On Saturday morning, 17 students began excavating at the site of Lot 3776, a late 19th century property at Wittenberg University’s campus. The students are part of a unique college program that let’s students earn 2 semester credits and start college a bit earlier than other members of their class. Co-leaders, Dr. Carmiele Wilkerson (English) and Dr. Brooks Hedstrom (History), are teaching students how to use archives, artifacts, and writing to craft essays about their past and Wittenberg’s.
The first members of Wittenberg’s Class of 2017 have arrived on campus and will begin excavations on campus on Saturday. Tomorrow we have the first orientation to the site and the great work completed in May by the Archaeology class. Stay tuned for our work on the site.
A big thank you to Tom Stafford, writer for the Springfield News-Sun for reporting on the May Term class “Archaeological Field Methods” with an article entitled: “Students Dig Into Witt History.”
Read the article below and hear how Wittenberg students experienced discovery and writing history this summer while participating in campus archaeology.
Last week a 6 x 9 meter garage was removed for safety reasons on Wittenberg’s campus. However, inside was a beautiful brick-flooring that dates to the turn of the century. This gem will be added to our areas for work later this summer when Wittenberg’s Summer College “Digging for Our Past” participates in an excavation on campus. See the transformation of the site before and after below.
The garage has plumbing from a famous Memphis plumbing and gas company JA Bailey & Co. On the right you see the pump amidst the demolition of the garage (see below). A close-up of the company impression still wonderfully preserved in this garage.
After fully exposing the deposit (above) to see its full extent, we photographed the deposit with overhead shots and close-ups.
Then William and Mark began drawing a plan of the deposit (above), which included roof slate, red bricks, mortar, stone chips, and pebbles. The meter screen, seen above, assists archaeologists in drawing an accurate plan. In this case, the students are leveling the screen, using a plumb bob and a tap to accurately plot the features of the deposit on a 1:20 plan.
Finally, we removed the deposit so that we could count and process the deposit to see if we could determine what period the deposit was made. Three features point to the deposit reflecting the 19th century house: 1.) The pebbles underneath are consistent with those used for leveling a walkway, that gave entrance to the front of the house. 2.) The mortar’s composition has larger inclusions than the finer concrete and mortar found in the first week, which dates to the 1936 house. 3.) All the nails found in the deposit are 19th century cut nails.
Since the house was remodeled in 1936, it is possible this rubble reflects changes made to the house then. The entrance also shifted from an east entrance on N. Wittenberg, to a north entrance on West College. See the two houses below:
We have discovered individuals, their families, their travels, their illnesses, and the nails, slate, mortar, limestone, and paint chips that once made up the home and property that they owned. This is nearby archaeology at its best. We hope that you will explore this site to discover what we have learned about Lot 3777. It is now just a 50 x 150 feet lot without a house.
We ended our May Term class by finishing excavation reports and profiles on the homeowners. Some of the exploration will continue this summer on site and with internships this fall to further process the material and investigate the women of Alpha Xi Delta who lived in the house from 1919-1992. We also hope to gather some photo documentation and accounts from the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity who lived there unitl 2009.
Ella I. MacMillen (McMillen) holds the deed to Lot 3777 from 1898 until 1905. While she did own the property, she did not reside in the house often as she was frequently abroad from 1895-1920. Instead her husband and two of her three sons (Charles and Samuel), lived at 219 Ferncliff at least from 1892-1896.
Marietta College’s Special Collections holds a marvelous collection of family letters, photographs and concert performance material associated with the famous violinist Francis Rea MacMillen, one of Ella’s three sons. In one photograph you see Ella and a young Francis, likely around the time they moved to Springfield in the mid 1890’s. The family moved here so Francis could take violin lessons. He would quickly become known across Europe and America for his talents.
Today the Wittenberg University’s “Archaeological Field Methods” class was visited by some students from Nightengale Montessori. They came to help observe what we are doing and to participate. They helped sort finds, scrape soil, and screen the collections. We appreciated their help and wonderful enthusiasm!
Each morning we start our day by processing the finds we recovered through excavation and screening of material in our Stoney Knoll rocking sifting screens. All coal, plaster, red brick, mortar, glass, pottery, nails and many other materials are collected each day.