I-95 dig offers a peek into 18th-century life
He found deeds, wills, letters, newspaper clippings, maps, diaries. The material took him to the first Remer in the colonies, a German butcher who lived on Shackamaxon Street by the Delaware River in the mid-1700s.
Then came unexpected news two weeks ago: Archaeologists for the state had unearthed 25,000 artifacts from a Fishtown property once owned by his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, the butcher Godfrey Remer.
In six pits used as 18th-century Dumpsters, they found such household items as a painted pearlware bowl from England, a chamber pot, a fractured teapot. They dug up a bone button, a domino, a piece of a flute-like recorder.
They unearthed scraps from colonial meals: apple seeds, a peach pit, fish bones. And in undisturbed layers of earth, they chanced upon stone points from spears and arrows, probably wielded by Native American hunters 1,000 years ago.
All federal construction requires historical review of affected areas. In 1959, when work began on the Pennsylvania stretch of I-95, the mandate didn't exist. Now, with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, it does.
By happenstance, archaeologists picked for their investigation a sliver of land - 10 feet wide and more than 100 feet long - by a highway retaining wall on Shackamaxon Street. They had no clue beforehand that the plot was part of the backyard of a home that Godfrey Remer bought for his shipwright son, Matthew, in 1778 in what was then called Kensington and now Fishtown.
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