The Times
  • Fort Dayton dig planned; volunteers needed

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  • HERKIMER — An archaeological dig project will get under way this spring at the Herkimer County Historical Society and area residents are invited to take part.
    Phil and Kate Creighton of Remsen will head up the project with the help of volunteers. Those interested in helping are invited to attend a meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 17, at the society’s Eckler Building, 406 N. Main St.
    “This will be an orientation and they’ll learn what’s expected,” said historical society Executive Director Sue Perkins.
    The dig is scheduled to begin May 31.
    This dig will restart a project started more than a decade ago by historical society volunteer Fred Doyle, who was researching and documenting Fort Dayton in 2000. The results of his research are in large volume notebooks at the historical society. The fort’s boundaries are within the general area of the Historic Four Corners, where the county historical society is located. A 225th commemoration of the fort took place in 2001 and the following year an archaeological dig was started in the society’s side yard, overseen by archaeologist Doug Pippin.
    Ten test pits were dug at that time, according to Perkins, and some artifacts were found. Doyle died in 2003 and the project ended. Memorial donations given to the society in his name were designated for further work on the project. Eleven years later, plans are under way for another archaeological dig. This time Doyle’s son, Brian Doyle of Clinton, is planning to take part.
    The Creightons, founders of New York Shadow Chasers, a paranormal investigation group, presented a program at the historical society last October.
    “This is how we found out that they had degrees in archaeology and it just clicked with Sue and me to talk to them about resurrecting our Fort Dayton Archaeology Project,” said Caryl Hopson, administrative assistant at the historical society, in an email. “They are going to lead us in an archaeological dig in our side yard on Court Street with the possibility of doing a dig near the supposed old well of the fort, located a couple of house up from us on the property of one of our members, Carolyn Canary.”
    This dig will be more extensive than the earlier test dig, according to Perkins.
    Fort Dayton was built in 1776 under the supervision of Col. Elias Dayton, for whom it was later named, as part of a defensive chain of forts along the Mohawk to fend off attacks from Canada that were anticipated. The fort offered shelter to area settlers during the Revolution and is remembered as the base from which Gen. Nicholas Herkimer and the Tryon County Militia set out for the relief of Fort Stanwix.
    An article that appeared in the historical society’s Legacy magazine notes few details about the fort were known until 1975, when the Herkimer County Historical Society located the diary of Captain Joseph Bloomfield in New Jersey. Bloomfield, 23, commanded the New Jersey regiment of the Continental Army that was charged with the construction of the fort and he kept a diary, as did Lt. Ebenezer Elmer, 24, a junior officer and a doctor. Their diaries included information about how the fort was built, what it looked like and what was happening in the area during the summer of 1776.
    Page 2 of 2 - A July 14 entry in Elmer’s diary stated Bloomfield received a letter from his father in which was enclosed “a Declaration of the Continental Congress, passed the 4th day of July, declaring the Colonies free and independent states - which may God prosper and protect.” The declaration was read to the troops the following day.
    Fred Doyle wrote an article discussing the possible location of the fort’s well and its bake oven.
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