GREENFIELD — They were just looking for a marker to define their property line in light of an upcoming paving project.
Taking a rest by an oak tree along the north side of their mother’s property near Seventh and Monroe streets, siblings Amie and Matt Collins found something solid a few inches below the surface of the dirt.
When they uncovered it, surveyors declared it was something more than a simple property marker — they’d found a cornerstone dating back to 1890, a surveying tool that once marked the western Greenfield city limits. Now, the Collinses and city historical preservation officials are working to keep the historic cornerstone in its place, uncovered, citing its significance to city history.
It’s not much to look at — the gray stone bears a crisscross mark and the letter, D, but it represents a part of the city’s history no longer standing, said Nancy Leslie, board member and secretary for Greenfield Historic Landmarks.
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The stone was laid before the turn of the 20th century, and the soil nearby bears evidence of bricks and glass from red brick furnaces that once operated there, where workers baked bricks and fired glass, she said.
County crews were expected to examine the site this week to confirm the rock’s significance, surveyor Susan Bodkin said.
The Collins family moved to the home in 1980, and Amie Collins remembered the surveyor’s markers — wooden stakes — placed along the northern edge of the property. Thursday was the first time she’d seen the historic marker, however. As soon as she brushed the dirt away, she knew it was something special, something to be protected.
“It should not be moved, it shouldn’t be substituted,” she said. “It should be preserved in its original placement.”
It was the first time anyone had seen the stone since the 1800s, said local historian Rosalie Richardson. The cornerstone, laid to mark the center of Monroe Street, was buried over time, she said.
If the city decides to preserve the stone, leaving it uncovered in its place, it won’t be the first time officials paid deference to a city cornerstone.
Another cornerstone lies near the Hancock County Courthouse Plaza, with bricks laid in a ring around the irregularly shaped rock. Richardson encouraged the preservation of that cornerstone in the 1990s, she said.
The Collins family hired surveyors to mark their property line as St. Michael Catholic Church prepares to pave a driveway near to the residence.
Church officials hope to begin the project in the summer of 2018, said the Rev. Aaron Jenkins. They began discussing the possibility with city planners about a year ago, he said, but no plans have been finalized or approved by the city at this point, which local history buffs hope leaves plenty of time to find a way to preserve the cornerstone.
Amie Collins envisions a small park being erected at the site, with an embossed monument and a bench or two, so people could visit and learn about the city’s history, she said. She and her brother keep the area clean and would continue to do so, she said.