TOMAH | Russ Kasten knew his North Superior Avenue property was connected with Tomah’s history, but he wasn’t quite sure how much until he began to unearth Native American artifacts in a field in back of his house.
“My ancestors came over about when the town was being settled,” Kasten said.
Since 1865, members of Kasten’s family have lived on a farm right in the heart of Tomah.
“This property has been in the family for quite a few years, several generations,” Kasten said.
In 1990, Kasten plowed his field, unearthing a bright white spearhead.
“My son (Jared Kasten) actually found it,” Kasten said.
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s senior research archaeologist, Vikki Twinde-Javner, said the spearhead was between 9,000 and 10,000 years old.
Twinde-Javner identified the age after examining a photo last week.
“From what I can tell, it’s made of calcified quartz,” Twinde-Javner said.
Initially, the Kasten family suspected the pointed piece of quartz was an arrowhead; however, its time period pre-dates the bow and arrow.
“It would have been a spearhead because of its age,” Twinde-Javner said.
Twinde-Javner said the spearhead belonged to a Paleo-Indian.
“The Paleo-Indians were the first Native Americans of this area,” Twinde-Javner said.
The society consisted of mostly hunter-gatherers.
“We don’t know who the modern-day descendants of the Paleo-Indians are,” Twinde-Javner said.
Over the years, Kasten has found many other artifacts from a variety of time periods on his property.
“Since that time, I’ve been plowing that up each year and finding all kinds of arrowheads,” Kasten said.
Kasten believes his property includes the site of the council lodge of peace of Chief Tomah, the city’s namesake.
“It’s taken me 20 years to unravel this,” Kasten said.
According to a 1924 Tomah Journal article, Chief Tomah built a council lodge in the Tomah area to stand against Tecumseh and his war against the white settlers in 1816.
In some records, the site of the lodge is described as being where the Lemonweir River meets a smaller creek.
Kasten said his research shows that Deer Creek on his property used to meet the Lemonweir.
“My mother showed me the deed to our property. ... They changed the course of the river,” Kasten said.
Kasten is in the initial stages of working with several historical groups to verify his research.
“Something wonderful happened here,” Kasten said.
Kasten said he was amazed to discover people have been drawn to this area for 10,000 years and even more amazed to learn Chief Tomah once stood upon his property 200 years ago.
“I’ve been having a lot of fun with this project,” Kasten said.