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By REBEKAH SCOTT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Article published Saturday, September 7, 2002
A volunteer who recently criticized management of archaeological digging at
Fort Meigs State Memorial Park was ejected seconds after showing up for a
meeting Thursday and barred from the property by site manager Larry Nelson.
Pat Garver, a three-year member of the Old Northwest Military History
Association, a re-enactors group that assists with living-history
presentations at the Perrysburg fort site, said yesterday that she planned to
attend a Thursday night meeting of the group at the new, partially completed
visitors center and museum. She arrived about the same time as Mr. Nelson, who
was there to unlock the door.
"I never got through the door," Ms. Garver said. "Larry just grabbed me by the
arm and turned me around, shouting at me the whole time that I was
trespassing. ĎI want you off the site, youíre out of here,í" she recalled him
"I told him, ĎIíve paid my dues. Iím a member,í" she said. "But he was right
in my face, shouting about me writing to his boss. He sent me right out the
door and told me he was locking it behind me.
"The room was full of people, but it was like he didnít know anyone else was
watching," Ms. Garver added. "It was embarrassing. It was scary. ... And none
of the people there seemed to care. They wonít stand up to him, for fear of
losing their privileges."
Ms. Garver said she was shaken up by the incident, and filed a report with
Perrysburg Police Lt. Richard Gilts confirmed that a complaint was made with
police. He described the complaint as "an altercation alleged to be both
verbal and grabbing, with no real injury done." Police have not investigated
the complaint and no criminal charge was filed, he said.
Mr. Nelson was reportedly out of town yesterday attending a wedding and could
not be reached for comment.
James Strider, Ohio Historical Society division chief, said the society was
unaware of any incident.
"We expect our staff to treat all visitors to our properties with respect. We
prohibit any kind of violence by any staff member," he said. "Weíre
investigating what occurred at Fort Meigs, but we havenít had a chance to
interview the staff who were there, including Mr. Nelson. We canít comment
further on this until we learn more."
Old Northwest members, all volunteers, dress in pioneer clothing to help fort
visitors explore aspects of early 19th-century life. Mr. Nelson is not a
member, but is in charge of the Fort Meigs historical site.
Mr. Nelsonís management of the site came under criticism in recent months when
Native American and pioneer gravesites were uncovered during construction work
for the fortís visitors center. The remains were quietly whisked away to an
Ohio Historical Society lab in Columbus for study, a move that upset local
Native Americans and descendants of the pioneer family.
About 25 members of the Native American Alliance of Ohio criticized security
at Fort Meigs and what they called the "desecration" of the remains during a
meeting with Mr. Nelson and society officials in July at Sanger Branch
Library. They claimed the handling of the remains violated the federal Native
American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
Mr. Nelson and historical society officials said at the meeting that the
removal of the remains was "in full compliance with all federal provisions."
A historian who specializes in the American frontier, Mr. Nelson plans to host
a four-part educational series on Ohioís native peoples called "First
Ohioans." It was unclear yesterday whether the educational series focusing on
Ohioís Indians through nearly 13,000 years of history is an attempt to make
amends for any hard feelings among local Native Americans.
The series at the Fort Meigs visitors center begins at 11 a.m. Wednesday - the
one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks - and continues with programs
there on Sept. 18 and 25. The series will conclude with an Oct. 2 bus trip to
Columbus to see the societyís award-winning exhibit, "The First Ohioans."
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