Fort Lernoult

Site Name:

Fort Lernoult (aka Fort Shelby Military Cemetery, Detroit Bank and Trust Site)

WSUMA Accession Nos:

290, 282

Site No.:


Excavated By:

Arnold Pilling, Neil H. Johnson (Charles Martinez surveyed in 1980)

Excavation Year(s):


Site Description:

Fort Lernoult served as a military post for the British from its construction in 1778 until the Americans took possession in 1796.

The area that Fort Lernoult occupied is bounded on the north by Michigan Avenue , on the East by Griswold Street , on the South by W. Congress Street , and on the West by Cass Avenue . The center of the fort is at the modern intersection of W. Fort and Shelby Street . In the fall of 1961, the construction of the new Detroit Bank and Trust building began here. In excavating the north wall for the basement of the building, a wooden post was discovered. In May of 1962, Dr. Pilling visited the site, and after a small amount of preliminary excavation determined that the wooden post was connected to others further below the surface and would require extensive excavation to remove. He also found numerous tree nails and other wooden artifacts in the area. The contractor subsequently, funded excavation of the site prior to its destruction. In May of 1962 Pilling commenced an excavation adjacent to the post and beam in the north wall of the basement of the building. This excavation consisted of three units, M-1, M-2, and N-1.


  • There are over 8000 artifacts; the majority are fragments of wooden palisade, wooden pickets, and brick fragments.
  • Ceramics:

    • Canton ware
    • majolica sherds
    • earthenware
    • stoneware
  • Construction Materials:

    • sandstone
    • slate
    • shale
    • quartz
    • cement
    • flint
    • iron
    • brick fragments
  • Glass :

    • sherds
  • Faunal Remains:

    • (including mammal and fish) some of which are charred
  • Nails

  • Wood:

    • palisade fragments

Cat. Nos.:

1W244903-1W244999; 1W245031-250814; 1W250843-1W250996 ; 1W251101-1W253671, 10W1104-1105 (photos from Ft. Lernoult onsite excavation); 10W98-100 (photos from Ft.Wayne)


  • Pilling, Arnold R. and Dean L. Anderson (1999) “Euro-American Archaeology in Michigan : The British Period” . In Retrieving Michigan's Buried Past . John R. Halsey (ed.), pp. 312-316. Cranbrook Institute of Science Bulletin 64.
  • Johnson, Neil (1963) Field Notes for Fort Lernoult Site . Unpublished manuscript on file at WSU Museum of Anthropology. [#11W100]
  • Krepps, K. (1981) “ Historic Cemetery Survey of Wayne Co ., MI” . Unpublished manuscript on file at WSU Museum of Anthropology. [WSUMA #??]
  • Mason, Phillip P. (1964) “ Detroit , Fort Lernoult , and the American Revolution”. Wayne State University Press Detroit , MI . [WSUMA #11W348]
  • Masters, Mark (May 1966) “Fort Lernoult.” Unpublished manuscript on file at WSU Museum of Anthropology. [#11W130]
  • Pilling, Arnold (1965) “ Fort Lernoult Excavations”. Unpublished manuscript on file at WSU Museum of Anthropology. [#11W123]


By June 1962 excavation at Fort Lernoult had to be stopped as construction in the area made work there unsafe. It was felt that due to the distinctiveness of the clay in the different strata it would be reasonable to remove loads of dirt from the north moat to an off site location to be screened later and artifacts could be placed in sequence according to the type of clay adhering to them. 9 loads of dirt were removed to Fort Wayne and subsequently sifted. Many of the artifacts from this collection are thus without adequate provenience.
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