Dig halted at Lake George bones site

An area where bones of Revolutionary War-era soldiers were found is now the site of a foundation for an apartment building, but an area next to it is subject to a stop-work order for more archaeological review. (Provided photo — Don Lehman, The Post-Star)

LAKE GEORGE — Work has stopped on a portion of the construction site where the remains of what was believed to be Revolutionary War-era soldiers were found earlier this month.

Additional excavation at the Courtland Street site has been halted, pending a full archaeological review as part of the State Environmental Quality Review Act process for two apartment buildings. That review was ongoing, with archaeologists on site, as of this week.

Mayor Robert Blais said developer Ruben Ellsworth will be allowed to continue work on a building on the portion of the property where excavation and archaeological review is complete. Contractors were there Tuesday, working on a concrete foundation.

But a review of what is in the pile of dirt and ground below it, which sit to the west of the excavation site where the bones were found, is needed before any additional construction can occur on that portion of the property, Blais said.

Archaeologists working with the New York State Museum have determined that human remains recovered from the construction site earlier this month came from 18 people, 13 of them found in 11 different identifiable graves. Bone fragments believed to be from five other people were found in the soil moved during excavation for the apartment buildings.

Of the 13 people whose remains could be classified, seven were determined to have been 20 years or older, while six were believed to have been younger than 20 years old.

The bones were found by workers for Ellsworth, who wants to put up two apartment buildings on the site just south of the corner of Mohican Street.

According to the State Museum staff, buttons found in one of the graves were identified with the First Pennsylvania Battalion, which was in the Lake George area during the Revolutionary War.

The First Pennsylvania Battalion was part of a failed 1776 invasion of Quebec plagued by poor conditions and disease, including a smallpox outbreak that sickened as many as half of the soldiers. After their retreat to Crown Point, the sick were moved to a general hospital established at Fort George on the southern end of Lake George, where hundreds died, according to State Museum spokeswoman Antonia Giuliano.

Archaeologists believe a number of the dead soldiers were buried on the site, which sits on a hill in the western side of the village, near Caldwell Cemetery.

In addition to the hole dug for the building’s foundation, a large pile of dirt was moved to the western portion of the property, and that pile and the land beneath it will be scrutinized as well.

Blais said that area of the village has been known to be part of a Revolutionary War-era graveyard since excavation years ago for the former Zachary’s Nightclub, just east of the Courtland Street site on Canada Street, unearthed human remains.

Blais said he believed the bones that were recovered should be reburied in Battleground Park, near the location of Fort George, where the soldiers served.

“It would give more meaning to the Fort George area,” he said.

Neither Ellsworth nor his lawyer returned phone calls for comment Tuesday.