Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Graveyard in Winter

Yesterday Laurie and I went to the graveyard to get some pictures of it in the newly fallen snow. It was really the perfect day for photos - sunny, and the snow was completely pristine other than a few rabbit tracks. Laurie noted how the snow on these gravestones seemed to wash up onto them like waves.

It was also a perfect day for reading the gravestones. At certain times of the year and times of the day, many stones are illegible. Yesterday I was able to make out details that I had never seen before, despite having visited the graveyard roughly three billion times. For instance, I had seen George See's name in the cemetery index, but I had never noticed his grave (below), despite the fact that it's fairly prominently situated in the graveyard. He was a Civil War veteran.

The snow in this area (below) was covered in multi-colored sparkles. Although you can't see them in the photo, you can see how the snow molds itself to the topography, creating its own kind of geophysical map!

Laurie and I were amused by the way that the snow seemed to form a fleece around the tiny sheep on Howard Green's gravestone. It looked very sweet - and the stone itself looks like it's wrapped in a white blanket.

The light brought out the faint gray stripes in Martha Brundage's marble gravestone. I keep having to remind myself that when they were new all of these marble stones would have been brilliant white.

Like this, for example. While not as white as it would have been in the 1840s, Catherine Sarles's stone is pretty nicely preserved. This was an excellent day to view willows, which are often the hardest motifs to see (in my experience; this is probably because most willows were carved in marble).

Sometimes, an entire family adopted the willow motif. The urns on these two stones (Solomon Hains's in front and another directly behind) are subtly different.

The inscriptions on the obelisk of the Hall family were coated in ice on every side. I noticed that the monument itself is dated 1895 (which you can't see in the photo). That was the year that James Smith Hall, the patriarch, died. I'm assuming that it was his death that prompted his family members to put up the monument - or maybe it was stipulated in his will. In any case, it was inscribed with the names of James's daughters who had already died and later was inscribed with the name of his wife.

This child's grave is located all the way at the back of the cemetery, in the Methodist part, along the wall.

Here's another example of a family that decided to put willows on all of their graves. As you can see, they are subtly different. Some of the willows are more realistic, others more abstract. Some are encased in a circle, others are outlined more closely.

The rabbit tracks shown here below the Sands family plot continued down the hill and wrapped around part of the Episcopal cemetery.

It was nice to see the cemetery again after what seemed like a long separation. It's strange to think of all our STPs, the foundation wall, and all of the artifacts we haven't yet uncovered hidden under the blanket of snow (as well as a layer of dirt). I am hoping that spring comes early so that we can resume our work!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Another Look at the Unmarked Grave

Because it's a scan of a copy of an image in a book taken from a newspaper, it's a bit hard to see, but what you're looking at is one of the Amuso brothers pointing out an unmarked grave that he discovered during the destruction of the cemetery's original wall in 1960. The grave (I believe) has at this point been cemented into place to protect it during the reconstruction of the wall.

I had never seen this image before, and was surprised when I found it in Patrick Raftery's The Cemeteries of Westchester County. It gives somewhat of a better idea of where the grave was.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Berthier's Map in High Resolution

Thanks to Princeton University, which holds the originals, we now have this awesome high-resolution version of Berthier's 1781 map of North Castle. This is not, actually, the full resolution image - I had to downsize it to get it to upload to Blogger. Here are a couple of closer views:

In the version of the map we had before (which was taken from a book) there seemed to be only one color red used to delineate structures. In this version, there is clearly a distinction between the dark red color used to demarcate permanent structures versus the lighter pink-red used to mark military camp buildings. At least, that's my reading of the map.

If my interpretation is correct, then there was a large military structure - larger than the meetinghouse itself - next to St. George's where there is currently a bagel shop (previously it was the Fife and Drum restaurant - a very apt name!). If only we could excavate that area!

