Archeological dig in Rye uncovers pieces of Westchester's lost Black history

An eight-day archeological dig just wrapped up in Rye uncovering a piece of Westchester's lost history.

Nadia Galindo

Aug 3, 2022, 9:47 PM

Updated 664 days ago


An eight-day archeological dig just wrapped up in Rye uncovering a piece of Westchester's lost history.
The dig, commissioned by the Bird Homestead and Meeting House Conservancy, is focused on finding the foundation of a home and saloon on Milton Road owned and operated by William Voris, a Black entrepreneur during the mid-19th century who is believed by some historians to be a freed slave from New Jersey.
"What they left behind is a really great story that tells another chapter of rye that you never really seen," said Sara Mascia, vice president of Historical Perspectives and the archeologist leading the dig.
Mascia said they've uncovered a gold mine of information.
Her team, which includes about a dozen volunteers, have found ceramics, pipes and bottles throughout the dig.
She also believes they've found what they were really after.
"What you are looking at right here is a foundation of a house probably a mid-19th century house and we do think it is the Voris house," she said as she stood over an open pit with large stones and brick at the bottom.
Piecing together Voris's life has been difficult.
Some historians believe he was born a slave in New Jersey and may have also owned an ice cream shop near what is now Playland Park but little else is known because African American history wasn't well documented in pre-civil war America.
"There was more than just the wealthy people in town there was alot of other people here that we can tell just as many stories about and get them in the history books as well," said Mascia.
This history holds deep meaning for Ingraham Taylor who visited the site for the first time on the final day of the dig.
"It's filled my heart I’m just filled with a lot of spirit and like I’m walking on sacred ground," she said. "To know that a man like Mr. Voris lived here in the community. And that I've been here for 60 years and am just learning of his presence."
The NAACP member also knew one of Voris's direct descendants, the late Doris Bailey-Reavis.
Taylor, who is part of the Westchester Region NAACP ACT-SO Coalition which mentors black youth, said uncovering black history in the county is of utmost importance.
"We don't know our history," she said. "The key word is documentation and that is what is being done here and that is what is so exciting."
The conservancy is now raising money to conduct a post-dig laboratory analysis of the artifacts they found.
They also hope to conduct future digs at this site.

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