inadequate. The archaeological survey was done in conjunction with a geomorphology survey of Area 4 by Michael F. Kolb, who did core samples to determine the underlying soils in a portion of the highway corridor. Kolb's study showed that there was fill to depths varying from one to four meters (3.28 feet to 13.12 feet) throughout most of the area except at the very north end of Area 4. This would indicate that the likely surface in 1837 is deeply buried (Kolb 1999, cores 6-13, 15-16). The Berger report interprets this to mean that "any potential archaeological deposits or human burials present within the project area should be located at or near the original ground surface throughout the project corridor" (Berger 1999, April: 4). Based on this knowledge, to uncover any artifacts from the Coldwater settlement or any other historical presence in the 19th-century or earlier, excavations would have to go deep enough to excavate these original topsoils. There is evidence in BRW's own report that the firm consistently failed to do so. Only four of the 29 shovel test site forms in the report for testing in Area 4 indicate that the testing actually reached some form of bedrock. In one case the testing reached 75 centimeters (2.44 feet). In most cases it did not go deeper than 40 centimeters or a little over one foot (BRW 1999, shovel test forms 67-97). In other words the shovel testing was largely confined to the levels described by Kolb as being fill.
As an example, Kolb's geological study did one core sample
(1999: 4, core 16) on the east side of the highway in the north
segment of Area 4, in which cinders were encountered at the base
of the fill at a depth of one meter (3.3 feet). For many historical
archaeologists this would have been the signal of a site of possible
importance, perhaps resulting from a firepit or fire ring, a burned
house, or a blacksmith shop. The fact that there were several
blacksmiths in the western edge of the Camp Coldwater settlement
and that the nearest settler Joseph Buisson was known to have
made and sold charcoal lends special importance to this find (White
and White 1998: 162) However BRW did no shovel testing at this
point, and the testing done in the nearby center of the corridor
did not go deeper than 32 centimeters or less than a foot (BRW
1999: Figure 17; shovel test forms for 81, 82).
The lack of understanding of the Smith map led BRW to miss an important piece of information that appears to corroborate at least one assertion found in its report and Berger's: a wetland existed along the highway corridor. The geologist Michael Kolb (1999: 5-6) described the wetland as "long and narrow with a northwest-southeast orientation. It is confined by a bedrock rise on the north, northeast and possibly the east, and by meltwater stream terraces or highs to the west and southwest, and south." Smith's 1837 map appears to show just such a wetland--as indicated by the conventional symbols resembling swamp grass--in a long oval shape positioned in a northwest-southeast orientation, along the western edge of Joseph Buisson's field. According to the preliminary positioning of the highway on the Smith map, the southbound lane of traffic would cross at least a portion of this wetland, although the northbound lane and the frontage road appear to be within the area of Buisson's field.
No shovel-testing was done below the 19th-century surface of this wetland area. BRW noted (1999: 61) as an explanation for the limited shovel testing that "the soils buried by fill in the central and southern portion of the area were hydric in nature (wetland) and would not have supported any pre-contact habitation." Because of the probability that the wetland in question was adjacent to Buisson's field, within a short distance of Buisson's house, it is possible that important evidence of a historic habitation or was missed.
The lack of understanding of the relationship of the highway corridor to the Camp Coldwater settlement is also evident in the archaeological work done in the entire area south of Area 4 stretching all the way to Highway 62. The interchange between Highways 55 and 62, including a variety of ramps, a bike path, and the main portion of the highway will be located in this area. Some initial work took place here in the 1960s when the highway project first began. The BRW report (1999: 63-68) noted that initially, it was the intention of the archaeologists to survey an area close to the Bureau of Mines site midway through this wide area.
The general location of this survey area was chosen because of it's [sic] proximity to the boundaries of the Camp Coldwater area. The precise location was then based on the 1964 air photo that showed a small area that had not been disturbed by initial construction of the highway. However, upon field verification of this area for this survey archaeologists discovered that it had been severely disturbed in the intervening years.
