Excavations at SH Yard-01

We have been conducting excavations in the yard around the David Stoner House since the spring of 2012.  This year, 2015 will be our fourth consecutive year digging at the site designated SH Yard-01.  We have uncovered a great deal of information that helps us understand the Stoner Farm and the Stoner Family and how they changed through time.

We would like to thank all the people that worked at the site including interns from Gettysburg and Juniata Colleges, home schoolers, students from St. Andrews School in Waynesboro, Loudon Country Day School and Greencastle-Antrim Middle and High School, and all the Archaeo Campers.  We would especially like to thank the Sunday archaeology volunteers from the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology Cumberland Valley chapter:  Dave Hornbaker, Barb Baker, Mark & Joanne Eberly, Mark Carrao, Van Adams and Doug Stine and LACI volunteers: Becky & Sean Fitzgerald, Trent, Arthur & Deb Carbaugh and John & Matt Brucksch.  Without their tireless efforts this project would not have been possible.

The First Year - Getting Started

When we started out in 2012 the yard around the David Stoner House was just that - a grass covered yard.  A few stones on the surface, a relatively flat area and a free standing stone wall were the only clues to what might lie beneath.   Because of these clues we conducted soil resistivity testing west of the David Stoner House with very interesting results.  In fact, soil resistivity testing produced one of the most compelling results for a potential building we had ever seen.

We conducted excavations based on the resistivity results and immediately found the remains of a stone foundation.  That first year we uncovered the location of three of the four building corners and were able to determine the dimensions of the building to be 36 x 26 feet interior dimension.  We also discovered the building, likely a dwelling, had a central fireplace, a “basement” and a fairly extensive trash deposit off its southeast corner.  The deposit had artifacts from the 19th century in an upper layer and 18th century artifacts in a lower layer.  Below the trash filled layers were 18th century features, pits and probable post features, within sterile subsoil.  We also explored the recessed area down by the spring that runs through the basement of the David Stoner House, and found, much to our surprise, another trash deposit this one dating to the early to mid 18th century.

SH Yard - 01 Basemap Showing Soil Resistivity Results and Outline of Early Stoner HouseOver the winter, 2012 and 2013, we discovered some interesting things.  First that the building was a dwelling of an early style referred to as an entry kitchen house.  The entrance to the house was into a large kitchen with the cooking fireplace centrally located in the house.  Usually two rooms were behind the kitchen and fireplace heated by a five or ten plate iron stove built into the back of the fireplace.  The entry kitchen houses were almost exclusively built by German immigrants generally during the 18th or very early 19th century.

From the artifacts found associated with the house we feel that the building dates from the 1760s and maybe earlier.  We do know that it was standing in 1798 when the Federal Direct tax was assessed.  The tax assessment for David Stoner, Sr. was for a two story stone dwelling house 36 x 26 feet with 13 windows and 172 lights and a milk house 13 x 15 feet.  This assessment was always a bit of a mystery because the dimensions didn’t fit the David Stoner house in any way, yet the David Stoner house was thought by reputable historic architects to have been originally built in the 1770s.  Thus it would have been standing in one form or another in 1798.  So the direct tax dimensions were thought to be wrong or it was referring to a different building on the property.  In which case then why wasn’t there an assessment for the David Stoner house?

Well, as it turns out the direct tax does have an assessment for the David Stoner house - it was the 13 x 15 milk house and the 36 x 26 dwelling refers to the building we are excavating (called the Early Stone house).  So in 1798 only the southwest basement room of the David Stoner house with the spring running through it existed as the milk house and the Early Stoner house stood next to it.

Over time a northern basement room and a second floor above the basement was added to the milk house to make it into a small dwelling.  We think this happened around 1800.  Then, sometime later, possibly around 1815 to 1820 the eastern side and the second floor were added to the David Stoner house.  We think it was around this time that the Early Stoner house was torn down.

One more location we looked into was the northwest side of the David Stoner house where the original front door had been (now a window).  We were originally looking for evidence of a porch or path to the front door.  We found what we think was a porch support but what was underneath it was even more interesting.  There was a massive flat stone beneath the support and when we expanded our excavations to the north we found more of these that seemed to extend to the west.  We intended to explore their extent first thing the next field season.

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2013 Field Season - The Year of the Curve Ball

Stoner Farm Excavations

Some of the Sunday Crew

Entry Kitchen House With Outline of Early Stoner House

Porch Support and Large Flat Stones


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