I had been warned there would be a whole class of students joining our dig today, and that we would be sticking them into the trenches and the finds room. I had no idea how this was going to go- it could have gone many many ways. I think overall the kids got a positive experience out of it, although as freshman, they didn’t dare let on.
I had a larger group in the morning, most of whom began very actively cleaning finds and sorting them, a couple didn’t want to join in the oddities. But we let them get some of their own music pumping through the greenhouse and by lunch, we had sorted and washed at least four finds trays. The greenhouse was undeniably hot, and I was not going to impose rules as to break times. I figure, if you’re hot and bothered we’d rather you sit it out than not enjoy the day of learning and archaeology.
I bet part of their dismay was that they weren’t allowed to have their phones on them. Although we usually encourage photos and sharing experiences, the kids at this school were doing this as a project and therefore would be more engaged if they didn’t have their devices. I guess the one for the music was allowed to slide as we (the DV people in charge of the room) were using the music as a motivator.
Maiya and I showed the kids just what kind of things can be found and what we learn from them, and then how to treat the finds that are coming from the site we are digging on their campus. Even if it seemed a full day of chores, the kids marked on their evaluations that most of them learned something in one of the categories of activities we had arranged for them. At 4 pm they were to have a water balloon fight so Maiya quickly took some of their final thoughts down before they left us.
At the end of the day I hadn’t done the amount of spreadsheets that I had wanted to fill out. Then we realized I would be doing a few more sheets for tomorrow. It may rain, so it could be a good day to knock those out.
Today was sunny again, and my husband, Marty, was down at the site getting an even worse farmer’s/gardner’s tan. He was thanked several times by volunteers for his help lifting spoil buckets. He was also at the dig site while the groups of kids took before and after lunch shifts learning to excavate. He seemed fine with the amount of chaos that was probably ruling the day at the site. On the other hand, our field director looked like he needed a stiff drink.
I am starting to fall in love with odd bits of broken glass and pottery. This is a good thing not just because I will be plugging each context and find into a spreadsheet and the digital dig team, but also because I won’t get bored doing those things because it’s pretty cool and important feeling. Even knowing that it’s not old, because it may be easier for me to find exact dates from more contemporary consumer products. We have had several Petri wine bottoms and caps, probably dating to the 40’s and 50’s when they were becoming the largest producer of wine in the U.S. They even had advertisements from magazines to radio shows offering the quality choice of drinking Petri wine.
Another company we have a lot of is Anchor Hocking glass, which is easily identifiable by the marks on the bottom. They may give away the year, and also the factory it came from, and we can get pretty accurate dates from these bottles. The company was started in the late 1800’s and still produces glassware possibly under other company names. A quick google search will bring up ads for William Sonoma. The Anchor Hocking company historically produced glass wares for commercial and private use, though it seems on our sites we have mostly commercial wares that have been discarded.
We have all sorts of bottles from milk to ketchup to gin. We have milk glass plates and possibly fiestaware. We have decorated pottery which, if there are any marks, they say they came from England, one plate even says “Booth’s”, and I think it’s safe to say there’s some pearl ware in the mix, too.
I kept tossing out the silty brown water and filling them back up with clean water for the kids. Everyone left and I continued to sweep up and fill out forms. Though they were mostly really engaged in the finds room chores and having fun getting dirty at the site, I will be very relieved that for the remainder of the dig I will only be in charge of DigVenture volunteers. The people who have paid to get this opportunity really try to soak up everything they can from this so it isn’t as difficult to inspire them with knowledge. “Over all, 7/10, would probably do it again, ” as all the kids said.
All of this and then at 5 pm, the dig team walks in with 6 more filled to the brim, dirty, clumpy, dust filled finds trays. And we will check back on all of that tomorrow !
The trenches look more and more like the inside of a basement. Rubble layers are popping out from underneath the dark soil that has landed on top… the grey dump layer has been cleaned… the finds are getting older and older…
This morning we headed straight to the trench after breakfast. I helped get the buckets and tools ready and helped direct people to dig in specific areas to keep the layers of soil coming up level with the digger’s soil next to them. People were calling my name left and right asking for this or that… which was pretty cool.
Brendon, Lisa, well all of the DV team actually, were walking away and Brendon asked if I could string out a trench. I think his words were “Hey, Amber, can you string out that trench, great, thanks!” To which I replied, “You want it from the door to the corner?” And he said, “yeah, exactly.” I think I probably made a very squishy-unsure of myself- face, but he walked away and I went and strung it out. It took me a few minutes to think out what I was doing, but in fairness I hadn’t even had a coffee yet! (well, only a few sips of it and I tossed it to get into the trench!)
