Archeological Procedure - Garth, 1948 Archeological Report
Having located and partially excavated the five major mission buildings in 1947, we then set to work (1948) to complete the job on the two main dwellings. (3) We commenced uncovering the west walls of the T-shaped Mission House, an adobe-brick structure. Only the lower 12 inches of the wall were found to be intact, and often the height was even less. Depth below the surface varied from 8 to 12 inches. The walls proved to be 20 inches wide, made of adobe bricks 20 inches long, 10 inches wide, and 5 inches thick. In the course of excavating the walls we encountered a series of packed levels, called floors, which had a close relationship to the history of the ruin. The two lowest levels had ash layers over them, which made their identification relatively easy. On the lowest of these, called floor 4, were the ashes of the fire which burned the Mission House in 1848, as well as things which were in the house when it burned. (4) There were nails, broken china, glassware, slate, etc., which were doubtlessly scattered about after the massacre. Fortunately the building had a heavy dirt roof. This, when the supports burned through, crashed down on the burning wood floors below, in many instances smothering the fire and preserving planks, joists, and even bits of cloth, leather, grains and other foods, in a charred state. The roof also blanketed the area with 4 to 6 inches of earth, protecting it from the tramping and souvenir hunting of soldiers and others who came on the scene afterwards. Some of the adobe walls also fell, adding to the accumulation of earth over the floor 4 ash layer. The soldiers who built Fort Waters out of the walls that remained walked on the fallen dirt roof and packed it in turn. This packed level, which is from 2 to 6 inches above floor 4, has been given the designation "floor 3A." (5)
No doubt many of the artifacts found on floor 3A belong either to the soldiers of 1848 or to the stockmen who came later; others must represent mission property picked up by the soldiers or stockmen after it had been scattered by the Indians. Interestingly enough the reconstructed building (Fort Waters) also had a dirt and straw roof which fell when the fort was burned in 1855, preserving perishable materials in much the same manner as occurred earlier in 1848. In the rear of the structure on floor 3A quantities of charred coffee, corn kernels, and some wheat seed were found in the ash layer. Particularly in the cellar area whole charred planks and heavy deposits of charred rye grass from the Fort's dirt and straw roof were found. Floor 3A was covered not only with the dirt from the roof of the Fort, but with a heavy accumulation of broken and disintegrated adobe brick as well, making a deposit several inches in depth. The bricks represent the falling in 1855 of the remaining walls of the old Mission House.
Cushing Eells and others who came after the second destruction of the building (after 1855) walked on the burned rubble from the walls, the exposed bricks being pulverized until nothing but a mound remained. Their tramping also packed the mound surface, creating still another packed earth layer, i.e., floor 3. (6) In one 30-foot-long area there was an ash layer on this level with much burned material as well as considerable kiln-fired brick of uneven manufacture. Often it was only 1 1/4 inches thick instead of the 2 1/4-inch thickness of standard bricks of today. Here obviously was where the Eells cabin, which burned in 1872, had stood. Subsequent occupancy of the site, flood deposition, dirt from cellar excavations, etc., produced two other packed layers which have been designated as floors 2 and 1, respectively. Floor 1 is not far below the present surface of the ground and is no doubt fairly recent. Floor 3 is immediately recognizable, for it represents the upper limit of the burned bricks, charcoal, etc., from the old adobe building. All packed floors did not occur consistently in all I areas, and particularly was this true outside the walls of the Mission House. However, in the great majority of cases the floors were consistent. After a period of excavating in which we came to know well the artifact types occurring above floor 3, this material was saved only when it was of some peculiar interest. Artifacts were catalogued according to location in the ruin and to the floors on or between which they occurred. As might be expected, most artifacts occurred on the floors rather than in the dirt deposit between them. By thus cataloguing our finds according to level we were able to. identify with relative certainty items which belonged to the Whitman period and those which came afterward.
The ruin area was divided into 10-foot squares, the excavating procedure being first to expose floor 3, then remove the 6 inches or so of earth over floor 3A until it was completely exposed, and finally continue to floor 4. In a few areas we went through floor 4 (i.e., the ground level during the Mission period) and struck a fifth floor, probably representing a pre-Mission period. Most of the artifacts on this level were of Indian origin.
Did You Know?
Over 200 different species of birds can be found at Whitman Mission National Historic Site. A large proportion of these are migratory and wintering birds indicating the importance of the 139-acre parcel as a stop over for those species. More...