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Students complete initial archaeology survey at McChesney Field Campus

WKU student Amanda Forrester writes down information from the headstone of Henry Sulser in a cemetery at the McChesney Field Campus. (Photos courtesy of Darlene Applegate)

Students in an Honors anthropology course at WKU may have just scratched the surface in their work to survey the McChesney Field Campus.

During the spring semester, 26 students in Darlene Applegate’s Introduction to Archaeology course completed an initial archaeological survey of the 140-acre site in northern Warren County.

“The course focuses on the 10-step scientific process of archaeology, from developing research questions to disseminating results,” Dr. Applegate said. “The semester-long McChesney project allowed students to actively apply course content by implementing the 10 steps of archaeological research design in a real-life setting.”

Members of the class reviewed property deeds, census records, cemetery records and maps and visited the McChesney Field Campus to collect and document cultural resources at the site off Austin Raymer Road near the Anna community. Other students collected oral histories, processed and analyzed artifacts, curated site documentation, and created a web site.

Students Candice Wheeler and Rosie O'Connor take measurements of a wall at one of the structures at the McChesney Field Campus.

Among the students’ preliminary findings are the following:

*A home site on the northwest corner of the property near the Green River. Large limestone and sandstone rocks indicate a spring house and a site where a log house once stood. Fragments from pottery and window glass along with square cut nails are indicative of the 1840s or earlier. The late 19th-century owner of this house was W.H.H. Burton, whose son William L. Burton amassed a multi-million-dollar fortune as a lumber merchant in Louisiana but maintained close ties to Bowling Green through many philanthropic gifts.

*A Green River ferry/boat landing site east of the home site. Cut sandstone blocks and limestone slabs along the modified shoreline are evidence of river-based activity, which may be associated with 1860s property owner Henry Sulser, whose son William T. Sulser was a steam boat engineer.

*A cemetery on the southwest corner of the property. The class determined 41 people were buried there between at least 1849 and 1869. They found headstones of two property owners in the 1860s, including Henry Sulser.

*A home site on the southeast corner of the property near the parking lot for the field campus. A five-room log-frame house and outbuilding remain on the site. Evidence of other structures has been found. The structures were probably built in the late 1800s or early 1900s.

Students Trace McGuire and Missy Pitcock sift through dirt as part of the search for artifacts.

Dr. Applegate expects to continue field work at the campus, as well as documentary research and interviewing. “Historic maps indicate there should be another 19th-century house site on the property, and two caves need documenting,” she said. “We also plan to test for prehistoric Native American sites on the property.”

The McChesney Field Campus was dedicated in August 2009 and honors Hardin Field McChesney Sr. and Lucy Blair McChesney. H.F. McChesney Sr. taught foreign language at Ogden College and then at Western from 1927 until his retirement in 1959.

The following students contributed to the McChesney archaeology project: Katrina Bidwell of Glasgow; Shouta Brown of Smyrna, Tenn.; Andrew Burchett of Bowling Green; T. Tyler Clark of Raywick; Hallie Collins of Murray; Kathryn Crimm of Pee Wee Valley; Elaine Flynn of Demossville; Amanda Forrester of Bowling Green; J. Tommy Graven of Louisville; Cameron Koch of Hartselle, Ala.; Trace McGuire of Glasgow;  Katie Minyard of Taylorsville; Rosie O’Connor of Bowling Green; Poorvie Patel of Bowling Green; Missy Pitcock of Bowling Green; Natalie Price of Louisville; S. Josh Prince of Adairville; James Roberts of Henderson; Natalie Schieber of Elizabethtown; Brittany Smith of Dayton, Ohio; Leah Catherine Turner of Ary; Matthew Vaughn of Wayne, Pa.; Steven Wade of Paducah; Austin Warren of Louisville; Candice Wheeler of Elizabethtown; Maggie Wilder of Berea; and Susan Woodburn of Louisville.

The McChesney Field Campus is administered by the WKU Department of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport. The archaeology course was funded by the Honors College and the Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology.

Contact: Darlene Applegate, (270) 745-5094.

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