Archeologists find artifacts in New York in effort to pinpoint Fort Bull site
By EDWARD HARRIS | (Utica, N.Y.) Observer-Dispatch | Published: August 27, 2019
ROME, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Monday afternoon’s relative calm was interrupted every so often by the beeps of metal detectors as archeologists searched the area where they believe Fort Bull once stood.
Paul Brown, a field technician with the Public Archaeology Facility at SUNY Binghamton, was waving his detector around the outskirts of the search area when it began beeping continuously. He quickly grabbed a shovel and dug a small hole, which he then explored with a smaller detector.
Brown soon uncovered small, metal fragments in the portion of earth he overturned. He was unsure whether the fragments were related to Fort Bull, but he bagged and documented them nonetheless.
Two other archeologists, working on the other side of the search area, found other items — including lead balls that were made for use in muskets — that might have closer ties to Fort Bull.
“We are hoping that we can help pinpoint some of the fort’s location through looking for debris fields,” said Brian Grills, Public Archaeology Facility’s project director. “So we are using a whole host of different geophysical techniques.”
These techniques include ground-penetrating radar and drone-based radar, which will help to investigate the neighboring wetlands.
A half-dozen archeologists from the Public Archaeology Facility are spending a few days this week searching for artifacts at the proposed site. The first phase of the investigation was completed in May when archaeologists used ground-penetrating radar on the parade grounds of Fort Woods Creek.
In recent weeks, archeologists have uncovered a plethora of items, including some battle-related items such as ammunition, grenade fragments and a 12-pound cannonball. Also uncovered were objects more closely related with people living in the area, such as pottery, utensil fragments, nails and uniform buttons.
The radar also has unearthed stockade post molds. The only question, Grills said, is to which structure they belong.
“We don’t know if it’s the stockade from Fort Wood Creek or if it’s from Fort Bull,” he said. “So those are the kind of questions we’re looking at. They help us decide where we might want to excavate.”
The survey is expected to continue into the fall, Grills said. He hopes to have all the field work done by the first frost of the year, with lab work taking place during the winter.
Once completed, the results will be sent to the Rome Historical Society and the National Parks Service, Grills said.
A grant from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program is funding the research, Grills said.
The search for Fort Bull is ongoing. The fort’s footprint is believed to be located by Fort Wood Creek and Erie Canal Village, but never has been found.
The fort is considered th have been an important British military outpost along Wood Creek during the French and Indian War. France blew up Fort Bull and killed or captured nearly 60 soldiers.
Some believe Fort Wood Creek was built over the former fort’s remains soon after its destruction.
Arthur L. Simmons III, executive director of the Rome Historical Society, said city residents had recognized the area as their battlefield in the late 1800s and early 1900s and held numerous ceremonies there on holidays.
“It’s really a pristine site,” Simmons said of the area. “That leads to its need for preservation.”
Jesse Pagels, a graduate student at Binghamton University, shows an artifact found at the proposed Fort Bull site during a tour with the Rome Historical Society on Monday, August 26, 2019, in Rome, N.Y. The Public Archaeology Facility at SUNY Binghamton is conducting a survey through a grant awarded by the America Battlefield Protection Program.
SARAH CONDON, (UTICA, N.Y.) OBSERVER-DISPATCH/TNS