Thursday, October 31, 2013

Field Day 17

This picture is great because it shows all of our work stations outlined against the row of trees, plus the grave of Charles Haight (far right), plus Archaeology Dog (who was hilariously naughty today in drinking from Laurie's water bottle like a baby), plus the flag in front of the grave of Joseph Kirby where Laurie found this:

It's a doorknob! It's brass and has some incised designs on it, although they're hard to see in this picture. I brought it home to take a better look, but I'll have to wait until tomorrow for any good natural light. It's been a dreary Halloween, but not too cold, and our work was cut slightly short by the rain.

As you can see, it has a square opening where the spindle would have gone in, and a circular opening on the side of the shank for the pin that would have held the rod in place. I have been searching the internet for a way to date the doorknob, but so far no luck. The only useful observation I can make is that it's very light, which suggests that it may be machine-made and therefore later (nineteenth century).

When we arrived at the site this morning Hans was busy at work clearing leaves. Later, he helped us by clearing away the dirt from the rectangle of stone pillars, confirming that there were pillars all the way around (we had wondered if there were any gravestones or other materials mixed in).*

After the dirt was cleared away, we realized that one of the two pillars in Feature 3 was broken and extended only a few inches laterally beyond the west side of the unit - thus it would be easy to remove. And so Bill did, but not before he and I guessed at how heavy it would be by looking at it. After lifting it Bill said he thought it weighed about 100 pounds.

Here's the stone in place before its removal (the stone we removed is on the left):

And here it is after, showing the broken end.

It was only after removing the stone that we discovered it had an "S." on its base too.

Meanwhile, work began on Feature 3. Pat and I laid out a 4' x 4' unit around the stones that Susan found on Monday.

After taking photographs and measuring, we began to strip the sod away. We always begin by cutting the walls of the trench with an edger - a task at which I am completely ineffective. Luckily John can do it.

After that the options are to cut away the sod with trowels for fifteen minutes (as Tricia and I are doing in the photo below) or have Hans do it in fifteen seconds (which we did shortly after this photo was taken).

After that the actual digging can begin. In the photo below you can see Tricia and Pat working on Feature 3. At this point you could see some other stones beginning to crop up near the wall of the unit. In the background of the photo below, you can see part of the rectangle of stone pillars. If Feature 3 is the foundation of the church, then the people who arranged the pillars weren't too far off.

As with all of our features, there were plenty of nails to be found, including this ginormous one. We also found more painted glass, unpainted glass, slag, mortar, charcoal, coal, and a material we think may be plaster. The plaster could be wishful thinking on my part - I recently read an article on the excavation of a different eighteenth-century church and how a piece of painted plaster allowed the archaeologists to identify the original color of the inside of the church. Wouldn't that be fantastic?

Here's what Feature 3 looked like at the bottom of the level. Plenty of rocks, laid fairly flat, as you might expect to see in a foundation. I have a suspicion that the larger rocks represent the foundation wall, while the smaller ones represent the church floor ... but we'll have to see.

Incidentally, here's another photo of St. Mark's. We've had it for a while but I don't believe I've shown it on the blog. The photo must date from 1891 or later because that was the year that a "rustic lichgate" [sic] was constructed at the entrance to the churchyard, according to the local newspaper.

While the digging continued I finally got a chance to draw the profile of STP 5. In the picture below I'm trying to demonstrate to Laurie a technique that Carol showed me for identifying the different strata in a profile. The idea is to scrape away a small strip of dirt onto your trowel and look for where the color changes.

John the town historian stopped by again to check out our progress and to deliver a very tantalizing set of images from a book on his town's Episcopal church, St. Matthew's. The first image shows St. Matthew's as it appeared in 1843, and it looks almost exactly like St. Mark's as it was illustrated in the 1855 History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the County of Westchester. In the photo below I'm showing the pictures to Bill - and you can see the rectangle of stone pillars clearly, running from foreground to background. (You can also see me in my Halloween costume, which I call "Preppy Ringwraith.")

