Clay County Cares!

Local History Day at Main Street Park, Middleburg

When FPAN archaeologist responded to a request from Clay County to help save a brick chimney, we had no idea it would lead to a county-wide outreach-a-thon! Research Assistant Toni Wallace first visited the site in December. Using a simple solid probe she followed a buried trail of bricks from the park all the way down to the Black Creek boat dock. Clay County was able to save the feature from utility line disturbance, but our work was not yet done.
Over the next few months Center staff worked closely with a new suite of preservation partners: Clay County Archivist Claude Bass and volunteer Vishi Garig; Clay County Historical Commission members John Nelson, Kevin Hooper, Dr. Stone, and Pat Mueller; and master science teacher Cindy Cheatwood. The coalition joined forces to plan an event to raise awareness of Ft. Heileman and solve the mystery of the brick trail found at Main Street park.
On Saturday, April 24th area middle and high school students signed up for a day of history, archaeology, and outdoor education activities. At one station Kevin Hooper, author of The Early History of Clay County, walked the students around the Ft. Heileman site, a Seminole and Civil War fort literally in Middleburg’s back yard. At another station, students visited the Middleburg museum and after received a history lesson on-site. The teachers and students gave back to the park by planting new trees. Kohl contributed $1000.00 and over a dozen employees volunteered while Winn-Dixie provided box lunches.
Last but not least, students helped excavate a trench that straddled the brick trail. We wanted to answer the questions: what was this brick trail used for and when was it built. Was is a pathway? A road for wagons to load and unload from the creek? A wall marking a boundary or edge of a yard? Students made interesting observations: no whole bricks were used to made the long feature, more like cobbled together bricks to make an informal path; there was only one section of brick, not two that would be necessary for a wagon trail; and the bricks extended only one course into the ground, therefore the feature was not architecturally substantial enough to be a wall or foundation.
Artifacts recovered from the site included a single nineteenth-century porcelain pipe stem, fragment of amethyst glass that dates from 1875-1914, whiteware (post 1830s), fencing wire and staples, and finally a Rockingham glazed pitcher spout. The glaze on the pitcher dates to 1840, making it one of the oldest artifacts recovered that Saturday.
After mapping, photographing, and making copious notes, archaeologists and volunteers filled in the trench and left the site as they found it. The brick trail was left intact for future students to study, and who knows, maybe the same group will again join forces to raise awareness of Middleburg’s significant contribution to Florida history.
A formal presentation of the findings will be presented by Sarah Miller at the May 11th at 7 pm Clay County Historical Commission meeting and a letter report will be submitted to the County and State’s Master Site File.
Well done team!

Clay County Historical Commission