Archaeology is all about using evidence to answer questions that history has left us pondering. Sometimes it's as simple as 'where was Fort Dayton?' other times it can be as complex as 'what didn't people throw down the well?' A question that doesn't appear to have any limits.
In 2002 Herkimer County Historical Society hosted an archaeological excavation in search of evidence of Fort Dayton and uncovered several artifacts from Colonial and Revolutionary War periods. After 12 years the Fort Dayton archaeological excavation was re-opened on May 31st, 2014 and after eight weeks of excavation the team had recovered countless artifacts that helped fill in the history of Herkimer's Dr. Suiter but unfortunately did not identify the location of the fort. A year later on May 30th the Herkimer excavation teams resumed the search at a new location.
As the excavation resumed on the final week volunteers were primarily focused on cleaning and cataloging artifacts retrieved from the well, now at a depth of 21 feet. Brian Doyle continued his descent into the well only to send up more bottles, glassware and now shoes.
After continuing to excavate the well for several hours, which is rumored to date to the 1700's, the excavation had uncovered even more bottles, glassware, shoes and even women's stockings. While the strata of the well were now in chronological order after a month long excavation to remove back-fill of concrete, porch flooring and siding, the recovered materials were now only dating to the 1950-1960's.
Volunteer Brian Doyle continued his excavation of the well recovering even more materials from the 1950-1960s. In addition to the glassware, bottles and shoes the excavation had managed to recover several interesting ceramics however, these too were only contemporary antiques that had found their way into the well.
At the conclusion of the 2015 excavation the search for Fort Dayton at site number two has yielded more mid to late 20th century artifacts and a curious amount of shoes and ash. Unfortunately, the excavation was halted at 23 feet 8 inches underground when Brian Doyle struck water. The majority of recovered materials still did not date earlier than the 1940's at most and there are still no discerning identifiers that can date the well so that it can be attributed to Fort Dayton or not.
The 2015 excavation in Herkimer in search of Fort Dayton has concluded for 2015 however, the search for Fort Dayton is not over. The Herkimer County Historical Society is always looking for volunteers and assistance for the archaeological season.
If you're interested in archaeology or history you can contact the Herkimer County Historical Society about volunteering to help out.