Here is the picture I was pointing to. Compare it with this picture of St. Mark's.

Laurie took this picture of the newly reset grave of Isaac Lounsbury. Dating to 1773, this is the oldest inscribed stone in the cemetery. It had been lying on its face for as long as I could remember, though, so I had never actually seen what it looked like until today. 

*I'm not sure how many people will know from reading this what I'm talking about ... what I call "the rectangle of stone pillars" is more accurately described as "the stone pillars that used to hold up the iron bars in the fences around family plots in the cemetery but in the 1960s were removed from their original locations and arranged into a rectangle over what the chairman of the St. Mark's Buildings and Grounds Committee believed was the footprint of Old St. Mark's Church." Ugh. Can't we just call it a dry well?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The original appearance of St. Mark's Church

For a while now, Laurie and I had been curious about the image of St. George's Church shown on the St. Mark's website and wondered where it had come from, as we hadn't seen it in any other source. Now we have an answer. Laurie and Angelika told me about the book History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the County of Westchester by Reverend Robert Bolton. Laurie identified a passage that mentioned that St. Mark's was built "a few yards" away from the old site of St. George's, and Angelika pointed out the passage that contained the (oft quoted but never sourced!) letter written by Reverend Thomas Dibble on March 25, 1762:
"I preached the second Sunday in October last, in St. George's church, at North Castle, and at the opening of it, to a most numerous congregation, the church not being able to contain the people. They have erected a very decent church for public worship, forty foot by thirty, with galleries, covered and closed it with cedar, and only laid the ground floor."
When I went to look at the book for myself, I found the mysterious picture (above) - captioned not as St. George's Church, but St. Mark's! Upon closer inspection, it became very clear that this was, in fact, the same St. Mark's building we know from photographs, albeit with a castellated tower in the place of the shingled steeple.

Since the book was written in 1855, I have to assume that this illustration represents the original appearance of St. Mark's. Looking at the photograph above, you can see that the tower was not altered dramatically; in fact, if you remove the steeple, the church would be nearly restored to its original state.

Bolton also provides this description of St. Mark's:
"It is a very neat church-like structure, and is pleasantly situated on the west side of Kirby's pond ... The building was much admired, as a beautiful model for a country church. It is fifty by thirty feet, with a tower projecting eight feet in front, and is constructed of the best materials in a substantial manner."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sparta Cemetery and the Leather Man

Our last stop of the day was Sparta Cemetery, site of the graves of Revolutionary War soldiers, a gravestone that was struck by a British cannonball in 1780, and the grave of the Leather Man. The Leather Man is a pretty well-known historical figure in these parts. After decades of walking on a 365-mile, continuous loop through New York and Connecticut, he died in 1889 and was buried on the edge of Sparta Cemetery. In 2011, people attempting to exhume the Leather Man's body to give him a more proper burial and possibly test his DNA found nothing in the place where he was supposed to be buried. They put up a new marker anyway, which we found covered in offerings for the Leather Man.

This stone caught our attention as we were leaving. It was obviously not made by a professional, but was inscribed with the name John Brenegen (?) and the date 1855 or 1856. It also has some recent offerings.

This is a lovely image in sandstone of an eagle pelican feeding its chicks in a nest; my mother recognized it as an old symbol that predates Christianity but was adopted as a symbol of Christ's sacrifice.

And here's an example of a sandstone where the deceased's initials were substituted for the cherub motif: Daniel Miller, who died as a child in 1775.

Lastly, a cherub with fine strands of hair, much like this grave in the St. Mark's Cemetery.

Old Dutch Burying Ground/Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

Our second stop on today's eighteenth-century tour was the Old Dutch Burying Ground and the adjoining Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow. The Old Dutch Church (shown below) was built from 1685 to 1699 by Lord of Philipsburg Manor, Frederick Philipse, and is the oldest church and the 15th oldest building standing in New York State.

