Saturday, November 1, 2014

Field Day 13

Due to several factors - including the rapidly dropping temperatures and Laurie's and my busy schedules -yesterday was our last dig day for this season. Of course, this in no way marks the end of our work on the site, as the end of fieldwork just means that processing and analysis are yet to begin. For every day spent in the field, you can expect to have at least three days of processing and analysis, and the ultimate working of the material into a finished product (i.e., an article or thesis) can take even longer than that.

Our last day in the field did not disappoint. We have been finding pieces of this transfer-printed teacup (or perhaps multiple teacups with the same pattern) for over a year now. This is by far the biggest piece we have found, and wouldn't you know, it has a registration mark!

This mark allows us to date the design securely to the year 1886. However, the actual teacup could have been made later than that - thus, the mark provides us with a terminus post quem. This website is a great resource for identifying registration marks. The system was implemented by the British Patent Office, which means that this teacup was made in Britain. We also found the handle of the teacup and a number of other pieces. I think it's a good candidate for reconstruction.

Other exciting finds included this bottle marked "Hygienic Laboratory" (which, according to the internet, was the first incarnation of the National Institutes of Health, from 1891-1930):

This intact bottle marked "McMonagle and Rogers Premium Fruit Flavors, Middletown NY":

These pieces of feather-edged or shell-edged ware. I think it may be pearlware but I'm not positive. It may date from the late 18th to the early 19th century and would have been made in England.

And ... these things (below). The top one seems to be some sort of charm. The bottom one - well, we debated whether it was a bird's head or a bell (or both?). It seems to have been squished a bit, and there's a clapper inside. Is it just a coincidence that it looks like a bird?

During our work on the dump, Harry and Bruce managed to excavate the gravestone that the team located on Monday. It's definitely a footstone, marked with the initials R. S. But who was R. S.? We still don't know. Sands, Sarles, Seaman, See, Sherwood, Slagle, Smith, Stanton, Stokem, and Swain are all the S surnames in the cemetery (that we know of). One thing we do know is that this was not the original location of the footstone. It's been broken at the base, and the rest of it is nowhere to be found.

Other than the footstone, the finds we made in the dump yesterday were pretty typical of what we've found here over the past year: ceramics of all kinds, glass, metal, shoe leather (along with some very corroded buckles), shells, a piece of molded cement, a few nails, a single glass button, animal bones, some additional pieces of teapot, and some steel wool. We didn't find any more pipe bowls or stems. But we did find two ice skates.

As always, those of us who were sorting and bagging the finds struggled to keep up with those who were digging and screening for them. You can see in the photo above how our process works - it's somewhat like a conveyor belt, with bucketfuls of dirt being dumped into the screen at the far end and working their way down the tables to be bagged. At the end of the day, the bags are placed in a milk crate to be temporarily stored in my garage until they can be transferred to the Nature Center for processing (planned for this winter).

Meanwhile, Laurie oversaw the backfilling of the foundation wall unit (Feature 4). This has been our largest unit yet (unless you count all of the units we have dug on the dump was one unit, dug in segments), and it required a lot of manpower to fill in!

To summarize, briefly, our finds for the season:

1. In Feature 4, the "foundation wall" unit, we found a continuation of the feature we identified last year, and ended up tripling the original unit in order to follow it. To the 4 x 8 foot rectangle we dug in fall 2013, we added two additional 4 x 8 foot rectangles directly adjoining each other on the long sides, working westward, so that by the end a 16 x 8 foot rectangle was exposed (16 feet East-West, 8 feet North-South). We excavated around the stones down to the subsoil, leaving what we believed to be the contours of the stone wall in place. The finds we made in Feature 4 were mainly architectural (nails, mortar, slate tiles, some possible pieces of a wooden floor, ashlar stones, window glass) with some notable exceptions (earthenware pottery sherds, lamp glass, milk glass, and pieces of a mason jar; from last year, a gunflint and a stone pestle). 

Feature 4A was our original unit, excavated last year. In this unit, in fall 2013, we found what looked to be a discrete, fairly intact stone wall, consisting of stones stacked on top of one another. Some crumbly white mortar was found between the stones and a handful of stones were found to be mortared in place. When we opened Feature 4B, adjoining Feature 4A on its western side, we found a much more scattered assemblage of stones that had no clear structure or pattern. By Feature 4C, the stones seemed to be arranged in a more coherent manner, and mortar was clearly used to fix them in place. It was also in Feature 4C that we found that the slate tiles we had found throughout 4A and B were clearly packed between the stones along with the mortar, suggesting that the feature was constructed this way. That is, the slate tiles were originally used as building materials, and didn't wind up in the stone wall when the roof collapsed, as I had suspected earlier.

