These photos, taken first ca. 1980 of the standing ruins, and the second taken in 2018, illustrate the degradation of architectural remains. On a 1880's map, this property on Bolton Rd, south of the long-vanished Newmanville, was in possession of the Welch family. Ruin photo courtesy of the Ron and Mavis Elstone, Bishop's Mills.

A group of interested community members have come together to research the archeological history of the area. The Rideau Valley Archeological Society was formed in February, with the goal identifying as many pre-contact and historic sites as they can in the Rideau Valley Watershed.

“We have slowly been working our way through the roads that crisscross the municipalities of Merrickville-Wolford and North Grenville,” says Michael Whittaker, one of the enthusiastic members of the group.

Michael says they start by looking at old maps to see where different homesteads and schools were. They are also interested in discovering some First Nations sites, like fishing and transitory camps. The group is made up of about 20 members, many of whom are experienced in archeology, cartography, or history. They are all people who are interested in learning about the archeology and varied history of the area. Michael says the group is not looking to dig at any of the sites. They are more interested in identifying them and alerting the municipality, so that something can be done should any developer decide to build on the site. “The municipality is obliged to have archeologists [involved],” Michael says, “It is important to rescue as many artifacts as possible before the site is lost forever.”

The area already has a rich archeological history, with many sites already catalogued in Grenville County. “There are probably many more to be found,” Michael says.

Education is a key part of the Archeology Society’s mandate, and some of the members are looking into getting their avocational archeology license, a less official form of archeological license than one linked to a university or institution. They hope to partner with an established archeology firm to be present on digs and learn more about the process. “Archeology is not treasure hunting,” Michael says. “There are permits required, and it demands a scientific approach.” It is illegal to dig at sites without a permit.

The next meeting of the Archeological Society is on June 10 at the Blockhouse Museum. It is in conjunction with one of the fifteen Merrickville and District Historical Society’s events to commemorate Merrickville’s 225 anniversary. The group will be listening to a presentation by Darren Bonaparte, a Mohawk historian and writer, about the history and importance of wampum in their culture.

Michael says that anyone with an interest in the history and archeology of the area is welcome to come to the Archeological Society’s meetings. For more information, go to the Rideau Valley Archeological Society’s Facebook page and send them a message. You can also email Michael directly at mpw1749@gmail.com.

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