Distinguished Professor of Anthropology James Skibo has been working on Grand Island, Michigan, as director of the Grand Island Archaeological Project since 2001. Skibo has been taking Illinois State students to Grand Island since the same year. To date, 100 students have worked on the island, helping identify over 200 archaeological sites.

This research has been possible thanks in part to the Mather-Klauer Lodge Fund. The lodge was originally built by William Mather, president of the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Ore Co., in the late 1800s. Mather owned Grand Island at the time and used the building as a hunting camp. As Mather aged, his use of the building declined, so he sold it to fellow outdoorsman William Klauer, owner of the Klauer Manufacturing Co.

The lodge is now owned by Hiawatha National Forest. The Mather-Klauer Lodge has been used by Skibo and students as a research facility and also as a place to stay for the past five years. The lodge was a critical part of the work being done on Grand Island, but in desperate need of repairs. Skibo said the roof of the over 100-year-old building was a primary concern. He approached the Klauer family for financial assistance in help with renovating and maintaining the building.

“Without their help, the lodge would have eventually crumbled down to nothing,” Skibo said. “Without a good roof and without a good structure, it wouldn’t have taken long for the building to fall into disrepair.”

Brothers Bill, Jim, and Bob Klauer had no prior connection to Illinois State University. However, the family had fond memories of coming to the lodge and recognized the potential the building had to be used for education. Between the Klauer Foundation and gifts from the Klauer brothers, the Klauer family has committed more than $75,000 of support. Further goals for the facility are for it to be used as a museum space and to be utilized by researchers from other universities.

“They were really thrilled with the work we have been doing,” Skibo said. “They are involved in a lot of philanthropic activities and support education at other universities. It is really a unique gift that supports Illinois State University, my research, and this important historic structure.”

Illinois State students have greatly benefited from the continued upkeep of the Mather-Klauer Lodge. Autumn Painter, M.S. ’15, first got into archaeology by attending the Youth Archaeology Workshop, which is jointly organized by the Hiawatha National Forest and Illinois State University. When it came time to pursue her master’s degree, she knew it was time to come full circle.

“I was determined to continue my education in archaeology and I attended Illinois State for my master’s degree with Dr. Skibo, the very person who introduced me to archaeology over 10 years before,” she said. “I was able to attend the field season on Grand Island as a graduate student and assist in teaching the Youth Archaeology Workshop students.”

Kelsey Hanson, M.S. ’16, said the program has uniquely prepared her to pursue her Ph.D. by giving her a truly immersive experience.

“You begin to think differently about how people in the past experienced the island,” she said. “And you begin to ask different questions when everyone involved can congregate around a fire at the end of the day to share their thoughts and ideas.”

Illinois State’s comprehensive campaign, Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State, supports scholarships, leadership opportunities, and innovation at Illinois State. To learn how you can join the Klauers in helping Redbirds soar, visit RedbirdsRising.IllinoisState.edu.

For more information about Grand Island and Skibo’s research visit the Grand Island Archaeological Program website.