FAYETTE – When John Halsey started digging at the Superintendent’s House at Fayette Historic State Park, he found flint chips, animal bones and a few pieces of pottery. It showed that Native Americans used Shell Harbor as a fishing spot long before residents of Fayette smelted iron ore.
The retired state archaeologist says those types of excavations at Fayette were important to make sure that the pre-history or the historic archaeology of Fayette wasn’t ruined by someone that didn’t know what they were doing.
Halsey says the Fayette townsite is important to preserve.
“The iron industry was such an important part of America growing up and this was one that still – for whatever reason – a lot of it was still standing. From early on people decided this was something that we should keep and we should interpret and encourage the public to come here,” Halsey said.
At Fayette’s Heritage Day celebration Saturday, Aug. 13, Halsey spoke about his findings at park and what it means to the history of the townsite. He encouraged the group to keep searching for clues to Fayette’s past.
“My message is, don’t stop looking. There is so much to Fayette that is yet to be explored,” Halsey said.
Fayette Historic State Park features one of the nation’s premier examples of a 19th-century industrial community and company town. In operation from 1867 to 1891, its furnaces produced more than 229,000 tons of pig iron, becoming the second-largest producer of charcoal iron in Michigan.
Today, 20 buildings are preserved, including the furnace complex, hotel, town hall, company office and several residences. Eleven buildings contain exhibits that are open to the public.