tDAR Logo tDAR digital antiquity

Archaeology of the Port des Morts Lighthouse Ruins (47DR497) – A Mid-19th Century Lighthouse Site

Author(s): Brian Hoffman ; James Myster ; Steve Goranson ; Rikka Bakken ; Camille Warnacutt

Year: 2017

» Downloads & Basic Metadata


The Port des Morts ruins (47DR497) are from a Great Lakes lighthouse in operation for a brief nine years from 1849 to 1858. Located on Plum Island off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula, this hastily constructed and poorly positioned lighthouse was home to William Riggins his wife Phebe and their growing family for all but the lighthouse’s final year. Historic documents suggest they lived a difficult frontier existence, but otherwise little is known about their time on the island. Now part of the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge, in 2013 the US Fish & Wildlife Service and Hamline University began investigating the ruins prior to the island being opened to visitors. Three seasons of excavations uncovered intriguing architectural evidence of desperate attempts to stabilize walls and keep the lighthouse functioning. The recovery of a robust assemblage of over 15000 artifacts and faunal remains paints a picture of their daily lives from troubles with lanterns, to teaching writing skills, to feeding the family dog.

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Cite this Record

Archaeology of the Port des Morts Lighthouse Ruins (47DR497) – A Mid-19th Century Lighthouse Site. Brian Hoffman, James Myster, Steve Goranson, Rikka Bakken, Camille Warnacutt. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 428885)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16231

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America