Tag: Saints Rest



Happy October! We hope everyone is doing well and is staying safe! Things are definitely looking a little different here this fall, as MSU has made the decision to stay remote for the entire semester. As our director, Dr. Camp, mentioned in her blog post 

A Close Shave: Personal Grooming and Social Interaction during the Early History of MAC

A Close Shave: Personal Grooming and Social Interaction during the Early History of MAC

The Saints’ Rest excavations conducted by the Campus Archaeology Program have been well-documented and researched not only because this was the inaugural project for CAP, but also that it is one of the earliest buildings on campus, giving us a rare glimpse into how students 

Apparitions & Archaeology: 5th Annual Haunted Campus Tour

Apparitions & Archaeology: 5th Annual Haunted Campus Tour

Happy Halloween! Yesterday we hosted our 5th annual Apparitions & Archaeology: A Haunted Campus Tour. For this year’s tour, we decided to change several of the stops and the MSU Paranormal Society added stories from their investigations of each area! If you weren’t able to attend the tour last night, below you can read about some of the stories told at each stop:

Southeast corner of Beaumont Tower, 1928. Photo courtesy of MSU Archives and Historical Collections.

Beaumont Tower:
Prior to Beaumont Tower, College Hall, the first building on campus, was located at this spot. It was erected in 1856 and was the first structure in America that was dedicated to the instruction of scientific agriculture. 

The tower itself was constructed where the northeast corner of College Hall once stood. Some of the foundation walls for the original building still exist underneath the sidewalks. In the fall of 2009, the Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) tested areas north and south of Beaumont Tower and discovered the foundation of College Hall and cinder pathways that would have been used by the first MSU students!

There are many stories of hauntings around Beaumont tower. For example, specters of couples in old-fashioned dress holding hands have been seen walking slowly by on foggy mornings. On very dark nights, there have been multiple sightings of a man in tails and a stovepipe hat wandering around the tower.

Saints Rest:
Saints’ Rest was the first dormitory on campus, constructed in 1857. Unfortunately in the winter of 1876, while students were on break, the building burned down. In 2005, CAP investigated the debris left behind from the building, and determined that the fire likely started in the basement where construction tools were found burned in place. 

Students outside Saints’ Rest ca. 1857. Image from MSU Archives.

Although there were no reported deaths in the fire, there have been numerous sightings of ghostly students in 19th century clothing wandering through this space, looking for their lost dorm building. When the Paranormal Society investigated this area, the flashlight set on the ground near the Saints’ Rest sign flicked when asked if there were any spirits that wanted to communicate…

Mable Reconstructed
Mabel Post-Reconstruction

In 2015, a privy associated with the Saints’ Rest dormitory was discovered and excavated by CAP. Not only was this the bathroom for students, but it also served as a dumping ground for illicit items–such as smoking pipes and alcohol bottles–that students wished to hide forever. Also discovered in the historic privy was the head of a porcelain doll, who came to be known as Mabel. Why someone living in Saints’ Rest, an all-male dormitory, was seeking to get rid of a doll remains a mystery.

Mary Mayo Hall:
The area by this dormitory was once known as “Faculty Row,” as it was where the first faculty homes were built on campus. The only Faculty Row building still here today is Cowles House, which is the oldest standing structure on the MSU campus. 

In 2008, CAP excavated between Landon and Campbell Halls and uncovered early construction materials including wood plumbing and bricks made of clay sourced from the Red Cedar River. 

Mary Mayo Hall, a stop on the Apparitions and Archaeology Tour, is said to be haunted
Mary Mayo Hall – Image courtesy of MSU Archives.

Mary Mayo is supposed to be one of the most haunted buildings on campus. Several strange occurrences have been reported. A woman’s figure has been seen near the piano in the West Lounge and sometimes the piano plays all by itself.

MSU Museum:
Long ago, a very different building stood in this spot: Williams Hall, which was the second dormitory on campus. It was built in 1869, but like Saints’ Rest, it burned down in 1919 during winter break. 

Although limited archaeology has been done in the immediate vicinity of the museum, just to the west of Beaumont Tower, a small Archaic campsite, dating to between 3000 and 500 BC was discovered and excavated by CAP.

MSU Museum - Image courtesy of MSU Archives
MSU Museum – Image courtesy of MSU Archives

In the MSU Museum over the years, archaeology graduate students working in the basement labs reported hearing people walking around on the first and second floors, as well as strange noises coming from behind the exhibits.

Beal Gardens: 
Beal Botanical Garden is the longest continually maintained university garden in the nation. It was established by William Beal, MAC’s first Botany professor. In 1879, a Botanical Laboratory was built in the area near the Botanical Garden. 

