Good morning, I can’t tell you in words what it meant to Arthur and I yesterday to go out to the Hays Homestead site and locate it in about 30 seconds. Let me just say that the research provided by Lynn, Uncle Clifford, Kenny, Arthur and Julie was dead on! It was a great feeling to get a group together to research this and the final bit of information was the last will and testament of RWH from 1870 in the courthouse dividing up his property and the location that it gave for the homestead. The last will and testament documents are in the possession of Arthur. We are quickly growing a very large amount of Hays items to show next year.
As we got to the site, we met with Mr. and Mrs. Toney who are both 89 and had no problem allowing us on the site. After about 20 minutes showing them our research we went out to the site….. I just happened to have forgotten my pinpointer. As I came back Arthur told me to forget the metal detector and that he has already found the homestead. Naturally my smart ass side kicked in and I told him to stop playing around and get serious and focused. He told me to walk over to him and look down……there it was…. A latch from the house! On the ground! It was the most beautiful piece of wrought iron from the 1800’s I have ever seen.
For the next 2 hours we metal detected the area of the homestead and found another latch from the house, a few square nails and a huge latch that Arthur says was on a big gate. Maybe that was the very latch on the gate that Lucinda didn’t open quick enough that one of the Hays killed the Peters boy over. We then went down to the sinkhole and we started digging around and Arthur said that the RWH fireplace was right there . Ok….BS I thought….nothing is that easy! Well he jumped in the sinkhole and trash pit and started to wiggle and work out one chunk of concrete….he got tired and I jumped in and moved it out and turned it over and there it was….a 90 degree geometry with burnt soot on the inside section of the fireplace with the imprint of pine board that was used to form it. Arthur kneeled down to touch the piece and got soot all over his hands and he looked at me and said…….that soot is from 165 years ago!! Arthur thinks that the part of the fireplace we brought back to his house was a piece of the top.
The entire RWH fireplace is in the sinkhole and can be dug very easily out, there are 3 more holes with artifacts in them with high iron content. The methodology yesterday was to do a quick evaluation of the site using a metal detector, steel rod to find the fireplace and locate a few period items to validate our research. Well, I am happy to say that all of that was done. I then stopped detecting for iron and started looking for coins, buttons, gun parts with makers marks or anything that would DATE EMPIRICALLY the homestead. A coin with the date 1845 would have been awesome being that he started living there in 1848. A button would have makers marks on the back and could have been dated also.
We did not find any trash pits away from the homestead site but we did not go looking for them either. The fireplace is in a sinkhole and we tried to outline the house and locate it. The trash pits will be a treasure trove of his life and there are probably 5-10 trash pits on the property that will have many items in them. Maybe he dropped items through the floorboard of his house. Anyway the site is a virgin site and we should be able to find many artifacts from RWH. I would like to find something that Eliza dropped that was maybe an earring or a locket with their picture in it????? This type of item has been found hundreds of times at Civil War sites.
We left the site and went over to Uncle Clifford’s and told him to come out and see what we have found, we told him he had to guess about what we had found. It took him about 10 seconds and he said you guys found the homestead!!! We showed him the latches and gave him a piece of the fireplace showing concrete on one side and a flat surface with the impression of the pine board in it used as a form. He was very happy to know that. He then had a talk with us on how they built fireplaces many years ago and he said that brick was used outside of the fireplace and that concrete alone would crack.
Kenny, could you take a few pictures this weekend of the latches and the fireplace and send them to all of us? Arthur has everything stored in his house. We will not clean the fireplace part as we are very enamored with the soot on the flat side!!!
Julie, could you post this info on the Hays website? Can you work around Lynn’s schedule for a dig with us?
Lynn, when will you be coming down to Bushnell again? I would like to schedule our next dig around you coming down here. I have attached some Fort Armstrong information for you.
All, any thoughts on how to dig that sinkhole and pull large amounts of brick, concrete and sections of the RWH fireplace out?
I would like Uncle Clifford at the next dig sitting in a lawn chair sipping on tea telling us stories while we dig. Cool huh?
I left that site yesterday with a very full heart, the blood of RWH flows through my daughter and I told her that we found the homestead of her GGGG grandfather. She smiled and said she wanted to see that fireplace!!
~ from email dated June 29, 2014, David Ladow