Our Lands Speak is a prolific series of books documenting the fascinating findings of This Land Archaeology Inc. excavations since 2006, led by founder, author, and Ontario’s senior-most archaeologist, Bill Finlayson.
This is the first archaeological site we have excavated that was occupied by tenants. The investigation reminded me of the tremendous variability of 19th century homesteads and farmsteads. It seems that every site is slightly different, and each one provides additional insights into life as it was more than a century and a half ago. Interestingly at times, these insights can be very different than the written history of the era.
Setting the Stage for the Yake and Windmill Sites, Two 19th Century Farmsteads in Whitchurch-Stouffville Township, Ontario
It’s truly amazing, the coincidence of excavating two 19th century farmsteads located in the agricultural fields of the Indigenous people who occupied the Mantle site (many of whom probably occupied the Draper site as well), while at the same time I’ve been actively reviewing our excavations at Draper from more than 40 years ago. One of the wonderful aspects of my work is that we never know where we will be working and what we are going to find.
The first phase in revitalizing Wilfrid Jury’s museum involved changing reporting responsibility for the museum as a non-academic unit of The University of Western Ontario … With the appropriate research and exploration, we decided to establish the museum as a UWO research centre which would accomplish what we had learned through Professor Ames, in that it would be a separate company with its own charitable registration.
This was state of affairs at the museum at that time. I assumed the position of Executive Director in February 1976 and began the challenge of its revitalization as an archaeological research centre committed to field work, analysis, and reporting of sites in southwestern and southcentral Ontario. It was a daunting task, but one which was rewarding and productive for more than 20 years.
It was with this background knowledge that I took on the job to dig the Draper site, which was a vital component in the revitalization of Wilfrid’s Museum, in part because it demonstrated the ability of archaeology to continue to attract large contracts to the university. It is also part of the narrative in understanding how the opportunity arose for me to become Executive Director of the Museum without a university salary.
The Brains Behind the Books
Bill Finlayson, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., is the senior-most archaeologist in Ontario archaeology with well over 50 years of experience in the field. Since 2006, he has undertaken the salvage excavation of more than 60 19th century homesteads and farmsteads, culminating in the total excavation of Patterson Village, the largest excavation of a 19th century Euro-Canadian site in Ontario.