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Archaeologists Discover Earliest Evidence Of English Settlers In Connecticut

Archaeologists are digging out an early English settlement in Wethersfield, Conn., dating back to the 1630s, when Europeans were just starting to settle in the region.

Volunteer Charbra Jestin kneels in a two-foot-deep pit, clears away dirt with a spade and then scoops it out. Every so often she turns up a shard of a plate or a glass bottle.

“I believe it’s Russian mineral oil [laughs], which was evidently used quite a bit based on the number of bottles that have come out of this earth!”

This pit was once part of one of the first English houses ever built in the lower Connecticut River Valley.

“It’s very exciting. This is the earliest archaeological evidence of the English in Connecticut. And it’s about as early as it can be, because this is basically the founding of Connecticut colony,” said lead archaeologist Sarah Sportman.

English settlers founded Wethersfield in 1634, and it was one of those settlers that built the house that once stood on this site. The Dutch had a fur trading post nearby, but the English were the first Europeans to build houses here.

“The English came and settled. They had a very different strategy than the Dutch for this region. They want to come, they wanted to stay.”

Sportman says she’ll take the artifacts back to her team’s lab to analyze them further. And she says when she’s done with them, some could turn up right back here at the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum.

This article has been updated to reflect the fact that the particular site the volunteer was working on was from the early 20th century, not the 17th century.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.