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"Big Dig" in full swing at Pike’s Cantonment

Dr. Tim Able points out recently unearthed hearth of a cabin at Pike’s Contonment

Dr. Tim Able points out recently unearthed hearth of a cabin at Pike’s Contonment

— “This is real…this is legitimate,” said Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak of the historical significance of the Cantonmant.

As one of the students pulled entact nails from the soil, Plattsburgh City Clerk Keith Hurkalo, a local historian who has been intimately involved with the cantonment project, quizzed the students as to how iron nails could be in the ground for 200 years but not be rusted away. One posited that when the cabin was burned by the British in the summer of 1813, the heat from the fire tempered the nails, turning them to steel, which is less likely to rust. Satisfied with the answer, Hurkalo went back to his animated discussion with a local history buff about the lengthy process of discovering the location of the cantonment site.

Abel is already making plans for next year’s dig.

“Now we have a structure,” he said, with an obvious sense of excitement. “Next year we’re going to branch out and excavate to discover other structures.”

The land, owned by the county, has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, giving it a slight degree of safety from development. If the county were to ever try to develop the land, they would first have to excavate the entire site, a pain-staking and ultimately expensive endeavor.

“You don’t get sites like this every day, with this level of preservation,” Abel said.

And with that, “The Big Dig” continues.

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