||James Scotford "discovers" a clay cup while digging
postholes in Montcalm County.
I: "To Entrap the Guileless" (unbaked clay
||Dr. Alfred Emerson, Lake Forest University, examines
clay caskets and declares them to be bogus.
||Rev. N. P. Barlow, a Baptist minister from Greenville, MI, is
the first of many clergymen to support the authenticity of the relics. He interprets the objects as the work of Egyptian and
||Francis W. Kelsey, University of Michigan, and Morris Jastrow,
University of Pennsylvania, study the objects. Both publish
denunciations of the relics.
||Seventh Day Adventist minister Merritt E. Cornell publishes
his evaluation of the relics: A Brief Account of the
Wonderful Discovery of Pre-Historic Relics Consisting of Caskets,
Tablets, and Altars with Written Records of the Mound Builders.
||Digging in mounds on the south side of Crystal Lake, Montcalm
County, yields relics. Stephen Peet, editor of the American
Antiquarian and Oriental Journal, and Harlan I. Smith, a
prominent Michigan archaeologist, declare the objects a fraud.
||Miss R. R. McLaughlin, a traveling photographer,
prepares and sells a set of 50 stereographs of the Michigan Relics.
||Professor John Campbell, Presbyterian College, Montreal,
publishes an attempt to translate the "language" on
II: Persistence and Change (baked clay objects; slate also
used as a medium)
||W. H. Holmes, Smithsonian Institution, notes,
Speaking of fraudulent work I think the most flagrant
case is that developed in the western part of the lower
peninsula of Michigan. It is a most persistent and
unscrupulous attempt to mislead the country into believing
that traces of Oriental culture are found there.
||The American Archaeologist publishes an article by
James Scotford that describes the September 1897 excavation of a
mound near Wyman.
||An unnamed man who "presented a general air of
dilapidation" tries to sell relics from a traveling
exhibit to the University of Michigan and abandons them there
when the curator refuses to purchase them.
||Father James Savage, pastor of Detroit's Most Holy
Trinity parish, makes his first relics purchases. In October
Daniel Soper participates in his first "finding party"
and begins acting as spokesman for the relic hunters.
III: Durable Goods (Increasing numbers of copper artifacts
appear, etched with acid to appear aged; objects made of durable
materials replace clay.)
||The Detroit News publishes articles about
the relics by William A.
Benscoter. Although the articles label them as fakes, they revive
interest in the relics. Benscoter implicates James Scotford
with his two sons and son-in-law as fabricators of the objects.
Detroit is now the center of distribution for the relics.
||The American Anthropologist publishes "Some
Archaeological Forgeries from Michigan" by Francis Kelsey.
He follows this with a letter to the editor of The Nation
about the fraud.
||Rudolph Etzenhouser publishes Engravings of Prehistoric
Specimens from Michigan, U.S.A., an illustrated catalog of
44 images available to the public for $1.
||Father Savage invites prominent archaeologist Dr. Frederick
Starr to Detroit to examine the relics. After his return to the
University of Chicago Starr reports,
I have serious doubts regarding the authenticity of
these objects. If offered in the market for sale they would be
undoubtedly stamped as fraudulent.
||James Scotford's stepdaughter, Ella Riley, signs
an affidavit stating that her stepfather manufactured relics at
his home. It is not made public until after her mother's death.
||Previous a supporter of the relics, Professor J. O. Kinnaman
meets with Dr. Starr and declares,
I was most beautifully, if not scientifically, taken in.
. . . Yes, I was badly fooled.
Professor James Talmage publishes his report on the relics, The
"Michigan Relics": A Story of Forgery and Deception.
||Archaeologists return to original interests and have no
further involvement with the Michigan Relics, feeling their
analysis has prevailed.
IV: PhoenixInterest in Relics Dies and is Reborn
||Dr. Henri Hyvernat, Catholic University of Washington, DC, and
Father Laurentius Scheidl, O.S.B., St. Benedict, Louisiana, are
taken on a dig by Daniel Soper and return to their institutions
with slate tablets.
||Soper and Savage collections continue to inspire the desire to
find evidence supporting the "Lost Tribes of Israel."
||The Michigan Relics are discussed as background or comparative
material for new archaeological hoaxes as far away as Tucson,
||Father James Savage dies. Sometime before or after his death,
his collection of relics
is given to the Academy of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monroe,
MI, then goes to the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
||Reminiscences published in rural newspapers and local
archaeological journals occasionally revive interest in the relics.
||Two Mormon missionaries discover the Savage collection at the
University of Notre Dame. They bring it to the attention of
Milton R. Hunter, president of the New World Archaeological
Foundation and a General Authority in The Church of Jesus Christ
of the Latter Day Saints. The university gives him the entire
collection. Hunter also purchases Soper's collection of relics from
Soper's son Ellis.
||Retrospective articles in the Detroit Free Press and Michigan
History Magazine seemingly put an end to the relics hoax.
||Milton R. Hunter deeds the combined Soper-Savage collection to
the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints before his
death in 1975.
||Henriette Mertz, a relics collector and believer, publishes The
Mystic Symbol: Mark of the Michigan Mound Builders, which
reviews the history of the relics and offers
|1990s to early 21st
||The Ancient American, "The Voice of Alternative
Viewpoints," publishes articles and older manuscripts about
the relics as authentic.
||The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints
commissions Dr. Richard Stamps, archaeologist at Oakland
University, to review
the relics and their history and publishes the results in BYU
Studies. His sophisticated tests produce new evidence of the
relic's modern manufacture. Satisfied that the relics are fraudulent, the Church
looks to divest itself of the collection.
V: The Michigan Relics Come Home
||The Michigan Relics are given to the Michigan Historical
Center's Michigan Historical Museum.