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Man digs up history on uncle's land

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Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2004 12:00 am

A Lawrence Township man hopes a piece of his uncle's land soon becomes officially declared a national historical preservation site as a result of the large number of Native American artifacts and other items he has unearthed.

Roger Rose has spent the last four years performing a major dig of a burial mound near Lawrenceville that has since been registered with the state government. He has recovered literally thousands of items such as arrowheads and other projectile points, stone utensils, pipes and Native American jewelry, as well as coins, china and other items that were used by settlers in the 1800s.

All of the historical items discovered at the site will be on display by Rose at the Osceola Blockhouse celebration June 27 from noon to 4 p.m.

Some of the items date back to at least 3500 B.C., said Rose, who was joined in his quest by Dr. Ann Mabe, professor of anthropology at Mansfield University, before she died earlier this year.

Mabe not only shared Rose's interest in the burial mound, but she also led the way in getting the site registered as a significant historical and archeological site through the Pennsylvania Historic and Museums Commission in Harrisburg.

Scott Gitchell, curator of the Tioga County Historical Society, has expressed interest in helping Rose with his endeavor as well.

"We're very supportive of his work," said Gitchell. "We can't take things on loan, but what we're hoping is that we'll be able to help him at the Osceola Blockhouse in some way."

Gitchell pointed out that the display at the blockhouse will be an opportunity for Rose to educate the people about the significance of the items.

As a teenager, Rose found his first artifact in 1994 while digging for worms. "I thought it was a piece of bone. But when I showed it to my grandmother, she told me it was part of a pipe that the American Indians used when they lived here," said Rose.

Hearing that sparked his interest and his imagination for several years, but it was not until the summer of 2000 that he decided to put a lot more time into discovering what was there.

Enrolling that year as an archeology major at Mansfield, Rose quickly met with Mabe and convinced her through some samples of items that the site might have some archeological significance.

Within a few weeks, Mabe and Rose were digging together on the site and finding new artifacts each week. They also enlisted several of Mabe's other students, and the group eventually compiled information about their findings into a book that Rose hopes eventually will be published.

"What's significant about the site," said Rose, "is that it contains a rich history of the area - not just in terms of Native American culture but the settlers who built upon this mound and the fact that the Erie Railroad had a station in Lawrenceville and ran through here until the flood of 1972."

Rose explained that the train actually stopped along the mound about 100 years ago to allow travelers to patronize the G.L. Ryon General Store that was located on top of the mound.

The store burned in a flash fire, and the building's ruins were pushed over the mound's south bank. Some of the items that were on the store's floor, however, became embedded in the ground.

Rose spends several hours each day separating artifacts from dirt through a homemade sifter. What he finds worth keeping is eventually placed inside one of dozens of frames to be catalogued for identification.

Before Mabe died, said Rose, she had catalogued everything that was discovered on the site. He explained, however, that some of the information was apparently lost after her death and that there is no way of knowing the day or exact location some items were found.

Although he has yet to find a complete skeleton, Rose has no doubt that there are at least 10 or 12 in the top level of the mound, with considerably more buried further below. "The mound is 22 feet high, so there could be hundreds here."

Rose is unsure of the specific tribe or tribes represented by the Native Americans who lived on the site, but he said they are referred to as ancestors of the Iroquois.

As a matter of circumstance, Rose has found it necessary to perform the digging and sifting alone in the past few months. Not only does he want the site protected from treasure-seekers, but the people he has trusted to work with him have met with some unfavorable consequences.

"People have joked that the site is cursed," he said. "I really don't believe that, but there have been some pretty strange things that have happened with anyone who has worked with me on the site.

"All of them have either died since then, or they've been diagnosed with cancer or some other bad illness."

He also noted that every chain saw and weed trimmer that has been used to help manicure the site has either bent or broken while in use.

Rose is yet to be seriously harmed, though.

One explanation Mabe offered while she was alive is that the spirits of the Native Americans buried there might see him as the protector of the site and, therefore, they are protecting him.

Maybe news like that will help keep treasure-seekers away from the site.

For more information on the Osceola Blockhouse, contact the Tioga County Historical Society at (570) 724-6116.

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1 comment:

  • anonymous posted at 8:06 am on Thu, Jun 10, 2010.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    I am curious as to what Roger Rose's certifications are. What is an archaeology certificate??