19th Century Kitchen Cellar"
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We had one more surprise. The
brick cheeks of the fireplace, which was located on the east
wall, extended only about a foot into the room, and the actual
fire box was shallow and narrow. Heavily burned floor bricks
protruded well beyond the chimney cheeks. We recovered a cast-iron
door and foot to a stove in this vicinity. Setting this object
up against the fireplace would explain the unusually small dimensions
of the feature, as well as the burned brick out into the room.
excavators did recover a cast-iron andiron to a full-size fireplace
dating to ca. 1800, but, since it came from the building debris
near the top and at the opposite end of the structure, it is
more likely that this object was used in the main house and
discarded in the 1880’s or 1890’s.
After doing a profile drawing,
we quickly removed the overburden in the cellar’s northern
half, then carefully excavated the 4” layer of charcoal,
ash and burned artifacts. While doing this, we noticed that
certain types of artifacts were coming from certain parts of
the cellar and that this may help explain the different domestic
activities conducted in this rather large room (15’ x
Near the chimney (east) section,
we uncovered mostly utilitarian ceramics, such as ironstone
and a gray-bodied saltglaze stoneware, with some meal remains,
mostly chicken bones. The middle, or wooden-floored, section
had a great deal of chicken and pork bones (particularly rib)
with very little broken ceramics, only a red-bodied, yellowish
and heavily glazed bowl that looks American-made. Also in this
area, we recovered a set of bone-handled dinner knives. This
latter section appears to have been the dining area.
The artifacts from the burned
level of the western section were the most fascinating. Very
little pottery came from this section, but military objects
abounded. The floor here had the remains of at least five brass
and glass kerosene table lamps, their glass bowls and hurricane
glasses strewn everywhere. This type of lamp, manufactured in
the North before the Civil War, was purchased by Union soldiers.
Parts of these have been found on many Union camps throughout
also found a badly burned leather Union ammunition box with
its metal insert missing, but retaining its brass and lead “U.S.”
plate. Careful excavation here also revealed some needles and
thread, in terrible condition, along with three State of Connecticut
cuff buttons and an English-made Confederate “script I”
uniform button, as well as a couple of nicely-made bone tooth
brushes. It appears that this soldier was using an ammo box
for a “housewife.”
A few feet away and stuck in
between floor bricks was a State of New York coat button, and
in another part of the “room” we recovered a standard-issue
eagle button. Near the north wall, excavators found pieces of
a badly burned sword scabbard (but no sword) and several whole
medicine bottles. Their pontil-marked bottoms and mold seams
would date them to around the 1820’s or 1830’s.
addition, the burned level gave up several brass parts to a
harmonica, an iron candle snuffer, two glass “umbrella“
inkwells and one out of clay, a rubber lice comb, a broken Confederate
brass spur, several ebony and ivory hand-carved dominoes (a
few of these may have been in the housewife), a Large Cent (1834),
and, to our great surprise, several more hand-carved bone tooth
brushes, bringing the total to seventeen. The burned level also
contained the remains of what may have been a wooden bed with
rope stretched across the frame – this was in terrible
condition and did not even merit a photograph. In a ball of
burned material (probably cotton) the excavators recovered two
porcelain buttons, two suspenders hooks, one garter belt buckle
and a rubber button with a Goodyear’s backmark.
Above this area of the cellar
in the building debris, excavators uncovered the greatest amount
and variety of ceramics. The lion’s share of this was,
of course, 19th century ironstone, but we recovered broken vessels
of all types, notably “Flow-blue,” transfer-print
(in blue, black, and red), common stonewares and earthenwares,
mochawares, and even a few fragments of early 19th century “feather-edge”
recovered all but two small fragments of an antebellum transfer-print
meat platter, discarded along with several similar English-made
vessels in the cellar’s southwest corner – almost
as though the mistress of the house got new dinnerware and cleaned
out the family’s china press. I was impressed with a couple
of broken transfer-print vessels, both with unusual patterns
and both with what appears to be six or eight sides. These may
be soup tureens from Mrs. Turpin’s china closet.
objects thrown into the building debris were numerous. Besides
the handsome early 19th century andiron, excavators found tools
such as axes, hammers, shovels, etc., and even building hardware
such as hinges, nails, pintles, etc., with several early 19th
century padlocks. Some stringy (and slightly annoying) iron
rods turned out to be the metal parts to an umbrella.
A small nail keg contained several
inches of hardened red paint that matched the hue of the paint
we found on much of the interior plaster. Nearby, we discovered
an ingot of lead that appeared to have been poured into the
sole of a boot. Was this lead intended for use in the paint?
in with these ceramics, excavators found what appeared to be
the remains of some old clothes from a closet or wardrobe, together
with some iron hangers. Part of a heavy woolen drab brown shirt
survived – this resembles closely the U.S. Army uniform
of the Spanish-American War era. Nearby, and in the same high
level, excavators recovered the steel bayonet from a late 19th
century Springfield rifle – the tip had been broken off.
Approximately 15 Boy Scouts have
received their Archaeology Merit Badge, using this excavation
for the eight required hours of field work, and they finished
up the written work in subsequent months.
ASV members received sore backs.
I wish to thank Harold Longest
for his patience, physical labor and his front-end loader during
the dig. By not having a full-time crew to work the site, I
put him behind schedule several weeks, but he finally did move
his mother in by January.
Harold was also most kind to
allow me to store the boxes of artifacts in his shop and to
help me set up an electrolysis bath for conservation of some
of the iron artifacts. He has literally unlocked his front gate
for me and encouraged me to bring in students and ASV members
to use this site for educational purposes. To that end, the
display of Dr. Turpin’s artifacts perpetuates this wish.
Date posted: 12.20.04