I came up with the title “Urban Archeology” years ago. The pleasure I get from sale-ing doesn’t usually come from items neatly arranged on the tables. I look for the box, the cluttered shelf, or the piles of things that haven’t been disturbed, possibly since they were originally placed. True archeologists look at a “dig” the same way. The longer an item has been left alone (in its “pristine” state) the more information and clues of its origin and purpose can be determined. Sometimes, the messier a sale is — the better.
For me, it can take a lot of sales before I find one I consider a “dig.” When it happens, I can come away with something really unique.
This past weekend was no different. A local estate sale service was opening up a 19th Century Brookfield farmhouse to the public in order to clear it of its contents. A side benefit of sale-ing is the opportunity to explore an old house, as well as a chance to uncover some local history. After searching most of the main floor rooms, the first item I noticed was a framed reprint of a Brookfield town map from the 1850s. (See image #1.)
Even a print copy of a map from the 1850s is a wealth of information. Old homesteads, businesses, names of prominent people and forgotten landmarks make this an interesting and possibly important find. A closer inspection revealed a surprise detail on the back. (See image #2.)
The latest homeowners had managed to discover and document (to the best of their ability) all the names of the previous owners of the property back to the earliest owners. My first thought was that this map should not be in the sale; it should stay with the house. Unfortunately, I was alone in my opinion and when I returned from exploring the upper floor I found the map was gone.
Quickly scanning the few other shoppers I was relieved to discover that a very caring and conscientious Brookfield couple had purchased it. I don’t often quiz people about their purchases, but this couple was nice enough to tell me they would turn the information over to and allowed me to take the photos attached to this article.
It’s good to know there are other Urban Archeologists out there as well.
My question for this week is: What are some of the interesting pieces of local history you have found or kept safe over the years?
Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield resident and blogger, who roams the local area in search of a good “dig” or a good story. You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog.