Terry Parsons chats with University of New England professor Arthur Anderson about artifacts found at an August archaeological dig in south Sanford during a presentation at the Sanford Springvale Historical Museum on Thursday. Those conducting the dig had hoped to find  evidence of the 1740s Phillipstown garrison. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

SPRINGVALE — An archaeological dig in south Sanford in the late summer turned up some 1800 and pre-1800 artifacts, but there was no evidence that the mid-1700s Phillipstown Garrison existed on that exact spot.

However, those engaged in excavating 29 test holes, each measuring 50 centimeters by 50 centimeters during the two-day dig, believe it may have been located close by — perhaps under one parking lot or another in the area off Route 109 in South Sanford, near Sanford Inn and a former nearby restaurant.

“I believe we were catching an edge, and that it could be around a place where we can’t dig,” said Arthur Anderson, a professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of New England. He said his perusal of the artifacts, maps, and other materials leads him to believe they were, in general, in about the right area.

Some of the artifacts found at an archaeological dig in south Sanford in August were displayed at a presentation at the Sanford Springvale Historical Museum on Tuesday. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

The dig took place over two days in late August and was organized by retired architect and history buff, Dana Peterson, who formulated the idea of a dig to help enhance the Sanford 250th Celebration, marking the city’s incorporation in 1768. Peterson did exhaustive research to try and pinpoint the general area where the garrison stood, poring over deeds at the York County Registry of Deeds and examining historical texts.

Anderson brought findings from the dig to the Sanford Springvale Historical Society for a presentation on Thursday.

He displayed some of the artifacts, including small pieces of ceramics along with hand wrought and early cut nails. There were also shards of red ware and brick, which are both nearly impossible to date, said Anderson.


The earliest ceramic found was a shard of Staffordshire slipware, which predates 1800. There were shards of creamware, thought to date before 1820 or 1800, and a tiny piece of blue-edged pearlware dating to around 1800.

He said he was surprised at the small amount of artifacts recovered, and said the site was remarkably clean, except for the early materials found.

Deb Van Gorder of North Berwick was one of the volunteers who dug at the site. She said she loved the experience and hopes to take part in another. Van Gorder was joined by her sister, Beth Lyon, who came up from her home in Connecticut for the dig.

“It was a first for me,” said Van Gorder “It’s fascinating.”

She was especially pleased to have found one of the nails.

Archaeologist and volunteers had hoped to find evidence of the garrison built 24 years before the area known as Phillipstown was incorporated as Sanford in 1768.


A number of garrisons were built at the time, as unrest between colonists and natives proliferated during the lengthy period referred to as the French and Indian Wars. King George’s War was one of them and erupted in 1744 — a year after the General Court of Massachusetts appropriated 1,280 British pounds to defend the eastern settlements. In the same year the war broke out, 100 British pounds were appropriated by the Massachusetts General Court to build a garrison at Phillipstown, according Edwin Emery’s “History of Sanford, Maine 1660 to 1900.” At the time, Maine was part of Massachusetts.

Emery wrote that the order said the garrison was to be built of stockade or square timber, but which was actually used is unknown.

The precise year it was built is also unknown.

“They were given 100 pounds and told to secure quickly,” Anderson said. And, he added, it isn’t known of the garrison was left to rot in place, or if it were torn down and the building materials re-purposed.

“It was occupied until 1763 and was listed on a British map in 1774,” said Peterson in August, before the dig. “And it was probably here through the Revolution.”

The city of Sanford appropriated $2,000 to help fund the dig, which was also sponsored by the Sanford Springvale Historical Society.


The artifacts will be turned over to the society for permanent protection.

Peterson said he was happy with the dig.

“I’m glad we did it,” he said. “It was great to bring people together, and we know more about the history of Sanford that we didn’t know before.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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