BEVERLY, W.Va. -- To learn more about what day-to-day life was like for the occupants of what may be the oldest home in one of West Virginia's oldest towns, Alison Thornton decided to dig into the community's history -- with trowels, buckets and a crew of 40 volunteers.
Thornton, a recent master's degree graduate from Western Michigan University, is an archeologist and a member of the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area's AmeriCorps program. She is assigned to work on historic preservation projects for the Beverly Heritage Center.
Last October, she directed the excavation of a small plot of ground once covered by a porch at the Collett House, a structure that started out as a log home built by the pioneering Westfall family sometime between 1772 and 1774.
Starting on Saturday, artifacts from the dig and from other historic Beverly homes, along with historic photos of the town, will be featured in "The Homes of Beverly," a new exhibit on display at the Beverly Heritage Center.
"It's an interesting building," Thornton said of the Collett House. "The part of it closest to the street contains the log structure dating back to the 1770s. There have been multiple owners, multiple additions and multiple uses for it since then."
The home has served as a frontier fort, tavern, inn, saddle-maker's shop, and a temporary Civil War hospital before being home for the Collett family from 1871 to 1948. The Beverly Heritage Center bought the clapboard-covered home nearly 15 years ago to preserve and protect it.
Thornton said she chose the former porch site for the excavation because she thought the soil there would be more protected and less torn up than at other potential dig sites. However, it turned out that "when they put the porch in, they disturbed the soil anyway," she said. "But we still found some artifacts. They were mainly broken shards of pottery, pieces of glass from broken medicine bottles, and chunks of brick and coal, but people had fun finding them. "
A lady's ring and pieces of a ceramic doll, uncovered at the nearby Buckey House, will also be a part of the exhibit.