Archaeology Update — Remnants of 1800s Mercantile Store

Kristi Nichols, Director of Archaeology, Collections and Historical Research
October 9, 2019
Exposed foundation inside an excavation unit
Figure 1. Exposed foundation in Excavation Unit 13.

Archaeological excavations associated with the preservation work for the Church and the Long Barracks continued in four units. Two of the excavation units were those started the previous week, located at the southeast corner of the Long Barrack and north of the exterior of the Sacristy. In addition, the excavation unit (EU-13) located on the exterior of the north wall of the Long Barrack also continued.

Excavation Unit 13, located on the exterior of the north wall of the Long Barrack, was excavated to a terminal depth of 130 cm (51.1 inches) below datum. It appears that the base of the foundation was encountered at 125 cm (49.2 inches) below datum. The last few levels of excavation did not produce many artifacts. The darker clay soil contained snail shells and a few chipped stone fragments. The archaeologists encountered two post holes in the lower levels, approximately 50 cm (19.6 inches) away from the foundation. The post-holes had loose gravelly soils with small pebbles. No artifacts were recovered from the contents of the post-holes.

Variety of artifacts recovered in soil after an excavation
Figure 2. Artifacts recovered from the screening of soils from EU-14.

The archaeologists focused on mapping and recording data from Excavation Unit 13 by the end of the week. The unit will be turned over to the historic architect team soon to allow them to collect their data.

Excavation Unit 14, located near the exit of the Church, exhibited a finder’s or builder’s trench against the reconstructed north wall of the sacristy. The trench consisted of dark soils with more modern artifacts and construction materials (brick, concrete fragments, etc.). To the north in the unit, away from the wall, the soils encountered became lighter and looser. There was a mixture of artifacts in the lighter soils and included objects like can-keys (from old tin cans), tin can fragments, saw-cut ham bone, clear glass, and one Guerrero point as recovered. The Guerrero point is a projectile point made of chert/flint. Since it is recovered at a historic site, the point is identified as Guerrero. If it was recovered from a prehistoric site, it would likely have been identified as a Fresno.

Archaeologist inside an excavation unit
Figure 3. Excavations in Unit 16.

Excavation Unit 16, placed near the southeast corner of the Long Barrack, continued to expose a portion of what appears to be a foundation running east-west. The archaeologists have been working on removing rubble related to the demolition of the Hugo-Schmeltzer Mercantile Store that once occupied the Long Barrack to reach the buried foundation. In the southeast portion of the unit, a cut stone sitting on top of a foundation was uncovered. It appears that this may be similar to a feature noted in Unit 17 and relates to the beam support for the second story porch that was built for the store. This store would have been active between the early 1880s before closing sometime in the early 1890s.

Possible beam base inside of an excavation unit
Figure 4. Possible beam base for the mercantile store porch.

Artifacts recovered from Unit 16 have been a little mixed due to the demolition rubble, a few interesting artifacts have been encountered and include stoneware sherds and a lead shot. Other artifacts encountered included glass fragments, metal fragments, and construction related materials.

Excavations will continue in Unit 16 the next week. Excavation Units 13 and 14 will be documented before the historic architects will perform their documentation and analysis. Additional archival research may be conducted on Unit 14 to better understand the layer of stones.