Tree-ring analysis of James Strang's Kingdom, Beaver Island, Michigan

Authors: Matthew Bekker*, Brigham Young University, James Speer, Indiana State University
Topics: Biogeography, Religion and Belief Systems , Paleoenvironmental Change
Keywords: tree rings, dendrochronology, biogeography, religion
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 6:15 PM / 7:30 PM
Room: Virtual 30
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Beaver Island, Michigan was occupied by a religious sect led by James Strang from 1848-1856. Strang was crowned king of the group, but assassinated by disgruntled followers in 1856, whereupon local fishermen drove the “Strangites” off the island and reportedly took over or destroyed their buildings. Some of the structures from the Strangite period have known construction dates, while details for others are unknown. We provide tree-ring dates for the Mormon Print shop (MPS), Protar House (PH), and Neils-Schneider Home (NSH). MPS was built during the Strangite period and has a known construction date of 1850. PH is believed to have been built in 1858 and NSH in the 1890s, both after expulsion of the Strangites, but they may have used repurposed logs from Strangite structures. We extracted cores from all accessible timbers to evaluate the construction dates suggested by historical records and determine whether PH and NSH included repurposed timbers. MPS was primarily red pine (Pinus resinosa), PH white pine (P. strobus), and NSH balsam fir (Abies balsamea). We compared floating chronologies for each species with established regional chronologies to determine cutting dates. Cutting dates for MPS ranged from 1848–1850, consistent with historical records indicating construction in 1850. PH showed a strong cluster in 1861, three years later than assumed, but it also included a few dates that were contemporaneous with the Strangite period. NSH showed a cluster of dates in the early 1880s, earlier than the assumed 1890 construction date, but with no Strangite timbers.

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