Visit the Geisel Monument archaeological excavation

Open July 10 and July 24—10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Geisel Monument Heritage Site is a small wayside on the southern Oregon coast and a memorial to a settler family swept up in the Rogue River Wars of the mid-1800s.

Next month, Southern Oregon University (SOU) and the SOU Laboratory of Anthropology (SOULA) will hold an archaeological field school at the site as part of their research into the era. The public can tour the area and excavation work, see some of the latest finds from the project and learn more about local history. The project is funded in part by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

The scene in 1856


Students conduct preliminary work at Geisel Monument State Heritage Site in preparation for the summer field school.

Ongoing tension in the interior Rogue River Valley mounted as the influx of settlers, miners and soldiers clashed with the traditional life of Native American people living in the area. On February 22, 1856, the coastal Tututni Native American people struck settlements from Port Orford south toward the California border. Many died that night, including John Geisel and his three sons who were killed in their home north of present day Gold Beach. John’s wife and their two daughters were taken captive.

The surviving settlers sought safety at Miner’s Fort at the mouth of Rogue River and worked for the release of the Geisels. A Native American woman named Betsey and her husband, Charles Brown, served as intermediaries and translators in the negotiations. The family was released after several weeks.

More violence struck at the Geisel homestead later that year, after war was over. While being escorted by government agents to the newly established Coast Indian Reservation, 19 Native American people were killed near the homestead.

John Geisel and his sons are buried at the heritage site, as well as his wife, who died in 1899.

SOULA, working with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), the Bureau of Land Management, and western Oregon’s Native American Tribes have investigated a number of Rogue River War sites in recent years; the 1852 wreck of the schooner Captain Lincoln in Coos Bay, the remains of the U.S. Army’s Fort Lane near Central Point, and the site of the Battle of Hungry Hill that took place in late October, 1855.

Geisel Cemetery

The Geisel Family Cemetery

Learn More

A free public lecture series will be held in July each Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Curry County Fairgrounds.

July 6: Mark Tveskov, Southern Oregon University. “The Archaeology of the Rogue River War.”

July 13: Ben Truwe, Southern Oregon Historical Society. “Digging in the Archives: The documentary record of Oregon’s Early Years.”            

July 20: Robert Kentta, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. Siletz Tribal History.

July 27: Patricia Whereat Phillips. Linguist and researcher for the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians. “Ethnobotany of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians.”

Posted on June 29, 2016, in state parks and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Would be helpful if there were a little more info on where exactly this Monument is on 101, like MP or miles (dir) from x town. “southern Oregon Coast” is not very helpful.

  2. Wow..I am excited about these lectures…I have been on another dig with Mark Revamping in Bandon.

  3. Appreciate the history lesson!

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