Fenton Archaeological Dig Paying Early Dividends

Amanda Brainard digs into the ground at Walnut Grove at the Fenton History Center, located at 67 Washington St. Brainard is one of the volunteers for the Walnut Grove Archaeological dig. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

The volunteers participating in the archaeological dig at the Fenton History Center have discovered an item that dates back before the start of the Civil War.

On Tuesday, Dr. Tom Greer, Fenton trustee and head of the archaeological dig, said that they have excavated two coins from the location where the former carriage house was located on the grounds of the Fenton Mansion, which is known as Walnut Grove. He said the one coin is an 1860 Indian Head Penny, which has been the oldest item that has been uncovered during the seven years of the archaeological dig. He added that they also found a 1911 Canadian dime.

Greer said both coins being found on the same day is a rarity. He said since the beginning of the dig they have probably only found six coins altogether, including the two they found Monday.

Currently, the dig participants are concentrating on the interior areas of the carriage house. Greer said the structure was torn down in 1921. He said the L-shaped building was 40 by 60 feet. He added it is not known exactly when the carriage house was constructed, but he believes it was in the early 1880s.

Monday was the first “Shovels to the dirt day,” Greer said. He said the archaeological dig will continue Monday and Tuesday starting at 9 a.m. and go until around 4 p.m., depending on the weather. He added those interested in volunteering to participate in the archaeological dig can call the Fenton History Center at 664-6256.

Volunteer Amanda Brainard was the one who uncovered both of the coins found Monday. She has an interest in documenting cemeteries, which lead her to start the Northeaster Coalition for Cemetery Studies. She is trying to learn and understand as much about the lifestyle of those who lived at the mansion in the past by discovering artifacts in Walnut Grove.

“For the first time I’m able to understand real archaeology work. It isn’t like Indiana Jones … it is about the study of the ordinary man,” she said.

The archaeological project started during the summer of 2012 when Fenton History Center officials, in conjunction with the State University at Buffalo, conducted an archaeological survey searching for the lost landscape of Fenton’s estate. Evidence of several outerbuildings was discovered and more than 700 artifacts, some Fenton related, were collected.