Students dig into New Windsor's history

Nails, glass, pottery and even bones — animal bones — were part of the treasure students unearthed during an archaeology camp in New Windsor July 21-25 sponsored by Carroll County Public Schools and the New Windsor Heritage Committee.

Lisa Macurak, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at New Windsor Middle School, leads the camp and sees it as an extension of what she offers to her students during the school year.


"I teach a little archaeology unit in the sixth grade," she said, to get the students ready for a unit on ancient civilizations.

Students interested in learning more about archaeology and putting it in practice can take part in the New Windsor Archaeology Club, where Macurak leads the students on archeological digs two Saturdays per month in the town-owned historical springhouse, which was originally part of town founder Isaac Atlee's property, located off Water Street.


The club also offers many dig opportunities throughout the summer, with the highlight being "Dig Week" in July, where students can take part in five days straight of archeological work. However, July 24's dig was canceled due to rain.

When working at the springhouse, the students have to remove about 50 10-gallon buckets of water to be able to clear out the spring and search in the mud under the spring. The site can be quite messy, Macurak said, and the depth of the items they find can't be tracked as well as they would like.

During Dig Week camp, students participated in a search for historic items at the springhouse July 25, and had fun cooling off in the spring, even if it wasn't such a successful dig day, Macurak said. The previous Friday, July 18, however, the students had some great finds at the springhouse, including clay smoking pipes and a tin or pewter child's cup.

On July 21, 22 and 23, the participants were at a new site — a first for Dig Week — at the town's historic Dielman Inn, at the intersection of Main and High streets.

New Windsor Heritage Committee member E.A. Stonesifer, daughter of the inn's last occupant, Julia Roop Cairns, had described to Macurak two locations within the property's yard where a separate kitchen had stood and where there had been an art studio area. Macurak set up a dig site at what she believed were the two recommended locations, gridding off square plots for children to work in alone or in pairs so that the materials found in each section could be tracked.

Stonesifer visited the property on July 23 to see how the dig was going, Macurak said, and informed them that the area where the students thought they were digging as the kitchen was actually where the "last six-seater in New Windsor" had stood — the outhouse. Macurak said they got a laugh out of it, but didn't mind since the students were finding so many objects there.

Nickolas Mertz, 11, said that he had found bones, nails, glass, pottery and the top of a pot in the area that turned out to be the outhouse.

"I'm into a lot of archaeology," he said, noting that his interest was sparked at a camp about dinosaurs that he previously attended at Carroll Community College.

Emma Buzby, 10, said her favorite part of the process is the digging.

"We found a piece of plate, so we were digging for more," she said.

She and fellow camper Cristina Torres, 11, ended up finding adjoining pieces of plate, stamped with a seal that read "Ironstone China," "Powell & Bishop," and the word "England" printed underneath it. After finding the first two pieces, it felt like another piece could be under every rock, Emma said.

During a lunch break July 22, Macurak informed the campers that a quick Internet search had revealed that the seal on the plate belonged to the company Powell & Bishop and was most likely made between 1867 and 1878. The students' faces lit up with excitement over their discovery.


After the students do the digging — or filling up a bucket with dirt from their corded-off plot — they dump the dirt into a sifter to separate the dirt from any household items that might have been buried within. Some of the students specialize in sifting.

"I just like sifting and finding stuff in the dirt, because you never really know what you're going to find in there," said Trevor Munk, 12.

Some of the treasures found during Dig Week included the china, pottery and clay marbles found at the Dielman Inn, Macurak said.

But not every session is filled with such exciting discoveries, said Amber Legore, 13. "Patience and perseverance is all I have to say about digging," she said. "This has taught me how to be patient and how to wait."

Amber has earned 140 service-learning hours during three years of working on projects with the Archaeology Club. And while at times it can be slow going, she said, it's still fun and camp is something she has looked forward to every summer.

Another slow part of the archaeology process is the cataloging of items, Macurak said, but there are students who find this aspect interesting and come out to volunteer specifically on cataloging days.

Parker Beatty, 11, is one of those who enjoys the cataloging as well as the digging, because he enjoys taking care of the objects he finds from start to finish. He described the process of washing off the artifacts, painting a portion with white nail polish, writing the information on it with a permanent marker, and then giving it a final clear coat of paint.

"You have to write really small when you're cataloging," he said, to accommodate those small pieces of pottery and glass.

The majority of the cataloged items end up being placed in storage, but the best items are shared with the New Windsor Heritage Committee.

"Sometimes if it's a really neat artifact, like an Indian arrowhead, then it gets put in a display at the museum," Parker said, referring to the New Windsor Museum.

Once he found some doll legs, Parker said, and those were added to a display with a doll head someone else had found.

Macurak said she enjoys the camp as much as the students.

"One of the things that I love is to work with kids in a different kind of setting," she said.

Outside of the classroom, she can see students be themselves and really enjoy learning in a hands-on environment.

"There's no way to give them this living history kind of situation within the classroom," she said. "You can't simulate this in the classroom."

Sub sale

The New Windsor fire company auxiliary will have a sub sale Aug. 27, with orders due Aug. 18. The price of the subs is $5.50 each, with payment due when you pick up your order.

Subs being sold include American cold cut, Italian cold cut, roast beef, ham and cheese, and turkey and cheese. The 8-inch sub comes with condiments on the side and a bag of chips.

The subs may be picked up from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 27 at Windsor Station in the social hall at 101 High St., New Windsor.

To order the subs, call 410-635-2909 or 410-635-6179.


Carrie Ann Knauer covers Linwood, New Windsor, Union Bridge, Uniontown and Johnsville. Contact her at 410-596-9248 or carrie.knauer@gmail.com.

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