Archaeological excavations are underway at Fort Plain Museum on weekends through August 27, 2023 with the goal of seeking archaeological information to help in the reconstruction of ovens and a bakehouse that are believed to once have stood at the Revolutionary War era fort.
An unusual stone feature has been tentatively identified as a possible oven/bakehouse. The goal of this field season is to better understand this stone feature and determine if it represents the remains of the Fort’s bakehouse or ovens.
Archaeologists will also be investigating some depressions and soil anomalies identified through ground penetrating radar if time allows.
The excavations are taking place over four weekends in August, including August 12-13th, August 19-20th and August 26-27th, from 9 am until 3 pm each day.
Visitors are welcome to watch, but active participants must be members of either the Fort Plain Museum or the New York State Archaeological Association. Membership forms will be available on site. If you are interested in participating or have questionscontact David Moyer at (607) 437-7189 or email@example.com.
There will be breaks during mid-morning and in the afternoon as well as at midday for lunch. Portable awnings will be set up for breaks and lunch and to cover the excavations as much as possible. Water will be provided, but active participants may also want to bring sunscreen and a hat, lunch, a folding chair, a personal dig kit (although equipment will be provided), gloves, a kneeling pad, and boots or good shoes.
Fort Plain Museum is located at 389 Canal Street, in Fort Plain, Montgomery County, NY. There is parking available at the top of the hill, but participants and visitors must check in at the museum before following thee signs to the designated parking area.
The excavations are sponsored by the Fort Plain Museum and the Van Epps Hartley Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association.
Established as a revolutionary fort during the American Revolution in 1779 on the south side of Mohawk River at the present day town of Fort Plain, Montgomery County, NY, the plan of the fort was a stockaded quadrangle with a large three-story central blockhouse and two smaller blockhouses on opposite corners.
It was built under the direction of Colonel Dayton and was also known as Fort Rensselaer.
The first story of the central blockhouse was thirty feet in diameter, the second forty, and the third fifty. The powder magazine of the fort was placed directly under the central blockhouse for protection.
In 1780-1781 a larger blockhouse was built. The Fort was the central focal point of some ten local fortifications, five of which formed a core defense and was used as a local headquarters (which Marinus Willett commanded) after Fort Stanwix was destroyed in 1781.
The smaller forts Surrounding Fort Plain were Fort Windecker in Mindenville (1779-1783);Fort Willett in St. Johnsville (1781-1783); Fort Plank in Fort Plain (1778-1782); Fort Clyde in Freysbush (1779-1783); and Fort Paris in Stone Arabia (1777-1781).
The Fort was visited by George Washington on July 31, 1783 on his tour of the Mohawk Valley fortifications and was garrisoned as late as 1785. After that, the structures were dismantled and used to reconstruct buildings destroyed in the war.
The fort was reportedly completely dismantled by 1790 except for the blockhouse which was torn down between 1796-1810.
Archaeology at Fort Plain
The Fort Plain Museum began operation in 1961 as the Fort Plain Restoration with an emphasis on rebuilding Revolutionary War Fort Plain.
In that same year the museum began archaeological field work on the Fort Plain hilltop, unearthing 18th century period artifacts relating to the fort’s history. In 1964 as additional sites relating to colonial Fort Plain/Fort Rensselaer were unearthed.
Archaeological investigation and research continued in 1975 under the auspices of Wayne Lenig who excavated the site of the original fort’s stockade. The exploration uncovered barracks buildings, a dining hall, officer’s quarters, a small blockhouse and sentry posts.
Illustrations, from above: Photo of a New York State archaeological excavation courtesy New York State Archaeological Association; the plan of Fort Plain (a – large blockhouse, b – small blockhouses, c – barracks) and the large Fort Plain blockhouse (as drawn by Benjamin Lossing).