We stopped at 11 and sang “happy birthday” to Chris, shared some apple pie and gifted him a few “American” gifts, for his first time stateside. Football, baseball hat, candy in a plastic toy, etc! Right after that, Brendon dragged me off into the finds room. I got all set up and pretty much knew what I was doing. I found out four people were coming to help me do finds, and I got to explain it all over again, to them, just in case I had forgotten what I was doing.
I had to have them wash and organize finds while I kept control of the context numbers the finds belonged to, all the while I was trying to get some of the finds trays emptied for tomorrows whopping 41 volunteers- they’re going to have finds. So, that means I had to weigh each type of material from the finds trays of each layer and enter what type of thing it was from where into a spread sheet. Yay, spreadsheets! Am I right!?
Actually I’ve never needed one or thought they were interesting. And here we are and I’m actually wanting to do this. I was also really nervous about losing info I plugged in so I kept saving the data. Later Brendon came in and said he noticed he kept getting drop box updates from the spreadsheet. I guess I probably over saved but, you never know. Hitting save three times might work better than once.
I think I did an alright job. I feel like I can handle this, even though my skin is on strike. My face is very dry and my arms are pink. But I am happy with what I’m doing, really happy, even though when you step back and look at what I’m doing its both modern and very massive of a job, its really cool to be allowed/taught how to do things that I am going to school for years to be able to do later.
Also, my husband stayed in the trench all day. I heard he helped the other diggers a lot with their buckets of dirt and spoil, but he also came to me and showed me his star find!
He found a jar which still had the old massage cream in it, and it was from between 1900 and 1930’s I’d guess. It was really a special find, and I will be recording it tomorrow with the rest of the finds. Yay, finds!
Oh, speaking of star finds, we had little Anna return from last year to dig here again. Shes much taller now, as kids just shoot up when you’re not looking. She found tons last year the first day she jumped in. This year she hopped in and found a slate stylus.
She’s very lucky, archaeology isn’t always so magical and fast paced! I call her our human metal detector.
Another youngin’ we had at the trench the last two days had found tons of bottles with his dad, and then he helped us clean a lot of his finds. I wish I could have had as much fun getting cool experiences when I was their age!
Tonight is Chris’s birthday celebration at the bar so I will get going. A beer is much deserved and I think pizza is on the menu!
Check back tomorrow!
Milk bottle at the bar from Pittsfield
Pizza, beer, beer cheese dip pretzels
…and I’ll tell you about our hugely busy Saturday we have coming up!
I turned 29 today, and spent the day on an archaeological dig! It was the best.
First my husband gave me a “Time Team” t-shirt, which I then wore all day.
Then we went out and started digging!
I am not sure if digging a Shaker building is my idea of the best birthday ever, I mean, I can think of a few other more weighty sounding places to dig… but all in all… it was more about the experience. I am learning so much and so fast every day… I feel like I’ve been thrown in the deep end to see if I’ll sink or swim.
I hope they see that I’m basically doggy paddling. I am not drowning, but I’m not as elegant and practiced as I would like to be! We got so much accomplished today, its just proof that when you work hard time flies but progress gets made.
We started out welcoming new people to our group, and telling them about the Shakers at Mt. Lebanon, so they had some bearings of what they’re about to work on. Meanwhile Catt (the other intern) and I ran around and got some sieves set up and were told to go set up the site. I was in charge of finds so I had to label finds trays and keep the levels straight in my head… or, you know, on paper. Either way… I need to know what the finds are, where they came from, etc!
I also helped some new people in how to best begin in their trenches, ran around to find things that were left behind, answered every question I was asked by several diggers- today was a challenge in managing your time and other’s work, and I had great fun.
A jar from the company who were the first to jar and sell Marmalade.
Marty’s first finds, bone & brick!
Tractor guy helping us remove stones.
We had a tractor pull of sorts… well, it pulled some stones out of our way! Lisa even got a ride on the tractor, it looked fun and she didn’t even go fast at all. She was like strict about when I could or couldn’t leave to go get something we had left in the finds room… and then by the time I realized why, she was cutting berry cobbler for me as the dig team sang “Happy Birthday”, and I was just all smiles.
Even without knowing most of the people here for long, I haven’t had that many people sing to me on my birthday who weren’t family, so now its like we are a big dig family. Plus it was delicious!
We worked very diligently, and I probably didn’t smile on the outside for as happy as I was on the inside. After the real work got done, I was just so pleased. This was basically exactly what I wanted my birthday to be like as I booked this journey at this time.
Being an intern is so big to me, and learning all this is so good for me, it feels right.
I guess its appropriate that when you get older you get wiser right?
