June 23, 2016

And the dig goes on... By Walter Lunt

The traditional location of Windham’s old Province Fort just moved tens of feet to the west, directly opposite the driveway of the historic Parson Smith House on River Road.
Three weeks into an archeological examination, a team of archeologists from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission is uncovering details of the wall(s) surrounding the blockhouse (fort) that served as a protective retreat for the early settlers during the 18th century Indian wars. As reported earlier (The Windham Eagle – June 17, 2016), the fort may have been surrounded by two walls: An outer palisade fence and an inner wall of stacked logs constructed on a stone foundation.

“Think of a log cabin without the roof,” explained lead archeologist Leith Smith, “It appears we have located that wall.”

Smith said the evidence is quite revealing. “We uncovered a layer of dark colored earth characteristic of organic matter in the soil that is likely the decomposition of the log wall.” Below that, set in light colored dirt, the archeologists found the line of stones used to support the stacked log fence.
A few feet away they found another line of stones running parallel with the fence line. Smith speculated these were “sleeper stones,” that is, a support base for wooden planks that lined the area between the fences.

“Any activity carried on there, such as guard duty, could have occurred without trekking through mud” or tripping in darkness. Further evidence of the possible planking of the area between the two walls is the location of fresh discoveries of artifacts.

“Virtually all the artifacts found this week were located at a point where the planks would have joined the outer wall,” Smith explained.” Thus, small objects could have “fallen through the cracks”, so to speak, the result of foot traffic or sweeping.

Smith said the newly found artifacts were typical of the time period during which the fort stood. Among the finds: Nails, bottle glass and Staffordshire slipware, a type of ceramic kitchenware, English in origin, like cups, mugs or dishes used in cooking or serving.

Historic records indicate the fort enclosure measured 50 feet square. Smith believes his team has uncovered the full length of the south (inner) wall, which faces the wooded area directly across River Road from the Parson Smith House.
“The front gate was likely located on this side,” said Smith, pointing out that the river road of the old dominion was located further south in the now wooded area.

As reported last week in the Eagle, the blockhouse (or fort) would have been situated on the travel lanes of the current River Road.

With only about three weeks remaining in the archeological dig, the team will be searching for the corners of the ancient enclosure and for the location of the outer palisade wall.

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