We completed and backfilled the unit when we reached the end of the season. Based on our finds in Features 4A-C, we expect that the stone wall may continue westward in the area we have not yet dug. It is likely that we will open an additional unit (Feature 4D) in this location in our next field season. Laurie also raised the possibility of placing a unit between Feature 4 and Feature 1 (formerly referred to as the "dry well," which contains a large amount of architectural debris, including boulders with plug and feather marks, stencil-painted window glass, nails, and painted plaster) to see if we can establish a relationship between them.

My working hypothesis is that Feature 4 represents the foundation wall of one of the churches, most likely (due to the construction of the wall and the artifacts associated with it), St. George's Church. After finding ashlar stones in the stone wall that surrounds the cemetery, Laurie put forward the theory that after St. George's was deconstructed in 1819, the top layer of stones of its foundation were used to construct the stone wall, while the bottom layer of stones were left in place and buried (or became buried over time). We know that the proceeds from the sale of the frame of the old church were used to build the stone wall. This is circumstantial evidence, of course, but I find it very compelling! It also explains why there are ashlars in the stone wall, when typically stone walls in this area are made of unshaped stones. 

2. In Features 6-10, the "dump," we continued to find large amounts of densely packed artifacts spread over a large area alongside the stone wall of the cemetery and extending about 20 inches below the surface, with the largest concentration of artifacts between 5-10 inches below the surface. This arrangement seems highly suggestive of a dump, and in particular one that was used over a long period of time (perhaps as early as the late 18th century, and continuing into the 20th). This period coincides with the period of use of the site as a churchyard and cemetery, and most of the artifacts seem to date from the years when the cemetery was in most frequent use (the mid-19th century). It's certainly possible that the parishioners of St. George's and St. Mark's Church dumped their refuse here. It's also possible that their neighbor to the south, the Methodist Church (which later became a residence, a parsonage, and a hotel), and their neighbor to the west, which was occupied by a house as early as the 1860s, contributed to the pile.

There is a lot we can learn about the 18th- and 19th-century community from what it threw away, and almost endless avenues open for investigation. Just a few stray observations:

-An earthenware tobacco pipe suggests that someone in the early 19th century was using local clay to manufacture pipes, despite the profusion of cheap tobacco pipes imported from England. How widespread was this local manufacture? Was it just one producer or many? What would make someone choose a locally manufactured pipe over an imported one?

-Multiple teapots, teacups, plates, and serving dishes attest to the popularity of tea drinking in the area along with a correspondent rise in conspicuous consumption. Almost anyone could afford their own tea set, choosing from a variety of different patterns and styles, and as soon as a piece was broken, it could be thrown away and replaced.

-A variety of soda bottles link our site to local bottle manufactories in the area (including one located just a mile away in the center of town), while medicine bottles attest to the use of dubious "cure-alls" containing potent ingredients such as morphine and liquor. The bitters bottle we found last year (we found more pieces this year) could have been used to treat the malaria that we know was endemic to the area throughout the mid- to late 19th century.

-Ice skates, a cap gun, a fishing hook, and a single jack suggest play and leisure activities during the 19th century. People had the time and money to spend on such activities, and children were provided with time to play and toys to fuel their imaginations.

-While the evidence linking them is circumstantial only, the shoes and eyeglass lenses we have found bring to mind the shoe and optical factories, respectively, which were located just down the road in the mid- to late 19th century. Whether or not these items came from these respective factories, the industry in the area played a large role in shaping the community to which the site belonged.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Annular Ware?

I came across this passage while re-reading James Deetz's classic In Small Things Forgotten a few days back, and was reminded of the finds that Hans made while resetting graves this fall (shown above):

"The bowls used by the Cannon's Point slaves for food consumption were largely of a type of pearlware known as annular ware. Annular ware is decorated with a series of concentric colored bands on the exterior of the bowls, placed horizontal and parallel. It was the second least costly of all the pearlware products of the Staffordshire ceramic industry and we often find it on sites associated with people who held a subservient station in life. Not only is it commonly found on slave sites over the entire South, but also in the Indian quarters at Franciscan missions in California and even at a fort occupied by Cape Colored regiment in nineteenth-century British South Africa. In every case, annular ware appears not to have been of hand-me-down status, but rather to have been acquired by those in control, to be issued at appropriate intervals. John Otto suggests that because of their distinctive type of decoration, 'they appealed to a steady group of customers,' including black slaves. But this seems very unlikely, and their presence at slave sites seems one more case of the planter's management of available capital. The appearance of annular ware on slave sites of the early nineteenth century may well mark the time when mass-produced English pottery became inexpensive enough to be purchased in quantity for issue to slaves, for as we shall see, another kind of bowl is typical of the eighteenth and late seventeenth century, produced by the slaves themselves."