At the end of the day the trench looked so different and the finds got put away, I’m fairly confident I know where everything came from and we may even pull some out of what was found today to label as special finds. The end of the day wrapped up and we grabbed a beer and sat in the grass as the sun began to fade. Just with a couple of people who mean a lot to me, and so that was a wonderful moment.
I drove us home racing the sunset to see some little historical sites that are right next to where we are staying and actually somewhat related to the history of the house were staying in.
We looked at the cemetery really quickly, we looked at the historical marker where there was a tavern where the people of the Kings District voted for independence, a rebellious past to a very hidden little spot of grass and white lilac bushes. There is a building foundation still set into the ground back behind the marker, but that’s private property so I couldn’t possibly know that.
We got back home and my host gave me a tiny shovel charm/pendant for a necklace, it made me squeal a little. Then my family called and I talked to all three sides of my family, and I believe now we are about to go make a bon fire.
So, bon voyage, check in tomrrow for more updates! Thanks to everyone who made my bday great, love you all~!
I woke up today to my alarm clock. I was finally tired enough to “sleep in” and needed to be woke up. The motivation for getting out of bed was that not only am I here to do this dig, but today I got to leave early to pick up my husband who I haven’t seen in a few days! I was excited but groggy as I drove myself down to meet the team.
We meet everyday at “HQ” since we may have new diggers with us on any given day. We didn’t have any new people, so we didn’t need to go over instructions or rules, we just headed out to the site to dig until lunch came. In the morning we got a lot of rocks and earth shifted. Compared to the bushy mess we walked into when we got here, today everything was looking really archaeological.
Through all the shifting and digging and pick-axing, we keep finding ourselves surrounded with a small ecosystem of creatures which haven’t been disturbed since Shakers were knocking around these parts! All sorts…work horses, hawks, Cardinals, Robins, bumble bees (maybe a hive?), beetles, ants, centipedes, chipmunks and then today we added snails, slugs, salamanders and even a tuft of hair, perhaps another animals leftovers. (Don’t think anyone really wants to get too close to the tuft of hair though!)
We began having some interesting finds. We are definitely going back in time as we pull these layers up. In one trench, we’re only in the first layer and we hit the stone floor of the cellar. It’s hard to see, because we’re still working on that surface so we haven’t cleaned all the dirt off of it yet.
In our Slot 1 trench we have found too many bed springs to remember, some metal scraps and some pottery sherds, an old wine bottle base and perhaps a lock plate for the back door. (At least it was near the threshold!) Also near the back door area our head of fieldwork plucked up a stoneware handle like… almost too perfectly clean, so I joked that he planted it there just so he could uncover it like he was unearthing a Egyptian gem from its ancient tomb!
The trench next to that (called Slot 2) has a lot more brick and one guy pulled out some very cute pieces of pottery. Slot 2 has also produced thus far, 2 motor oil containers and 3 dental cream/toothpaste tubes. Tomorrow I know a lot more finds are coming out of Slot 2, we had to leave some today because they run under our context into the next one (the layer underneath).
Up around the edges we began clearing the walls and surrounding area so we can really define the remains of this building on its southern end. There were a couple finds out of the section they put in on the East side of the trench. One being a movable/working pulley and the other being a gorgeous beer bottle.
Honestly, it has a sheen on it that reflects light in a magical way. Whether its because its dirty still or it was glazed we will find out later when we wash and sort it.
During our dig today a school tour of first graders came through riding on the back of a trailer. Maiya showed them a couple of finds, told them why we were digging and I snagged a couple of adorable shots. Those kids were so curious about everything we had uncovered, and some were quite confident in guessing what these glass sherds once were!
I left a little early to head to the airport to pick up my husband. I first felt so excited to see him and then lucky to be able to leave an hour early and have a little more resting time from the physical labor part. With all these veterans around, I realize how badly I need to work out! The drive to get him got more congested with traffic the closer I got to Albany. We came back to our familiar town area and went out to grab essentials… beer, soup, crackers, snacks, juice, work boots, you know- just archaeology things!
We got home and had some food and showered. Settled in and now we are ready for tomorrow! Check back to see what we’ve done, oh and by the way,
Tomorrow is my Bday! I’ll be 29! (I’m sure I’ll still tripping over section lines.)
We knew it would rain, but we decided to get digging into some archaeology anyway. The Dig Ventures crew and AVAR veterans were joined today by three people who were digging just for the day.
Today we cleared the top soil from the site, and took down some small trees. The building we were clearing was labeled on some old photos to be a Print House, “where all of Mt. Lebanon’s printing was done.” From the photos we can also see a building just south of the Print House and we did find some stone in the area, so we were clearing the brush and trees away to investigate that as well.
