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No one knows when African Americans first settled at Baxtertown, but in 1848 the Zion Pilgrim Methodist Episcopal Church was built. On Saturday, December 7th, archeologists and a team of volunteers conducted a dig to look for evidence from before, during and after the 82 years that Zion Pilgrim served the community. Seventy-two year old James Atkins, a long time resident of Baxtertown Road, stopped by to tell archaeologist Matt Kirk that he remembered that there once were several graves and a well on the site. Baxtertown, two miles east of the Hudson River in Fishkill, Dutchess County, is now only the name of a rural route with a sprinkling of modern residential houses and a few old farmhouses, but it once had a vibrant community life, according to Greene. The holy grail of Greene’s quest is to find evidence of the underground railroad on his property at or near the site of the church. It’s a curious choice of word that has been interpreted to suggest the church may have been a station on the underground railroad. With or without an underground railroad connection, the Baxtertown church is of historic importance as a place where an enduring small rural population of free African Americans worshiped for generations. The denomination grew quickly in the North, and after the Civil War, also in the Southern states. Although it’s unlikely that an archeological dig would reveal hard evidence of underground railroad activity, it’s hoped the survey will provide a great deal of information on how the site was used by earlier residents and may be helpful in determining when African Americans founded Baxtertown.

Kirk said that he was “very pleasantly surprised at the diversity and [chronological] range of the material culture recovered from the site,” and that additional archeology would be very productive.  Maps with new GPS coordinates and suggestions for future excavations will be sent in an end-of-fieldwork letter. This entry was posted in African American History, History and tagged Abolition, Archaeology, Dutchess County, Religion, Slavery, Underground Railroad on December 11, 2013 by Enid Mastrianni. Enid Mastrianni, who lives in Glens Falls, spent most of her adult life in New York City where she earned a BFA in photography from Pratt Institute and a master’s degree in Political Science from the New School for Social Research.
I am new to the area, and VERY INTERESTED in Black and Native American , Cil War and revolutionary war History. The church burned and its roof collapsed in 1930; all that remains visible is a grove of trees on the property of Ron Greene. Copious discoveries of nails, clay pipe stems, pieces of glass and shards of salt glazed stoneware, transferware and creamware were quickly revealed.
Bill Krattinger of the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation looked on, as did Gene Alexander Peters of Sankofa Exhibit Consultants. Scores of families lived in Baxtertown during the late part of the 19th century and into the 20th, he said. Later, an artifact analysis will be conducted, and according to Greene, the New York State Museum will survey the site using ground-penetrating radar in the spring.

She has been researching the life of Prestonia Mann Martin, (1861-1945) a writer, Fabian socialist, Adirondack utopian community founder, and descendant of prominent abolitionists. I would think that archaeology would hold great potential when it comes to Underground Railroad sites; given that the existence of the Underground Railroad depended on secrecy, much is lacking in historical accounts.
More than 9,200 people follow The New York History Blog each day via E-mail, RSS, or Twitter or Facebook updates. What he discovered inspired him to lead the effort to get the site recognized as historically important.
A member of the Hartgen team found a brass looking decorative handle from a piece of furniture. Paul and Mary Liz Stewart of the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region in Albany, who put Mr.
Greene in touch with Hartgen Archeological Associates, recruited volunteers and worked alongside local enthusiasts.

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