Employing Historic Maps, Land Records, and Genealogical Information: The Preserve

    ACS conducted a Phase I archaeological reconnaissance survey on a large property in Old Saybrook, Connecticut where five prehistoric sites and two historic site areas were identified. Most of the property, however, lacked traces of cultural resources despite a generous sample fraction of subsurface shovel tests due to the rugged nature of the property which contains two series of prominent hill ridges and a network of intermittent streams.  A stratified-systematic sampling strategy substantially reduced the cost required to evaluate the property.

Two sketches of the Ebeneezer Ingham III house built in the 1760s. The sketches are included in a genealogical manuscript of the Ingham family.

    Prehistoric sites identified during the survey were limited to task-specific occupations represented by scattered traces of chert and quartz debitage. Not unpredictably, most of the sites were located in the small sections of the property containing glacial meltwater features which provide nearly level to gently sloping, well drained, non-rocky soils in close proximity to water sources. All five sites suggest short-term, task-specific or sub-seasonal occupations targeting resources such as quartz for the manufacture of stone tools and food resources associated with the extensive network of wetlands on the property.

    The distribution of historic sites on the property was predictably set according to different criteria. Historic sites were located predominantly along historic roads according to 19th Century maps, including a discontinued portion of an 18th to early 19th Century road that courses through the property. The Ebeneezer Ingham III homestead and associated barn site are located along this discontinued path. The barn area is visible at the surface by a faint outline of fieldstone boulders and a partial cobble ramp. Materials from tests placed in this area were limited to hand-wrought and cut nails, while an abundance of material from the cellar-hole area across the path includes a Scottish kaolin clay pipe stem, household ceramics, glassware, and nails. These sites were well documented by a genealogist whom ACS traced to Chicago, Illinois. Information provided to ACS included a detailed history of the Ingham family who timbered and farmed the site during the 18th and 19th Centuries, as well as the original sketch plans of the house and grounds.

    Extensive research into land records revealed that the property had been actively occupied by the Ingham family for over 100 years, and that most of it remained as open space for the entire 20th Century. In conjunction with the wealth of data provided by land records, historic maps, and genealogical information, this project serves as a good example of the important role that extensive background research plays in constructing interpretations of historic sites and use by their occupants. It also demonstrates change in land-use through time, with Native American groups relying on the property for the short-term procurement of resources, contrasted with a historic timbering industry which provided an impetus for the early Euroamerican expansion of settlement away from prime agricultural lands along the coast into the surrounding uplands.

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