Examples of annular ware (also known as mocha ware) from the internet:

Sources: 12, 3, 4, 5.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Field Day 12

Some of you may recall my very first post on this blog, which told the story of Dr. Enoch and Phebe Chase Greene, the unfortunate couple who married in 1845 and had both died by 1852, after losing three children. At the time I wrote that post (February 2013!), I knew of only two gravestones belonging to the five members of the Greene family: one for Enoch Greene, and one for his wife, "Freddy and two infants." On Monday's dig, in the process of restoration work, the team discovered a gravestone belonging to Freddy buried beneath (or more likely, subsumed by) the tree. This gravestone is particularly significant because it provides us with the (previously unknown) year of Freddy's death. Given the fact that this date is not mentioned in the 1910 transcription of the cemetery, it's likely that this stone has been buried for more than 100 years.

Above, the team excavating the base of Freddy's gravestone. Laurie hopes to get the entire group of Greene gravestones - Phoebe's broken stone, Enoch's tilted one, and the newly found Freddy stone - repaired and reset in the spring. Given the progress the team has made in resetting stones just this fall, I'd say that it's a viable goal.

Meanwhile, back in the dump, the team made an unexpected find: a footstone! Given the way that footstones have been distributed and redistributed throughout the cemetery, the finding of this stone here does not necessarily mean that anyone was buried in this location. Like the many displaced footstones we have found, we'd like to match this one to its owner. The problem is, I don't know of anyone buried in the cemetery who has the initials R. S. Was the owner of the footstone moved, along with his/her headstone, to another cemetery? We know that this was a relatively common occurrence. Or was the headstone destroyed or rendered illegible? Judging by the material (marble), this stone likely dates to the 19th century. It's very similar in style to many other 19th-century footstones in the cemetery.

Other than the footstone, the finds made in the dump on Monday were pretty much typical. Harry, Margaret, and John took turns digging and screening the soil.

Here you can see some of the results of their work: glass (including a very fancy medicine bottle), ceramics, metal, shoe leather, shells, some copper wire and nails ...

And Margaret excavated this shoe. I'm no shoe expert, but I'm guessing it's late 19th or early 20th century. What do you think?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Search for Spencer Optical

Here's a brief overview of the history of Spencer Optical Works, for those of you who may not have read my 5,000 posts on the topic over the past year. The business started in the 1850s in Connecticut and came to Kirbyville in 1874. For fourteen years, the factory thrived, powered by a force of 200 workers and the energy harnessed from the river running down from Kirby Pond. In 1888, however, the pond's owner, Judge Leonard, decided to drain the pond, cutting off the factory's power source. The Spencer brothers sued to protect their water supply but lost. The pond was drained, the Spencers established a new factory in New Jersey, and despite their effort to find a buyer for the property in Kirbyville, the three-story brick building remained silent and empty. At an unknown date, the factory and its outbuildings were torn down, and the forest has engulfed whatever was left.

That is not to say that there's nothing left to find. On this bright October day, armed with maps and old photographs, our group set out through the forest to find the place where the stream bends and starts flowing towards the town. It was at this bend that the factory was located. It didn't take us long to find evidence of a human presence, both historical and modern ... 

The picture at the top of the post shows our first major find: the stones of the former dam. But the pictures below give a sense of scale of what was really an incredible feat of engineering. We stood here for a while, looking around, contemplating how such a feat might have been achieved. Did the makers use horses or oxen to haul the stones? Where did they come from? A few, interestingly enough, had quarry marks just like the stones we've found in the dig (though these stones are much larger than anything we've found at our site). 

A part of the dam wall had tumbled out, creating a cave where the inside of the wall is visible. Smaller stones were packed between the larger ones, but it seems to have been entirely dry construction - that is, without mortar.

Here's the other side of the dam, where the water runs through the demolished wall. 

