Archaeological dig unlocks unexpected history of Freeport farm

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FREEPORT — Pettengill Farm is more than a place to hold an annual festival each fall.

It is the site of several archaeological digs, the results of which are on display at the Freeport Historical Society at Harrington House on Main Street until Oct. 7

The farm is the location of the saltbox house built around 1800 that was home to Mildred Pettengill, who died at age 99 in 1981.

The foundations of two other homes occupied in the mid-1800s by sisters Jane and Sophronia Rodick have been discovered, as well as the foundation of a home occupied by Abraham Grant in the 1770s.

An archaeological field school using Grant’s Point as its base unearthed new discoveries at the Pettengill property as recently as last week.

Christina White, executive director of the society, said the most recent dig was successful for unexpected reasons.

A group of interested students – some with no archaeological experience – were led by Freeport archaeologist Peter Morrison. White said the group found pottery, a key, and other remnants that provide evidence of an earlier structure.

“The group found evidence of what could be a log house, which would explain why it had no foundation,” she said. “These archaeological artifacts are evidence that clearly delineate two sites.”

One house foundation was discovered in the late 1990s by archaeologist Norm Buttrick. This new discovery indicates another structure could have been there decades earlier, White said.

“We would like to add to our collection and show some of the items discovered during the field school in early October,” she said. “It would be fun to close the exhibit with the artifacts that were recently discovered.”

While the dig from July 25-29 was part of the society’s summer-long program, “Diggin’ History: Piecing Together Pettengill Farm’s Past,” the public will still be able to participate in guided tours of the dig sites at Pettengill.

White said the tours, which start at Harrington House, will be held at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 6; Sunday, Aug. 7; Thursday, Aug. 11, and Saturday, Aug. 13.

The guide will discuss life on the farm based on historical and environmental evidence, including the results of multiple archaeological excavations on site. The 10 a.m. tour will include a tour of the various dig sites, including the Grant’s Point site, and will last about two hours. The 1 p.m. tour will not include all the dig sites.

“These tours will give an overview of the evolution of the land, who owned it, who lived here and how the land was divided throughout the years,” White said.

The tours are $10 for adults and $5 for members. Participants are asked to dress accordingly for a hike through open fields and on rugged trails through the woods. For more information visit www.freeporthistoricalsociety.org.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.

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Mary Cook, a resident of Orr’s Island, participated in the archaeological dig school at Pettengill Farm in Freeport last week. She unearthed this key while working at Grant’s Point.

Field school participant Deb Connors of Brunswick, left, shows Christina White, executive director of the Freeport Historical Society, artifacts found during an archaeological dig last week at Pettingill Farm. Connors unearthed a piece of a pipe and shards of pottery from the mid-1700s.

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