At one point, they found a fairly well-preserved wooden beam that happened to be hollow inside. Upon further investigation, the beam turned out to be part of a drainage system from the former homestead to the river.
“Part of this area after the Revolutionary War was set aside for Canadian citizens who had fought for the U.S.,” Black said of the possible first settlers to Coopersville.
“After the war, people started settling in what would have been considered a remote area.”
However, official records of property owners in the late 1700s and early 1800s are sketchy, and Black could not locate documents to specifically say who may have first lived on his land.
A property map from 1848 clearly identifies other parcels in the area, but the people who had settled on the lot where Black’s efforts were focused were no longer there when the document was created.
“Oftentimes, people would put up a log cabin to settle a tract of land and would build a wood-framed house after a few years,” he explained. “That didn’t happen here. Where they (the original settlers) went, I have no idea.”
Excavation at the site was put on hold at the turn of the century as Black became involved in running his own archeological-survey business, but his interest has returned in the past several years.
Working as an archaeology instructor for SUNY Plattsburgh, Black reopened the site as a living classroom for his students.
Their work over the past few summers has allowed him to pinpoint where the original cabin stood, including the location of the settlers’ fireplace and an unusual crawlspace beneath the home.
They’ve found a plethora of artifacts, including buttons, brass thimbles and even charred seeds that identify what kinds of fruits and vegetables the settlers had been eating.