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Scouts Unearth History of Rye’s Earliest Settlers

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The Jay Heritage Center is excited to share news of a terrific discovery made by an Eagle Scout candidate with Rye’s Pack 2, Chris Parker. Chris, a senior at Fordham Prep, led a group of a dozen volunteers in a methodical field excavation at the Jay Estate this summer. Dr. Eugene Boesch, who has undertaken archaeological investigations in the Hudson Valley and Manhattan for more than 30 years, supervised this ambitious project. Their objective? To search for supporting evidence of a small pre-existing structure of 18th century origin that appears in two separate archival drawings in the Jay Heritage Center Collection. The results are all the more remarkable given the location of their shovel tests – the National Historic Landmark home of American Founding Father John Jay on the Boston Post Road.

Over the course of three weeks of careful investigation Chris and his team from different area schools and troops, successfully unearthed numerous artifacts from both the late 1600s and 1700s. What they found – including pieces of period slipware, redware, refined earthenware, china, bottle and window glass fragments, bone, shell, clay pipe stems and stamped bowls, glazed bricks, and cut nails – gave clues to the daily habits of another era. The most intriguing discovery was what appears to be a collapsed brick chimney with metal straps: its configuration suggests a modest colonial era outbuilding associated with “The Locusts”, the Jay family’s ancestral home in Rye. Dr. Boesch believes the structure may have served as a workhouse for the farm or possibly a small servant dwelling. 

Dutch yellow bricks, long buried and preserved in the dirt like the ones found here, are typical of pre-Revolutionary War sites and help establish a timeline. This initial probe and the cultural objects uncovered will help the Jay Heritage Center better recreate the daily life of Rye’s earliest settlers, particularly the Budd and Jay families, as well as their servants, enslaved and free. Chris plans to display some of the artifacts and show visitors the dig site at JHC’s upcoming fall festival, Jay Day on Sunday, September 24 from 11-3. 

The Jay Heritage Center is grateful to Chris, his friends, and Dr. Boesch for their dedication and perseverance in this endeavor. Volunteers included Abigail Repetto, Kristina Marchand, Adele Harshbarger, and Melissa Bergin from Rye Troop 2282; John de Toro from Mamaroneck Troop 2 along with his father Jeff and sister Natalie; Fordham Prep students Christian Gjelaj, Aiden Foley, Luis Mendoza, Andrew Wetty, and Jonah Shortall.

Ongoing archaeology, conducted according to the standards of the US Department of the Interior and State Historic Preservation Office standards, is a hallmark of the Jay Heritage Center. Findings like these expand the interpretation of the site and add to the narrative of all the men and women who lived and worked there.

Chris Parker showing some of his finds.

Digging up the Jay Mansion’s backyard

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