TONY D’IMPERIO/Special to the County News
Mount Morris volunteer Allen Schultz and Laura Merner, a long-time volunteer from Rochester work on a new dig site at the Mills Mansion. Justin Tubiolo, not pictured, is supervising and providing information to the volunteers.
New digs at the Mills Mansion
This summer, Justin Tubiolo and his team of archaeology students are back behind the circa 1838 Mills Mansion in Mount Morris, once again meticulously excavating a new grid unit.
Work commenced over the weekend of June 23-24. The area selected for excavation is in a previously unexplored section of the site where corings taken last summer suggest the location of some feature which probably dates back to the nineteenth-century Mills homestead.
Tubiolo reports that the new unit’s topsoil is remarkably rich in artifacts, predominantly late 19th- and 20th-century — but also with a mix of earlier historical objects and prehistoric chert flakes, “which prompts us to consider what may have caused the mixing.”
He suspects the mix might be associated with the late-1990s removal of the concrete parking pads for trucks which delivered to the factory next door, and then a subsequent shallow regrading.
Through the first two weekends of excavation of the topsoil, artifact samples have included lumps of coal, paint chips, an automobile fuse, chunks of surface-finished portland-based concrete (late 20th century), window and bottle glass fragments, porcelain teacup fragments, 20th-century wire nails, 19th-century cut nails, a piece of pencil “lead” and a metal eraser ferrule (a late 19th century invention), transfer-printed pearlware (early to mid-19th century), salt-glazed stoneware with Albany slipped interior (probably after 1835), a machine-made glass marble dated 1920-1950, a kaolin clay tobacco pipe (early 19th century), animal bone, and knapped chert flakes.
A 1928 Lincoln cent was retrieved from the bottom of the topsoil layer, approximately eight inches deep, at the interface with the first subsoil, providing a temporal boundary between the two strata.
“It informs us that the topsoil was laid down sometime after 1928; and that the deeper ‘Layer A’ had been completely deposited sometime before the coin was minted,” Tubiolo explained. “So our vertical timeline is already becoming nicely defined.”
A 1946 Mercury dime was unearthed during the second weekend.
Tubiolo advised that 1946 was the year when the factory next door to the Mills Mansion was constructed. Immediately following World War II, with the manpower surge from returning servicemen, the Mount Morris Chamber of Commerce looked for ways to boost business in the Village. The D’Imperio family, who owned the Mills house at that time, put the property up for sale. The town acquired it, zoned it for commercial use, and successfully attracted Hickok Co., a manufacturer of men’s fashion accessories in Rochester, to build a new satellite plant in Mount Morris.
As this season progresses, the archeology student team will learn more about the succession of property ownership and how that affected the house and archaeological features, Tubiolo noted.
The exploration under the turf will continue during weekends throughout the summer. Lab analysis of the freshly unearthed artifacts takes place inside the Mansion. Already, hundreds of artifacts have been washed and laid out on drying racks.