MINOT – Ceramic shards – bits of creamware and pearlware – unearthed in an archaeological dig on Center Minot Hill have local history buffs excited.

“When I heard they were going to dig on the William Ladd homestead, my hope was they would find something that belonged to Ladd, and I’m quite excited now it appears that they did,” said Eda Tripp, town selectman and longtime Ladd researcher.

Four weeks ago historical archaeologists Pamela Crane and Peter Morrison took their University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College class to the site of Capt. Ladd’s homestead.

“It is an ideal site for us, relatively near L-A College, and with the variety of things that went on at the site, a great teaching location. Add to that the fact that Ladd’s story is an interesting one and you have a place we hope to be able to do further work on,” Morrison said.

According to Tripp, William Ladd, known as the “apostle of peace” for his work establishing the American Peace Society in 1828, probably came to Minot at the time of the War of 1812.

Born May 10, 1778, in Exeter, N.H., he graduated from Harvard College in 1797 at age 19 and a year later captained his father’s ship, the Eliza, sailing out of Portsmouth, N.H.

Capt. Ladd made a considerable fortune at sea but, due to the approach of the War of 1812, left the sea for good and bought out his brothers’ shares of the Minot farm that their father, Eliphalet Ladd, had purchased in the late 1790s.

Tripp noted that this places the Ladds in Minot “before Minot existed as Minot.”

The town wasn’t incorporated until 1802.

“He built his mansion house on this property and always said these were the happiest years of his life,” Tripp said.

The husband-and-wife team of Morrison and Crane and their students concentrated their efforts on three spots located near the cellar hole of the old mansion.

One group opened a square pit, a meter to each side, behind the mansion along an ell, that proved richest in providing bits of pottery.

“We didn’t make any earthshaking discoveries,” Morrison said, “but we did find ceramics that date to Ladd’s time.”

Among the materials recovered – they will be cleaned and given to the Minot Historical Society for preservation – were some shards of creamware that date to the late 1700s and early 1800s, some pearlware that dates to the early 1800s, as well as whiteware that comes after Ladd’s time. Also found were some cut nails from the 1790s and forged nails from the early 1800s.

“The creamware and pearlware were imported from England, but we also found some red earthenware that was native to Maine,” Morrison said.

The earthenware was commonly used in the kitchen and barn, Morrison explained, and was present in the 1700s well into the 1800s.

Another group opened two square meter pits, adjacent to each other to the south of the mansion, that revealed what may have been a brick patio.

A third group opened a square meter pit near the edge of what likely was a large barn, located at the end of the “T” that extended from the rear of the mansion.

On the third day of the dig Crane was called to examine a “find” and took pains to point out this dig was as much about teaching and learning as it was about exploration and discovery.

At a depth of between 17 and 20 centimeters, students Elise Faris and Lisa Pomerleau found themselves at a level where the color of the soil changed. They had passed through the dark surface layer (recently formed topsoil, dark with organic material) and a layer of reddish/orange that, Crane said, marked soils colored by oxidized iron that had formed slowly over time stretching back into thousands of years. They now found themselves digging into a tan colored soil. A level, Morrison said, was the third, or “C” horizon: undisturbed, parent material, product of the Ice Age.

Crane was called because while the layer appeared to be uniformly tan, it had a dark circular patch.

“Possibly a post hole. Dig into it, see how far it goes, what you find,” Crane suggested.

At the bottom of the dark patch, a single brick.

“Perhaps we have a post hole. What we would do now is look for more. And if we find more, seek a pattern,” Crane said.

“Archaeology is a process, forming hypotheses and testing them. Good archaeology takes time, several seasons to tell the story,” Crane explained.

Unraveling the story of the William Ladd site has only begun, Morrison said; there is plenty for generations of archaeologists.

The town owns the two-acre lot, a tiny portion of Ladd’s original 600 acres, on which the main Ladd house was situated. It is believed that nine buildings crowded into the core farmyard, providing the two acres with plenty of storytelling potential.

And most fortunately, from an archaeological viewpoint, when Suzie Campbell, a longtime Minot town clerk left the property to the town in her will, she stipulated that the property can only be turned into a floral park in Capt. William Ladd’s memory, never to be sold.


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