Germantown’s historic colonial era Stenton house has recently found itself connected to the repatriation of Native American remains in another state.
The skeletal remains of 38 Native Americans that appear to date from the colonial era or before were discovered in February on a state-run construction site in the town of Logan, West Virginia.
According to published reports in Virginia, the bones were found beneath a basement floor of an old building being removed in order to build new on the site. The discovery stopped construction on the project immediately, and has kept workers off the job ever since, according to Logan Mayor Serafino Nolletti. He said he expected the construction to get back underway any day now following a state commissioned study of the site.
“It’s my understanding that the study has been completed,” he said.
Germantown history enthusiasts learned of the discovery from G. Peter Jemison, a member of the Seneca nation, who was a guest speaker at a recent Native American Symposium at Stenton. Jemison is responsible for the repatriation of human remains for the Seneca nation and was recently in Logan working on the situation.
At times, Jemison said, he found the process difficult.
“My emotions, they’re really a range from anger, disbelief as far as the number [of individuals found],” he said.
Jemison called for new laws in places like Logan where the remains of native peoples are likely. He thought the land should have been more carefully investigated before construction began and the burial site was disturbed.
“You need a new law. We have to undo what you do,” he said of the reburial process.
Native American remains have been found in Logan before. The mayor himself recalled native pottery discoveries at another construction site about 20 years ago. Even though the two sites were in close proximity to each other, Nolletti said, there are no plans to preserve or protect the area in the event more remains still exist.
Jemison considers the construction site a burial ground for the native people who used to live there. He said, from his cursory examination of the bones, he would not be surprised if the remains represented a span of time as long as 1000 years.
Seneca tradition does not allow for scientific examination of the remains, he said. Still, Jemison was frustrated by the difficulty getting information from the archaeological team, GAI Consultants, in Charleston, W. Va., which was dealing with the bones at the behest of the state of West Virginia. Jemison said he did not get a report on the matter, either from GAI or the state, even as the bones were finally arriving.
“We kept asking to keep us informed,” he said. “We did not get real information until the actual remains arrived in our hands.”
As of June 11, Jemison had still not gotten the report. Representatives from GAI Consultants could not be reached for comment.
Jemison completed reburying the remains on Native American land just before his visit to Stenton June 11 for the symposium. That’s when he discovered Stenton’s connection to Logan West Virginia.
In the 1820’s the West Virginia town was incorporated from surrounding territories and named Logan after a famous Mingo Indian chief, who himself was named after James Logan, the secretary of the province of Pennsylvania during colonial times, and the original owner of Stenton.
In colonial times, James Logan was known for his relations with native peoples and he acted as a godfather of sorts for the Pennsylvania born Chief Logan, helping with is education.
Later in Chief Logan’s life, a group of white settlers murdered a group of Mingo Indians in Ohio that included Chief Logan’s mother and sister, according to ohiohistorycentral.org. Chief Logan led deadly raids into Pennsylvania as a response and instigated what is now called Lord Dunmore’s War.
For more on Chief Logan click here.
For more on Stenton click here.