Archeologists:French colonists of Lake Champlain
Proof that one culture (British) builds over another Culture (French) to erase all trace of history in the 1700's America.
It will certainly be interesting to see what develops in the future digs in Vermont.
ADDISON, Vt. (AP) - Old cellar holes, now depressions in the grass, are the most prominent clues that French and later British settlers once occupied the shores of Lake Champlain.
Archeologists believe there are more clues to be found, so they recruited school teachers and volunteers to dig and sift the dirt for answers.
They've unearthed ceramic, brick and plaster fragments, animal bones and shards of glass that may change what they thought about the French colonists that inhabited the region between 1730 and 1759.
"The story is that French settlers lived right here on these little cellar holes and that the English in 1759, they chased everybody out and they built on top of the French cellar holes," said state archeologist Giovanna Peebles of the Division of Historic Preservation. "We are now learning that the French didn't build cellar holes."
So the research question has become: Were they built by the French or by the English?
Archeologists from Vermont and the University of Maine at Farmington hope to uncover some answers this summer.
Early in the three-week dig, there was no sign of the French.
The group gathered chips of white ceramic, small shards of window glass and a coin, so worn it's nearly impossible to tell its age. "So far everything seems to be post-1759," Peebles said.
But the Champlain Valley is teeming with history before that period.
The land around Chimney Point State Historic site on Lake Champlain has evidence of human habitation dating back 7,500 years. Abenaki Indians used the lake as a trading route, and after Frenchman Samuel de Champlain discovered the waterway in 1609, the French built a fort on the western side in 1734. Nine years later, French King Louis XV awarded a large tract of land in what's now Bridport and Panton to Gilles Hocquart, the presiding officer of New France, to recruit tenants to inhabit the area.
By 1753, 21 houses existed on narrow tracts of land.
But during the French and Indian War, the British moved in and the French fled north to Canada, blowing up their fort and burning their homes.
After that it's believed that Englishman John Strong built a cabin on top of an earlier French dwelling where the archeologists are digging.
For the first few days of the excavation, the artifacts appeared to be all English: chips of plaster, brick and a button. That still fascinated the teachers who were getting a hands-on field course in archeology with seminars in the afternoon.
"What's interesting to me is how history can become a narrative," said Don Taylor, a teacher at Montpelier's Main Street Middle School.
"The more you want to learn the more it becomes part of a story," making it more human and easier to understand, he said.
The 11 teachers who volunteered learned that the French lived in rustic homes with bare dirt floors and no furniture. They dressed in simple clothes, resembling sleeping garments, and travelled across the lake to Fort Frederic in their canoes to get bread and lard, available to them as tenants of the land.
"Now we know that there were dirt floors, no root cellars," said Joy Hopkins, a former teacher at Pine Ridge School in Williston. "So we're moving and changing and it's just so exciting in every way."
The group looked for signs of greenware or brownware or other artifacts that are only French.
Archeologists will also examine animal bones and plant life to determine what the settlers were growing and eating, and survey residents of Addison, Bridport and Panton to see what they've found in their own yards.
State park officials think the project gives volunteers and residents a valuable experience.
"We're trying to get people into their natural resources and into their cultural resources, and let them be inspired by them so they help us take care of them," said Vermont Parks director Craig Whipple.
Jennifer Lawson, a language arts and social studies teacher at Vergennes Middle School, said the project fits in with her school's focus on using the community as a textbook.
"I need to know this because this is where I live," she said.
Patti Marrinan and her husband, who live in Minneapolis and own a house in Addison, planned their trip to Vermont this summer so they could help with the dig.
"We're just passionate about history," she said.