Before Hutchinson Hall, before the Athletic fields and Danforth Dining Center and long before the Oak Hill Golf Course that occupied what is now the River Campus, researchers think the land was home to an Algonkin Village.
The state erected a marker commemorating the location in 1926 at the corner of Trustee Road and Wilson Blvd.
It was removed and subsequently lost, however, during the construction of new buildings on that corner in the 1970s.
Now, Shawn Casey, the University Property Manager in Facilities and Services, is leading an effort to place a new sign on the site.
“The driving force behind this project was at first my own curiosity of the history of the River Campus,” Casey said. He then set out to research the site.
“I was able to put together the original layout of the sign and located the foundry that had the original castings,” he said.
Senior administration gave permission for the new sign to be erected on the old site.
The original sign read: “Indian Town: In primitive wilderness here was a large Algonkin village whose bark cabins and tilled fields covered nine acres.”
The site of the river campus was once the home to corn-eating Algonkins after 1,000 A.D. They ate ground corn as the staple of their diet, George D. Seldon says in an essay published in the April-May 1938 edition of the Rochester Alumni Review.
The essay writes, “The town probably consisted of a number of crude bark cabins scattered through the forest, around each of the huts a corn patch.”
The essay speculates about the “constant threat” of violence and raids the Algonkins faced.
The location was also convenient for its proximity to the Genesee River. The Indians apparently fished with spears because the rapids made fishing difficult.
In recreating the sign, Casey found old documents alluding to and mentioning the sign and contacted the Archaeological department at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.
“They were able to provide me the information on the history of the site and copies of the original correspondences,” he said.
Casey hopes the school community takes notice. “To understand the history of any given place in one’s life, we look back upon the choices and gained knowledge of the experience and move forward to blaze a path into the future. This we achieve in truth and that is education Meliora,” he said.
The project cost the university $1,000. Casey, though, worked for free. “My time was gratis to the University community.”
Casey says that we are often too busy to spend the time to understand the places on which we stand.
“To pause and reflect on the roots of community along this riverbank speaks a multitude of truth to each of us if we take the time to really understand,” Casey said.