Freeport historians 'dig' new discovery

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FREEPORT — A brick found during a series of archaeological digs at the Freeport Historical Society suggests another dwelling, built prior to 1830, preceded the Enoch Harrington House.

Archaeological testing of the society’s headquarters at 45 Main St. was done to recover potentially significant artifacts before beginning a series of improvements to the building. 

“There’s information in the ground that, once it’s disturbed, is gone,” Collections Manager and Curator Holly Hurd said. She noted that the historical society’s land was some of the only undeveloped land left on Main Street; she called it an “oasis.”

Leith Smith of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission found the brick in one of the property’s nine test pits. 

Hurd said the brick was found below the pit’s “sterile area” – at about 4 feet – which marks the depth at which artifacts had ceased being uncovered. The brick was the only thing found that far down.

Clumps of mortar covering the brick indicate it was attached to other bricks. Burn marks on one corner suggest it was a piece of a chimney, which led Smith and Hurd to believe the building was, in fact, a “dwelling home” built on the property before the Enoch Harrington House was erected.

“They found this below the 1830 level, which means that there was an earlier house on this site and we didn’t know it,” Hurd said. “Just this little brick has all that information.”

Hurd added there was some previous speculation around the property’s history because the barn, or “carriage house,” at the back of the lot – now Frosty’s Donuts – appeared to be decades older than the house itself. 

All other artifacts uncovered could be dated back to between around 1870 and 1920, based on the soil and depth at which they were found. Among those more recent artifacts were remnants of tobacco pipes, porcelain dolls, and glass medicine jars. 

“More than 90 percent of the things we found were dated from around that time period,” Hurd said.

Most were found in a test pit under the home’s second-story privy, which is where dwellers used to throw their trash.

“We’re looking at people’s trash,” Hurd said, pointing to the artifacts found. “There’s tons of information in people’s trash.”

Along with Smith and fellow architect Megan Theriaut, retired teacher Sue Clukey and about 60 local students, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts assisted the society with the digs, which began in late September and wrapped up in late October. 

Hurd said the digs were a learning experience for the kids and for her.

“I learned that archaeology is, if anything, more of a science,” Hurd said. “We use it to apply to history, but the methods that archaeologists use are very scientific.” 

The findings of the collaborative effort will be presented Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Freeport Community Library at 2 p.m. 

Hurd said now that the digs are complete, the society can begin a capital campaign to raise funding for necessary renovations on the home to increase space, stabilize the structure and build a climate-controlled curation facility.

She hopes the archaeological digs will serve as an example and more people will consider conducting digs before developing or building on otherwise undeveloped land.

“It’s important for all of us in the community to care about the history of our town,” Hurd said. 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Archaeologist Leith Smith, left, and Freeport Middle School student Oliver Beardsley-Stites pose with a clay tobacco pipe Beardsley-Stites uncovered during an archaeological dig at the Enoch Harrington House at 45 Main St. 

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