Another detail I noticed in this version of the map is the clear boundary marking out the church property, and how the church is positioned right in the center. This actually makes quite a bit of sense given our findings this season. We found the (possible) St. George's foundation wall in the southeast quadrant of the Episcopal cemetery. All of the 18th-century gravestones are located in this quadrant. While we had previously believed the entire eastern half of the Episcopal cemetery to be part of the original land given by Charles Haight, it may be that only the southeast quadrant was in use at this time. To fit in this small space, the church and its gravestones would have had to be packed very tightly together.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Our Exhibit: Close-ups

These pictures are pretty self-explanatory. I thought I'd share some images for those who can't see it in person.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Artifacts from the Fall 2013 Archaeological Excavation

Our exhibit opened today! Here you can see all three display cases that we used as well as the painted sign that stood at the entrance to the cemetery while we were excavating. We filled the cases with artifacts, images, and text. There are also some relevant materials from the historical society.

All of the images on display were created especially for the exhibit, with the exception of the poster boards with photos of the dig in progress, which we created for Archaeology Day. The main themes of the case above are pottery, architecture, and possible American Indian artifacts. There is also an introduction to the site.

The main themes of this case are military and local industries. Do you remember the Boehmer bottle we found on our last field day? In this case you can see that bottle (left) next to a later version (right). The later version was created when Rudolph Boehmer's son, Rudolph Jr., had inherited his father's business. This bottle was donated to the historical society.

The third case features some of our research materials as well as a trowel and the chalk board (which reads "Research is just as important as digging!"). On top of the case are some handouts about the exhibit and pamphlets about the restoration project.

Here are just a couple more pictures showing some of the beautiful details of this building.

I am very pleased with how the exhibit turned out and hope that many people come to see it. It will be up for at least three months.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Another Cleaning Day

It was a rainy day, and thus the perfect time to clean artifacts for an event we are planning. Some of the artifacts above were cleaned with soap and water, some with water only, and some were cleaned gently with a dry toothbrush. In the photo above you can see pottery, glass, bottles, eyeglass lenses, pipe stems, a comb, fancy glass, a teacup, and some decorative metal objects we think may have been part of a doorknob. The buckle is there too, but I didn't clean it; I just moved it into a new container.

Below you can see some of our fancy glass. Some of these pieces could be cleaned very easily; others had to be cleaned more carefully (or not at all) because the dirt was keeping the design in place.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Berthier's Journal

Louis-Alexandre Berthier was an assistant quartermaster-general in Count Rochambeau's army who created a series of maps depicting the areas where the army camped from 1781 to 1783. Above is Berthier's map of North Castle, showing the meetinghouse (a.k.a. St. George's Church) and "Etang" (a.k.a. Kirby Pond, drained in 1888).

Here are some excerpts from Berthier's journal of 1781 describing the army's experiences at North Castle. While we don't fully understand the symbolism used in the map, it seems apparent from Berthier's description that the rows of squares along a black line shown next to the meetinghouse and in several places behind it represent encampments.
2 July 
The Second Brigade left Newtown and marched 15 miles to Ridgebury, where it arrived at eleven o'clock. It was preceded on its march to the camp by an advance detachment of grenadiers and chasseurs. I was ordered to lead them and to choose a good position for them a mile ahead of the brigade on the road to New York, where they camped after stationing sentries at all points leading in from enemy territory. Here we received a change of itinerary. The First Brigade, which was to have marched to Salem, had marched to Bedford instead, and we had received the same order, when suddenly at midnight there arrived from the General another order to proceed by a forced march to North Castle, where the whole army would be assembled.

3 July
The Second Brigade left Ridgebury at three in the morning and at one that afternoon arrived at North Castle, 22 miles away, where it joined the First Brigade, which had just arrived from Bedford.

The Fourth Division, which had marched without a day's halt from East Hartford, 92 miles away, made this last 22-mile march in excessive heat with a courage and gaiety in keeping with the ador of the French. As we approached the enemy I was sent forward with an escort to requisition wagons at the halfway point for the sick and exhausted men. Since we were now on the edge of enemy territory, I was ordered to seize by force whatever was not yielded voluntarily. Using both methods, I obtained everything I needed.

The grenadiers and chasseurs camped on a height to the left of the New York road in front of a pond that adjoins the North Castle meetinghouse. The rest of the army was encamped on high ground in back of the pond and the little North Castle River, with their left at the meetinghouse and their right resting on a wood. The position was an excellent one, since its left was protected by marshes and closed by mountains and woodland ...

