Eleutherian College

Hanover College
professor O’Neill to discuss
archaeology techniques

He led a student dig at
Eleutherian College last spring

(September 2013) – Guests at Eleutherian College’s Fall Celebration on Saturday, Sept. 21, will have a chance to dig into the past with Hanover College professor and working archaeologist Sean O’Neill. This past spring, O’Neill and 16 students spent three weeks performing initial fieldwork at Eleutherian, digging dozens of test pits to determine sites for future excavations and to get a sense of the types of artifacts that are typical to the location. 


Photo provided

Hanover College students spent three weeks last spring performing initial fieldwork at Eleutherian College.

He explains the importance of this dig for his students, saying, “This was a crucial experience for them because it allowed them to put into action several of the techniques and concepts that they had learned in class. In general, these techniques are best learned ‘by doing,’ and so working in the field is the only way to learn and refine these archaeological methods in a lasting, effective way.”
During the Fall Celebration at 3 p.m., O’Neill will present “Archaeological Fieldwork at Eleutherian College: Past, Present and Future,” during which he will share results of past work on the grounds and explore plans for upcoming excavations. He will also be digging a shovel test pit of the sort that his students worked on during their class.
He explains these test pits as “relatively narrow pits dug at precise intervals to a depth of about 1 meter. The qualities of the soil, artifacts and other finds within each test-pit are analyzed and carefully documented before the pit is refilled to the original ground-level height.”
The Fall Celebration will take place at Eleutherian College from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. that Saturday. The college is located at 6927 W. State Rd. 250, a few miles north of Madison in Lancaster. Throughout the day there will be opportunities for self-guided tours, with a guided tour taking place at 4:30 p.m. A variety of area historical groups will have displays  set up for visitors to enjoy.


Photo provided

Hanover College students
found several artifacts from
their dig at Eleutherian.

Mark Furnish will present a talk at 11 a.m. on “Abolition and Anti-abolition in Jefferson County, 1828-1848,” and musical performances will take place from 5:30-7 p.m.
“We wanted to highlight the history of Eleutherian College and let people know about some of the some of the activities that have been going on,” said Board President Larry DeBuhr. “I believe that the more people we can get to the site, the more successful we will be in our efforts to restore the building and preserve it for the future.”
David Harden, Director of Experiential Learning at Hanover College and Vice President of the Board of Historic Eleutherian Inc., said he is pleased to see a number of Hanover College professors getting involved in the Fall Celebration. In addition to O’Neill’s talk, Biology professor Darrin Rubino will be speaking about using information collected from tree rings in dating historical structures at 1 p.m., and Communication professor Bill Bettler will be performing with fellow colleges and students in the musical group Elbow Room.
“We’re excited about being a part of Eleutherian,” says Harden. He said he hopes that more professors will start to take advantage of the ties being formed between Hanover College and the Eleutherian site. “It’s an incredible laboratory,” he says enthusiastically. “I want to see more of our classes up there.” Harden said he believes the site offers potential for students to explore social issues, folklore, history and biology in a hands on way. He would ideally like to see the Eleutherian eventually serve as a host for an artist-in-residence whose work could help capture the inspirational spirit of the site and serve as an additional draw for students and visitors.
O’Neill is already anticipating bringing students back to Eleutherian in April 2014 to build on the work that they have begun. Through use of remote sensing equipment and additional test pits, he looks forward to exploring more of the college grounds. He is also eager to see a full excavation done on the site where the outhouses of the school would have stood.
O’Neill explains, “As several North American archaeologists will happily advertise, outhouses from the 18th and 19th centuries will often prove to be veritable treasure-troves filled with a wide range of metallic, glass and ceramic artifacts.”
Certainly, Eleutherian College has much left to teach the students and historians of today, he says.
DeBuhr reflects on the revitalization of Eleutherian, saying, “Considering that last year, we had only one event in all of 2012, I think this year was a great success. We had six historical and cultural programs that included dramatic productions, lectures and music events. We will have five times as many people attending the event as we had in all of 2012. The public programs series has also confirmed the belief of the board that there is community support for saving Eleutherian College, and that the building itself is a great venue for educational and cultural events.”
He is particularly please to note that work over the past year has helped to establish Historic Eleutherian as “an on-going organization,” noting that, “There was some doubt several years ago if the organization would survive.”
O’Neill speaks to the importance of the site saying, “For those of us who live in Jefferson county, I feel as though Eleutherian College is our best preserved and most interesting link to the Abolitionist Movement and the rich history surrounding it. Endowed with its well-researched and integral involvement in the Underground Railroad network, it offers the rare occasion to ‘walk into the past’ – that is to say, by taking the time to visit the site one can gain a genuine feel for the 19th century and the crucial role played by the site not just within the region, but also on the statewide and national levels.”

• For more information, call (812) 866-7291 or visit: www.eleutheriancollege.org.

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