This led BRW to shift the location of the shovel testing to just south of Area 4. The suggestion in the BRW study that the area initially designated as Area 5 was chosen because of its "proximity to the boundaries of the Camp Coldwater area" is further evidence of the lack of understanding of Smith's 1837 map. Based on the evidence of this map, a broad swath of the western edge of the Camp Coldwater settlement is within the entire triangular portion of the highway corridor south of Area 4. This includes, potentially, the homes of Le Rage, Antoine Pepin, and Oliver Cratte, two blacksmith shops, and at least one of the buildings belonging to Benjamin F. Baker. In the reconnaissance and the minimal shovel testing in this broad area, BRW archaeologists found little except for a wooden pipe along the edge of an old trolley bed. Apparently without subjecting this pipe to further analysis, the archaeologists have speculated that it was either related to the trolley line or to older water lines that supplied water to Fort Snelling (BRW 1999: 63).
It is unlikely that BRW's shovel testing in this area, south of Area 5, was adequate to uncover remains of the Camp Coldwater settlement. The major problem with the work done here is that it seems to have relied heavily on the undocumented assumption that the soils throughout this entire area were disturbed and thus not worth testing. The support for this belief is not clear considering that the geological work pertaining to the corridor did not include any of the soils south of shovel-test Area 5. BRW's source for its conclusions about the soil south of Area 5 is described simply as "field verification," which may mean simply walking over the area. As shown by the evidence gathered by the geologist Michael Kolb, disturbed surface soil can simply be the result of filling in a lower area with soil from elsewhere, as can happen when builders construct a highway. In the process the original soil surface as well as evidence of historic structures underneath it may be deeply buried. Surface examination in such a case would clearly be inadequate for determining the possible existence of historical artifacts.
The only information that could be construed as documenting the possibility of disturbed soil in the area is a very brief reference to a 1983 archaeological report (BRW 1999: 15; Peterson and Yourd 1983: 166) relating to the re-alignment of Highway 62 at its junction with the Highway 55 re-route. The examination consisted of a record search, surface reconnaissance (essentially a walkover of the area) and shovel testing of "the linear alignment of CSAH-62 at 30 meter [98-foot] intervals." The study reported that "surface review revealed that ca. 50% of the study area has been totally altered by previous T. H. 55 and CSAH-62 construction as well as filling by the U. S. Bureau of Mines." No other details of the methods employed or the exact location of the shovel testing were published, though since the main portion of 62 is to be re-located south of the present route of the highway it is probable that the testing was done in that area, not to the north where structures appear on Smith's map. The wide intervals of the shovel testing confront the same problems as the shovel-testing done in 1998-99. In any case, the 1983 study results made no mention of the historic Camp Coldwater settlement and, aside from listing the report, BRW made no claims for the study as showing or not showing the presence of settlement remains in the Highway 55 corridor.
The survey work of BRW in the highway corridor as it passes through the Camp Coldwater settlement appears to leave much to be desired. Given the lack of appreciation of the Smith map, the fact that no attempt was made to pinpoint structures from the community, the pattern of shovel testing unsuited to finding evidence of the settlement, the failure to dig deep enough, and the unsupported assumptions about the quality of soils, it is likely that the survey missed a great deal. According to one key figure in the process, however, there was little to be missed.
6. The State Historic Preservation Office and Its Archaeologist
There are many rules that govern the way construction-related surveys of historic areas must comply with federal and state laws. One set of rules is known as the Section 106 process, a reference to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 that requires federal agencies, or agencies using federal money to take into account the effects of their development on historic properties, including archaeological sites. In the complex regulations governing a Section 106 process, which even those experienced in it have trouble understanding, the agency involved notifies the State Historic Preservation Office of its undertaking, although some federal agencies rely on inter-agency agreements which make such involvement by the SHPO unnecessary (ACHP 1999, sec. 800.14).
