Dig reveals foundation hidden under mansion

VOLCANO – Artifacts uncovered by a team of archaeology students and leaders at the site of Thornhill Mansion, the former estate of oil and gas pioneer W.C. Stiles, may have been washed out, but volunteers and eager participants continued working.

The wrap-up of the dig ended several weeks ago, but organizers said they are becoming increasingly eager to work on the spot, seeing more signs of life as their time at the estate continues.

Professional archaeologist Chris Nelson said the team this year discovered what they believe to be the smallest foundation discovered in the dig to date. The site is determined to be a smoke house and included materials such as metal hooks and hog/pig bones, he said.

“We’ll have to do some more research,” Nelson said. “We ruled out that it had no domestic function; it’s a stone foundation. We excavated down into the floor and went all the way to the natural ground surface.”

“Usually volunteers come and help with measurements,” he said. “They get to participate in excavations and screening.”

During digs like the one at the mansion site, people look for signs of life through large artifacts, Nelson said. However, the smallest fragment can help tell a story, he said.

“The weekend before, for two weeks I teach a class to show how much we can learn from small pieces,” Nelson added. “People get excited when they find those small pieces, like window glass. You can even learn so much from a rusty nail.”

Annette Erickson, director of archaeology studies at Hocking College, said the dig is to find out more about W.C. Stiles’ life and the type of person who would become an entrepreneur in the oil field industry. Upon digging a little farther, Erickson said archaeologists and students will soon be able to walk where Stiles servants and even Stiles himself once did.

“We’ll walk on the ground the Stiles’ servants also walked on,” she said. “Excavations in the future will finish the tale.”

Thornhill, the W.C. Stiles’ estate farm, dates to the late 19th and early 20th century and represents the home of a wealthy entrepreneur in the oil industry in the Parkersburg region.

The dig at the site has taken place for the last few years, with archaeologists and students only touching the tip of the iceberg of artifacts, organizers said.

For more information on the dig visit the Friends of Mountwood Park website at www.friendsofmountwoodpark.com.