Beal's first Botanical Laboratory - Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR
Beal’s first Botanical Laboratory – Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR

Campus Archaeology excavated between West Circle Drive and the Beal Garden gazebo in 2016 and found building remains believed to be the remnants of the Botanical Laboratory. Artifacts recovered included building materials, melted glass, and charcoal, most likely associated with the 1890 fire that destroyed the building. 

Students and faculty members have reported seeing a male apparition dressed in clothes from the 1920s – some say it is Professor Beal coming back to the garden to check on his seed experiment that he started in 1879.

CAP fellow, Kate Frederick standing by historic steam tunnel.
CAP fellow, Kate Frederick standing by historic steam tunnel.

Steam Tunnels:
Throughout north campus there are historic steam tunnels; they are a series of honeycombed tubes that are over 100 years old. In 1884, the first boiler and power plant was constructed on campus, behind Olds hall. The steam created by the boiler was used to heat the original Wells and Williams Halls, the Chemistry building, library, and museum. 

During the 2014 West Circle construction, Campus Archaeology was able to excavate one of these historic steam tunnels. We were lucky to be able to document this stretch of tunnel, as most of the historic tunnels have been deeply buried, are caved in, or have been removed by construction.

Precursor to the Porcelain Throne: The Chamber Pot Lid from Saints’ Rest

Precursor to the Porcelain Throne: The Chamber Pot Lid from Saints’ Rest

The Saints’ Rest Dormitory has a foundational history with Michigan State University, acting as the first dormitory for the fledgling college, and with the Campus Archaeology Program itself, being the first large-scale excavation and archaeological fieldschool on campus.  Built in 1856, Saints’ Rest was the 

The Life of a Bed: Not as Boring as One Might Think

The Life of a Bed: Not as Boring as One Might Think

Take a long look at the objects in the picture below. What do you think they are? I bet that your first guess was just a little bit off. They are not small hand-cuffs (as they were originally labeled in the lab!), buckles, or tiny 

Lice Lice Baby

Lice Lice Baby

For my personal research I study issues related to health and disease, so whenever I see something health related in the CAP collection I jump at the opportunity to do a blog post about it. That happened recently when I came across this seemingly simple comb recovered from excavations at Saints Rest in 2012, but I knew immediately that this was more than an average comb, this is a lice comb.

Comb recovered during 2012 Saints Rest excavations.
Comb recovered during 2012 Saints Rest excavations.

Now I’ll give you a moment to stop your skin from crawling when you think about lice. While lice aren’t something we tend to think about regularly today (unless you have young children), that wasn’t always the case.  Dealing with pesky varmints in the home and on your body was just a part of life.

Lice have been bothering humans for a long time. Humans are parasitized by two genera of lice: one shared with chimpanzees and the other shared with gorillas. By using DNA to figure out when the lice diverged between the species, scientists are working to piece together part of our evolutionary history (Reed et al. 2007). Researchers have also looked at clothing lice to reveal when they may have diverged from head lice, giving us a better idea of when clothing when first used by anatomically modern Homo sapiens (Toups et al. 2011).

Combs recovered from a Roman Fort. Image Source.
Combs recovered from a Roman Fort. Image Source.

Archaeologically lice have been found in Greenland, Iceland, on Dutch combs, Egyptian mummies, and in Israeli cave deposits (Bain 2004). The oldest direct archaeological evidence of head lice are from a human louse egg recovered in Brazil dating to over 10,000 years (Araujo et al 2000). Lice combs (and the lice that come with them!) have been recovered all over the world, in including from sites in Egypt (c. fifth-sixth century AD (Palma 1991)) and Israel (c. first century B.C. – eighth century A.D. (Zias 1988)). They are also routinely recovered at historic archaeological sites.

Today to get rid of lice you wash all of your linens in hot water, apply a medicated shampoo to the unlucky individual, and use a very fine-toothed comb to remove any bugs/eggs from the scalp. This comb style is the epitome of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” as the general form has remained unchanged for hundreds of years.

1895 catalog advertisement for India Rubber Company Comb. Image Source
1895 catalog advertisement for India Rubber Company Comb. Image Source

Our double sided fine tooth comb was produced by the India Rubber Company. “I R Co Goodyear 1851” can be seen stamped on one side of the comb. A similar version is found in the 1895 advertisement seen to the right. 1851 is not a production date, but rather is the patent year for the Goodyear hard rubber vulcanization process (see Amy’s blog post on the comb from the outhouse for more info!). Combs were some of the earliest products made of hard rubber that were produced on a large scale (Fox 1899).

