FORT EDWARD — As the SUNY Adirondack Archaeological Field School wraps up this week on Rogers Island, David Starbuck plans to keep on digging after some impressive historical finds.

The archaeologist and professor has permission from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to continue work on the site of an officer’s hut from the 18th century after Friday’s school finishes.

“Pipe stems, animal bones, remains of floorboards in through here,” Starbuck said on Monday, listing some of the things he and Matthew Rozell, a historian and author who has helped Starbuck on digs, uncover. “We first exposed those back in 1998. The site has remained untouched all of these years.”

Rozell, who started digging with Starbuck in 1991, also found a small key, a silver coin, pieces of tobacco pipe, musket balls and butchered bones of animals.

The silver coin is called a cob, which would have been part of a Spanish currency called a real, said John Schroeter, manager of the archaeological lab.

Silver coin

A silver coin called a cob, which would have been part of a Spanish currency called a real, was found on Rogers Island in Fort Edward.

These are the latest finds on the island, which was the French and Indian War site where Major Robert Rogers wrote his rules of ranging. His kind of forest warfare founded what is known today as the U.S. Army Rangers.

Ed Carpenter, president of the Rogers Island Heritage Development Alliance and a Fort Edward village trustee, said the island also had as many as six or seven hospitals including one called the Kings Hospital, where soldiers with battle wounds were sent. At the southern end of the island is where Starbuck uncovered the first smallpox hospital in the country.

Starbuck has also dug several test pits around the island to see if there are other sites that could be examined in the future.

Sitting on the edge of their pits in the officer’s hut on Monday, Starbuck and Rozell talked about how strange it felt being back at the site they last left in the 1990s.

Rozell took two days to map out the dig site like a grid, to figure out what had been done where, more than two decades ago.

After seeing how the erosion and weather has taken its toll on the site and what was left behind, Starbuck is glad to be working there again.

“I think it’s much better to finish telling the story,” he added.

Rozell said they will dig to the occupation level, which is essentially the floor of the hut, “and then it’s going to be closed forever.”

Matthew Rozell

Matthew Rozell, an author and history teacher from Hudson Falls, brushes dirt from a piece of 18th-century pipe on Monday at Rogers Island in Fort Edward. 

Monday was also the day dig organizers hoped former Boy Scouts would stop by and help recount where they had dug on the island. Around 1963, many of the local Boy Scouts would come to the island and dig up artifacts, which would usually be turned over to the private owners of the time.

Peter Martin, one such Boy Scout, who comes back for the SUNY Adirondack digs, was disappointed that more people did not show up on Monday. Richard Salazar, who now lives near Moreau Lake, did stop by to see what Starbuck had uncovered so far.

In 1963, Salazar came for the Boy Scout “camporee,” where several troops would come to dig.

Martin said he still hopes to have an annual Boy Scout gathering.

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Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.


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