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Aerial photograph of exposed house foundation.

John Armstrong

Site ID: 15Fa185

Kentucky Archaeological Survey
Unless specified, we cannot provide site location information.


​​​​​​​​​​​Irish emigrant John Armstrong bought his 44-acre farm along the Maysville to Lexington Turnpike in 1846. He was not the farm’s first owner. The Scott family had lived at this Fayette County farm beginning in 1820 and had built a modest farmhouse there around 1830. They later sold the farm, the house, and its outbuildings to the Cummins family in 1838. The Cummins lived on the farm for only eight years before they sold the farm to the Armstrongs. John Armstrong and his family lived on the farm for the next 34 years (until 1880). 

Archaeological investigations at the site by Cultural Resource Analysts unearthed the footprints of domestic structures and outbuildings, and recovered thousands of artifacts.

Spring house foundation.


​The Armstrong family's residence was a wooden structure (33 by 39 feet) built in the early nineteenth century on a stone foundation. End chimneys stood on the east and west walls. The house may have had two corner porches and a small brick patio. A brick walkway connected the house to the Turnpike.  

Built before the Turnpike, the house was surrounded by farmland. The building's  original orientation may have been to the north.  But by about 1835, after the Turnpike was built very close to it, the homeowners reoriented the building to face east and the Turnpike. 

Investigations documented a springhouse with a stone foundation about 200 feet from the residence.  Built over sources of running water, such as a freshwater spring, springhouses took advantage of the water’s lower temperature to create an enclosed cool environment. In the days before iceboxes or refrigerators, springhouses kept dairy and other foods from spoiling. Family members would have spent only brief periods at their springhouse, so it is not surprising that archaeologists did not find large quantities of artifacts there.  The artifacts they did find were primarily fragments of food storage vessels.

Personal artifacts from the Armstrong Farmstead suggested that all the families who called this farm “home” had a comfortable life and money to spare for things beyond just necessities - imported toothbrushes, corsets, nice costume jewelry – but they were not so well off that they could purchase matching sets of dishes. 

The kinds of cooking and serving vessels they used showed that they ate mainly chops, steaks and roasts, supplemented by soups and stews. The animal bone food remains indicated that they ate mostly pig. Though they raised pigs on their farm, they purchased some of their pork, too, and most of their beef, as shown by the ratio of sawn to chopped bones.  The recovery of a large number of sewing-related artifacts, such as straight pins, thimbles, and buttons, suggested that Mary Armstrong was a tailor. 

A brick sidewalk extending from the house to Paris Pike.

What's Cool?

​ Witch Bottle

A hand-blown, corked medicine vial with four straight pins inside was recovered from one of the structures. It may have been a “witch bottle” or anti-witch charm. Witch bottles could serve as amulets during house construction, or as counter-measures against special acts of witchcraft.  If the first, residents buried the bottle beneath house ​thresholds or hearthstones, or within other buildings. If the latter, they buried the bottle outside or threw it into a stream.

Witch bottle with cork. 

​In either case, the bottle was likely filled with the urine of the person who assembled the bottle. The urine and pins were antidotes for the pain thought to have been induced by the witchcraft. The pins symbolized the victim’s pain redirected onto the witch.​

House from which the witch bottle was recovered.

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