Special Edition Day 8 May 15, 2001
The Fort Edwards Archaeologist
Unearthing the Story of Joseph Edwards's Home and Fort
Report on the Archaeological Excavations at Fort Edwards, home site of Joseph
Edwards and a French and Indian War frontier fort of Col. George Washington.
This archaeological excavation is part of the ongoing project of The Fort Edwards Foundation of Capon Bridge, West Virginia, to preserve, protect and iterpret the home site and fort site at Joseph Edwards's land grant on the banks of the Cacapon River in Hampshire County, West Virginia. This site represents both an early settler's home of the second quarter of the eighteenth century and a French and Indian War fort in Col. George Washington's chain of forts protecting the Virginia frontier. The excavation is under the direction of Dr. Stephen McBride of Wilbur Smith Associates of Lexington, KY. This page is one of a series of reports on the work.
Day Eight - Moving the Dirt In Spite of a Dead Digger
Anyone who has tried to have a backhoe show up on time in Hampshire County must have been impressed when we were ready to go on the appointed day. The plan had been that since the fields around the site had been plowed for two hundred years, we would use a backhoe to remove the plowed layer down to undisturbed soil where the features remain intact. What we had been doing by hand for the last seven days would now be speeded up with mechanical assistance. But then disaster struck! The main hydraulic unit on the backhoe broke and it was dead. It could not even be moved off the site. There it sat with its bucket half buried in the soil.
It looked as if Kurt would have to dig a few hundred feet of trench with his wonderful yellow handled shovel. But then our own Charlie Parker, Vice President of the Foundation, ex-Capon Bridge Police Chief, hard working Ruritan member and initiator of the wonderful program for the youth of our area, Kids in Action, took action himself. Within an hour and a half he had another backhoe on the scene and we were back in action. It certianly pays to know everyone in Capon Bridge. Thank you, Charlie!
The plan was to dig trenches perpendicular to the alignment of Dr. Gardner's stockade trench in hopes of finding it again. The thinking was that since the original house was on the spot of the current building or near it (although possibly aligned differently) there should be some protective structure around it especially on the west side. By digging a series of trenches just down to the undisturbed soil below the plow zone, we should pick up traces of features.
This would be a carefully supervised project. With at least one supervisor on the ground by the bucket and a skilled operator, which we were fortunate to have, the work progressed fairly quickly.
Troweling the Trench
Even with the assistance of this piece of modern equipment, there is still the need for an experience person with a practiced eye and steady hand to follow after the backhoe and clean the soil down to the undisturbed layer. Dr. McBride followed along every foot of the trench to scrape with his trowel in hopes of finding features (marks of human occupation). Unfortunately, the few that were found today did not lead us to believe that we would find another segment of stockage trench and post marks. However, we will have another chance tomorrow to continue the line of trenches.
Old Fashioned Way
While the backhoe was busily chugging away on its long trenches other crews were doing it the old fashioned way - by hand. The STPs and the sifting must still be done by hand. It takes feeling fingers and searching eyes to spot those artifacts and record the data. Below in the wall of the trench Jim and Keith are measuring is probably a button.
This is a picture of the trench of Feature #12 that Jim and Keith are measuring. It is a feature we have spent several days working on. The smaller narrow feature is not as deep as the larger feature and was cut by the deeper one; that tells us it was made at an earlier date. What these two features are is still a mystery. Perhaps we will have time to enlarge the trench to explore them further. Otherwise they will wait until the next dig sometime in the future.
While Keith and Jim were working on their feature other crews were working on STPs and other trenches. The work of sifting the dirt is slow and seeming boring until you find something among the clods of dirt. It is a wonderful feeling to find something that someone last saw hundreds of years ago.
For some reason unknown to this editor, members of the crew decided today to forsake the "bucket sitting" and go for standing sifting. Apparently, there must be some ancient archaeological tradition that changing your sifting position changes your chances of finding something.
For the benefit of the family and friends of the folks working on the project we include this picture to let you know that we do allow the workers to take a lunch break. We can not make any statements as to the nutritional value of the midday repass, but you can see a banana on the table, so take heart that someone is having a healthy lunch. At least they are having fun. We hope you are too.
Lots of Dirt
By the end of the day we had uncovered quite a few trenches. So far we do not have many significant features, at least of the variety that would lead us to believe we have found another segment of the stockade wall. But tomorrow is another day. Stay tuned.
Artifacts of the Day
We continued to find just the kind of artifacts we had hoped for. From top center they include: an engine turned pearlware fragment probably from a bowl, painted delftware with an unusual green glaze, Kaolin pipe stems and the large shard of redware with the fancy painting on it. The pipe stems are very common in colonial times. They were made from a special clay found in England and Scotland called Kaolin. Archaeologists like to find pipe stems because they are easily dated by several characteristics including the size of the hole in the stem.
Volunteers of the Day
The volunteers today included Don Judy who came looking for colonial Republican artifacts and Jake Wysopal who had so much fun yesterday he decided to try all the days this week. Isabel Plowright returned and Jim Cawley is still on vacation with us. Ginny Householder, a friend from Fort Frederick in Maryland, was with us the last part of the day too late for a picture. Becky Moore did her usual after school stint. Thanks to all our volunteers. Hope our viewers notice how this kind of activity has such a pull on people. Keep on our mailing list, folks, and maybe you can sign up for the next project.
Although he is not a volunteer but rather a member of the Wilbur Smith Associates team from Lexington, we decided to put up a picture of Jim Fenton, a Cultural Resources Planner, because he has such a nice British accent. Just the right person to look for Kaolin pipe stem artifacts.