Artifacts found at West Parish Meeting House site
Published 1:09 am, Friday, October 30, 2009
On an empty plot of land near the northeastern corner of the Sherwood Island Connector and Greens Farm Road, some shards of artifacts excavated last month tell a story about the former site of the West Parish (Greens Farms) Meeting House.
It was on that 5.9 acres of meadows that the main building for
religion and government stood in an area that stretched all the way up to Redding. The building was razed by British soldiers in 1779, and
although no evidence remains on the surface, the buried artifacts underneath still exist.
The shards of glass were likely imported from England at an
exorbitant cost. The fragments of
pottery probably held food since Puritan services lasted the entire day. The clay pipe for smoking
tobacco could have been dropped out the window more than 200 years ago, which would explain its shattered state.
All of these deductions were made my Morley Boyd, founder of the Westport Preservation Alliance and an applicant in getting the land designated as a state archeological preserve. If the state approves the designation, the property owner -- the town -- also has to approve it. Doing so would give the land extra safeguards from development and have the land recognized as an historical asset.
"It goes a long way toward explaining the significance of the site and basically, what this is, is a piece of fabric from our community`s origins. It`s a "¦ source document stored below ground and it`s significant," Boyd said.
He added, "The primary reason is this: to understand the Revolutionary War in Connecticut, you need to know about desolation warfare and you need to know what happened at the West Parish site."
According to Boyd, desolation warfare was a tactic begun by Lord William Tryon, the colonial governor of New York and the victor of the Battle of Ridgefield in 1777. His idea was to demoralize the colonists by ransacking their property. Instead, Morley said that this galvanized the troops.
"Tryon, in later years, admitted that his experience in desolation warfare had been a failure. People on both sides of the conflict were appalled by what happened and the idea of an Anglican burning down a Puritan meeting house was shocking," said Morley. "So much so that when he was writing his report to his commanding officer about this campaign, he said that this had been an accident."
The idea of desolation warfare also provides a deeper look at the reasoning behind Byron`s strategy. Boyd explained that the goal of all the pillaging was to lure General George Washington out of New York and attack him in Connecticut. Washington saw through this and didn`t fall for the trap, even though history has it that h e had visited the West Parish Meeting House a few years prior.
When the artifacts were unearthed last month, state archeologist Nicholas Bellantoni already had a decent idea of where to dig. In late July, along with a team of United States Department of Agriculture scientists, he used a technique called ground-penetrating radar to look for anomalous zones that could indicate where the structure used to be.
With this technique, the electromagnetic conduction of soil is recorded with a number of tools. All the data is then analyzed and the location of possible artifacts can be pinpointed.
This isn`t the first time there was an excavation at the site. In 1986, an archeological dig not only revealed more than 2,000 shards of glass, but also remains of a fire-pit dating from 1 to 1000 A.D.
"We know what happened here historically, but if you look at the landscape, what do you see? Grass," said Bellantoni in a July interview when he was on the site. "It`s what`s below ground that is of historic significance."