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Over 16,000 Artifacts of Gloucester City's History in Storage at the New Jersey State Museum

 

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William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNewsnet

 

GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ (October 15,2018)--The City of Gloucester City is celebrating its 150th Anniversary of its incorporation this year. Gloucester City was incorporated by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on February 25, 1868, from the remaining portions of Union Township, which was then dissolved. Additional territory was annexed in 1925 from Centre Township and in 1927 from Haddon Township.[20] The city's name derives from Gloucester, England.[21][22]

 Gloucester City was founded by the Swedes in 1623 and named Fort Nassau. It is said to be the eight oldest community in the United States. It is rich with a historical heritage that is unmatched by any other place of its size in the nation. In 1776, the town hosted General Lafayette, and other notables of the Revolutionary War, during the famous "Battle of Gloucester." In 1773, Betsy Griscom was married to Gloucesterite, John Ross, at Huggs Tavern. Thus became the famous name of Betsy Ross, who made the nations' first flag.

 In 1983, during construction of a senior citizens housing project (building pictured below) at the northwest corner of Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 12.27.41 Market and King Streets evidence was uncovered of prehistoric and early historic period archaeological remains. The excavations resulted in the discovery of aboriginal and historic cultural features and the recovery of more than 16,000 artifacts representing occupations at the site spanning an 8,000 year period according to the report on the discovery prepared in 1985.

 Doing research for this article we asked Kathleen Jentsch, Gloucester City Municipal Clerk and the keeper of city records if she knew where those artifacts were being kept. We are still waiting for her response. We also asked former mayor Robert Bevan who is presently the aide to the present mayor, William James, if he knew their whereabouts. Bevan said he had heard that some developers in the mid-1990's were looking for the artifacts as they wanted to include them in their construction of a riverfront restaurant on Freedom Pier. "Supposedly they were to be stored in the State Museum in Trenton. But when the developers contacted the museum they were told the artifacts were lost."

 

We also corresponded with a representative of the Lenape Indians about the artifacts since some of the items discovered were believed to be from their tribe. The spokesman said it was the first time his organization had heard about the 1983 discovery.

 

Last week we contacted the state museum in Trenton and spoke with Gregory D. Lattanzi, Ph.D, the curator about those relics. He said that all of the artifacts are still being housed in the museum. "Some of them are on display," Lattanzi said.

In 1983 this reporter covered the discovery of those historical pieces for the Gloucester City News. A photo of five skeletons was pictured on the front page of the April 21, 1983 issue with the following caption.

 

Five skeletons have been found at the location of the future senior citizens complex, Market and King streets, Gloucester City. State archeologists estimate the age of the remains to be between 500 and 1,000 years old. The discovery was made on Saturday by Ted Savidge, a local fireman and owner of the Broken Yolk on Market Street. Savidge was with his two children, Jodi and Ted, Jr. and nephew Rick Martin.

    Dave Parris, pictured above, is an archeologist with the state bureau of environmental analysis. He is being assisted by Kurt Kalb and Andrew Stanzeski. The remains, according to the men, are believed to be that of Indians. Also discovered were some arrow heads and animal bones (deer, sturgeon). Parris urged the public to stay away from the area as the would disturb the diggings. The remaining will be turned over to the state museum or Indian bureau.

As a result construction work on the $4.3 million five-story, 90-unit senior citizens apartments was delayed for weeks. 

 Excerpts from two follow-up stories  on this topic written by this reporter in May 1983 appear below:

ARTIFACTS STILL CAUSE PROBLEMS AT HOUSING SITE

The excitement all began when Andrew Stanzeski, 35, an archeological consultant, noticed construction work had begun on the site and notified state officials fearing valuable primitive objects would be destroyed.

  Stanzeski, first become interested in the prehistoric artifacts at the 2-acre location while serving in the Coast Guard. At the time while digging the area he unearthed pieces of pottery and some fire-cracked rock which supposedly belonged to the Indians who once lived there.

 Stanzeski contacted Kurt Kalb an archeologist with the State Department of Transportation, who agreed to study the location. After an examination, Kalb said, “the artifacts are from two” civilizations as they have Colonial and Indian aspects.”

 On Friday, Kalb helped convince a field officer from the U.S. Department of the Interior to ask the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development of Housing and Urban Development and the Gloucester City Housing Authority to stop construction.

    Richard Flynn, housing authority attorney, said “until there is a response from HUD, construction will continue with all possible care in cause minimal damage.”

    Since Kalb first arrived in the city the remains of a tribe of people that may date back as far as 800 B.C. have been unearthed. Artifacts include the bones of the people and the animals they domesticated pottery and arrowheads.

    Because the age of the artifacts unearthed so far has not been pin-pointed. Kalb said it is difficult to say what tribe the Indians belonged to.

