The O'Donnell Site
In the fall of 2011, the Cultural Resource Survey Program identified the O’Donnell Site, an early historic farmhouse located along NY Route 376 in the town of East Fishkill in Dutchess County, New York. The site was identified during an archaeological survey in preparation for road work by the Department of Transportation. The farmhouse stood for approximately 185 years, with an estimated construction date of 1815 and a demolition date sometime in the late 1990s. It was located at the same location of an even earlier house built in the late 1700s that was either incorporated into the farmhouse or removed. The presence of this earlier house makes the O’Donnell Site one of the earliest occupations in the area. The artifacts recovered reflect both structures.
Dutchess County was first settled by way of the Hudson River. After 1735, the population throughout the rest of Dutchess County grew more rapidly as settlers along the Hudson moved east and settlers from New England moved west. NY Route 376 follows a historic route that connected the Hudson River to Danbury, Connecticut and has been in use since at least 1779. This farmhouse with a Federal Style entry was depicted on various historic maps with dates that ranged between 1850 and 1990. Members of the Van Wyck family owned the house for decades during the 1800s. R. S. Van Wyck owned the house in the 1850s. He was the local post master as well as a miller and farmer. The Van Wyck Brothers owned the house along with four other properties in the 1870s. By 1913, the house was owned by D. R. Robinson and was part of a working farm.
The Van Wycks were an aristocratic family originally from Holland who were a prominent part of Dutchess County history. Members of the Van Wyck family served in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and also held both local and national political positions. Notable family members include Theodorus (2nd and 3rd Provincial Congress, State Constitutional Convention), William (Revolutionary War), Dorus (Revolutionary War, Electoral College), and Richard Van Wyck (Civil War). The Van Wyck Homestead Museum, located in Fishkill, was a colonial house built by Cornelius Van Wyck which later served as both headquarters and a depot supply store during the Revolutionary War. It is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The O’Donnell site is an example of an early to late 1800s Hudson River Valley Homestead. Approximately 1,800 artifacts were recovered from within the site during this initial survey and include a wide variety of personal and domestic items as well as architectural remains. Artifacts include ceramics, animal bones, cutlery, kaolin pipes, toys, buckles, brick, wood, window glass, slate roofing, wire nails, wrought nails, automotive engine parts, asphalt pavement, rubber, and cement. The foundation stones of the 1800s farmhouse were also identified.
A unique aspect of this site is that a large quantity, 586 sherds, and wide variety, 61 different decorative wares, of ceramics have been recovered. Ceramics allow archaeologists to use relative dating methods to determine dates for when the site was occupied. Some of the earliest ceramics include combed yellow lead-glazed buff earthenware (1670-1795), white salt-glazed stoneware (1720-1795), cauliflower ware (1760-1780), and white salt-glazed stoneware with debased scratch blue decoration (1765-1795) and are likely related to the late 1700s occupation. Other early ceramics include delftware (1640-1800), agateware (1750-1810), and slip-trail decorated redware (1750-1820).
The O’Donnell Site is significant because it is one of the earlier historic sites in the region and provides more information on the history of the Van Wyck family within Dutchess County. Potential work would help to further understand the historical context of the site. All of the artifacts from the site are curated at the New York State Museum.