Manufacturers mark on Saints Rest lice comb - lower image enhanced by author
Manufacturers mark on Saints Rest lice comb – lower image enhanced by author

This tiny comb provides a glimpse into the health and hygiene routines of MSU’s earliest students.  Campus records and diaries/correspondences in the archives discuss larger health related issues on campus (like diphtheria, measles, or typhoid fever outbreaks), the minutia of everyday hygiene habits tends to go unrecorded, but of course, this is where archaeology comes in.



Reed, David with Jessica Light, Julie Allen and Jeremy Kirchman
2007 Pair of lice lost or parasites regained: the evolutionary history of anthropoid primate lice. BCM Biology 5(7) – https://bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1741-7007-5-7

Melissa Toups with Andrew Kitchen, Jessica Light and David Reed
2011 Origin of Clothing Lice Indicates Early clothing Use by Anatomically Modern Humans in Africa. Molecular Biology and Evolution 28(1):29-32.


Palma, Ricardo
1991 Ancient Head Lice on a Wooden Comb from Antinoe, Egypt. The Journal of          Egyptian Archaeology 77:194.

Zias, Joseph
Head lice, Pediculus humanus capitis (Anoplura: Pediculidae) from hair combs excavated in Israel and dated from the first century B.C. to the eighth century. Journal of Medical Entomology 25(6):545-547.


Bain, Allison
2004 Irritating Intimates: The Archaeoentomology of Lice, Fleas, and Bedbugs.   Northeast Historical Archaeology 33:81-90.

Araujo, A. with F Ferreira, N Guidon, N Serra Freire, Karl Reinhard, and K Dittmar
2000 Ten Thousand Years of Head Lice Infection. Parasitology Today 16:269.


Mumcuoglu, Kosta
The louse comb: past and present https://watermark.silverchair.com/ae54-0164.pdf?token=AQECAHi208BE49Ooan9kkhW_Ercy7Dm3ZL_9Cf3qfKAc485ysgAAAbswggG3BgkqhkiG9w0BBwagggGoMIIBpAIBADCCAZ0GCSqGSIb3DQEHATAeBglghkgBZQMEAS4wEQQM_PXl7w2JzGNcRujgAgEQgIIBblHIP7oC0UV__MYXk1ngxxH_mfI1Om7WjPa2ymveG4sEef7kE8KxycNlII2jRePwEKddbmMNzviLhWvWL5a_AckqfWODGLegXbp5VJ9csuSjkMmeFSUJkQJPp6NO45y_UhAKhlv-Q7Q351kBnnhhYBj_YzPmlcGMmnwZ_HEy1Px_REs4M4992RVH-c6oaXUghJ-rOC5YghpM-NzaYto9E-BurLp516x5-1fzFQu-t_bl_AHKy-TNwAoDCgR-nhPIgplNJqvAkWJbGU23oEgpfgzNtZf9KXInccVoYYxmX3ZCq0KXhnLrTzA5vUrPSAwWmqO5HHxU5pSYpaKZMHl1FLpNHVksDRxntJFucPgz5NfoBJ1y_z-6JD901x2c7xarbsEoR9pRXULxLTZClop8wO1q3vQ8EJQtF__r0J2xU2j6usWZGuCID54C3i94JCbwaHUpJSaKCr5pdtA00DSNjW4x4IjoPX9cBX3yqCWBnA

Fox, Irvine (editor)
1899 The Spatula Volume 6 (https://books.google.com/books?id=FhhOAAAAMAAJ)


Another Person’s Trash (Midden) is an Archaeologists Treasure

Another Person’s Trash (Midden) is an Archaeologists Treasure

As you may know from my previous blog posts, I have been working on analyzing the faunal remains from Campus Archaeology excavations. My current research project focuses on the Saints’ Rest trash midden, excavated in several seasons by CAP near the location where Saints’ Rest 

All Over the Board: Student Discontent and Agency in the Historic MSU Boarding Halls

All Over the Board: Student Discontent and Agency in the Historic MSU Boarding Halls

I’ve written at length about the foods purchased by the early campus boarding hall (aka dining hall), as well as the dishes they likely served. However, what we do not know is what the students thought of this food. Did they like it? Or did 

In Sickness and Health: Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy Bottle

In Sickness and Health: Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy Bottle

Dr. Sage's medicine bottle from Saints Rest.
Dr. Sage’s medicine bottle from Saints Rest.

Today the non-prescription medicine we can buy at the drug store is heavily regulated yet readily available. But in the 19th century patent medicine was dominant. Patent medicines are proprietary (i.e. secret formula) mixtures that were unregulated, advertised widely and sold directly to the public. The popularity of the patent medicine industry is tied to issues with the 19th century medical industry. Qualified doctors were sparse and expensive. Medical knowledge was also undergoing profound changes during the 1800s. Prior to the 1880s most people subscribed to the miasmic theory of disease transmission. It held that diseases like cholera or the Black Death were caused by poisonous vapors or mists (called miasmas). According to the theory, illness was not passed between people, but would only impact people that were near a miasma. In the 1870s and 1880s the work of Joseph Lister and Robert Koch were instrumental in moving the germ theory of disease forward (1,2).

