MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. – If you see a group of people digging in Mount Kisco’s historic St. George/St. Mark’s Cemetery this spring, there’s no need to call the cops – they’re part of an archeological excavation.
The Mount Kisco Historical Society and the Lower Hudson Chapter of the state Archeological Association are digging up a lot of good dirt on the former site of the two churches, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The excavation team is now going through a backlog of artifacts it dug up between April and November of 2013 that range from a valuable King George II coin dated 1727, to a Navy cuff button believed to be from the Civil War era, to basic tools, crafts and weapons that connect the site to several historical events.
“There’s a lot of history here that people don’t realize,” said Laurie Kimsal, of the Mount Kisco Historical Society.
St. George’s Church, which occupied the site from 1761 to 1819, served as a hospital for George Washington’s troops after the Battle of White Plains. Washington also reviewed French General Comte de Rochambeau’s troops there in 1781.
St. Mark’s Church was there from 1852 to 1916. The Mount Kisco Methodist Church bought a portion of the cemetery in 1854. The last burial was in 1940. The village bought the land in the 1970s.
Between all three churches, there are 400 burials, 200 of which Archeologist and Genealogist Madeline Kearin has researched and identified. They include Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War and even one Spanish –American War veteran.
“We really wanted to, with the project, educate people about the history, which is really great, and clean up the place so it became a source of pride for the town,” said Kearin, who hopes to make this the subject of her Ph.D program dissertation.
The Mount Kisco town board approved the dig in 2012, and it will continue in the spring of 2014. Ultimately, Kearin and Kimsal said they hope to publish a booklet with what they found.
“Archeology provides an alternative witness to history,” Kearin, who earned a masters in archeology from NYU, said.
While the George II coin was the biggest find so far, Kearin said two uncovered eye glass lenses told the story of Mount Kisco’s industrial past.
“There were all these factories along the Kisco River,” she said. “But, in the late 19th century, there was a lot of malaria in the area and they thought that Kirby Pond – as they called it – was causing it.”
The pond was drained in 1888, removing a major power source for industries. About 200 families moved away, forcing most places to shut down, like Spencer Optical Manufacturing.
Kimsal said it was a world-renowned eye glass manufacturer. She said she hopes the lenses found in the cemetery were made by Spencer Optical.
The excavation team also found a bottle that held liquor, which was used to treat malaria, Kearin said.