In 1997 and 1998 Archaeological Research Consultants, Inc., of Ellsworth, Maine, carried out phase one and phase 2 excavations at the Lewis Bean Site in York, Maine, prior to construction of a new Shop N Save Supermarket.
for the Bean Family
Probate Inventories for the Bean Family
In 1669 the Town of York granted a fifteen acre parcel of land to Lewis Bean, who had probably recently arrived in town. The family would continue to own the property until 1813. Probate inventories survive for the first four of Beans: Lewis, his son Lewis Jr., grandson John, and great-grandson Jeremiah Bean. Although the location of Lewis Sr.'s house is unknown, his son and grandson occupied the same house - the one that was the focus or excavation. It was built before 1695, and taken down by 1757.
Lewis Bean Sr. probate inventory, 1677
Lewis Bean Jr. Emigrated to York from England, or perhaps Scotland. He first appears in the records in 1668. He was killed in an Indian attack while he was tending his fields, on April 7, 1677, one of the last raids of King Philip's War.
| By Paul Mann
The York Weekly
July 14, 1999, Vol. 60 No. 28
| Photo by Cheryl Moore-Smith
|Tad Baker is the kid who never got
of playing in the sand lot.
Now 41, he's playing in one of the most exciting sand lots in Maine -- a site at York's new Shop 'n Save that has archaeologists throughout the state buzzing.
Baker, an assistant professor of history at Salem State College in Massachusetts, who lives in a 200-year-old farmstead off Chases Pond Road, is an historical archaeologist who won the right to pick over the Shop 'n Save site when it was earmarked for development in late 1997. Under state law, developers of any site larger than 20 acres have to cooperate with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission in protecting any discovery of historic value unearthed during excavation.
Both the commission and Baker knew the Shop 'n' Save site, at the junction of Route 1 and Route 91, was also the site of a 200-year-old farmhouse that burned down in the early years of this decade. What they didn't know until the earthmovers uncovered an ancient cellar door, was that that house replaced an even earlier house built out of the ashes of the Candlemas Raid of 1692 in which Native Americans almost succeeded in wiping the town of York off the map.
"I've worked on older houses," says Baker, whose professorial features become boyish with excitement when he talks about his discovery. "Houses dating back to the 1630s and 1640s, which were the very first years of European settlement -- but this is the first site we've excavated from this period.
"The reason it is so exciting, and why so many other archaeologists in Maine are excited about it, is that this was a period when nobody was building here, when the first settlers had pretty much abandoned it all to the Indians, so this house represents an act of determination. It was built by people who decided they weren't going to be moved even while everybody else was moving out of Maine and going back to Massachusetts."
Baker, whose home coincidentally stands only a few yards from the original Snowshoe Rock, where Native Americans left their snowshoes before launching the infamous Candlemas Raid, added: "This was at a time when a large percentage of this town was destroyed, when more than 100 residents were killed or taken captive, when all the houses on the north shore were burned down and when it looked very much like York was going to be another of those colonial outposts that wasn't going to make it.
"This is a very important site because the people who built this house in 1692, the same year as the raid, had made up their minds to stay no matter what. While everybody else was leaving they decided they weren't going anywhere, and even though it wasn't a very big house, only 18 feet by 18 feet, its stone foundations were very solid. It was a two-story, two-room garrison with a bulkhead, a central, very substantial stone chimney and a cellar, and they were going to defend it."
For comparison, he said the historic garrison house on Route 91, owned by the McIntire family, was probably most similar, though this house was about half the size.
The owners of the house were none other than a branch of the famous Beans of Maine, though at that time the family name was spelled Bane.
The original owner was Lewis Bane II, who stayed on despite losing several members of his family to Indians, either killed or taken prisoner. His father, Lewis Bane I, had been killed by Indians in 1667 while tending his crops.
Despite their determination, this was one branch of the Bean dynasty that was to founder ultimately on hard times. Indians, famine and disease claimed family members one by one so that when Lewis' son John died in the 1740s, he left only one heir, an infant son, Jeremiah. Jeremiah lived only until 1757 when he, too, succumbed to unknown causes, and his guardian, Abel Moulton, was awarded the house and 600 bricks by the local court in reimbursement for having raised the child. The house was then disassembled and either moved in its entirety to the Moulton property or was cannibalized into other buildings.
"That was a whole branch of the family that died off in 1757," Baker added. "Even though four generations went through the house, they were just hanging on. We have documents showing John Bane's widow filing against the estate for enough money to buy coffins for family members."
Another branch of the family did somewhat better. John's brother, Jonathan, apparently bought the land back in the 1770s and built the house that remained there until it burned down.
Asked what he has recovered from the site so far, Baker begins pulling the lids off cardboard boxes with fragments of china and rusted metal artifacts neatly stored inside in plastic bags.
"This is 300 years old," he says, producing a surprisingly clean and intact pewter spoon. "Here's a piece of a German stoneware beer mug, also 300 years old. This is the rim of a tea cup made in Staffordshire, England, 300 years ago. Here's a piece of decorated glass 200 years old."
He produces a small intact buckle and turns it over in his fingers.
