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When: June 17-July 7, 2019
What: Archaeological field school
Where: Stroud Mansion, 900 Main Street, Stroudsburg
Who: Dr. Jonathan Burns, Juniata College, nine undergraduate students, two graduate students
Why: Recovery of artifacts related to knowledge of Fort Hamilton, located at the site 1755-1757, and subsequent Stroud family use of the property.
How: $23,358 Keystone Historic Preservation Grant from Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

Archaeology students help uncover Stroudsburg’s history

The place where Main and 9th Streets meet in downtown Stroudsburg has been occupied by people since long before the streets were constructed. Today, the historic 1795 Georgian-style Stroud Mansion prominently stands at the intersection. Originally built by Jacob Stroud for his son Daniel, the structure now serves as the headquarters of the Monroe County Historical Association and houses a local history museum and research library.
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Before the Stroud family’s ownership of the area, the land was home to British colonists during the French and Indian War. At that time, Fort Hamilton, the first frontier fort in Monroe County, was constructed and occupied from December 1755 to 1757. It is believed that the fort covered an area very near where the Stroud Mansion stands. In fact, a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission historical marker for Fort Hamilton is located on the Stroud Mansion property.

Over the years, Monroe County Historical Association staff and volunteers would find pieces of pottery, glass, and ceramics in the mansion’s backyard. Most of the pieces were found after heavy rainfall or when volunteers tended the gardens. Knowing the area was in high use for hundreds of years, everyone was curious about what else might be underneath the ground at the Stroud Mansion.

In 2018, the Monroe County Historical Association was awarded a $23,358 Keystone Historic Preservation Grant from the PHMC to conduct an archaeological dig in the backyard of the Stroud Mansion. The goal of the excavation was to uncover any artifact that had been buried over the centuries. Whether the artifacts turned out to be pre-contact, frontier, colonial, or contemporary eras didn’t matter. Anything unearthed would help the Monroe County Historical Association to better understand and interpret the history of site.

Partnering with Dr. Jonathan Burns of Juniata College, the Monroe County Historical Association hosted an archaeological field school site where college students could practice the skills of the discipline while shining light on the history of the location. Nine undergraduate and two graduate students enrolled in Dr. Burns’ Cultural Resource Institute field school course at the Stroud Mansion, which was held from June 17 through July 7, 2019.

The members of the archaeology team were:
  • Dr. Jonathan Burns, Juniata College
  • Sam Edwards, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
  • Philip Harney, Juniata College
  • Haley Hoffman, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Va.
  • Roland Hunter, Juniata College
  • Dakota Kalavoda, Lycoming College
  • Thomas Knezevich, Juniata College
  • Evan Lobodzinski, Bloomsburg University
  • Autumn McDivitt, Juniata College
  • Rachel Mignona, Juniata College
  • Mary Owen, Penn State University
  • Amelia Potetz, University of Pittsburgh
During the field school, the team excavated eight test units — some of the holes were over 7.5-feet deep. A variety of items were found, most of which appear to date to the Stroud era (early to mid 19th century). Some artifacts include a piece of black basalt ceramic, a transfer-printed pearlware slop bowl, and a bone lice comb. One exception was the discovery of a Palmer projectile point which dates to 9500-8500 PB.

The archaeological team used historic maps, deeds, and wills housed at the Stroud Mansion to help substantiate their discoveries. In turn, the students discovered archaeological features that were never mentioned in the historical records.

For example, the team uncovered a wall and an intact plaster and flagstone floor of what is believed to have been a summer kitchen. Nearby, butchered animal bones were uncovered providing further evidence that the structure was a summer kitchen. Interestingly, there are no references to a summer kitchen in any known documents, so this discovery will have an immediate impact on the information given during tours of the Stroud Mansion.

With an active archaeological dig taking place in a prominent and visible area in the county seat, public interest was extremely high. In addition to learning archaeological techniques, the students also developed their skills in engaging with the public. Residents, tourists, school children, members of the media, and elected officials stopped by to ask questions, view the dig site, and learn about the artifacts pulled from the ground.

Daily dig updates and photos were posted to social media sites using the hashtags #PreservationHappensHere, #KeystoneGrant, and #StroudMansion. To see more of the discoveries, please visit the Monroe County Historical Association’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Over the 21-day dig, the archaeological team found over 50,000 artifacts. The artifacts were taken back to Juniata College, where students will clean, document, and catalog them during the 2019/2020 academic year before returning them to the Monroe County Historical Association, where the items will eventually be placed on display at the Stroud Mansion.

The Monroe County Historical Association would like to thank the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and Juniata College for their partnership in this project. This cooperative effort between the commonwealth, a county historical organization, college students, educators, and the community has already had a positive effect on the Association and the community. The discoveries made during the archaeological dig will allow for a better understanding of life in Monroe County, enabling the Monroe County Historical Association to enrich its tours and further its mission.
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