When the SHPO is involved, notification launches a process whereby historic properties are identified, surveyed, and evaluated by the agency itself, to determine if they have already or can meet standards that would place them on the National Register of Historic Places. If during this process it is determined that the project will have an adverse effect on a historic property, this is resolved in consultation among the agency, the SHPO, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and interested parties, including members of the public. The final result of this process--if the various parties agree about the results--will be a memorandum of agreement, or MOA, which will govern the construction process and allow for a mitigation of any adverse effect on the historic property. Mitigation refers to the means through which an acknowledged historic property is dealt with and can mean anything from salvage archaeology prior to the destruction of the archaeological resource to a change in the construction to allow for complete protection of the resource.
In a typical Section 106 process, the agency seeking to develop an area will carry out a survey and conduct research relating to any resources in the area to be developed. After a process of consultation with various parties including the public, an agency will determine whether historic resources in the area are eligible for protection under the National Register of Historic Places and how these resources will be handled during construction. The basis of the agency's decisions will be recorded in reports by archaeologists, historians, geologists, and others who can provide useful expertise. The only decision-making role for the SHPO in the process is to agree or disagree with the findings of the agency, although it may comment or make recommendations.
In the case of Highway 55, the Environmental Impact Statement process and associated Section 106 process were completed in the early 1980s. Further survey efforts were governed by the Memorandum of Agreement that approved the highway project while describing what efforts should be made to monitor certain areas along the corridor during construction. Under the law there was essentially no requirement for Mn/DOT to carry out a further survey of the Camp Coldwater settlement area since the project had already been approved. Under the regulations governing Section 106, it appears that even incompetent or incomplete work by an agency which fails to do a proper survey is not grounds for a new survey if the project has already been approved, although regulations do allow for a re-opening of the process based on discoveries during the course of a construction project (ACHP 1999, sec. 800.13). However, given the fact that it is difficult to re-open the process, it is key that all parties to the process do a full and complete job of considering the effect of a project on a set of historic resources.
As the National Register archaeologist in Minnesota's State Historic Preservation Office, Scott Anfinson is a key figure in the process through which archaeological resources in the state are evaluated in the Section 106 process. Acknowledging the problematic nature of the monitoring process, he believed that it was important to be pro-active in examining the highway corridor before the construction. This also made sense given the advances in techniques, methodology and instrumentation in the time since the original look at the area. It was partly through Anfinson's efforts that Mn/DOT, in 1998, initiated the process that resulted in the BRW and later Berger reports. As noted in the BRW report, Anfinson helped the firm identify areas that should be part of its survey. He made his files available to the firm, as he states he does to all those concerned about the highway project, including opponents. Since at least sometime in 1998 Anfinson's files have included a copy of the Camp Coldwater portion of Smith's 1837 map.
Under the most recent Section 106 regulations the role of the State Historic Preservation Officer is designed to reflect "the interest of the State and its citizens in the preservation of their cultural heritage." The SHPO also "advises and assists Federal agencies in carrying out their section 106 responsibilities" (ACHP 1999, sec. 800.2.c.1.i). Based on the fact that the SHPO's only real decision-making power is to agree or disagree with the findings of the agency seeking to pursue a development and investigating its effect on historic properties, Scott Anfinson states that he is not responsible for what Mn/DOT puts in or does not put in their reports. Nor does he know why BRW and Berger did not choose to make use of Smith's 1837 map.
It should be noted that a look at Anfinson's SHPO files indicates that despite Anfinson's statements that he is not responsible for what Mn/DOT chooses to put in its reports, the Minnesota SHPO office does have considerable power in the process. It does, for example, sometimes advise agencies as to the content of their reports. In mid-April 1999, for example, the office was faxed a 16-page draft copy of sections 4 and 5 of the Berger report (Berger 1999, April 19). Anfinson made important corrections to Berger's discussion of the application of National Register criteria that were incorporated in the final version of the report. In addition Anfinson suggested eliminating portions of Berger's "Recommendations" section which outlined further efforts that should be taken to protect Coldwater Spring. These paragraphs were not in the final report.