After exploring for a while, we committed the ultimate horror movie mistake of splitting up, and promptly succumbed to Optical Factory zombies. I'm joking, of course, but Bruce did cross the stream to look around on the other side while the rest of us went on a bit further and studied the map. After a while we heard Bruce yelling for us, and he came back with two bricks - our first physical evidence of the brick factory building. In fact, Bruce had come across a whole lot of bricks, which we now believe to be the factory site, but due to a number of factors (including the time, which was getting fairly late) we decided to save the exploration for another day. Rest assured we will be back, and doubtlessly there will be a lot more to see. Just in our trip to the dam we found an additional brick (stamped with JJJ) and a ceramic insulator, both of which could be contemporary with Spencer Optical. I hope you're as excited as I am to continue this adventure.

Field Day 11

Field Day 11 was quite an exciting day, full of great finds and great people! Saturdays are usually the busiest for us, and this Saturday was no exception. In additional to the regular cast of characters, we were joined by Mike, a history student whose great-great grandfather worked at Spencer Optical Works (and played in its band); Jim, a local documentary filmmaker who is friends with Harry and previously produced a documentary about the 19th-century brick industry. It's always great fun to introduce new people to the site, especially people who have such an innate and passionate love for history.

The dump site proved to be as productive as ever. Among our finds for the day was the usual assemblage of glass, ceramics, metal, bone, and shell. We expanded Feature 10 northward, heading in the direction of the first unit we dug in this area of the site, and unsurprisingly made some similar finds. One find in particular, however, was different - not only from the rest of the artifacts in the dump but from all other artifacts I've seen before! I'm sure that experienced archaeologists everywhere will shake their heads at my ignorance, but up until now I had only known about clay tobacco pipes that were made out of white ball clay or kaolin, imported from England. So imagine my surprise when Bruce pulled out this bright orange pipe bowl.

I immediately brought it to Carol, who identified the material as red earthenware - the same local clay used to make the 18th-century ceramic vessel we've been finding in pieces around the foundation stones. You can compare this pipe with the kaolin pipe we found yesterday. Same artifact type, made in the same way (in a mold), and of similar dimensions - I haven't compared them side by side but they look very similar to me overall. The major difference is the materials used. Additionally, the earthenware clay pipe, unlike the kaolin one, was burnished - that is, rubbed with a stone or some other smooth, hard surface to make it smooth and shiny - giving it a distinctive texture. Later in the day we found part of the stem, which can be fit together with the bowl.

Other finds from the dump ... (along with a mechanism that we believe to be part of a clock, which was found on the surface):

Above, a piece of porcelain with a maker's mark; some shell, glass, and a nail; and in the bottom center, a brass escutcheon. Escutcheon was the word of the day (and a great word it is). This particular escutcheon is one of several we have found at the dump, both this year and last (you can see two more in the picture below). Where do they come from? The team members have made a number of different suggestions including doorknobs, lamps, and light switches, but the suggestion I find most convincing is that the escutcheons went around the iron poles in the fences that surround one of the family plots. Some of the family plots still have such decorative escutcheons in place; they are similar in size and material, but not identical, to the ones we found in the ground.

Above, more porcelain with stamped maker's mark; pieces of the Great Universal Bitters bottle found last year and the teapot found yesterday; some brass pieces of an oil lamp; and some hunks of molded cement.

This doorknob, found in the dump, is made out of a red ceramic overlaid with brown glaze. Even through the dirt, you can see that it is quite beautiful. Though I don't have a picture of it, the other side - which is broken, revealing the unglazed clay - is also striking, with red and white layers twisted together.

Meanwhile, work continued at the front of the cemetery, where the ongoing excavation of the foundation wall has so far yielded more questions than answers. I think that today's work may have uncovered some promising evidence. Ever since we began excavating the wall, we have struggled to determine how much (if any) of the stones were in their "original" locations - that is, the locations they assumed when they were part of a standing structure. What parts of the wall were intact and what parts might have toppled over?

This stretch of the wall, located in Feature 4C, consists of stones packed together densely with slate tiles, sand, and mortar. The latter three are important because it seems likely that they could be building materials used in the construction of the wall. Thus, this part of the wall may be relatively intact, that is, the stones here are in the places where the builders put them. There are very few artifacts in this area of the unit aside from the aforementioned tiles and a few stray nails. You also may notice that many of the rocks in this photo are sticking straight up. My guess is that there was another layer of rocks slotted into place above these, which was perhaps removed when the church came down. Laurie made the excellent suggestion that perhaps part of the foundation wall of St. George's Church (which was deconstructed in 1819) was used to build the stone wall around the cemetery (built in 1820). She made this suggestion after finding a large ashlar among the stones in the wall while surface surveying. Ordinarily stone walls would have been built with unshaped stones scavenged from the surrounding area (this part of the country is very rocky), so there is no reason for there to be an ashlar in the wall unless it was taken from something else.

