Local News

August 22, 2009

Sifting for evidence of life at Timbucto


The actual dig began at two sites: inside the old stone foundation and in a midden (household dump) in the woods.

Both, at first, looked promising, Kruczek-Aaron said.

Students uncovered a hand-wrought metal section of harness and cut nails scattered from the clearing to the dump; but no further evidence surfaced of a mid-19th-century life.

"We really don't think this was used as the domestic residence," Kruczek-Aaron said.

Andrew Barkley, a student working at the site, sifted soil from the dump.

"We've found some ceramics, glass, a door keyhole and some Syracuse china dating to the 1920s and 30s," he said, undeterred.

Students Chris Morine, Shannon Halsey and Rachel Hunt mapped another deep trench dug through the midden in centimeters. Glass bottles and tin relics poked from the pit wall.

Social Details

The students considered Smith's efforts at Timbucto.

"He decided to help the poorest of the poor," Morine said. "He even said it wasn't going to be easy."

"He probably figured if they could make it here, they could make it anywhere," Halsey said. "Then again, the Epps family was here for 25 years. That could be considered a success."

The Potsdam students were unfazed by the dearth of archaeological evidence found so far.

"It's 40 acres, realistically speaking," Morine said. "We're looking for what might have been a slight impact on a changing landscape."

About two weeks into the dig, Kruczek-Aaron received an old photograph from a member of the Lawrence family, members of whom lived on Epps lot after Lyman Epps, Jr. sold it in 1900.

The photo shows a homestead clearing with three log structures.

A Department of Environmental Conservation map, circa 1900, shared by a neighbor, outlines this same clearing, showing three structures marked about a quarter-mile from where students worked this summer.

That land, part of Lot 84, is now part of the Forest Preserve and might be the original Epps homestead.

Though this summer's work has ended, Kruczek-Aaron hopes to expand the project.

The goal is to produce a new narrative, she said, to search and find details of how social inequality is lived and resisted in rural America.

E-mail Kim Smith Dedam at:

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