    At one location, Kalb found the remains of an ancient hearth the Indians may have used to cook their food or fashion their weapons.

   “Its full of charcoal,” he said. “And that’s great because with charcoal we can date the stuff precisely.”

   Dr. Lorraine Williams, another archeologist said, “the artifacts unearthed so far have been taken to the Trenton State Museum where the bones and other sensitive objects are being treated with special chemicals to protect them.

   She also said, “tests will be run on the skeleton skulls and teeth to determine their sex, age, time of death and the group to which they belonged.

    In the meantime, a decision is yet to be made as to whether or not to stop construction while the agencies interested complete the search for additional artifacts.

NEW ARRANGEMENTS MADE ON SENIOR CITIZENS HOUSING

Howard Theckston, chairman of the Gloucester City Housing Authority, said that as a result of a meeting held, work on the senior citizens project should begin soon.

   “The contractor received a verbal go-ahead Friday to start immediately. However, he wants to wait for a written letter from HUD,” said Theckston.

   Work on the $4.3 million housing complex, at King and Market streets, was stopped last month by HUD to allow archeologists to continue looking for artifacts which were discovered in April. Since that time, the project has been shut down until those involved (the local housing authority, HUD and the Department of Interior) could determine who was going to pay for the delay.

   Congressman James Florio met with local officials on May 28 at the site and said that HUD had agreed to pay $93,000 to have the Department of the Interior to dig out and remove the artifacts. HUD, at that time, also agreed to pay an additional $100,000 to reimburse the contractor for the time lost.

   Theckston said at Friday’s meeting HUD agreed to pay the contractor $101,000” and the local housing authority agreed to pay $75,000 for professional archeologists to dig up the remaining artifacts. According to Theckston, the money would be paid back to the local authority by HUD at a later date.

   He also said that the completion date for the seniors housing will now be advanced to August 1984 instead of May as originally projected.

 

In 1985 MAAR Associates, Inc., of Newark, Delaware released a 5,000-word report on what was found at the site. A copy was sent to the National Park Service, Mid-Atlantic Region in Philadelphia. Included in the report were several photos of what was found.

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Below are a few pages from that document. The entire review can be found here.

 

 Early 17th Century Evidence

   It appears that the earliest European peoples to have settled in the Delaware River Valley may have lived in or near the project area. It is thought that the site of Fort Nassau, a 1624 Dutch settlement, is just south of 28CA50. Swedish settlements were established on both sides of the Delaware River within the general region at a slightly later date. Evidence of possible use of the Gloucester City site by Europeans, and by aboriginal peoples in contact with them, has been found.

   A number of bifaces, some of European flint and some of local material, exhibit wear as if they had been used as "strike-a-lites" or gun flints. Artifacts of these types have been found at other Delaware Valley sites thought to be of early 17th century origin. They may indicate trade of firearms to aboriginal people or the manufacture of gun flints by colonists who, from time to time, used locally derived flints for this purpose.

    A few other artifacts of European origin were possibly used at trade goods. Among these are glass beads, ceramics dating to the 17th century, metal trinkets, white clay tobacco pipes, and buttons. Some of the items are described below.

 Late 17th Century Component

   The historical document research conducted for this project has uncovered an abundance of information concerning the early history of the City of Gloucester. It has been learned, for instance, that the project area consisted of Lots 9, 10, 11, 34, 35 and 36, as originally surveyed for the establishment of the Town of Gloucester in 1689. Subsequent land use in the project area has also been traced. A ferry at the foot of Market Street was operated by John Reading, who provided land for the town. The town developed not only as a commercial area but also as a center of government. John Reading was possibly a resident of the project area. His service as a West Jersey Proprietor and a Clerk of the Court of Gloucester contribution to the significance of the site.

Historic Cellar and Foundation

   Archeological investigations revealed the brick foundations and cellar of an entire building within Lot 10 of the study area. The structure, situated with its long axis paralleling the river, was probably a residence occupied during the late 17th century, perhaps during the period from 1670 to 1710. Among the most datable items were English, Oriental and German ceramics, coins and trade tokens from London and South America, white clay tobacco pipe fragments, inscribed turned window leads (ca. 1678 to 1684), and various other household and personal items.

  The house was represented by a large cellar hole and a number of associated 17th century features. It measured approximately 26 feet (north-south) by at least 12 feet (east-west). Eighteen stratigraphic soil levels were identified in the feature fill. Nine additional features were found to intrude into the cellar floor. A section of a brick foundation was found in the southwestern quadrant of the cellar. This foundation was one and one-half bricks in thickness and laid in English bond with shell mortar. A brick pier, possibly a remnant of a larger "L"-shaped footing, was found at the southern end of the cellar.

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