"A legging buckle," he says. "Also 300 years old."
There's the blade of a butter knife, a badly corroded straight razor -- and even a clay brick from the original chimney.
"What we're looking at is a microcosm of the history of York," Baker says, eyes gleaming through his spectacles. "And we have very, very few sites from the late 1600s to the early 1700s, because people were abandoning the area.
"We're still learning about the transitions they went through during this period. We tend to think of these early settlers as Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone types. They weren't. They were transplanted Englishmen and they went through very hard times while they learned to adapt.
"We know from animal bones they started off with cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and goats they brought over with them, but these disappeared and were replaced by deer bones and turtle bones. So we're finding that as their livestock died off they had to learn to make do with what was around them. These were people who never learned to hunt in England because hunting was reserved for the wealthy, but when they got here and their animals died and they were facing starvation, they learned to hunt."
Amazingly, he says, only five to 10 percent of the site has been excavated so far.
"We still have a lot of work ahead of us," he added.
In the meantime, the people of York should get an opportunity to see these latest artifacts from the town's history through an exhibition at the Old York Historical Society, maybe as early as this fall.
"It won't be a big exhibition," Baker cautions, but then his grin betrays his enthusiasm. "But when you realize what you're looking at, it's exciting."
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Bean Site, September 1999
Fenced in area in foreground
The building in background is the Shop N Save under
Route 1 is in foreground.
On a small patch of land sitting just off Route 1, part of a plot slated for Hannaford Bros.' proposed Shop 'n Save supermarket, Tad Baker and his crew of experienced excavators have unearthed what appears to be the remnants of a homestead belonging to Lewis Bean, ancestor of the well-known Beans of the Freeport-based empire. The real significance of the find is that the artifacts are believed to date back to around 1692, distinguishing the site as one of the oldest in the state of Maine.
Holding a mustard-yellow rim of a ceramic teacup from Straffordshire, England, plucked from the ground last week, Baker, of York, known in scholarly circles as Dr. Emerson Woods Baker II, says that every artifact tells part of a story.
"We're in the information-finding stage. We essentially look at 'other people's garbage' and these artifacts tell us how important the site is and gives us tangible things to interpret. Most pieces can tell us how wealthy people were, for instance. It's kind of neat.... There's no prehistoric architecture, but certainly what we have found here is significant. Very little [vestiges] of this time in York's history still exist."
Baker, a professor of historical archaeology at Salem State College in Massachusetts and the author of three books, specializes in colonial history and has helped excavate numerous sites in the southern Maine area for the past two decades.
"The state required an initial survey of this area because it was believed to be the site of a homestead dating from the mid-to-late 1600s," continued Baker, a genial, exoteric man, clearly passionate about his bailiwick. "Our job was to come in and see if any trace of this time was left."
Bits of brick and bone, window glass, nails, ceramics and clay tobacco pipe numbering in the hundreds, none of which hold any real monetary value, lie in plastic bags, waiting to be cleaned, catalogued and delivered to identification specialists. A full report will be filed sometime in the fall.
The work is very time consuming, very exacting and focused on the minutiae. The workers sit bent over for hours, the sun blazing relentlessly on their exposed skin, carefully moving the dirt with small trowels and then with sifters.
The reward of the work is in the find and the fascination lies in the way each involved has the uncanny ability to recognize the distinction of each piece.
Working for the last couple of weeks, the excavators uncovered the cellar of an old home some 200 meters from the road. They discovered a bulkhead entrance after digging a couple of test pits four feet into the earth.
"We could tell," says Baker, "that the house was built in the late 1600s at a crucial turning point in York's history. Fights between the settlers and the Indians ensued at that time during the Candlemas Raid and, afterward, the area was largely rebuilt.
"We could tell," he continued, "that the house was abandoned by 1760 because pieces of ceramic typical of the period [after 1760] are absent from the grounds. Everything is datable and we can be fairly accurate. We then look at how it fits into historical context, and this shows us the big picture."
While field work is essentially destructive in nature, it is done with a finesse that requires enormous amounts of patience and precision. Each bit of artifact, however small, is catalogued, meaning that a detailed description of its locale is documented, as is the particular test pit and level of stratum. A photograph of the find is also added to the mix, along with sketches of the site, permanently recording all for posterity.
"The company [Hannaford] wants to do this right," explained Baker. "We're here to find out how big the site is and what historical importance any of this has on property development. The final decision will be up to Hannaford Bros. and the state. This won't prevent them from building, but it will give them an idea of how to deal with it. Either avoid these areas entirely or leave a green space (open area) surrounding the cellar hole, for example."
Pulling a spoon out of a bag, bent, but intact, Baker acknowledged, "One of my desires is to see all of these artifacts at a local repository."
Scott Stevens, executive director of Old York Historical Society, confirms that Old York is a possible repository for the artifacts. "We think [the excavation] is interesting and that what they're finding there is important. We would welcome the opportunity to share what's there with the public."
For now, Tad Baker and his crew of taciturn and determined excavators, continue to dig and discover.
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York County, Maine Probate Vol. III, page 190.