The Shakers lived in a village, but also were somewhat separated into families which specialized in skills and lived together in one area. The Print House belonged to the Center family, who also were known for their medicines. Just across the main road through the village from our building site is where a whole complex of Center family buildings once stood. There are only a few buildings left, and one of them I believe was once the Medicine House.
Just as it was about lunch time, we had some finds in our finds trays and it was beginning to rain a little more. We headed in for lunch and then went on a tour of the village. We all had rain gear, so it was helpful to inform the people only here for today what this village was all about.
The beginning of the tour was actually something I didn’t remember learning last year, which was that the house-like building in front of the Darrow School Dining Hall was actually here before the Shakers. It was a 1700’s farm house owned by a Mr. Darrow. Apparently once he met the Shakers he was so enthralled by them that he gave them his house and property. This enabled the Shakers to build the largest Shaker settlement in the United States.
We moved on to the Meeting House(now Darrow Library), which is obvious in any photo because of its wide, curved roof. An innovative technology and style back in their day. The building also had more than one door. It has separate doors for men and women. The Shakers believed in being equal but separate. They worked and worshiped together, but also kept staircases and doorways dedicated by gender, which reflected their belief in celibacy. The women who lived as Shakers could attain leadership roles and authority, which was rare in those days. Usually in our culture the women stayed home raising children, but the communal living and beliefs of the Shakers allowed women to become a part of and give back to their communities. There were even women Shaker inventors, writers and religious leaders. At times there were more women than men living in the village.
We then looked at a few other buildings, like the Elder’s Dwelling House which was right next to the Meeting House, and Church Family Dwelling which is just across from them. The village was egalitarian but also had some slight social hierarchies which can be seen in their landscape. The closer the families lived to the Meeting House and the heart of the village, the more important they seem to be. Our site is on Center Family grounds, and was then the second most important after the Church family and the religious leaders.
Medicine, Printing, Herbs, all were a staple of Shaker specializations.
We then looked at some buildings and the pond near the Tannery. The major feat of engineering is how they controlled water on this mountainside. There was a natural spring nearby and they built culverts and drainage which only needed slight repairs to maintain the water to this day. The culverts would have given water access to buildings like Mills and the Tannery and the fields.
Typical of Shakers, a cutting edge technology used to create a simple way of life.
We then looked on to the Great Stone Barn. The barn is a huge structure, even if it is just walls now. It went into disrepair in the 1970’s and is now listed on the World Monuments Fund. The barn was built into the hill so that they could easily bring in the hay harvest at one end, and be on the top floor where then through a trap door they would drop the hay. The building is so huge it was hard for everyone to believe they had so many animals!
We couldn’t go inside but since it was raining, and the barn has no roof,
grabbed our finds trays from the dig site and set up our Finds Room in what is the greenhouse of our “HQ”.
We learned how to wash and organize finds by their context numbers. I will also be in charge of the finds and recording them, a huge task for an intern! As Brendon said with a smile, “a critically important one.” I’m up to the challenge though, I’m already lovingly gazing over all the glass and pottery with any sort of marking on them.
With the help of our team we washed and organized all of our different trench’s finds by context number and ended the day a little early. I was shown how to edit the spreadsheets and digital dig team records for the finds. Then I was given a USB drive to borrow with the spreadsheets on it. DigVentures couldn’t have given me a more “UK” USB if they tried. Not only does it have a little mythical beast carved into the wood, but it contains other nerdy documents from their UK digs.
I’m a little rested since we only had half a day of digging and the other half walking and washing. Though my mind was busy all day. I’m excited to see what we uncover over the next two weeks. There’s a lot to learn ahead of me, and so far I’m loving all of it. Sometimes a little archaeology can be really amazing.
Today was an extremely busy and productive day. I got going a little slowly this morning after having been up late the night before. I headed home at 9:00 pm or so last night and proceeded to pour over old records, old photos, blogs, biographies, not to mention I had to write yesterdays blog post about visiting Hancock village. I could have made three blogs about the visit, but each day has so much packed into it, I am exhausted on day two of being here!
Anyway, today we met some members of the AVAR group, a group of Veterans who are in this program which allows them to have a chance at archaeology as a project which helps them transition back to their civilian lifestyles.
They had lots of questions right off the bat, and it was great because asking means you’re getting answers and learning. That’s what all of this is about, I heard one vet who was asked by our DV team why he was interested in archaeology as this was his first dig. He responded, “I just like to know stuff.”
I agree. Actually its saying a lot when you can say that little and genuinely mean it and everyone else feels it too.
We looked at our site through LiDAR results, maps, photos, and areal photos of the area we are going to survey, this year. We have divided the area into grid squares, and by the end of two weeks we will have surveyed nearly 30 acres!
