Faces of the Fort: Archaeologist preserves historical sites Print E-mail
Thursday, 30 January 2014
Story and photos by Melissa Buckley
GUIDON staff
This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Fort Leonard Wood’s territory is rich with history dating back to prehistoric man — and the oversight of preserving the more than 500 recorded archaeological sites on the installation rests on the shoulders of one person. 

Stephanie Nutt, Fort Leonard Wood’s Cultural Resources Program coordinator, has been working to conserve history on post since 2003.

“There are federal laws that require government agencies to be in compliance with historic preservation laws,” Nutt said. “I work here on the installation to provide them the expertise to make sure we stay in compliance with the law and protect our historic resources. This way troops can continue to train, and we can make sure historic sites are preserved or avoided.”

Nutt said she has always had a love for history. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Texas A&M University and a master’s in anthropology from East Carolina University. She has worked as an archaeologist since 1990. 

Stephanie Nutt holds artifacts from a World War II prisoner of war barracks during an archaeological dig in August 2011. Each one-story barrack was 100 feet by 20 feet.
“I think that it is really important for us to learn from those things and save some of the evidence from our past. Professionally speaking, we hold these public lands in trust for the rest of the citizens of our  nation, with that responsibility comes preserving and protecting our nation’s history. These are those tangible things that represent our past. I think it is something that the Department of Defense can be proud of. We have done some amazing things with our historical sites,” she said.

According to Nutt, the prehistory that has been documented on post goes back nearly 10,000 years. There are areas on post where people were living, areas where they were making stone tools and burial sites. Artifacts like stone tools, bone tools and pottery have been found in areas where people lived.

“I like the pottery discs. They are pieces of round pottery with a hole in the center. It is speculated that the Native Americans used them on fishing nets as weights. They are very cool,” Nutt said.

At Miller Cave, rock art left behind by the people living in that area can still be seen.

Other historic areas monitored on Fort Leonard Wood aren’t as primitive.

“Most of the historical sites are farmsteads or the remains of small rural communities that were here between roughly the 1840s to 1940 when Fort  Leonard Wood was constructed,” Nutt said. “As our Soldiers train they are very likely to come across building foundations, cellars and the remains of smokehouses and things like that.”

According to Nutt, there were about six to eight small communities here when Fort Leonard Wood was  constructed.

“Bloodland was the largest one. It was located down where Range Operations is now. There was Tribune, it was out where the airport is now. There was Wildwood, Hannah, Palace and several others. They would have had a church, a school, a post office, a general store and then surrounding farmsteads. This is why you can still see the cemeteries everywhere on post.” Nutt said.

“We excavated Palace School several years ago and what used to be the community of Bloodland in 2009. We found broken plates, glass bottles, cans and cast-iron stove parts.”

Most of the installation has already been surveyed, according to Nutt.

“We would look to see if the site is significant or if it has a potential to yield any more information about prehistory or history,” she said. “If the site can’t be avoided, we would try to minimize the impact of the construction. If it has to be completely destroyed, we would mitigate the loss of the site with fieldwork and excavating the site.”

Nutt said it’s her job to preserve anything that is more than 50-years-old, and there are several sites on post that are National Register eligible. 

“Gammon Field is a National Register eligible landscape. That has always been the parade field for this installation,” she said.

According to Nutt, one of the most interesting places on post is the Prisoner of War site. From 1943 to 1946, the area that is currently known as Training Area 206 was a World War II POW camp.

Later this year, Nutt is scheduled to do additional fieldwork and excavation at the site.

“The POW site is very important. There were several POW camps in Missouri, but we have pretty good preservation here, and we have learned a lot about the POW experience from the archeology that they have here,” Nutt said. 

“When the POWs were here, a lot of Fort Leonard Wood wasn’t completely built yet, so they put a lot of the POWs to work on the roads and infrastructure. There was a group of them that did masonry or stone work. They did everything from check dams in ditches on the side of the road to, (barriers across rivers), to stone culverts, building foundations, chimneys and patios for a couple of buildings.”

Much of the POW stonework can still be seen. One of the most notable areas is Veterans Park across from the hospital in the triangle area inside Missouri Avenue.

“There is a bridge and sidewalks. That little triangle is a National Register eligible landscape,” Nutt said.

“The POW stonework and the POW camp are both very unique. We still have had children of some of the German POWs that were on post come visit.”

Nutt’s job isn’t all about extracting information from the fort’s past, she passes the knowledge she has gained and passes it on to future generations.

“We do a lot of outreach programs. Many of those with the local schools. I’ll go and do presentations in the classrooms or sometimes we have field trips. We have taken them to Rolling Heath Schoolhouse. It pre-dates the installation, it was built in 1912. It is a one-room schoolhouse down on the Big Piney River. Teachers love to bring their students in there and talk to them about what it was like to go to school in the 1920s,” Nutt said.

“That outreach is important, especially for children. It’s good for them to take a minute and think about the history in their own community.”

For more information, or to invite Nutt to do a presentation, call 596.2814 or email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Last Updated ( Thursday, 13 February 2014 )