Sunday, March 27, 2005

A Safe Place to Store Your Canoe Paddle

Indians in southern New England in the 1600s navigated the local waters in dugout canoes, propelling themselves with wooden paddles. One such Native American, who lived near the Connecticut-Rhode Island border, left his paddle in the Stanton-Davis house, for safe-keeping.

Apparently he picked the right place, because the paddle is still there -- and not just the paddle, according to this very interesting story from New London Day columnist Joe Wojtas.

The Davis family bought the Stanton farm, in Pawcatuck, Connecticut, in 1772, when the farmhouse was a century old and was probably already something of a museum. A Davis has lived there ever since and, from the sound of it, never threw anything away -- or at least anything worth keeping.

Now, the farm has been protected with conservation easements, money is being raised to restore the house, and the collection of artifacts is being catalogued, all as part of the effort to turn the Stanton-Davis farmstead into a museum.

John "Whit" Davis, who is 80, lives there now. Wojtas writes:

After stiffly making his way to the attic, Davis shines a flashlight on the wooden slats. Slaves who worked on the Stanton-Davis farm carved pictures of slave schooners on the slats, using white paint to depict swordfish and a pregnant woman.

From the closet that held the canoe paddle:

...he pulls an Indian war club made from a tree root, explaining that it belonged to the same Indian who owned the paddle.

As Davis slowly turns it in his hand, he points out where the man carved a duck's head, a turtle with an eel in its mouth, a bird in flight and a man's face. Men would carve their images in the wood after seeing themselves reflected in a pool of water.

And also:

Many trunks in the house have not been opened in years. Davis has been unable to reach some in the attic because piles of others block access.


The artifacts are now being documented, filmed and placed in large storage containers until the nonprofit museum organization raises the $1.5 million needed to restore the sagging house. The work is expected to take three-to-five years.


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