There is a lot of talking and getting to know each other today, but we all work so hard there are also results. We saw to the site for the first time today, and it was covered in vines and bushes. We had to clear all of that to take a Pre-Excavation photo of the site ready to dig , somewhat for a ‘before and after’, but mostly just to keep pristine records of our actions.
These photos are not from the same angle, but at least they’re both taken from the North end looking South towards the site. The first photo is a little further away, as we were waiting for the man with the chainsaw to clear some big vines before we began. The after photo isn’t up to “pre-ex photo” standards, but for a blog photo it’ll do!
We were just supposed to clear the brush and loose vegetation but we had lots of material finds coming out that were recent in date and very in the way and hazardous to leave laying around. But we did find some old looking glass bottle pieces and some possible roof tiles (shale with a nail hole in them).
At one point, I drove Lisa (a co-founder of DigVentures!) to a store where we looked for tools and bought ice pops instead.
Honestly, they didn’t have the gear we were on a mission for, but it was hot out at the site with no tree cover or much shade. I think the crew was extremely happy with our decision.
We ate lunch and dinner at Darrow School which takes up residence in half of the Mt. Lebanon Shaker Village’s buildings. It was meatless Monday, and it was glorious. Filling, healthy food for a hard days work. It hit the spot. Lunch: Mexican style mac and cheese, peas and carrots, fruit on the side. Dinner: Pesto, and some baked pierogies, and lentil balls with ketchup and hot sauce. Oh, and a tall glass of orange juice.
We had a DV meeting after dinner deciding many things but mostly that we needed me to go back to the hardware store and get materials to make Ranging Poles. These are basically scales for photos but they are metrically-measured in red and white stripes.
As any good intern, I happily took selfies in a near-empty store with armfuls of awkward items. I told the clerk at the counter why and how I was using them for archaeology and he said it was really fascinating. I mean, how often do you get to brag about buying paint and wood for your archaeology internship, right!?
Okay, got the stuff and on the way home, right? Well, last night on the way home I remember seeing two police cars with flashing lights pulling someone over at the same time on opposite ends of the view-able road as I turned down 22 to go back home. I remembered the cop that gave me a seat belt ticket had said it was seat belt week. I figure they have quotas to fill. But then out of nowhere, a string of flashing vehicles pass me and a cop car with lights drives toward me, as I’m driving. I stopped and rolled my window down and she tells me I have to get over because a wide load is coming through.
This is a very small town for such a wide load. Its because the highway is only a two lane road through these parts. It was completely annoying at the time but I think I’d rather get over for wide loads then have them widen a highway in such a beautiful, natural and historical area.
Well, I made it home with so much on my mind I can barely feel my aching legs. Breakfast is at 7:45 am, so I am hopping off to bed.
Check back tomorrow!
I am back in New Lebanon where Dig Ventures is getting dirty again in Shaker soil. This time, though, I am interning. This means I will be busy, tired, exhausted, learn a bunch and I will also have the best time ever.
My husband is joining us in two days and I cannot wait!
Today I toured Hancock Shaker Village just a couple miles down the road (and over the state line). Tons of amazing atmosphere and inspiration there. Makes for a healthy curious and studying mind.
Saw a millstone, which looked beautiful.
Saw some blacksmiths demonstrating smithing.
Sawed some wood.
There was almost too much to take in during the time I had today. But I got to see the great Round Barn. And I got some amazing photos which have some clues to some mysteries I’ve been wondering about.
Then, I went to DV headquarters and we had a lovely pesto, fish, salad and beer dinner. The beer hit the spot after all the traveling and sight seeing.
We went over our details and schedule for tomorrow and what my slight focus will be for the internship. Not only being over all involved in everything and anything they tell me to do… they’ve also enlisted me for “Finds Room”. Its a huge task, and I’m giddy about it. Finds, you know- things that weren’t lost, but upon discovery, you find something intriguing about them! Seriously though, there is much to learn about how to record all the details of all the finds. (wait..this sounds like work…)
It’s so late and I’ll only have more to say the next few weeks so, here are some photos of Hancock Village. Goodnight, check back tomorrow!
We were married on the last day of March. April 1st we slept in and ate cake, toured a brewery and took some ale home to the hot tub. Then, on April 2nd, our first great adventure began.
Our first few nights we had rented a cabin with a hot tub, a meditation trail and the property was next to a park with a wildlife sanctuary and walking trail. We began our explorations there. I had noticed when we were driving to the cabin that we passed some small old buildings, almost prop like… they were all simply labeled “Bank”, or “Train Station”, and it seemed like a cute historical tourist attraction. So, we thought we’d walk the trail and then visit all the little buildings in “town”. Well, after grabbing some ice cream cones.