Similarly, once it receives an agency's report the SHPO office has broad power to make recommendations about further actions that should be taken by an agency. On April 20, 1999, Richard T. Murphy, Sr., chair of the Executive Council of the Minnesota Historical Society wrote to other members of the council concerning the role of the SHPO in the Highway 55 process (Murphy 1999):
Council members who attended the March 18 Executive Council meeting know that the Society through its State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), has a role in this matter through the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. This act requires agencies whose projects receive federal funding to assess the impact of their project on historic resources and to submit this assessment to the SHPO, which in Minnesota, is part of the Minnesota Historical Society. The Society must then review the agency's assessment to determine if the agency should take additional measures to protect historic resources. In the case of the Highway 55 review, we expect to receive MnDOT's assessment this week. When completed, the Society will send its response to MnDOT and to the Federal Highway Administration.
There is no evidence that the Minnesota SHPO either sought to put in or take out references to the Smith map or to Camp Coldwater in the Berger or BRW reports, either before or after it received them officially. But, according to Anfinson, the SHPO approval of and agreement with the findings of BRW and Berger--which occurred in May 1999-- was not based solely on the actual data supplied in these reports. Anfinson himself supplied the information missing in their reports, pursuing on his own a detailed preliminary examination of the Smith map.
Anfinson's look at the Smith map took place in the early spring of 1999, although he had been aware for some time that the highway would pass through the Camp Coldwater settlement. It was Anfinson who spoke to Pioneer Press reporter David Hawley in December 1997 (Hawley 1999, Dec. 29) and stated that the areas through which the highway would go lacked "integrity." However at this point Anfinson had not looked at the Smith map and his statements were based on discussions he believes he had with Minnesota Historical Society's Historic Sites staff about the southern end of the highway.
At some point in the spring of 1999, possibly toward the end of March, Anfinson discussed the archaeology of the Camp Coldwater site with Robert Clouse, head archaeologist at the Minnesota Historical Society's Historic Fort Snelling (Anfinson 1999, March 22). Clouse had some ideas about the locations of earlier structures in the Camp Coldwater area. Anfinson's notes of the conversation record that Clouse thought that the current spring house or reservoir, on the Bureau of Mines site, was the location of the 1819 site of the spring where soldiers encamped during the construction of the fort. Clouse had walked over the Minnesota Historical Society's portion of the Coldwater area, along the river, but he had not done any testing there or made any map. He told Anfinson that he had wanted to do a survey for the past five years but could get no financial support in the historical society for doing it. Finally, Clouse expressed his concerns that the archaeological survey work in the area--presumably a reference to the BRW shovel testing--did not go deep enough below the surface. There was "lots of filling" in the area, the notes state. A final sentence in the notes suggests that Clouse told Anfinson that the area just east of Minnehaha Avenue and south of the entrance to the Bureau of Mines property had high potential.
Clouse is an acknowledged expert on the archaeology of the Fort Snelling area. Among those who care about the historical resources of the area, Clouse's work on the Camp Coldwater area has been awaited with great anticipation for some time. In a recent conversation Clouse made clear that he has understood for many years that the Smith map included areas impacted by Highway 55, although he is careful to point out that he cannot be certain where the structures are located until he completes his survey. Although Clouse is not normally part of the SHPO portion of the Section 106 process, he remembers, in addition to his conversation with Anfinson, that he met earlier with members of the BRW archaeology team early in the process of their work. He showed them the various maps he uses for studying the Fort Snelling area, including Smith's 1837 map. In addition he walked over the corridor with them pointing out areas of high archaeological potential, which team members documented with a digital camera. Subsequently, aside from this conversation with Anfinson, Clouse was never asked to comment on the results of the BRW study by anyone else who was part of the Highway 55 process within or outside the SHPO office. As a result Clouse has not looked at the BRW or Berger studies or evaluated their conclusions (Clouse 2000).
