Yoncalla’s historic Charles Applegate House holds Shin-Dig with archaeological findings

September 26, 2017

YONCALLA — The historic Charles Applegate House in Yoncalla will hold a Shin-Dig this Saturday to share the results of a recent archeological dig that aims to unfold local pioneer history.

As of Friday, four trained archaeologists with about a dozen volunteers from the Oregon Archaeological Society and eight local high school students have been working on a professional archaeological dig conducted by a team of archaeologists and technicians from the University of Oregon Museum of Natural History in partnership with the Applegate House Heritage Arts and Education nonprofit.

“To have a technician here who can talk about how technology has impacted archaeology ... is light-years away from the way archaeologists worked even 20 years ago,” said author and historian Shannon Applegate of Yoncalla, a descendant of Charles Applegate of Oregon’s historic Applegate Trail.

The Charles Applegate House is the oldest house in Oregon with continuous family ownership that was built around 1852. Charles Applegate and his family migrated from Missouri to Yoncalla by way of the Oregon Trail in 1849.

“This generation is trying to reveal another layer of the family history and it’s really thrilling to do that, to stand out in the field in the fog in the morning, pulling little pieces of our history out of the earth,” Shannon Applegate said. As of today, a piece of a ceramic plate has been found with a maker’s mark from Staffordshire, England, that identified a manufacturing date between 1858 and 1860.

The Shin-Dig is a culmination of a project that began about six years ago, said Daniel Robertson, a volunteer with the Applegate House Heritage Arts and Education nonprofit that’s sponsoring the event.

At that time, a historic archeology class from the University of Oregon came and dug test holes seeking evidence of historic activity about where the original pioneer cabin in 1849 may have been located.

At a later date, another class brought ground-penetrating radar to conduct an analysis of what might have been the original cabin site. This radar identified some potential sites, so a full archaeological dig then took place in collaboration with the UO.

Several grants totaling about $27,000 along with individual contributions funded additional projects. About a month ago, a magnetometer was brought to the site where it confirmed some of the findings of the ground-penetrating radar.

“We want people to understand that archaeology isn’t just digging a hole and seeing what you can find,” Robertson said. “If anything is found, it will be professionally curated, identified and a report will be written.”

The public is invited to share the finds at the Shin-Dig this Saturday, a free admission event, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 512 Old Applegate Road, Yoncalla. Tours will cost $2 and take place at noon and 2 p.m. Organizers suggest signing up for the tours an hour early since space is limited to 40 persons per tour. Cousins Shannon and Susan Applegate will guide the tours while sharing family history. For more information, call 541-849-3139 or visit www.applegatehouse.com.

“As a former museum director who has seen house museums all over this country, I can tell you the Charles Applegate House is unique in terms of the quality you see,” Robertson said.

The Shin-Dig will begin with a welcoming ceremony at 11 a.m. hosted by Komemma Kalapuya elder Esther Stutzman, the 2017 governor arts award winner, along with drumming by the Splac’ta Alla drummers.

Station tours will begin at noon with an artifact display in the studio along with an archeological open pit. Archaeologists and UO lab technicians will be onsite to explain the finds.

Herb garden tours will also take place around 1 p.m. with an ethnobiologist and a botanist on site to speak with the public. A vineyard walk and wine tasting will occur around 1 p.m.

Indian fry bread and Indian tacos, pie and ice cream, and apple cider will also be available for purchase. Raffle tickets for a handmade quilt will be sold with a drawing at 3:30 p.m. The all-female Western band the Slow Ponies will perform from 3 to 4 p.m. at no charge to close the day.

Proceeds fund the Applegate House Heritage Arts and Education that focuses on providing cultural opportunities.