Wednesday, April 6, 2016

History Loves Company

My name is Meg Truesdell. Like the other contributors to this blog, I am a student at Western Michigan University. I am a senior with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Global Studies. This semester my classmates and I are authoring informational panels that illustrate the many aspects of the St. Joseph River and the surrounding community of Niles, MI. The panels will be presented to the public in August of 2016. It has become clear throughout the semester that the Niles area is rich with history especially surrounding Fort St. Joseph.

Absorbing history about the area has been a delightful part of the required research that myself and my group mates, Antonio Wheeler and Dion Wright, have been conducting. Our group, however, is responsible for educating the public about the contemporary uses of the River. We have been focusing on three areas specifically: Water quality, energy and dam usage on the river, and recreational uses of the river.

Commemorative Boulder at Fort St. Joseph 
On Monday evening I took a drive to Niles with the intention of doing some exploring. Explore, I did. I had the opportunity to read the Michigan Historic Site plaque about Fort St. Joseph, see Father Allouez’s memorial, and also to get a closer look at the Niles dam and the hydroelectric power plant attached to it. Though I was only immersed in the community of Niles for a short evening, I left with a very clear sense of how Niles’ rich history has shaped many contemporary aspects of the community.

Though it was a chilly evening, I saw people walking along the river and taking in the sights. The dam was raging with water being condensed and directed to the plant which powers the French Paper Company, just as it has since 1871, providing jobs and industry in the community from historical times to now.

The contemporary uses of the St. Joseph River are varied and many. Each use is undeniably and directly linked to the vivid history of the area. I don’t know about you, but that sure makes me want to learn more!

Tune in in August to do just that.

- Meg Truesdell

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