On June 4, 2001, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman presented an award to Ann Cramer, Wayne NF Archaeologists for her part in a project to research African American history and the Underground Railroad. Cramer and archaeologists from the National Forests in Indiana and Illinois were recognized as one of 15 selected from nationwide nominations. The three archaeologists were recognized "for innovative methods in creating employment opportunities for minority students to research the African American heritage of the Southern Tier forests and the Underground Railroad". The southern tier forests are the Hoosier NF, Indiana; Shawnee NF, Illinois; and Wane NF, Ohio. Team members include Ann Cramer, Wayne NF; Angie Krieger and Sarah Arthur, of the Hoosier NF; Marlene Rivero, Elizabeth Fuller, and team leader Mary McCorvie, Shawnee NF.

Little is known of the African Americans who settled in southern Ohio in the early years of the 19th century, according to Cramer. Even less is known of those seeking freedom who passed through the area. She added that the forest's work at the Payne's Crossing and Poke Patch settlements have uncovered some of the history of these courageous people. "There are currently only about 20 African American archaeologists", Cramer said. "We saw this research as an opportunity to get college students excited about their heritage and perhaps interested in a career in archaeology". Two African American students; Harold Garner and Jason Taylor researched the southeastern Ohio settlements and their role in the Underground Railroad during the summer of 2000. Their work helped increase knowledge about local African American history. Garner has returned this summer and will be working with two additional African American students to compile a data base on the sites found on National Forest land. (From USDA Forest Service News Release dated May 31, 2001)

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