The Pluckemin Archeological Dig is a deep rooted story filled with intrigue and many participants over the last century. You can go back as far as 1913 when Henry (Max) Schrabisch, the former New Jersey State Archeologist began his archeological efforts on the Pluckemin countryside when the term "The Dig" was coined. Over the years, the site has seen many educational efforts, and this site intends to share with you the rich history of the various challenges of the past, and tell their detailed stories.
Other commonly used terms include:
"The Pluckemin Dig" , "The Pluckemin Archeological Dig", "The Pluckemin Archeological Project"
- 1913 - Max Schrabish began documenting his first "Pluckemin Dig"
- 1972 - Clifford Sekel - Doctorate Thesis Prepared and presented his "Dig" thesis.
- 1987 - John L. Seidel, professor of anthropology at Rutgers University presented his The archaeology of the American Revolution: A reappraisal and case study at the Continental Artillery Cantonment of 1778--1779, Pluckemin.
- 2009 - Vanderveer/Knox house begin display effort for Pluckemin Dig artifacts
- 2010 - Friends of JVH continue research on PAP effort.
The Birthplace of the American Military Academy
New photographs and complete descriptions of the Pluckemin Dig will be posted soon. We have the pictures, but need to digitize and catalog the collection.
E-SHAPED camp at Pluckemin housed barracks, storage and wagon sheds, and workshops for armorers, carpenters, coopers, and wheelwrights. The building with the weathervane in the middle of the E was the Academy.
What happened to the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment site?
From the framed buildings with their panes of glass to the plastered walls of the artillery academy, the Pluckemin Cantonment obviously was made to last for a long time. Then why was the site abandoned? Historian John Seidel, a professor at Washington College in Maryland and director of its Center for Environment and Society, led a dig on the site between 1979 and 1989. He thinks Continental politicians may have put the kibosh on the installation because they were afraid of the Army getting too powerful. "With its prestigious training academy and its base as a supply center, Pluckemin might have been perceived as a platform from which the Army could take over the infant government."
Whatever the reason, by the next winter with the Army at Morristown, the cantonment became a hospital location. “It was the busiest hospital in the Middle Atlantic,” noted Seidel.
After the war, one letter Seidel found talks about "selling off the cantonment structures". “What may have happened is that the locals starting taking things apart, using the lumber for their homes and businesses,” he postulated. There were reports into the early 1900s of chimneys standing on the site. Road crews later toppled them to curb portions of Schley Mountain Road, a road that was created during the development of the Hills Development in the 1960's.
ARTILLERY OFFICER'S SWORD BELT TIP -
Pluckemin Archaeological Project
This artifact, as well as thousands of others, are in the early planning stages to be displayed at the Vanderveer/Knox museum once the the artifacts are archived, cleaned, and the exhibits created.
Belt tips such as the one uncovered at Pluckemin were the earliest known artifacts to clearly show the first American flag. It is believed that they were engraved by a Philadelphia silversmith, whose records show, was called to the camp in early 1779.
If indeed this is true, it is probable that the engraved flag design on the belt tip represents the actual flag that the Continental Army & Artillery was actually using in camp at the time.
What's Next for the Pluckemin Cantonment Site?
As the Friends of JVH continue to pursue state and National Historic Site status, we will continue to expand coverage of the events and history of this monumental time in American history.
The Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment area, while under the ownership of Bedminster Township, is actually surrounded by private property. Hence, the area is currently closed to the public and there are ordinances in place that restrict public access to the area. The Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House are working on ways to secure the area and look to ways to preserve the area while providing access to the public and promote the history of one of the greatest Revolutionary War sites in America.
Please respect the area (and the Law) and DO NOT trespass the area.
If you'd like to know more, or become involved with the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment effort, please visit the Volunteer Section for additional information.
Written by: Brooks Betz
Photos/Images by: Brooks Betz
Last Updated: July 2009