When we parked at the park, we realized we could have walked and could still see the roof of our cabin. It seemed further when we first drove through, but it was a lovely trail through the park with signs talking about the Blue Birds and butterflies, especially Monarchs, that the park was built to harbor and assist their population growths. It was a somewhat serendipitous thing that the area was a Blue Bird sanctuary, since together we had a history of bird watching and catching the sight of a Blue Bird in flight. The butterfly garden was not blooming, and even if it had been it wasn’t planned to help Luna Moths which was the moth I held the night Marty proposed to me. However we had just seen several Luna Moth depictions in Athens Ga, on our way to Winterville. So, together we decided we were getting signs that our relationship is connected to the spirits of Luna Moths and Blue Birds.
We looped back past the car and walked up to the building labeled “Bank”. It was a small square brick building, it was surreal and adorable. The door had an actual modern accounting company’s logo frosted onto the old fashioned glass panel. I stood out front with my mint chip ice cream cone as my new husband took a tourist style photo of me standing in front of the “Bank”s facade.
We continued to the old “Train Station”. There were signs about the fare circa an outdated century, and how the building was the train station when the rail line ran through. So, we realized these buildings were the actual historical buildings of the town. The signs in the park then revealed that the Pittard family had given all this land to become a park next to the old down town district. The family apparently had a lot of land and control of the town and the property was handed down generation after generation.
We circled around and saw a Church, an old Doctor’s house Museum (which was closed!), a Library, a City Hall, and a Police Station. We took some photos and then decided to continue on the road just past our cabin to the small Winterville Cemetery.
Prominent family names were obvious. There were definitely many Pittard’s. There were too many infant graves. There were a few confederate flags. The oldest graves were dated from the 1800’s but we knew we had read on the signs of Pittard Park that the Pittard family had settled here in the very late 1700’s, so I wondered where their graves were, as I did not find them.
Near the end of our tour we ended up around the entrance of the cemetery as we were headed towards where the car was parked. Here stood a tall grey monument I had somehow missed when we pulled in. It was dedicated to the Confederate dead. I took photos but I didn’t read it. I noticed Marty was.
When we got back to the cabin we talked about how just that amount of exploring taught us a lot about the area. Marty filled me in that what he read on the monument was more than just a Confederate dedication, but that the train station had been a hub which sent soldiers on to the hospital during the Civil War, and how there were some who died who were buried behind the church.
We decided that the next day we would find the men buried behind the church. And go to the Library, and just keep exploring the little town. The story was beginning to hold mysteries and secrets to be uncovered.
April 3rd, we woke up and had breakfast and we continued the adventure. We did indeed find the five graves behind the church. It was the same church we could see from the “Train Station” building. I made a pencil and paper rubbing of the first name and the army seal of the grave of “John”, who was the one of five who had a name on his grave. I also made a rubbing of the letters, “UNKN”, from one of the four “UNKNOWN” soldier graves. We swept the leaves off the grave stones and moved on to the Library.
We just wanted to see what a cute tiny Library building would have. We had no idea…
…no idea the first room, first section I reach for is the “Local History” section. These tiny three shelves were completely filled with books on the history of families of the town, County history, and copies of newspapers from the 1880’s. Okay, there was only a few copies of days from 1880’s but the stories were still fascinating. Lynchings, town riots, murders, fires and all sorts of ads and factoids. We poured over them for at least an hour, and we continued to scour the rest of the local history shelf. Marty was flipping through photos of people from the founding of the Atlanta area, showing me pages that caught his interest. Places we’ve seen in Atlanta, or traveling bands of minstrels and the like. I found myself stuck in a book about the county history, especially the bit about Cherokee Corner.
Said to be just on a corner of a road that I recognized the name of. We had just been driving there, so I thought it must be near by! There was a lot of info about the ‘Corner’, so I took photos of the book pages. I got to the extent of learning it was once the border between Creek and Cherokee territories and was treated as a neutral land, a meeting space, and then it became the extent of their territory which butted up against the white man’s new territory. Now it was written into the white mans books, with the location of the Cherokee Corner noted to be near an old Oak tree.
More on following pages revealed how later, a woman gifted a plot of land to become a church. The church was built in the 1800’s, and renovated several times, but still remained near the same corner as Cherokee Corner.
By no time, I made my way back to the cabin, and was googling “Cherokee Corner”, and learning the road and the church were marked on google maps and there was a historical trail marker nearby for Cherokee Corner. And that we could drive there before sunset. So we set out for it.