Clouse's reluctance to comment on this matter may have been influenced by a memo he and several other staff members were sent by Nina Archabal (1999), director of the Minnesota Historical Society and the State Historic Preservation Officer, on April 8, 1999, in which she stated that during and after SHPO review of Mn/DOT findings on Highway 55
it will be crucial for all of us to avoid commenting about the process or progress of the review in any public way, including talking to the public, to each other in areas where members of the public may be, to staff who are not involved in the project, and especially, to the media. We must preserve an atmosphere conducive to the careful and objective review of the MnDOT report and related material, according to our state and federal responsibilities. It is imperative that everyone involved refrain from making speculative comments publicly. . . . When our response to MnDOT is complete, we will inform interested stakeholders, Society staff, and the media. Both before and after that time, all comments about our progress and processes should be made by designated spokespeople.
Clouse may have been one of the sources for the suggestion that Anfinson look at the Smith's 1837 map. It was included in a 1996 study he wrote examining the archaeological potential of areas outside of the walls of the fort (Clouse and Steiner 1996: 17). Another possible source is "Fort Snelling in 1838: An Ethnographic and Historical Study," a report by Helen White and this author (White and White 1998) which contains a description of the Smith map and which Anfinson received in his office at the end of March 1999. Or Anfinson may simply have wanted to prepare for examining the Berger and BRW reports once they were completed. One way or another, Anfinson began making a detailed examination of the Smith map. Using a high-contrast copy of the document, he matched the land and cultural features to a highly detailed WPA topographic map from the 1930s. Rather than making use of transparencies, Anfinson simply matched particular features which he highlighted using color-coded marking pens. In the process he found, as suggested earlier, much that matched modern features--particularly landforms--and other features that did not match, including the course of the Mississippi and the location of the Coldwater Spring and the stream that flowed out of it.
Anfinson's analysis stopped short of actually pinpointing the historic structures on the map in relation to the highway corridor but it basically agreed with that given here, that the highway would run through or close to Joseph Buisson's field and pass near, if not through, the locations of the Pepin and LeRage houses and the other structures at the southwest end of the Camp Coldwater settlement. Corroboration of this understanding is found in Anfinson's notes of May 4, 1999 on the BRW report, where he refers to the need to monitor Area 4 during highway construction because of the presence of a "CC farmstead," a possible reference to Joseph Buisson's farm and its location on the Smith map (Anfinson 1999, May 4).
Despite this knowledge of the path of the highway Anfinson did not notify Mn/DOT of this information. Anfinson's reaction to the knowledge that the highway would pass through the potential remains of Camp Coldwater, and the lack of attention given to Camp Coldwater in the BRW report he read in April 1999 was influenced by his own certainty that that the entire area between Area 5 and the juncture with Highway 62 was either a "borrow pit," an area in which earth and gravel were removed in the 20th century, or simply an area totally transformed by the beginnings of highway construction in the 1960s. While he has no particular documentary source for this information, including no record of a geological study, aside from the BRW "field verification," he states that this fact is evident from a look at the ground in the area. He supports his argument with a reference to his twenty-five years of experience as an archaeologist (Anfinson 2000).
Anfinson felt that it was entirely unnecessary for Mn/DOT to conduct any archaeological work in this area. He believes that there were flaws in the Berger and BRW reports. However, because of his own knowledge and because of the negative results from the BRW shovel testing in Area 5, Anfinson believes that no discussion of the Smith map or survey of the area using the map would have provided any more useful information. He also does not believe that use of the map by BRW in its survey work would have changed its results in any perceptible way. Anfinson's bottom line is the same as it was in 1997, before even the minimal survey was done: the highway will pass through the remains of the historic Camp Coldwater settlement, but it does not matter because the sites in the area lack integrity.
Anfinson's point of view is reflected in comments he wrote concerning the Berger and BRW reports, in a memo of May 10, 1999, to Dennis Gimmestad, government programs and compliance officer of the SHPO. In the report Anfinson summarized the content of the reports and the support for their conclusions. Much of the memo dealt with the important issues of the oak trees and the spring, agreeing with the major conclusions of these reports. In addition, Anfinson sought to answer the concerns of people like his colleague Robert Clouse, who believed that the shovel testing had not gone deep enough in Area 4. Without mentioning Clouse by name, he wrote that "there have been rumors that this testing did not go deep enough, but the text and shovel test forms document that many of the tests went to bedrock or encountered deep fill in the former wetland." In fact, as discussed above only three of the BRW shovel tests in Area 4 encountered bedrock. The BRW report itself only claims that "the shovel tests were excavated to "sterile soils, a soil break, bedrock, or impenetrable weathered bedrock fragments" (BRW 1999: 39, shovel test forms 68-97).
