PLATTSBURGH — When he first purchased property along the Great Chazy River in Coopersville in the 1990s, Andy Black never imagined he would unravel a mystery that had been buried for two centuries.
But it was inevitable: as a professional archaeologist and professor of archaeology, he had training and an interest in the past that was bound to lead him to the site of a homestead long lost and forgotten.
He offered a glimpse of the recent archaeological investigations at what he calls Coop’s Pork N’ Fish Site during a presentation at Clinton County Historical Association Museum.
“This site looks like an old homestead that was on the property no later than the 1820s,” Black told about three dozen people in attendance. “It’s very well preserved and can tell us something about the people who settled there.”
As a new landowner in 1997, Black got involved in a project with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to protect the Great Chazy River from agricultural runoff.
The concept involved creating a 50-foot strip of land along the river that would be used as a natural filter for surface water flowing from pasture to river.
One of the responsibilities for such a project is to conduct a historic preservation survey of the property in question. As a professional archaeologist, Black initiated that requirement and came across artifacts that suggested the property had been used by settlers of the Champlain hamlet of Coopersville early on.
In an area adjacent to the river, he found several artifacts, including bricks, china fragments, glass and the bones of fish and pork — the remains of food those original settlers had been eating.
“I knew I had something here,” he said.
STUDENTS PITCH IN
In 1999, he enlisted the aid of some students from Potsdam University, who helped set up an excavation grid and began searching for further evidence of the homestead.