Waterford Mill (2019)

Welcome to the website for the 2019 iteration of ARCN 246: Archaeological Methods. Our work this year focused on the site of Waterford Mill, a grange mill located on the Cannon River in the Township of Waterford, Minnesota, immediately downstream of Northfield. Currently a ruin, the mill was constructed in 1873 and functioned as a flour mill, with various ups and downs, until 1907, when it was adapted to generate electricity.

Carleton’s engagement with the site began in 1917, when the College purchased the land on which the mill is located. Starting in the late 1920s, the College built a series of swinging footbridges to connect the main trails of the Cowling Arboretum to the mill site. Over the course of the 20th century the mill deteriorated into the ruin it is today, though it remains an important locus of memory for the Waterford and Carleton communities. Previous projects in ARCN 246 have noted the historical significance of this place, and in 2019 we decided to make Waterford Mill the focus of our archaeological fieldwork, documentary research, and engagement with local communities.

This website presents the fieldwork, the lab activities, and (most significantly) the final projects authored by the students of ARCN 246. These pages can be viewed individually or as part of the coherent whole. Weekly summaries of our field and lab activities provide a narrative of the course, with photos and descriptions of our weekly meetings.

A page on the milling industry of Minnesota examines the broader set of historical and regional contexts in which the Waterford Mill was involved. On the local level, one group of students looked to cemeteries and census data as archaeological and historical methods to investigate the booms and busts experienced by mill towns along the Cannon River Valley in the late 1800s. There is also a rich documentary record for the mill itself, which students systematically compiled into an interactive timeline and narrative history of the place.

Our fieldwork at the mill is presented in a variety of ways. In the first place, the spatial location of survey units, archaeological features, and excavation trenches were carefully mapped in an interactive archaeological site map using Geographic Information Systems. Pages on the fieldwork and artifact analysis summarize the survey and excavation results at Waterford Mill. Students also curated  an exhibition of select artifacts on the second floor of the Language and Dining Center at Carleton.

A final set of projects looked to the contemporary significance of Waterford Mill, as a place of community memory and as an archaeological site. One group of students produced a short documentary film, presenting a set of oral histories and recorded interviews with members of the Waterford community and ARCN 246 class. Another group focused on outreach and archaeological perspectives on Carleton’s campus, arranging a community archaeology day, intended to generate awareness of the archaeological fieldwork in the Arb, on the one hand, and the material histories and places of archaeological significance all around us in our day-to-day lives.

We hope that visitors enjoy navigating these pages, thinking about the local histories of Carleton, Waterford, and Northfield, and find some new opportunities to think like an archaeologist.