Anfinson also discussed the issue that had been ignored by both Berger and BRW, but that he had investigated in April 1999--the location of any remains of the historic Camp Coldwater settlement. Anfinson stated:
There is some possibility that small archaeological remnants of the homesteads associated with Camp Coldwater (ca. 1823-1861) may exist within the project area, but the area has been so severely disturbed that these remnants no doubt would lack sufficient integrity to be eligible.
Clearly informed by his examination of the Smith map, Anfinson's comments indicate his belief that remnants of the Camp Coldwater settlement might still exist in the highway corridor, but that if they did they would lacking integrity so that they would not be eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
Four basic criteria are used to determine if something is eligible for the National Register. Although application of National Register criteria is a complex matter, the Camp Coldwater settlement appears to fit at a minimum criteria A, that it is associated with "events that have made a significant contribution to broad patterns of our history," and D, that it has "yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history." This last criteria is especially important in relation to archaeological sites and districts. Such areas are valuable because of their potential for teaching about the past (Townsend, Sprinkle, and Knoerl 1993).
Having determined the eligibility of the Camp Coldwater settlement remains, as indicated in Anfinson's statement, sites would also have to have integrity. The term has a set of specific meanings in relation to the National Register. As described in National Register Bulletin 36, there are seven aspects of integrity: location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. While the criteria call for all of these, they are not all equally relevant to all sites, although "to retain historic integrity a property will always possess several, and usually most of the aspects" (Townsend, Sprinkle, and Knoerl 1993). Anfinson's interpretation of the term appears to be based on his supposition that given the disturbed nature of the soil, nothing would be found as deposited in the 1830s. However, because Anfinson did not explain or document the nature of the integrity of such remains, it is difficult to know whether he has applied the term correctly.
Areas of the historic Camp Coldwater settlement are made more complicated by their association with the other areas that include remains of the settlement such as the current Bureau of Mines site and the area close to the river under the management of the Minnesota Historical Society. Included in Anfinson's notes on the issue is a comment in his handwriting (Anfinson, n.d.)--perhaps representing his own thoughts or those of someone he talked to--that the MHS portion of the remains is the "best preserved pre-territorial white settlement arch[aeological] site in Mn--high research value." Both the MHS and Bureau of Mines properties have been made part of the Fort Snelling Historic District, a corner of which is actually crossed by the southern end of the highway. Potentially, if remains of other structures associated with the settlement were found in the corridor, the boundaries could be further expanded to include these remains as a "contributing element." Even in this case, however the question of integrity would arise, a question that would have to be dealt with not in the abstract but on a case-by-case basis or based on one man's personal, privately held observations. And this integrity would be judged by the standards of other important historic archaeological sites, which often include disturbed areas.
Anfinson's revelations about the Smith map and about the historical remains of the historic Camp Coldwater settlement raise a number of questions, about the reliability of shovel testing in locating historic structures, the adequacy of the BRW survey and the adequacy of Anfinson's own knowledge of the area. Ultimately, however, whether or not archaeologists have any further opportunity to study the remains of Camp Coldwater in the highway corridor before the highway is built may depend on the degree to which the whole process has complied with the federal regulations designed to protect historic properties.
7. How the Section 106 Process Works
Federal law states merely that federal agencies such as the Federal Highway Administration, or other agencies that receive federal money, such as Mn/DOT, are supposed to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties. How they go about it is governed by a set of regulations developed by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation which ultimately oversees the process. As noted earlier, under these regulations, federal agencies or agencies using federal money basically carry out the process of investigating the historic properties in the area to be developed. They hire the archaeologists and other specialists who do the investigation. The role of the State Historic Preservation Office is to represent the public in its state and to facilitate the Section 106 process through interaction with other agencies.
