Thursday, June 30, 2011

Families help archaeologist dig for York County history

Mildred Olivia Knoll was picturing herself sitting in a rocking chair in one corner of a Stonetown building, believed to have been used as a home for quarry workers in the late 1800s.

"What would I be doing?" the 71-year-old said, looking down at what's left of the more than 200-year-old foundation of a home on farmland off Slateville Road, in southeastern York County.

Other who surrounded Knoll found a dirt-ridden piece of leather and sewing supplies, such as pins and needles, on the other side of the foundation.

"Probably not mending," she mused as she scooped another mound of dirt into her shovel in the 80-degree heat. "Probably just sleeping."

Knoll was one of about 25 members of the Collinsville Library summer reading program who took part in an archaeological dig Thursday afternoon - led by Peach Bottom Township native Steve Ciborowski - to uncover signs that Welsh immigrants lived there until about 1870.

Ciborowski believes the home has a cobblestone exterior and a wooden interior.

To get to artifacts, Knoll, of Airville, dug to find what was inside the home.

She excitedly pulled up several rusty nails, as others around her found pieces of pottery, pieces of flasks and buttons.

Ciborowski, a local archaeologist, stumbled upon the site about a year ago when he read an article about how its remains were in the area.

The land, in Peach Bottom Township, is owned by a local farmer. When the building burned down, Ciborowski said, others probably took pieces of the cobblestone and used it as a foundation for other houses.

For the most part, Knoll and others in the reading program got to keep artifacts they found, but "if we find something that would lend more to the story, then we'd have to turn it over to Steve," she said.

Those pieces will later be put on display - after the property is registered with the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission.

The Welsh workers didn't come upon the area until later, when they came to work in the quarries.

"The Welsh helped the state business flourish," Ciborowski said.

Mary Wurzbach, 13, of Brogue, said she found glass buttons while digging Thursday.

"I've never looked for anything in the dirt before," she said. "It makes you think about how they did things back then."

For more interesting topics related to archaeology, visit archaeology excavations.

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