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Dig set to begin at mill

Owners seek local volunteers

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Posted: Saturday, May 10, 2014 1:15 am

YOUNTSVILLE — Beginning Monday local residents have an opportunity to unearth Montgomery County history at the Yountsville Mill.

A team from Ball State University’s Anthropology Department will conduct an Archaeological Field School at the mill. Volunteers are being sought to help the team of five students and one professor dig into the grounds surrounding the mill from May 12 to June 11. Historical guide volunteers also are needed during the project.

The team is scheduled to arrive Monday and will begin setting up exploration sites. The team desires to have four volunteer helpers from the community every Monday through Friday.

The mill, which was turned into a textile mill in 1864, is owned by Alan and B. Brookie White. The owners came up with the idea of having Ball State perform an archaeological dig and contacted the university. Ball State was immediately interested in the project and applied for and received a matching grant. The owners will be responsible for the match. The Ball State team will receive an in-kind payment by staying on the property at the mill’s vacation cottage and the owners will have to pay the balance of the grant match in cash.

Brookie White is excited about the project and hopes the community will embrace the dig.

“We do want to share this exciting time with the community,” Brookie White said. “It is a great opportunity for anyone interested in history or just wants to help discover answers to questions we have about the mill. Alan and I are very excited. This is a wonderful opportunity for local people to get involved in a real archaeological project.”

Local patrons can get involved in the project three different ways. First, visitors will be welcomed to visit the dig sites at the price of $5 per person. Secondly, volunteer

workers are needed to assist in the actual work of the project. Thirdly, volunteers are needed to become guides for visitors. The guides will receive training that will enable them to explain to visitors what they are seeing.

Recently, the Ball State University team visited the mill and used ground penetration radar technology to find potential sites for digging. The group marked several areas of interest after using maps of the site dated in the 1870’s when there were several buildings at the mill. Several foundations of the long-gone buildings were found, but one large area peaked the interest of the Ball State team. Something is buried just north of the existing brick mill.

“The buildings that we knew about were found by the team, but one large area has something in it that no one knows what it is,” Brookie White said. “We all are very interested to find out what is under the ground in that spot.”

Once a bustling center of activity along Sugar Creek, the mill hired as many as 300 workers during the Civil War. The Whites see the mill as having historic significance to Montgomery County since it is the last standing textile mill in Indiana.

“The mill is a county treasure that needs to be appreciated,” Brookie White said.

“We are hoping to find artifacts that will tie in what activity was going on at the mill during the Civil War,” Alan White said. “We know material for Union soldier uniforms was made at the mill. But, we do not know for sure if they actually made uniforms here. If we could find some Civil War uniform buttons, for instance, that would help tell us uniforms were made right here at Yountsville.”

Visitors will be able to tour the mill’s gardens and enjoy scenic Sugar Creek surrounded by pristine Indiana woods. The large brick mill will be open and will serve as a visitors’ center. There are many antiques inside the old mill. The Mill Inn, which includes a bed and breakfast, will not be open for tours during the project.

Mark Groover is an assistant professor of archaeology at Ball State, and he will lead the project. Groover’s research and teaching focuses upon the historical archaeology of the eastern United States from the 1700s to the middle 1900s. His main research interest is the historical archaeology of rural life, particularly farmsteads and plantations.

In the agreement between the owners and Ball State, all artifacts will remain property. Brookie White, who is a professional artist, will line draw the artifacts to help record the findings.

Anyone interested in helping with the archaeological dig, or in becoming a guide, should contact the mill at 765-307-7565 to schedule work times. Volunteers must be 15 years of age or older. Work times can either be half days or full days. Volunteers will be responsible for their own lunch and drinks.

Pets will not be allowed on the property.

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