Aside from the ashlar, here are some other surface finds made today: 

Restoration work continued alongside our excavation. In the process of digging for the base of a broken gravestone in one of the older sections of the cemetery, Hans, Dick, and Laurie made an interesting discovery.

This was it: a fieldstone, very similar to the ones erected as grave markers at the front of the cemetery (you can see three in the background of this photo). These fieldstones have no markings and may mark graves that are even older than the earliest inscribed gravestone, which dates to 1773. It's likely that this stone was also used as a grave marker, but toppled and became buried over time. The crew excavated it and installed it near the place where it was found. Now that I look at the photo, I see a backwards J carved in the upper right hand corner of the stone. What do you think? To borrow a fancy term from school, is the carving anthropogenic or not?

At the end of the day there was a massive amount of bagging to be done. Though Gretchen had done most of it herself up to that point, a bunch of us gathered together to help finish it up so that we could take off on our next adventure for the day, a trip to the ruin of the Spencer Optical Works. Stay tuned for that story in my next post.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Field Day 10

While a day spent at the site is always a good day, this day was especially good. We found many notable artifacts, any one of which could have been star artifacts in its own right, but the clay pipe you see above trumped them all. We've found plenty of pipe stems and bowls, and early in the day today even found three pieces of a pipe that could be fit together, but we haven't found anything as intact as this. Note that it's not completely intact - it's missing the very end (known as the lip or bite). But given that we are digging in a trash heap, we are unlikely to find any perfectly intact specimens. Part of the value of this pipe lies in the signs of use.

We started out the day digging in Feature 4. It's funny how the abundance of the dump units can make a "regular" unit like Feature 4 seem unproductive! But we did in fact make some significant finds in Feature 4, most notably this stone bearing the marks of plug and feathering. You may recall that we found similarly cut rocks in Feature 1 last year. Notably, this stone is a lot bigger than the other ones we've been unearthing in the "foundation."

The artifacts found in Feature 4 (or more specifically, Feature 4C) today included nails, glass, slate, and an oddly shaped chunk of mortar. Marilyn and Gretchen did most of the bagging and sorting of artifacts ...

... while Harry did most of the digging. Sifting the soil from Feature 4 was a bit of a challenge at first because the soil was fairly moist. Though we always cover our units with tarps at the end of the field day to keep them dry, it's impossible to keep out moisture completely.

Later in the day we continued excavating Feature 10 in the dump. Here you can see the system, which Bruce helped to devise: a shaker screen propped up against a table where the artifacts are sorted. It works surprisingly well, despite the uneven ground and the inevitable shakiness of the shaker screen. This is perhaps as close as we've been to any gravestones, but to the best of our knowledge (based on historical records, maps, and our own surveys) we are not in danger of hitting any graves. We do, however, hit a lot of tree roots.

Besides the pipe, finds made in the dump site today included this beautiful teapot spout, which is very similar in materials to the Brown Betty teapot we found last year, but has some beautifully modeled designs in it. I love the way the glaze catches in the grooves.

Also found: the base of a gas lamp (left), the base of a bottle, a piece of transfer-printed ceramic, and an upholstery tack. We now have about ten of these tacks, all identical.

Here's a close-up of the tack along with a buckle we found. The buckle is a match for the object I couldn't identify in the last post. Any guesses as to what it might have been a part of?

Here's the pipe that came in three parts, all excavated individually from the same unit. As you can see it's pretty similar to the other, relatively intact pipe.

And here's another picture of the relatively intact pipe. I've done a little research on clay pipes (while I should be studying for midterms, naturally), and judging by this typology, it seems that our pipes date from the later period, i.e. the mid-19th century. I'll research it more when I have a little more time - most of my books are back at school anyway! What I do know is that these tobacco pipes were made of a white clay called kaolin, and I believe most of them were manufactured in England. The clay was shaped in a mold, which made it easy for manufacturers to add stamped marks. We've seen a few of these marks on other pipe stems we've found, but the two pipes we found today don't have any.

Lastly here's a picture of today's team (minus Marilyn and Laurie, who took the picture) at the dig site.