Cultural Resource Management Service Across The Rocky Mountain West

Geophysical Investigations: An Examination Of Lou Lou’s Gravesite, Lolo Creek, Montana

Western Cultural was asked by the Travelers Rest Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation to assist them with the efforts to locate the grave of the French Canadian fur trapper known as Lou Lou. Lou Lou traveled across much of Western Montana during the 1850s and spent a considerable amount of time in what would be come the Lolo Creek drainage. The creek and town of Lolo are named for Lou Lou, his name having been spelled as “Lo Lo” by the artist Gustav Sohon in 1859. The gravesite had been marked and the marker had been seen as recently as the 1930’s; time and erosion have long since removed any trace of the original marker.

The investigation utilized magnetometer and electromagnetic conductivity testing in an attempt to locate anomalies that could be related to the gravesite. Recognizing that human behavior can alter the attributes of the near-surface soils is the central premise of many geophysical investigations. Using remote sensing for detecting gravesites has the ability of collect data in a non-destructive, non-intrusive manner. The two most distinctive features of a gravesite include the disturbed soils and any possible associated metal objects. The disturbed soils may be located by electromagnetic conductivity testing and the possible associated metal objects may be located by magnetometer investigations. Historical sources noted that Lou Lou had been buried along the Lolo Trail and that he had been buried with his rifle. The gravesite had been seen by Mr. Bud Moore, a retired Forest Service employee, who spent considerable time working in the Lolo Creek drainage.

The geophysical investigation occurred in November, 2002 and in May, 2003. The data for both investigations was collected utilizing a standardized methodology. The data from the magnetometer was processed with Geometric’s software MagMapper while the electromagnetic conductivity data was processed with Surfer. The data sets were shared with the University of Montana Geology Departments graduate seminar in geophysics. The data revealed the presence of recent logging activity, linear features possible representing the trail tread from the Lolo Trail and an anomaly in the position identified by Mr. Moore. A large magnetic high detected by the magnetometer and an anomaly indicated marked contrast in soil conductivity was detected by the electromagnetic conductivity in the same located identified by Mr. Moore. The results of the remote sensing investigation confirmed the historical information about the location of Lou Lou’s grave. Western Cultural conducted the project as part of our pro bono program. We recognize that all too often local historical societies and museums across Montana are faced with difficult situations and that professional assistance is beyond their reach. Our pro bono program acknowledges the important work that these institutions conduct in trying to preserve our heritage.

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