This is the oldest stone we saw in the cemetery: this unshaped stone belonging to Elizabeth Guion, who died in 1755. Like the other eighteenth-century stones in the cemetery, it faces the same direction the church faces. The Old Dutch Burying Ground is much larger than other graveyards with eighteenth-century stones that I've seen, and many of the old stones are lined up together.

There are also quite a number of double and triple sandstone graves. This triple stone, with three cherubs in the style of Deborah Haight's stone carved by Solomon Brewer, commemorates the three children of Jacob and Catalyna Couenhoven. Note that two of the children died on the same day, and the third several days after. I assume that these Couenhovens are fellow descendants of my ancestor, Wolfert Gerritse Van Couwenhoven, who came to New York from Holland in the mid-17th century.

This double stone, belonging to Joseph Youngs and his wife Susannah, who died in 1789 and 1783 respectively, also has the Brewer cherub heads.

Laurie and I liked the pineapple hat on this cherub. The pineapple typically symbolizes hospitality; I don't know what it might mean in the context of a gravestone such as this. The stone belongs to Deliuaranel Acker - a name I have never seen before.

This square-faced cherub decorates a gravestone inscribed in Dutch. I like the spiral finials.

 This sandstone has an unusually elaborate and plastic design. It also belongs to one of my relatives: Ann Couwenhoven, who died in 1797 at the age of 63.

Laurie pointed out this little willow because it is much clearer than willows usually are (due to the fact that most are carved in marble, which breaks down easily). I thought the branches looked like churros.

The Old Dutch Burying Ground moves gradually up a hill before it becomes Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

As we moved up the hill, we saw more modern gravestones, including these two gravestones that aren't stones at all - they're zinc (marked at the time as "white bronze"). Zinc gravestones were produced between the 1870s and the 1910s and were much cheaper than marble.

I was transfixed by these rows of identical gravestones. It was around this area in the cemetery where we bumped into an English family who is visiting on vacation. We talked about the recent storm in England and they advised us never to visit Birmingham (they were from London).

Nearby was the Irving family plot, including the grave of Washington Irving (it's marked by the flag at the center of the photograph). Washington Irving did a lot to shape the identity of Sleepy Hollow. For one thing, the official name of the town was "North Tarrytown" until just a few years ago, when it was changed to honor Irving (and bring in more tourists, probably).

Here's a shot of the Old Dutch Burying Ground and Church from the top of the hill:

And here is the rather scary flock of starlings that was flying overhead while we were there.

Elmsford Colonial Cemetery

Today Laurie and I went on another eighteenth-century adventure. Our first stop was the tiny graveyard in Elmsford known as the Colonial Cemetery. The church in the picture above is the Elmsford Reformed Church, which was built in 1783. All of the gravestones are quite far away from the church, perhaps twenty or thirty feet, and the eighteenth-century stones are widely dispersed. Also, all of the eighteenth-century stones face out towards the road, that is, in the same direction that the church faces.

You can see in the photo below that the stones along the front wall of the cemetery are tipping over and some are quite close to falling down onto the sidewalk below. One has already fallen and broken into several pieces.

Here's one leaning stone that I was able to photograph by getting down onto the sidewalk: Lydia, wife of the Reverend John Townley, who died in 1795 age 50.

 Here's another view from the sidewalk, showing the leaning stones and a part of the stone that fell.

And here's a lovely, relatively well-preserved urn and willow on the grave of Sarah Van Wart, who died age 27 in 1839.

Sarah's stone stands beside the monument to Isaac Van Wart, one of the captors of Major John Andre (Andre passed St. George's Church twice in September 1780 as a prisoner of war.)

Lastly, here is a general view of the cemetery with the church in the background. One interesting thing we noted is that while the eighteenth-century stones face the road, a few stones from the 1830s were faced in the opposite direction. Later stones again turned toward the road.