North Castle has few houses, and they are widely separated. The headquarters was very poorly housed - just how poorly you will understand when I tell you that the assistant quartermasters-general were obliged to sleep in the open on piles of straw, which was, to boot, rather too green ...

5 July
During the 4th and 5th the army made a halt at North Castle. General Washington came to visit the Comte de Rochambeau and passed down our lines. The troops were drawn up before the camp in line of battle without arms and wearing forage caps.
The soldiers of Rochambeau's army would have looked something like this (illustration from The American Campaigns of Rochambeau's Army, Volume 1, translated and edited by Howard C. Rice Jr. and Anne S. K. Brown).

The following illustration was drawn by Jean-Baptise Antoine de Verger, a sublieutenant in the Royal Deux-Ponts Regiment of infantry, and shows American foot soldiers at the time of the Yorktown Campaign (1781). Left to right: black light infantryman of the First Rhode Island Regiment, musketeer of the Second Canadian Regiment, rifleman, and gunner of the Continental Army (also from The American Campaigns of Rochambeau's Army).

A Few Local Views

These postcards are contemporary with the postcards of St. Mark's Church that I have featured on this blog before. I like the one above because of its color, and because of the message. It's dated 7/13/08, and was written to Mrs. M. Manning in Alton, Illinois, from Helen Ryan. It reads:
Dear Mrs. Manning,

Am having a glorious time out driving every day. [Name of the town] is a beautiful place. How is Mr. Manning and Francis? Lots of love and kisses to you all.


Helen Ryan
The postcard is a litho-chromograph manufactured in Germany and sold by a local optician/jeweler.

The postcard below shows a general view of the town, along with this message: "Did not send you any card from Danbury, so will send you a [name of the town] view. Dan Oct 17, 1908." It was sent to Mrs. Nettie Robinson in Westville, Otsego Co., NY.

Lastly, a downtown view. This postcard was also made in Germany, but it was never used. Most of these buildings were burned in a fire of the mid-20th century.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Our Naval Cuff Button

We found this little button in Feature 5, a.k.a. the dump along the south wall of the cemetery - the same place we found the teapot, the stomach bitters bottle, and the eyeglass lenses. We were all thrilled when we saw the eagle and the anchor. Based on its size, it seems to have been a cuff button.

We had initially thought it dated from the Civil War, but Angelika did some research on buttons used by the United States Navy and suggested that it may be earlier. I sent these pictures to a grad school friend who happens to be a Civil War buff, and he was nice enough to forward them to a friend who knows about military uniforms.

Perhaps someone reading this post is an expert and can tell me when the button dates from! It's difficult to see the details, but the eagle seems to have its head facing to the right, and there seems to be a rope wrapped around the anchor. There is a ring of stars around it, but due to the condition of the button I can't count how many there are.


It was pot-washing day here in my spare room at the Solomon Brewer Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. I didn't do too much - just some of the artifacts we are planning to use in an upcoming exhibit (more on that soon).

Here's the Great Universal Stomach Bitters bottle. You can tell how beautiful it would have been when it was intact.

Below, some random ceramic sherds:

This piece has a maker's mark of the East Trenton Pottery Company in Trenton, New Jersey, and would have been made in the late 1880s.

 This piece appears to have the Great Seal of the United States on it.

While this one has the British Royal Arms.

I think this may be diamond-shaped registry mark - if it is, it indicates the piece was made between 1842 and 1883. But it appears to have been hand-painted instead of stamped.

The following pieces don't have maker's marks, but they sure are pretty. We found quite a few (very small) pieces of that reddish-brown patterned pottery.

Lastly, one of my favorite artifacts, the teapot, which now consists of nine pieces. Laurie thinks it may be a Brown Betty and I'm inclined to agree. It's a very no-nonsense item, solid and undecorated, but really beautiful. The glaze has a lovely range of hues in it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Burning of Bedford

The letter above was written by Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton to Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander in chief, on July 2, 1779, just before Tarleton's raid of Pound Ridge and burning of Bedford. The first few lines are the most notable to us: "I have the Honor to inform your Excellency, that I moved with the Detachment you was pleasd to trust me with, at half past eleven o clock last Night: - The Weather being remarkably bad prevented my reaching North Castle Church before four o clock next Morning."

The North Castle Church, of course, was St. George's.