Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dig 2012- Day 1: Questions and More Questions

Colm, Brian, Harry, Emily
What greater way to start a week in New England than a trip to Parker’s Maple Barn in Mason, NH.  The team (Colm, Harry, Emily, and Brian) probably had more than their fill of maple syrup and pumpkin pancakes.  So it was off to work to find out more about our “shanty” by taking a trip to Old Sturbridge Village.  We were fortunate to have OSV Curator, Tom Kelleher, as our guide.  Our first stop was the “small house.”  Tom was involved with the research and building of the house.  This type of house was quite popular in the early 1800s.  It was a working class home, often used for renters.  The basic design is almost square with a single fireplace for cooking and heating.  Some of these houses might have a room partitioned on the main floor to be used as a bedroom.  If there was a second floor, it was most often used as the children’s bedroom.
Tom Kelleher, OSV & Colm Donnelly
Tom knew every plank and nail of the building and could fascinate you with details such as the octagonal, wooden pegs used to hold the frame together.  The shape is such that it can grasp the wood and keep the building standing strong.  It was not uncommon for entire buildings to be lifted off of foundations to be relocated to another piece of land.  The building was so well made such an act could be done more than once without weakening the building.  But the foundation is what interested the team the most.

Inside the Small House at OSV
In 2010 and 2011, the general outline of our house at St. Patrick Church was somewhat identified.  But a clearer definition of how and on what our house stood still needs to be investigated.  Here in New England a wooden house will not last very long if allowed to lie directly on the ground.  Wood plus damp soil equals rot.  Any builder will tell you the wooden house should rest on a stone foundation.  The OSV house’s stone foundation uses dry wall construction, no mortar.  Each stone was taken from the field and laid one on top of the other so they fit together.  Was this how our house’s foundation was made?
Inside the shoeshop at OSV
Well, Tom brought us to another building, the shoemaker’s shop.  This too resembled our house.  This too had a stone foundation, but of a different type.  The building was lifted off the ground by piles of stones, not the solid dry wall that was found previously- one which fully encompassed the square of the foundation.  Was this the foundation of our house?  Again, using a block and tackle and a couple of team of oxen the house can be lifted from its foundation and moved to a new spot.  We know this was regularly done in Lowell.  There is a possibility that our house had been moved there. 
Oxen at OSV
The folks at OSV also spoke about the use of the term 10-footer.  I assumed it meant a 10 by 10 foot house.  The term can be more generic than that and is more aptly applied to be a small, simple, home.
Tomorrow, the pit that was closed up last July will be opened once again.  What will a clearer definition of the foundation tell us about Father McDermott’s shanty?  What about the cistern discovered last year?  If it can be opened, what might be inside?

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