I have always been intrigued by archaeology, and on May 20, 2013, I arrived at Historic Sandusky to begin my first field school along with four other graduate history students from Lynchburg College, one undergraduate student from Randolph College, and Lori A. Lee, Visiting Ainsworth Professor at Randolph College.
The next six weeks challenged our minds and our bodies as we used the techniques of archaeology to unearth our finds. The research design was to find the original kitchen located on the east side of the house. Through maps, eighteenth century insurance records, a 1937 WPA narrative, and an old 1917 photograph of Risque Hutter, we began our dig with two 2x5 units placed by Professor Lee and Randy Lichtenberger. Initially, we were overjoyed when we pulled out architectural debris (bricks, mortar, nails, charcoal, and window glass), but on day three of the excavation, we found our first hint of an existing structure. On that day, we uncovered three rows of articulated brick. We had found the kitchen! Well, actually we had not which was our first lesson in how finds usually lead to many more questions than they answer. However, based on this find, we began opening additional units where we began to find personal items, such as collar studs, ceramic sherds , and pieces of bottle glass. On rainy days, we used the classroom in the Visitor’s Center as a makeshift lab to process the artifacts.
We continued to find articulated brick, disturbed brick, and other features which were carefully mapped, measured, and photographed. Then on the next to the last week, we uncovered what we believe might be the corner of the kitchen. The placement makes sense when measured and compared to the extant documents; however, we cannot say for sure. That will be left to qualified archaeology volunteers and future field schools. For me, this experience was invaluable. I look forward to continuing my work at Sandusky as a volunteer digging (under a qualified archaeologist) and working in the lab processing artifacts.
This field school was the realization of a goal for Greg Starbuck, Executive Director for Historic Sandusky. It was through his collaboration with Dr. Barbara Rothermel and Dr. Nichole Sanders of Lynchburg College and Professor Lee that this pilot program was established. It is my opinion, and I believe my colleagues on the site would agree, that this was successful for both the participants and Historic Sandusky. It is my sincere hope that this becomes a yearly field school so that students can learn and Sandusky’s past can be uncovered.