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Help with September/October Archaeological Excavation at Garfield Farm Museum

CAMPTON HILLS, IL     Registrations are now being taken for individuals who wish to help with an archaeological excavation beginning Wednesday, September 26, at Garfield Farm Museum.

Both novice and experienced volunteers are needed to help excavate, screen, wash and catalogue artifacts in the vicinity of the original log house built in 1835 by the Culbertson family and later expanded in 1841 by the Garfield family.    

Over 900 hours of volunteer excavation in June continued to yield a wide array of evidence of how the Culbertson and Garfield families lived between July of 1835 and October of 1846. Multi-colored shards of ceramics, stoneware, and glass were augmented by pieces of clay tobacco pipes, various metal objects from square nails, buttons to drawer pulls as every square inch of the log house site is being carefully investigated. Work now can also be contrasted to a July investigation in the backyard of the 1846 brick tavern that yielded later 1840s evidence. This study was undertaken as pending construction required a 7 by 16 feet area to be explored.

To help accurately interpret, restore and re-create the 1840s conditions of the Timothy and Harriet Garfield's farmstead and tavern, the museum started up a five-year archaeology program in 2010. Investigations were conducted in 1981through 1983 by the Center of American Archaeology, 2003 and 2006 by Fever River Research and 2010 through the present year by HARP.    

The research is headed by James R. Yingst, Director and Chief Archaeologist of Heartland Archaeology Research Program of Chicago, Illinois and a Research Associate in Archaeology at Garfield Farm Museum. The program is coordinated by Helen Bauer, an experienced amateur archaeologist and board member of Garfield Farm Museum‚s Campton Historic Agricultural Lands. Yingst has experience in Illinois and Wisconsin 19th century sites and ceramics of the period. Bauer has participated in excavations in Asia, Europe, Central America as well as President James Madison’s home, Montpelier, and Illinois’ Cahokia Mounds and Kampsville sites.

Volunteers must commit to a set schedule to participate. September’s two-week session will begin September 26, break for two days and resume on October 1. They will be working alongside college and graduate school archaeology students. Volunteers 14 - 17 years of age may participate with parental permission. Younger students accompanied by a parent or guardian may also participate.

Schools and the public are encouraged to attend Harvest Days October 5 and 7th to see the progress of the excavation.  Ultimately, a replica of the original log house that the Garfield family enlarged and made into an inn or tavern will be built. The research will help in this effort and will provide better clues as to how the Culbertson and Garfield families lived.

The Culbertson log house/Garfield log tavern stood in the fork of the Chicago St. Charles Road that branched northwest to Sycamore and southwest to Oregon, IL.  Culbertson originally claimed 440 acres of land that he improved with the house and a dug well.  He had 30 acres in cultivation when he sold the claim to Timothy Garfield in 1841 for $650. Farmers hauling wheat to Chicago’s port caught the Garfield’s attention and they expanded the log house as an inn or tavern. The structure occupied a 20 by 50 foot area with a cellar that was discovered in the 2006 archaeology investigation. The house consisted of two sections and a kitchen to the west. Three first floor rooms included the barroom, and two chambers were on the second floor. The log house had slab siding with a roof of shakes bound down by poles according to the Timothy Garfield biography.

The historic integrity of the site and its documentation call for a thorough archaeological study to confirm and add to understanding the first settlement and development of farms in northern Illinois. To register, see the dig, or to financially contribute to the effort, contact the museum at 630 584-8485, e-mail or write to Box 403 LaFox, IL 60147.

For more information about Garfield Farm send an e-mail message to: or call 630/584-8485.