Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Mysterious Dig, Part 1

Out for a quick walk in the woods, sleeves rolled up and bare-handed to try to get some sunshine although it's 41 degrees, I find, a little bit out of the way at the woods' edge where I haven't stepped before, a broken slab of concrete. Nobody would carry such a thing into the woods; there are no buildings in these woods. I brush the leaves from it and discover a second slab. Then a third. Then a fourth. Then a fifth. Digging and raking with my bare hands and a stick, I uncover more and more. A structure collapsed here. Then I found a rusty brace of some kind (outlined in blue), partway beneath a slab. Later I find a second one. It's a site. What is this place? What was this structure?

I found there also a steel tube, what I think was part of a gas line (outlined in green), sharply and deliberately bent at one end, exactly like the 50-year-old one at my house that was disconnected and deliberately bent so it could never be used again, when a new one was installed. I find a yellowish brick stamped "St. Louis" (outlined in yellow). Then I find what I think is a remnant of a vertical wall (outlined in pink); this material is different and more brittle, mixed with native stone. I keep raking right there, and just like a real archaeologist I find a shard of pottery; in this case, thick white institutional china, with dark-green stripes. Someone ate here. Was it a barbecue pit? It's too far from the dwellings, and too close to an old-growth tree, and if it had been a barbecue pit it wouldn't have gotten so large -- the site got larger as I uncovered more. I thought of going back for tools, but I'd dug enough for one day. Tomorrow I'll bring tools and a measuring tape and try to uncover the extent and solve the mystery.

There was also some synthetic material, very deteriorated and hardened (melted/burned?), and I'm showing a photo in case someone knows what it is--perhaps a form of insulation?

There was a boys' camp on this property, and I've heard tell of a chapel that existed pre-1957, when the dorms (now ruined, and a quarter mile away) were built. Could this be it? It does not appear in aerial views taken in 1954.


BowlingTrophyWife said...

Bunbun, that was my immediate thought - I'll bet you've found the outdoor chapel site. I wish I could remember the name of the brother at the Black Madonna who told me about that chapel, when I was living at the cabin in the late 80's. He said it burnt and that it was determined to have been an arson -but that's as much as I know. I'm intrigued as heck! Perhaps time for an archaeology dig? I so wish I were there!

divinebunbun said...

Thanks for the info, BowlingTrophyWife. So far it's very small for a chapel--perhaps it was a site for outdoor Masses? Having found the belt today, I'm starting to think it might be the old latrine, but the earth there is far too clayey to dig a latrine. Fifty years ago it would also be in the sightline of the "monsignor's house," lots of younger trees and cedars having grown up in that space since.

Divinebunbun said...

And the brother was Brother Matthew. He got around and a lot and we met several times and he showed us his hermitage and his many paintings. The original Black Madonna Shrine succumbed to arson, that much is sure.

BowlingTrophyWife said...

It's a small world - Brother Matthew was a dear and close friend of ours - he was in many ways a mentor to me and he never failed to remember my birthday by sending a card - we share the same date - LOL! I spent many happy hours in his studio when Mom and I would go visit - did you know Brother Christian as well? He was also an artist - he and Matthew were good friends. The Brother I'm speaking of, though, lived up in the trailer that is still at the shrine. He said the camp itself had a chapel of its own that burned down - on the property you are on. This would have been back ln the late 80s - when I spoke with him. I know the original Black Madonna burned but I'm speaking of a camp chapel. The other thing you might want to eventually investigate is on St. Joseph's Hill property - running right along the border of the nature area - if you go up to the infirmary, there's an old roadbed off to the left - there is a chain across it but Brother Matthew, Mom and Dad and I used to walk that road often in the fall. You'll pass a lot of old outbuildings and the road splits off to the left at one point - if you follow it for another mile or so, you'll come to the ruins of an old swimming pool and other buildings. I always meant to get back there but was never able to. You can see it from Google Earth as well. It' a gorgeous walk in the fall.