Weekly Feature

2018-11-07 / Front Page

Artifacts discovered at Garrison Park

Digging up the past
by ANNA DEROSA Associate Editor

John Waciengia carefully excavates a spot on Sunday where his metal detector located a metal object buried in Garrison Park. Photo by David F. Sherman Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com John Waciengia carefully excavates a spot on Sunday where his metal detector located a metal object buried in Garrison Park. Photo by David F. Sherman Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com It wasn’t your typical day in the park. On Sunday, 31 artifacts were unearthed in Williamsville’s Garrison Park that could have been in the ground for more than 200 years.

After reading through local history, David Sherman, managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and Amherst town historian, noticed that there wasn’t a lot of information about the encampment and hospital that existed on the site in the early 1800s.

“There just seemed to be this gap in local history that needed some attention,” he said, adding that his interest in this piece of history started six years ago.

According to Sherman, the U.S. Army general hospital in Williams Mills, now Williamsville, was in operation from Aug. 1, 1814, to March 15, 1815.

At that time, Williamsville was the headquarters of the 5th Brigade of the New York State Militia and was used as a base by the Army ever since Gen. Alexander Smyth established winter quarters there in 1812.

This past weekend, the interest in the site’s history led to a ground scan throughout Garrison Park. With the support of village government, Sherman, along with Village of Williamsville Mayor Dan DeLano and Tom Bauerle, of NewsRadio 930 WBEN, spent five hours at the park on Sunday.

The group was accompanied by Terracon Consultants Inc. and Pipedream Services, which provided the ground-penetrating radar.

DeLano noted that the equipment used, which could spot items buried in the ground, showed something similar to a sonogram picture.

“Everybody understands the sensitivity and importance of this issue,” he said, adding that the scan was at no cost to the village.

Sherman described Terracon and Pipedream as professionals when they were going through the park.

“Terracon is concerned about preserving any site they work on. They had great respect for the park and not wanting to damage it in any way,” he said.

The Niagara Frontier Relic Hunters Association, a professional metal detection group, was also in attendance and was able to find other relics as well.

Prior to Sunday, DeLano said the group met Thursday night and came together with any information or maps that they had.

“The evidence that was found on Sunday warrants further exploration; we’re looking for a footprint of a building,” DeLano said.

According to DeLano, any unauthorized digging or removal of any property is strictly prohibited and police, who have been notified, will enforce the law to its fullest extent.

Some of the items that were found during the ground scan included a lead musket ball, saddle buckle and suture needle.

According to Sherman, the needle — a medical device used to hold body tissues together after an injury or surgery — is a crescent shape and no bigger than a quarter.

“That was just amazing that they could find something that small,” he said, adding that the needle was probably 6 to 8 inches below the surface.

“This was basically just a preliminary exploration,” DeLano said, noting that the village will be forming an 1812 field hospital committee with a mission statement.

The hospital’s operation dates to around 1813.

According to Sherman, log barracks were built in 1812 along the south side of the village’s main street between Ellicott Creek and Garrison Road. In October 1813, these barracks were converted into temporary medical facilities.

In July of the next year, the site for a new hospital was selected on the recommendation of the senior surgeon, Dr. Ezekiah Bull. Some 90 acres on Raphael Cook’s farm were leased for the construction of a general hospital.

According to Sherman, a large tent city was erected with the use of 3,000 board feet of timber for flooring, 100 hospital tents and 12 loads of hay for bed ticking. Each tent could hold around 16 to 18 men.

A British raid on Aug. 3, 1814, at Scajaquada Creek demonstrated the Buffalo hospital’s vulnerability. This led to many men being removed to the growing Williamsville facility. Days after the British raid, the battle of Fort Erie on Aug. 15, 1814, resulted in even more casualties on both sides.

According to Sherman, there were well more than 1,000 patients treated, including Americans, British subjects and Native Americans.

“All three nations were involved in this hospital and camp,” he said. “By using this ground penetrating radar, we’re fairly certain that we found the foundation of the hospital in the park.”

DeLano would like to thank everybody for putting the effort in because it’s a huge part of the village’s history.

“The village is in full support of this. It basically has been a mystery for over 200 years, and we may be able to solve this mystery,” he said.

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