Under the most recent Section 106 regulations, the process of evaluating the effect of a project on a historic property is supposed to allow for public discussion of information gathered and decisions made. These regulations state that
the views of the public are essential to informed Federal decisionmaking in the section 106 process. The Agency Official [in this case Mn/DOT] shall seek and consider the views of the public in a manner that reflects the nature and complexity of the undertaking and its effects on historic properties. . . . The Agency Official must, except where appropriate to protect confidentiality concerns of affected parties, provide the public with information about an undertaking and its effects on public properties and seek public comment and input (ACHP 1999, sec. 800.2.c.6).
Full documentation of the decision-making process is required. Rules governing the quality of the documentation required state, "The Agency Official shall ensure that a determination, finding, or agreement under the procedures in this subpart are supported by sufficient documentation to enable any reviewing parties to understand its basis" (ACHP 1999, sec. 800.11). One of those parties to the process which determines if the requirement for sufficient documentation is met is the SHPO. The regulations define the SHPO's role in this determination as follows:
If the Council or the SHPO/THPO when the council is not involved, determines the applicable documentation standards are not met the Council or the SHPO/THPO, as appropriate, shall notify the Agency Official and specify the information needed to meet the standard.
Given these requirements, how well does the process in this case measure up? It is hard to fit the facts of this process into a normal Section 106 framework. In normal circumstances Smith's 1837 map would have been used to shape the process of shovel testing and if it had not been used a SHPO staff member would have suggested that it be done or at least would have commented on the fact that it had not happened. With the map, BRW or party would have attempted to locate the features on the highway corridor to determine their present location, and efforts beyond arbitrary shovel testing would have been made to attempt to locate any remnants of those structures. Given the geological reports this attempt would have involved digging to the level of the soil as it existed throughout the period in which the Camp Coldwater settlement exist. Assuming that Scott Anfinson is correct in his understanding of the area, a report would have documented the finding that a "borrow pit" was located in one portion of the Coldwater settlement. Intensive efforts in areas of undisturbed soil thought to be the site of any structures would have revealed whatever artifacts could be located. BRW would then have written a report documenting whatever was found, stating whether or not anything found fit National Register criteria and whether or not it would be adversely affected by the highway.
Whether or not the inclusion of the Smith map in this process would have resulted differently in terms of the archaeological resources uncovered, it would have differed markedly in terms of the documentation and public discussion of the effect of Highway 55 on the historic Camp Coldwater settlement. Discussion of the Smith map would have made clear that highway planners had considered the Camp Coldwater settlement and had come to the conclusion that there would be no effect on this resource. Various parties, including members of the public, would have seen the documentation on this point and could have evaluated the evidence and contested it if they wished.
Instead BRW and Berger both overlooked the significance of the Smith map and did not discuss the potential effect of the highway on the Camp Coldwater settlement. BRW designed a shovel-test survey which did not make use of the historical or archaeological methods well designed to pinpoint historic structures or other features of the settlement. Scott Anfinson in a private effort, became aware of the value of the map, did his own research and analysis, drew his own conclusions and made all the decisions, all without writing any report or revealing any of the information he used to the public to insure that the decisions could be understood and evaluated. This occurred at a time when the effect of the highway on Camp Coldwater was a subject of lawsuits and great public concern. In effect, Anfinson let Mn/DOT off easy, shifting the consideration of an important aspect of the corridor's history to himself and saving that agency from having to deal with it in public. Scott Anfinson's recent responses to questions about the Smith map make clear that he believes it would not be difficult to prove, if it were actually necessary, that the Highway 55 project will have no effect on any significant remains of the historic Camp Coldwater settlement. Given this point of view it is unclear why did not seek to insure that the information he used to make his decisions was documented and made public.