A family member relying on home remedies, the recipes for which were often found in cookbooks, generally provided routine health care.  However treating many of the terrible diseases that became widespread during the 19th century (typhoid, yellow fever, cholera) were beyond the skills of the average citizen. The fear of these diseases directly resulted in the incredible success of the patent medicine industry. Medicine became big business and entrepreneurs began selling all manner of completely unregulated medicine. During the 19th century any drug could be included in the formulas (like Heroin cough suppressant or cocaine toothache drops!), and any claim about the benefits and effectiveness of the medicine could be made.

Dr. Sage's Catarrh Remedy ad. Image Source.
Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy ad. Image Source.

Our patent medicine bottle was recovered from the Saints Rest dormitory during excavations in 2012. As a quick reminder, Saints Rest was the first dormitory on campus and it unfortunately burned to the ground in December of 1876. This small square bottle is embossed on four sides and reads: “Dr Sage’s”, “Catarrh Remedy”, “Dr. Pierce Propr”, “Buffalo”. So what’s the story with this bottle you might ask?

Catarrh is an excessive discharge or buildup of mucus in the nose or throat – i.e. a very very stuffy nose with drainage. Today we would think of this condition as a symptom of a cold or allergy. The bottles sold for 50 cents (3). 

Figure 12 from “The People’s Common Sense Medical Adviser”, illustrating use of Dr. Pierce's Nasal Douche. Image Source.
Figure 12 from “The People’s Common Sense Medical Adviser”, illustrating use of Dr. Pierce’s Nasal Douche. Image Source.

The directions for use were published in newspaper advertisements as well as Dr. Pierce’s immensely popular book “The People’s Common Sense Medical Adviser”, which was essentially an advertisement for his various patent medicines. This book sold millions of copies and included patient testimonials touting the near-miraculous cures provided by his medicine. The Catarrh Remedy could be administered in several ways. After the powder was mixed with water, it could be snorted. Or, it is recommended that the best way to ensure that the remedy reaches all impacted areas is via hydrostatic pressure by means of Dr. Pierce’s Nasal Douche. Yes, a nasal douche.  Think of it as the great grandfather of todays neti pot. The nose is first flushed out with a saline solution, and then the Catarrh remedy fluid (4). Dr. Pierce’s remedies dominated the patent medicine market. Pierce was a master of marketing, using newspapers, broadsides, and billboards to saturate the market (5).

Advertisement for Dr. Pierces Family Medicines. Dr. Sage's Catarrh Remedy can be seen. Image Source.
Advertisement for Dr. Pierces Family Medicines. Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy can be seen. Image Source.

By the beginning of the 20th century blind faith in patent medicine was beginning to waiver. A scathing exposé series, “The Great American Fraud“, was published in Colliers Magazine in 1905-1906.  The journalist, Samuel Hopkins Adams, revealed the dubious practices of the patent medicine industry, and highlighted the many shocking ingredients (6).  These articles created an immense public backlash and helped pave the way for the 1906 Pure Food & Drug Act.  The patent medicine industry, spearheaded by Dr. Pierce, fought viscously against the legislation, but eventually lost the battle.  The 1906 act dealt a substantial blow to patent medicine.  While it did not outlaw the use of alcohol or opiates in the products, the new labeling laws meant that consumers were no longer kept in the dark.  Sales of patent medicine declined rapidly (1).

This tiny bottle tells quite an interesting story that provides a glimpse into the everyday life of an early M.A.C. student.  Perhaps he suffered from allergies brought about by the abundant campus plants, or had contracted a severe head cold while out pilfering fruit from the orchard. Either way it’s a fun peek into the medicine cabinets of the past.


  1. http://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/pdf/Patent_Medicine.pdf
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germ_theory_of_disease
  3. The Current Publishing Company. July 23, 1887. No. 188: page 128.
  4.  Dr. Pierce “The People’s Common Sense Medical Adviser” 1895. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18467/18467-h/advise.html
  5. https://www.nyheritage.org/collections/nickell-collection-dr-rv-pierce-medical-artifacts
  6. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/44325/44325-h/44325-h.htm
Thirsty Throwback Thursday: A History of Ginger Beer

Thirsty Throwback Thursday: A History of Ginger Beer

Today is the day! Campus Archaeology is throwing it wayy back with an 1860’s-inspired three-course meal. For my blog post this week, I thought I’d get into the spirit of historic food and drink with a little history—and some of my own, highly professional market