Stauffer Farm Excavations Resume

In the fall, I wrote about the excavations in which  history majors participated at a late 18th century farmhouse south of Dillsburg.  The Oakes Museum of Natural History at Messiah College ran one of their “Curator Club Archaeology Days” for elementary aged children, and our students supervised the trenches.  You can read about the dig in blogs here and here.

This week, we return to the Stauffer Farm for a more systematic investigation, carried out in partnership with the Oakes Museum and as part of a class I’m teaching called “Archaeology and Historical Interpretation”.   Our objectives for fieldwork are twofold.  First, we are trying to determine the function and date of the outbuilding shown in the photo below.  This building lies about 40 meters west of the main residence along a raceway that connects to a creek.  In the second half of the 20th century, the building was used for storing “provisional discard,” items that could be of use to the owners of the property, but a fireplace in each of the rooms of the building suggests more complex lifecycles before this most recent phase.  Indeed, I recently heard an account that a murder was committed in the house long ago! Whatever we are to make of that, we have hypothesized the western room was a blacksmith room based on the old furnace visible there, and that the eastern room, with its plaster floor and decorative wall patterns, a domestic space.  There are graffiti and several dates written on the wall that suggest (if we are to take them at face value) that the eastern room was standing in the late19th century.  The western and eastern rooms, however, were clearly constructed at separate times as evident in the different appearances.  Hopefully excavation inside the western room will tell us about the early use of that space at least.  The students in History 305 will be writing  “occupational biographies” of the building after we excavate inside.

The outbuilding we are investigating.  Note the different construction styles of the west and east rooms


The furnace in the west room.  Is this a blacksmith space?

Our second objective is to find a missing watermill that presumably sat along the race that connects to the creek.   We have documentary evidence of a mill on the property from the mid-1800s, but the mill was not standing in 1937 when the first aerial photographs of the property were taken.  Examining the 1937 aerial photo, however, shows a linear feature along the race.  Is this a wall of the mill that was still visible in 1937 but no longer today?  We hope to have answers by the time we wrap up excavation on Saturday.

The Stauffer farm in 1937.  Is the dark linear feature south of outbuilding the wall of our missing mill?

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