It should be remembered that the Section 106 regulations state that the documentation required of an agency involved in the process must show that the determination, finding, or agreement resulting from the process is "supported by sufficient information to enable any reviewing parties to understand its basis." In addition, if the SHPO determines that this documentation is not there he "shall notify the Agency Official and specify the information needed to meet the standard" (ACHP, May 7, 1999, sec. 800.11). Nowhere in the regulations is it provided that the SHPO can supply missing information necessary to support the finding of the agency and in addition keep this information private. Such actions would appear to be a clear violation of the demands for documentation and public participation in the process.
In response to these concerns, Anfinson (2000) states that it was simply not necessary for his purposes that BRW and Berger examine the effect of the highway on the Camp Coldwater settlement. He says he requests information from those doing surveys only when he does not know the answer himself and in this case he believed he knew the answer about the effect of the highway on Camp Coldwater. He had no need for their input or, apparently, for the input of the public. As to writing reports about his own thought processes and documenting his conclusions, Anfinson insists that his office deals with many controversial projects and he does not have the academic luxury of writing reports about the information he uses to make decisions. He maintains that he is available to anyone who wishes to know more about the process and that his files are always open to anyone who is interested. He does not normally give press conferences. However, Anfinson says that he did suggest that a press conference might be in order when the SHPO approved the findings of the Berger and BRW reports, but there was no enthusiasm in the office for this idea.
Though Anfinson did not write any report that recorded his views about the Smith map and its meaning for the possible presence of archaeological remains in the highway corridor, he commented more recently on the whole issue, in a memo of August 4, 1999, to Dennis Gimmestad. The memo responds to a letter from Bob Brown of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota criticizing both SHPO's handling of the Berger report and the Berger report itself for ignoring evidence presented by the community and relying on culturally biased information amassed by Mn/DOT. Anfinson's response makes clear his own interpretations of the conclusions of the Mn/DOT reports and the degree to which his own research influenced his point of view. Anfinson noted that
We concurred with the Berger assessment that no historic properties in the Camp Coldwater vicinity would be adversely affected by the TH 55 project, but it should be made clear that we did not rely on the Berger report alone to come to our conclusion. I have been doing archaeology, practicing cultural resource management, working with the National Register, and studying Dakota culture in Minnesota for over 25 years. I also did considerable extra research on this project and have amassed a voluminous set of topic folders. While I do not claim to be an expert in Dakota culture, my archaeological, CRM, and National Register credentials are substantial. Furthermore, I do have a PhD in Anthropology which I hope makes me especially sensitive to the viewpoints of other cultures and gives me some understanding as to dealing with the biases in ethnographic accounts.
This statement clearly summarizes Anfinson's ultimate response to the criticisms of the process of evaluating the effect of the highway on the historic Camp Coldwater settlement: that the public should simply trust that he did an adequate job, based on his knowledge and experience. The statement does include one mistake. The Berger report made no such finding about the effect of the highway on historic properties in the Camp Coldwater vicinity. It instead stated that "no evidence for archaeological remains have been found within the proposed road corridor" (Berger 1999, April: 59). There is an important difference because Anfinson's reference to the "Camp Coldwater vicinity" would lead one to believe that either Berger or BRW had looked for or studied the remains of the historic Camp Coldwater settlement in the highway corridor, when in fact this was not done.
As it stands now there is no written documentation to indicate that Mn/DOT, SHPO or anyone else involved in the recent Section 106 process considered the significance of the 1837 Smith map, considered the potential effect of Highway 55 on the Camp Coldwater settlement, or investigated the integrity of the remains in the area, except for occasional sentences in Anfinson's departmental memos and his folder of map copies with color markings on them. So, the only assurance that the citizens of Minnesota have that Camp Coldwater will not be affected by Highway 55 is Scott Anfinson's assurances based on his twenty-five years of experience as an archaeologist. Apart from whether one believes or trusts Anfinson, whether or not this is adequate must be judged based on the Section 106 regulations. Given the requirements for documentation and for public participation in the process, Anfinson's assurances are clearly inadequate.
Version: February 7, 2000