by Michael Whittaker
Buried history can be brought to the public eye by one person inspiring a community to take an interest in the archaeology necessary to reveal the past. Popular backing has made it possible to present the Lansdowne Ironworks, the subject of historian Art Shaw’s and archaeologist Jeff Earl’s presentation to the Rideau Valley Archaeological Society (RVAS). This event has been rescheduled to 2:30 PM, Sunday, February 9 at the Goose and Gridiron in Merrickville. Everyone is welcome.
Community support and fund raising exceeding $30,000 have made possible the three-season excavation at the Lansdowne Ironworks site in Lyndhurst. Ontario’s first blast furnace operated from approximately 1801 to 1811. The riverbank dig by professional archaeologists and community volunteers recovered artifacts and structural remains.
In 2016, the opportunity for the widely supported dig was initiated with the purchase by the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands of a small property at the upper falls on the Gananoque River in Lyndhurst. In summer 2017, testing began on the east bank, the location of the blast furnace and casting house. The investigation was completed in September 2019.
Art Shaw, born and schooled near Lyndhurst, learned about the Lansdowne Ironworks in Grade 8 history. He has been leading or active in local heritage initiatives since 1984. Investigation of the site was his near life-long ambition.
Archaeologist Jeff Earl, MA, co-principal of Perth-based Past Recovery Archaeological Services Inc., studied industrial archaeology at the Ironbridge Institute, Birmingham University. The exploration of the ironworks merged his interests in industrial archaeology and public participation.
The RVAS speaker for March 9, Jennifer DeBruin UE, researcher, historian, and author, will discuss research avenues and techniques to plumb the depths of historical investigation.
Now in its third year, RVAS reminds members of the $20 annual fee, and invites new members to join. In the past, members have taken advantage of opportunities to join digs in Newfoundland, Ontario, Quebec, and New York.