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Edward McMillan Larrabee ’55

A picture of Edward Larrabee

Edward McMillan Larrabee ’55, June 1, 2006, in Hurricane, Utah, from kidney cancer. At Reed, Edward took a strong interest in the college environment and traditions, including overseeing annual Campus Day and Canyon Day events. He also played a large part in perpetuating the totemic significance of the Doyle Owl. He began his career in historical archaeology with summer jobs while still a student at Reed, including working with Washington State Parks on reconstruction at Fort Simcoe and salvaging petroglyphs and pictographs near Celilo Falls, before that site was submerged behind The Dalles Dam. The 100-year history of the Yakima Treaty was the topic of his Reed thesis, which earned him a BA in history, and an MA thesis (University of Washington, 1958) was on Fort Simcoe as a frontier military outpost. For a doctoral dissertation at Columbia in 1970, he examined fortifications on the New Jersey frontier in the 1750s. For most of his career he lived on the East Coast, concentrating on contract projects in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. For a number of years, he was joined by fellow Reedie Bill Hershey ’56, to work on several notable projects for the National Park Service, including studies related to John Brown’s raid and the military facilities at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, Appomattox Court House in Virginia, and the Civil War defenses of Washington, D.C. Working with Parks Canada in the early ’60s, he was senior archaeologist at the restoration of the Fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia. In 1966, he married anthropologist and archaeologist Susan Kardas, and in 1975 they formed the contracting firm of Historic Sites Research, based originally in Princeton, New Jersey, and since 1996, in Hurricane, Utah. They worked together on many site surveys, excavations and reports, and participated in the major National Park Service project at Fort Vancouver. In addition, Edward published a number of significant papers on the theory and practice of historical archaeology, which was emerging as a special field of study. He contributed to the compilation of a comprehensive scholarly bibliography covering sites in the United States and Canada, and taught in the anthropology departments of Hunter College and John Jay College (CUNY). He was a founding member of the Society for Historical Archaeology in 1967, and his professional associations also included the Archaeological Institute of America, Phi Alpha Theta, and the American Historical Association. He had a longstanding interest in frontier situations and the associated confrontations of cultures, primarily those between Native Americans and Europeans in North America, but also on the frontiers of the Roman Empire, especially at Hadrian’s Wall. His life and work were guided by the conviction that the conscientious study of history yields lessons that can and should be applied in contemporary society and world affairs. Both his father and mother, Edward Payne Larrabee ’23 and Consuelo McMillan Larrabee ’21, were graduates of Reed. Survivors include his wife and his sister, Consuelo Larrabee.

Appeared in Reed magazine: November 2006

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