J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Digging for Shays

The Burlington Free Press just ran an Associated Press story (also picked up by the Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal) about a high-school teacher’s archeological dig in Sandgate, Vermont, with roots in post-Revolutionary America:
On the south side of a mountain in Sandgate, Steve Butz and his students from Cambridge High School are unearthing what he and townspeople believe was the hideout of Daniel Shays, a former Continental Army captain who fled Massachusetts in 1787 after leading a fight against harsh economic policies.

“Everybody around here would be quick to tell you that’s Shays’ village,” said Jean Eisenhart, who has lived in Sandgate for almost 30 years. “It’s local lore.”

Historical documents, including a land transaction, prove Shays lived in Sandgate, but the exact location has never been verified. Butz hopes the dig will be able to pinpoint where Shays and his men made their home. . . .

Shays stayed in the state for about two years, then left, eventually settling in New York after he and the other rebels received pardons. Some of his followers remained in Vermont.

Butz said the settlement was later abandoned and the buildings burned in around 1810. That’s consistent with what other historical records say was an epidemic — there’s no indication of what disease — that swept the area, killing many.

Town records indicate the area was never settled again. It was owned by a succession of timber companies that would occasionally log the area in the intervening two centuries.
Here’s the Shays Settlement Project Facebook page. The image above shows a “Bronze, 18th century ornamental crotal bell” recovered at the site.

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