In archaeology, there's a lot of work that goes into researching the area you're surveying - even before you step foot out the landscape. Archaeologists look at historic maps, historic documents, oral histories, archaeological contexts and geology so that we can get a more holistic understanding of the cultural history and the environment.
Jasmine recording artifacts at the Buffington site.
This research can tell you about other historic sites in the area, people associated with the property, structures that may have been used or placed on the landscape, or catastrophic natural events that could have impacted human settlement in the area. Most of the time, we only get little snippets of information here and there. Archaeology is kind of like putting together a puzzle but with only a quarter of the puzzle pieces! Most of the time, we end up making an educated guess about the story behind what we're finding archaeologically.
Jess recording the Buffington site.
Unless "Jane" left a diary of her most personal thoughts and activities, a lot of times this information is missing from records. The cool thing about archaeology though, is that it can tell you more intimate details about people's lives than most historical records. Archaeology is the study of materials that people leave behind. This could be all KINDS of things - like structures, clothing, household wares, keepsake items, tools and food containers, to name a few. The artifacts at this site tell a story of a homestead that was probably doing quite well at one time. Even though there are no buildings left from the homestead, we can draw this conclusion because of the type of artifacts that they left behind. A lot of what we find are pieces of household and farming items. High quality ceramic and glass fragments at the site speak to a household that had some wealth. Looking solely at historic records, you wouldn't fully know what activities were happening on the landscape because there's no written record of it.
Jasmine (left) and Jessica (right) getting ready for a day of recording at the Donkey Kong project.
Let's step into our archaeology boots and take a few steps back. We need to create some context around this site - we'll call it the "Buffington site" for now. The only historical record about the site that we found was a homestead patent deeded to Charley E. Buffington by the U.S. Government in provision of the Homestead Act in 1909. The legal description on the patent matches the area where the Buffington site is located. Without knowing the archaeology of this property, we would only know that Buffington had ownership - nothing else!
Another historical record is the 1910 U.S. Census, which lists Charley Buffington as the head of his household with his wife, May, and two sons, Paul and Erwin. His brother, Arthur, his wife, Julia and their daughter, Helen, as well as a nephew, Eugene Williams, also lived with Charley Buffington. Charley’s occupation lists “horse dealer” and he was originally born in Illinois. It is interesting to note that his address on the Census is "East 9th St" in Pueblo and does not reference his property in Pueblo County.
Close-up of the 1910 U.S. Census showing Charley Buffington and his household.
If we dig a bit further into historic newspaper articles, it seems that Charley went by “Charles,” became quite the businessman dealing in oil and water by Red Creek and the historic town of Siloam.
The Florence Daily Tribune, Volume 19, Number 37, April 12, 1907, page 1.
Charles and his brother "Art" were also somewhat troublemakers around Pueblo, Colorado 🤭. Although Art's situation was probably more a boy and girl fall in love, but father does not approve type of deal (see "Springs Man Arrested on Very Serious Charge"). Both brothers got into some hairy issues. Check out the articles below!
The Florence Daily Tribune, Volume 20, Number 74, May 25, 1907, page 1.
The Pueblo Sun, Volume II, Number 72, May 23, 1907, page 1.
The Pueblo Sun, Volume 8, Number 101, June 25, 1910, page 4.
If you're curious about browsing old newspapers in Colorado, Colorado Historic Newspapers is an amazing resource!
Buffington’s death certificate was not located in the local obituaries, and he does not appear to be mentioned in the local newspapers after 1910. Other than this information, we know nothing else about Buffington. No personal details about how he lived or what his preferences were. We can deduce certain items from our research - for example that he was a troublemaker of sorts and had some form of means. In our next blog we'll show you some of the artifacts we found at the Buffington site and show you how combining historical records and archaeology gives our story more depth!
What to learn more about the Buffington Brothers and the local history? Check out these references!
Jasmine (left) and Jess (right)
We're so excited to continue this work into the 2023 season and beyond. We'll be posting updates to our blog so make sure you subscribe!
We've got even more projects to share with you, but we'll save those for our next post in 2 weeks!
See you soon!
Jasmine & Jess (J&J) 🌳
➡️ In our next blog we'll talk about some of the artifacts we found at the Buffington site!