LAKE GEORGE — Lake George Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said Friday that he would like to to see the Courtland Street military burial ground that has been unearthed in recent days turned into a state historic site.
Human remains and other artifacts that are believed to date to the 1770s were found last week at a construction site, and follow-up excavation in the days after has unearthed skeletal remains of an estimated 20 people, as well as buttons from at least one Revolutionary War-era military uniform and what are believed to be coffin nails.
Archaeologists and historians from a variety of New York state agencies remained on the property on Friday, digging into the side of an embankment and going through the material pulled from it.
Dickinson said the days of discoveries have prompted discussion about how best to preserve and memorialize the history of the property, and that could include purchasing the property, which was destined to become the site of a housing project until the recent discoveries during excavation.
“We have made some moves to possibly buy the site and make it a historic site,” he said.
Dickinson said Dan Barusch, Lake George town director of zoning and planning, was looking into the possibilities, and Dickinson was optimistic state funding would be available.
He briefed colleagues on the Warren County Board of Supervisors on the idea Friday, and several supported the idea.
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Property owner Ruben Ellsworth, whose workers found the first remains last week, said Friday at the site that he would be willing to listen to proposals for the property.
Dr. David Starbuck, an archaeology professor at SUNY Adirondack and Plymouth State University in New Hampshire who has led many local archaeological digs, also agreed the proposal would be a good way to preserve the site.
Starbuck said the passing days have led to more and more discoveries of artifacts and remains.
The remains found so far are mostly from adult males, but there have been bones believed to have been from female and adolescents as well. It would not be unusual for teens to be in the military in that era, and women served as well.
The discovery of buttons believed to have come from a 1770s military regiment that originated in Pennsylvania has led experts to conclude at least some of the remains were those of soldiers who passed through the region and stayed at encampments in Lake George at some point.
The bones will eventually be reburied in the Lake George area.
“These were human beings and they deserve respect,” Starbuck said. “The fact that it appears that they were soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War, they deserve respect like nobody else.”
Starbuck said excavation could end as early as Friday, and the site would be turned back over to Ellsworth, though there will likely be additional screening of a large pile of dirt that remained on the site that was excavated before the bones were noticed.
Staff from the New York State Museum will analyze what has been found, a process that could take a year or longer. Dickinson said he would like to see some of the artifacts returned for display in Lake George.
Starbuck praised the collaborative effort at the dig site, as well as the cooperation by Ellsworth, for what he called the “most amazing” local discovery of his career.