Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Brant Venables, of SUNY Binghamton, screens soil during an archaeological dig Saturday outside the octagonal schoolhouse in the town of Dryden. The school was in operation from 1827 until the 1940s.
200-year-old schoolhouse sees archaeological dig
DRYDEN — Brant Venables and Loren Sparling looked into the hole they dug Saturday and the nugget they discovered.
It was a chip of brick. A chip with a mystery.
Standing behind the two archaeologists was the Eight Square Schoolhouse. Today, it’s an operation of The History Center in Tompkins County, but in 1827, it was as grand a schoolhouse as upstate New York could envision.
And it sits in the middle of nowhere — on Hanshaw Road halfway between the cultural center of Dryden, with fewer than 5,000 people in 1827, and Ithaca with perhaps as many.
The brick isn’t the only thing the hole has yielded, said Sparling during an open house of the school.
Diggers have found nails; animal teeth; ceramic, hand-painted pottery shards; a marble; children’s buckles and even mother-of-pearl buttons.
That, said Wendy Bacon, a teacher and archaeologist herself, paints an interesting picture of a very rural community: “They were going high end,” Bacon said. “Nothing was too good for their kids.”