We drove about 15 mins down the road and saw we passed a sign, which looked like a historical marker. Then we saw the church. We pulled in and it has signs for a Quaker meeting. There was a cemetery behind the church, so we walked through it. There was an old disintegrating shed behind the cemetery. I recognized names from the book about the church, names of local people who had been ministers and some other family names. There was 1800’s markers up through the 1940’s. We also saw two newer sheds, one with a deer skull hanging outside of it, and filled with broken antique chairs piled in, with glass jars and scatter laying all around them. We peeked into the church, it was simple, and cute.
We decided we would walk down to the marker we saw. It was Cherokee Corner. It is just a bend in the road, and a patch of woods. But oh how we wanted to explore the woods. We resisted upon the discovery of thorny bushes. The corner was neither magical nor mundane. It seemed like an amazing gem of forest if it was truly untouched, as the local history seemed to suggest, since the Cherokee had a trail leading to this spot. But it also seemed so choked off and hidden by the busy road cutting through the country side.
A perilous place for a piece of history. I hope they keep a hold of this land to preserve the history of the town the way that the small town Train Station has been purposely cherished and preserved.
A little bit further down from there, was a sign marker for the William Bartram Trail, (which we later saw more signs about in Savannah) the trail marker here was next to the driveway for a residential area. I wondered how forgotten the history would be here, while the sign and the place will sit silently remaining, unremarked by the life growing up around it.
We had just jumped from curiosity to research to locating places in the field from maps, place names, trails of written and landscape clues, to finding new historical places and stories along the way. If only we could stumble and find artifacts, we joked. We walked back towards the church. Up in the grass I spotted something, it was a Luna Moth.
We got closer and closer and nearly held it, and it breezed Marty’s hand and flew away into the trees across a field. It seemed so meant to be. The whole adventure was perfectly worth it, and we returned to our cabin filled with excitement and wonder.
At the cabin we noticed a desk name sign, it had our hosts name, with the title “Mayor” underneath. (She had been mayor!?) This whole time we were exploring the town, we were staying at the ex-Mayor’s house. We laughed at the prospect of being able to learn it all from her if we had just asked, but it was obviously more fun to go on the adventure as a team anyway. As perfect as the first few days were, that night was perfect. We ended up watching the fireflies sparkle like a light show in the trees from the warmth of each other’s arms in a hot tub, pondering the uncounted mysteries that await us.
A long time ago, in a dimly lit bar, a conversation was sparked up over an old rocking chair. A Shaker rocking chair. Now, I had not known who the Shakers were until I found an opportunity to dig on an excavation on Shaker land. I had to then research something that was only really known to a specific region of the U.S. Unless one is a history major or religious scholar, you need to have been near the Eastern U.S. to have grown up hearing about the Shakers.
One day, I am sitting at my local bar, and the owner is there. She buys me rounds and we laugh at our similarities and life’s blessings, and things we have worked for. She liked that I was interested in academic pursuits and history. I started to explain the Shaker project I was involved with and she had a minor explosion. She sat up straight in her chair and dropped her straw in her drink and began to explain with rushed hand movements that she has her grandmother’s Shaker chair. She explained how big a deal her mother made out of this chair, so she had done a little research on Shakers. She explained that she was from northern New York, and it made sense to me then that she even knew who the Shakers were. We laughed and drank and mingled until I can’t recall what happened next.
Now, the next round of digging at the Shaker site is coming up soon. I am getting ready to go through the experience I had last year, but this time for twice as long. Two weeks. Being in Atlanta, this mostly means online research and shopping for weather proof clothing. Last week I had suddenly remembered that I knew someone here who had a Shaker “artifact”. More like an heirloom, as it has been in her family and in use for so long. So, I messaged her and pondered if I could come see the chair. She was ready to have me over without hesitation.
Keeping in mind that she owns the local bar, I walked into the bar to grab a drink and text her that I was nearby. The first thing I see in the bar is the group of regulars at the back, surrounding a small, smiling woman who I walked straight up to. She said, “Oh aren’t we supposed to be meeting today!?” Well, that made that easy.
A few complimentary drinks later, we are walking up the hill to her house to see the Shaker chair. My fiance and her son were talking D&D and Star Wars, allowing us to enter into full Shaker-appreciation-mode. She pulled the chair out of her bedroom corner and into the living room. It’s smaller than I had expected, and surprisingly comfy looking for a Shaker piece. The wood frame screams Shaker original. I don’t think it’s been cleaned or re-stained/refinished, So I kept running my hands over the rungs.
She showed me the factory stamp, declaring the chair “Shakers- No 3- Trademark- Mt. Lebanon”. The seat and back she had recently recovered, leaving the (as far as she knew) original fabrics beneath. Even after needing the re-upholstering, she invited me to sit in it, and it was very sturdy. It rocked smoothly and felt stable and comfortable.
