Archaeology a passion from an early age for Champaign County man

When dreams actually come true, the story must be told to give us all hope for our own dreams.

Greg Shipley grew up on a farm on State Route 68 near Urbana, and he had a dream.

“I’ve wanted to be an archaeologist since I was 6 years old,” said Shipley, who will never forget the day he found a flint arrowhead on his grandfather’s farm.

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His mother, Eleanor Shipley, was his Ohio History teacher and encouraged his interests with trips to see archaeological digs in Williamsburg and to historical sites.

“I would go into Long’s bookstore at Ohio State and buy archaeology books,” said Shipley. His favorite discovery at Long’s was a detailed manual of archaeology field methods and he still has it.

He would collect surface finds on the farm, even the flint chips, and record and categorize them.

A few years later his father, the late William Richard Shipley, was not too impressed by Greg’s first attempt at archaeological excavation using the manure scoop on the tractor.

Being a full-time archaeologist had to wait.

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After graduating from West Liberty-Salem High School, instead of being an archaeologist, he attended Ohio State University, studying agricultural science. He just couldn’t see how one might make a living at archaeology.

A few years later he became an engineering coordinator for Vehicle Quality and New Model Development at Honda of America. He liked solving problems and making things better, but the job was intense and there was lots of stress.

According to Shipley, hunting for prehistoric artifacts after work became his way of releasing stress.

With a metal detector in hand, he and a friend began to explore McKee’s Town area just south of Bellefontaine.

Using Allen Eckert’s “The Frontiersman” as a guide, they located the cabin and village built by Alexander McKee, a British Indian Trader before and during the Revolutionary War.

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He was able to gather military artifacts from the site where the British forces camped before their attacks on settlements in Kentucky. He was amazed by what they were finding during searches every evening after work. Until the site was bulldozed and a Walmart with a huge parking lot was built upon most of the British camp site. It made him sick.

After more than 25 years, he retired from Honda and set out to live his dream of being a full-time archaeologist. There would be no more racing ahead of the bulldozer after work.

He studied pre-contact (before 1492) Mississippian cultures in Missouri and Arkansas. Then he returned to Ohio to work on various Shawnee village sites.

He and another friend purchased a GSSI Surface scanner, ground penetrating radar, which was a game-changer.

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In 2014, Shipley and friends found the trading place of a Frenchman who became a British subject, Peter Loramie. Between 1769 and 1782, Loramie’s store was a gathering place for Natives and British who attacked settlers in Kentucky. George Rogers Clark burnt the trading post down in 1782, two years after the Battle of Peckuwe. Today, this site is just north of the town of Ft. Loramie in Shelby County.

They also knew that somewhere nearby there was a fortification, built by General Wayne’s Army in 1795 just after the Treaty of Greenville was signed. Historians could not agree on if it was a blockhouse or a stockade.

This summer they found the north wall of the stockade. It appeared first as a stripe of darker soil, but as they explored that darker soil the shapes of the log stockade began to appear. It was more than 48 feet long.

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The site was in the backyard of Ted and Linda Fleckenstein, and frequently they sat in lawn chairs and enjoyed the show.

The fort had been in use until 1798, when it was abandoned. Settlers then pulled the logs from the stockade to build cabins. The log-shaped voids a couple of feet into the ground were filled by leaves and other forest debris. And the fort disappeared.

Shipley and the group were able to excavate the undisturbed soil and what remained was a row or dark cylindrical shapes that marked where the logs of the stockade once stood.

Located on the Greenville Treaty line, this wall is a major archaeological find that answers questions about Wayne’s plans to maintain peace in the area. It is also one of the only impressions of a stockade wall to have survived from that time period.

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Since there are three other walls to find, the dig is far from over, but Shipley has more plans for the future.

From the beginning of his explorations decades ago he has been taking careful notes, measurements and photographs of the archaeological digs. Over the years, he has presented his findings to hundreds of archaeological enthusiasts.

He plans to work most of those photos and information into a series of books documenting his findings and how they fit into historical records.

“I want to gather my information and share it for after I’m gone,” said Shipley. He wants people to know what he found out about that little known time in Ohio History.

Even though it was 60 years between finding that arrowhead to uncovering the stockade walls of Ft. Loramie, Shipley continues to live the dream.

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