BY ALYSSA MEIER
He dug slowly, carefully, deeper into the earth. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was looking for, but he pushed the dirt away in hopes that he would find it. Suddenly, he wasn’t hitting dirt, but something more solid. Something put there by people, and then left buried for centuries.
"This is it."
John Yunker was three feet deep in the earth when he uncovered the long, round logs covered in a thin layer of dirt and grass on his grandfather’s farm. And he saw meaning in those boards. For Yunker, the timbers were proof that he was standing on the original site of Fort Mandan.
The Lewis and Clark expedition famously made its way through North Dakota over two decades ago, constructing a fort near Washburn during the winter of 1804-05. But even with journal entries to guide them, historians have been left stumped as to the exact location of the famous Fort Mandan.
But after the flood of 2011 bathed the farm 12 miles north of Washburn, Yunker says it uncovered evidence of the historic site, including the buried logs.
"When they tore down the buildings, some boards that made up the floor and roof would have been left behind," Yunker said, explaining how the wood had been left behind after the expedition moved on from the area.