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You are here: Home » Buildings » Village of Scotia » Flint House Archaeological Report » Introduction

Flint House Archaeological Report, 2002 — 2003:
Tales from the Glenville Woods

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[This information is from pp. 4-5 of Flint House Archaeological Report, 2002 — 2003: Tales from the Glenville Woods by Stephen D. Jones, Ph.D., RPA, and others, and is reproduced here with his permission.]

III. Introduction

The building called the "Flint House" was once the residence of David Reese, founder and owner of much of the unincorporated village of Reeseville during the 19th century. However, the house is currently named after Lillian Flint, a prominent Scotian who bequeathed house and property to the Village of Scotia in 1994. The house is not only a major monument of the area's rich history, but also a major example of how little we know about that history — and how we must struggle to preserve and explore these precious clues to our past.

Pearson called this the "first land settled upon [by Europeans] west of Scotia" (1883:70). Whatever the history of the Flint House itself turns out to be, it is crucial to remember that the property played a very historic role in European expansion into the "wilderness" outside of the Schenectady Stockade. Moreover, its location on a moderate elevation, flat and fertile, beside a creek by the Mohawk River and near fertile islands, makes this a highly desirable location for millenia of "prehistoric" settlement. There can hardly be a more promising location for exploratory archaeology in the state.

At the time of Ms. Flint's death the Flint House was known to have been the home of the 19th-century Reeses, and was thought to be a farmhouse dating to the previous century. In order to validate the latter theory, and to recommend restoration procedures for the old house, the Village of Scotia contacted Robert Pierpont, a historical architect. Pierpont (1997) dated the house to the Greek Revival period, roughly 1840-1860, and declared that he could find no structural elements indicating an earlier time. However, this did not preclude the possibility that the observable elements were from enlargements or enhancements made when the Reeses's business began to flourish.

Therefore, the primary goal has been to discover, from data underground and from the region's archives, how old the Flint House really is. This is just the initial phase of a broader research goal targeting the origin and development of European American — and earlier Native American — activity on the Flint property in particular, and in Glenville in general.

The initial focus of the investigations has been the area of the front porch. The latest porch dated from the early 20th century, and was dismantled in the 1990s due to decay (Photo 2). A photograph from 1901 (Photo 1) shows an earlier porch in Victorian style, and Pierpont (1997:3) suspected that there would have been an earlier Greek Revival porch. Therefore we set out to date the house by uncovering and dating its succession of porches. The methodology involved excavation by trowel of 3x3' squares set up on a grid oriented to the house (Plan 1). By the end of 2003, seven such squares had been excavated down to what we assume to be the "natural" (layers never disturbed by humans). The house's own foundations have not been examined due to their unstable condition.

In spring 2003 an additional project was conducted by Jason Farrow, a student at Union College. His goal was to discover other structures on the property to the south of the house, particularly the much attested (but inconsistently pinpointed) family cemetery. The methodology involved "shovel-testpits" (STPs): small pits, roughly 1' in diameter, placed at 50' intervals and excavated by shovel to the natural. A third project, developed by Union student Blakeny Peschel, explored the former barnyard west of the house with two small trowel-excavated units and three STPs, with the intention of locating farm outbuildings and determining their functions; these excavations were completed in fall 2003 but the project is expected to continue in fall 2004.

The fourth aspect of our research to date has involved the records at the office of the Schenectady County Clerk, the Albany Hall of Records, and the New York State Archives. The goal has been to discover old property maps, deeds, and other materials that might indicate who owned what lands when, and what may have been constructed here. The most significant archival discovery so far has been that the documents are woefully ambiguous and inadequate — and therefore that preservation and excavation are absolutely necessary if we are to reconstruct the history of Schenectady County.

Research began during the summer of 2002 under the direction of Stephen Jones and Andrew Wolfe, respectively an archaeologist and engineer then associated with Union College in Schenectady. It continued throughout 2003, and this report should not mark the end of this campaign; the purpose of this report is simply to make public what has been discovered to date. The work has been conducted on a volunteer basis by Jones and Wolfe as well as by Union College students and people active in local archaeology. Equipment and materials have been provided by the Lewis Henry Morgan Institute. Union College has provided students (most importantly), storage space, and some materials. The Village of Scotia has assisted greatly by providing background materials, storage space, and most importantly permission to conduct whatever excavation is needed for the study. Our principal colleagues in the Village have been Village Historian Michele Norris, Council Member William Seyse, and Mayor Michael McLaughlin.

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