University at Buffalo archaeologists digging on Main Street in Clarence presented a surprising finding earlier this month during a two-day public excavation demonstration.
New evidence indicated the 1803 mill built by Asa Ransom may have been located at a different site, said excavation director Douglas Perrelli, director of the UB Archaeology Survey. Perrelli and archaeologist Joseph McGreevy, a member of the faculty of Clarence Senior High School, derived this hypothesis from the excavation conducted behind the current Asa Ransom House.
Ransom, a 36-year-old Buffalo silversmith, had moved to Clarence to take advantage of an offer from the Holland Land Company to give 10 acres to “any proper man who could build and operate a tavern upon it,” according to McGreevy.
“True to his word, in 1801 Ransom built a large log house and tavern that could accommodate travelers along the main east-west route through that isolated part of Erie County,” McGreevy said. “The house/tavern was followed by a saw mill in 1802 and then by a grist mill.
After the deaths of Ransom in 1825 and his wife in 1837 the property was sold, McGreevy said. In the 1840s, the old mill was replaced by a larger mill. A third mill built in 1895-97 burned down in the 1920, added McGreevy, a member of the board of directors of the Clarence Historical Society and the Clarence Historic Preservation Commission.
“We’ve found artifacts associated with the two later mills,” said Perrelli, “including building materials, parts of tools, pieces of pottery, glass, bottles and other material that survived more than 150 years of weather, fire and burial.
“Then on the last day of the excavations we did some shovel testing in another area behind the Asa Ransom House and found preliminary evidence that the earliest mill was located higher on the hill closer to the mill pond and on the opposite side of the stream from the later mills,” Perrelli added.
Later owners razed the original Ransom house and tavern, and in 1853 built a large brick house on the site, said McGreevy. This building was expanded in 1975 and 1993, and today is operated as an inn.
Perrelli and McGreevy hope to raise funds to investigate this site.
“We wanted those living here to realize the history and its artifacts beneath their feet and to appreciate the accomplishments of the town’s earliest settlers despite the difficulties they faced,” said McGreevy.