Fort Drum archaeologists discover piece of ‘lost village’ in North Country

Regional News

Paul Steven Ghiringhelli
Sign welcomes motorists entering Fort Drum at the Iraqi Freedom Gate. To avoid rush-hour delays this summer at this gate, installation officials urge commuters to use the Mount Belvedere Gate, accessible from Watertown by Route 283 or from Interstate 81 by Route 342, or the 45th Infantry Division Gate, roughly two miles south of U.S. Route 11 traveling on Route 26 South.

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (WWTI) — Local archeologists are working to unearth a “lost village” in the North Country.

Fort Drum Cultural Resources archeologists, along with the Fort Drum Fire Department and local residents discovered another piece of the claimed “Lost Village” during a routine site inspection. This was after a team uncovered an area of Plank Road, near Gates Cemetery, in the lost village of Sterlingville while working on a stream management project.

Archeologists were then called in to conduct field testing. According to FDCR Manager Laurie Rush, this is protocol before any “ground-disturbing activity” is started.

“Natural Resources was very interested in the idea of restoring the pathway of this brook to take it back to its original course,” Dr. Rush said in a press release. “When something like that happens, then we take a look and conduct testing to determine if there are any good indigenous archaeological sites in the area.”

Archaeologist Meg Schulz then shared that after the ground was cleared of vegetation, the team believed they had uncovered a set of stairs. However, it was later determined to be a section of a trench, which the team then discovered a foundation under the ground, something the team had never seen before.

“It was unlike any foundation our team has ever found before on Fort Drum,” Rush added. “As they began to uncover the foundation, they began to realize it had all these really unusual ditches and trenches in it.”

It was later confirmed that by a Philadelphia town official that the found structure was a milk cooperative that had once existed in the village. According to Fort Drum, the team then developed ideas about how the plant might have operated and whether the stream had been diverted to flow through the plant.

The Fort Drum Fire Department provided the resources needed to test this hypothesis in August 2021. Prior to the test, Assistant Fire Chief Jeffrey Spellman and Assistant Chief of Fire Prevention Steven LaRue made a site visit with the archaeology team to discuss a plan for flooding the structure.

LaRue, Fire Captain Jeff Hambsch and the team of archaeologists then took turns with the pressure hose system and 3,000 gallons of water. This allowed for more discoveries to be made.

Water flowed through one section of the structure, where the crew then realized that other sections were designed for containment. The fire crew then removed additional soil which revealed artifacts and architectural features. Among their findings were rusty remnants of a plumbing system, along with pieces of agricultural and forestry equipment.

Findings were then shared on Facebook by Fort Drum Cultural Resources. This generated further conversation about the Lost Villages.

Dr. Laurie Rush is now encouraging North Country community members to share information about the Plank Road Milk Site with Cultural Resources. Residents can call 315-772-7170 or message FDCR on Facebook.

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