She told me as much as she could about the chair’s history in her family. She said her family was from Winthrop, NY. Her grandmother was probably born in 1915. The chair had been passed down to her mother, who then gave it to her, with strict warnings and great concern over the safety of their family chair. She also plans to pass the chair down to her son, and hopes it’ll stay in use for generations.
The Shakers at Mt Lebanon (later New Lebanon) were one of the only Shaker groups to have a chair factory which sold chairs to people outside of their community. The stamp on the chair does have the label proving it is from the Mt Lebanon Shakers. But the stamp itself and the “No. 3” helps us indicate the style, size, and probable date of manufacture.
The Shakers usually shared their inventions with the public, and thus had a hard time getting credit for their inventions. But in the later 1800’s they had realized that patents were necessary sometimes to protect their handiwork and good name.
It was around that time in the late 1800’s they began to stamp the chairs with this patent mark. The “No. 3” is the size/style of this chair. It is a Shaker rocking chair, which were made in sizes 0-7. 7 being for large adults and 0 being for small children. This made sense as the chair seemed a little undersized. (However the current owner fits the chair to a ‘T.’)
With this info, the possible date range of her chair is 1850’s-1920. After 1900’s, Shaker numbers were in decline and they produced less and less chairs. However it was very in fashion in the region her family lived to have these Shaker chairs for generations before her grandmother was born. So it is possible the chair was handed down to her grandmother, but I think based on the two generations of her family which has been referring to this chair as “her grandma’s chair” I am guessing this chair was a gift to her grandmother, or bought for her nursery when she was a young girl.
She had the chair appraised for insurance purposes, but she said it’s estimate was nothing compared to its sentimental value. She knew Mt Lebanon was the largest Shaker community and a little bit about them but we talked and I told her as much as I could about the Shakers that she didn’t already know. She granted me access to the chair whenever I should need it in the future. It was a lovely night in Atlanta to sit in a Shaker chair.
In April of last year I found out I would be attending my first ever dig experience in the field. Not only that, but it would be with a team of archaeologists who I had been following online, being herded further and further into the trenches. I was beside myself and had the best adventure- possibly of my entire life as of yet. On this trip, I held my first trowel, found my first (bone/glass/ceramic/metal)find, first evidence of burning, carried my first buckets, drew my first plans, and met a woman who suggested I go to a second dig. Well, at the end of this trip full of firsts, I cried. Unsure if money would prevent me from continuing, unsure of everything. Suddenly thinking, “What if I’ll never get to see them/this again? Do this again?”
Weeks later I was at an airport with my dig boots on. I followed the advice of the woman who suggested this dig which needed volunteers. Flying home to dig near enough to a relative that I convinced her to join me. We signed up to dig for a week in the summer, a totally new dig to us, but they had already been digging and we joined in the last week. It was amazing to have someone close be with you to talk day in and day out about the trench gossip. Who found what, who dug and who sifted, who lifted and what was going to happen the next day. On this trip I found my first prehistoric decorated pottery sherd, my first bone- make that my first jaw- make that my second jaw, my first core, and several microliths. Munselled my first soil. Recorded my second dig. Took my first steps into my first concrete World War ammunition and TNT bunker. First look at my site’s GPR results, took my first float sample, and wrestled out my first core sample. At the end of the week it was hard to stop, but I filled in my first trench with help of a CAT. The hardest was saying goodbye to such welcoming relatives. I left in the middle of the night, so I could meet the sun at the airport.
Now its been months, and my last entry was to announce all the changes that were coming about last year and plans being made for this year. So, my wedding is coming very, very quickly. It is nearly impossible to savor time you have when it is flying by while you’re having a good time! But we are making an effort of it. Then after a week of low key relaxation together we get back to work. His birthday is next, and I have some things in mind. Then in May I am going back to dig. And I am bringing him with for two days. Which will be during my birthday… or should I say my birthday will be during the two days I will be digging…for the first time…with my husband.
What archaeology bride to be wouldn’t need to write a blog about this.
Then after we dig in May, I have summer semester. Then in September I am going to make sure my schooling will all be online, because we are taking a ‘real’ honeymoon trip to Lindesfarne, UK! Oh, my… Gods. I can’t even begin with how excited I am that we are planning to attend. We will be asking for help with airfare, but besides that we are completely set to go. There will be archaeology, talks, people, dogs, t shirts, beers, and even I hear a party and a band. So, there goes my calendar.
I am booked making sure that all of this goes smoothly while holding down an honors gpa and a part time job or two.
…Then out of no where I start getting emails from archaeologists, and before you know it I’m blogging, researching, taking notes, emailing, messaging… calling my mom to brag and squeak at the same time.
There is a lot going on.
So, please keep checking in with me! Lots more to come!