Digging into history

Historical and archaeological societies team up in a search for remnants from the lost town of Lexington, an early 19th-century route to the West.
Friday, June 15, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:08 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Archaeologist Brant Vollman, left, works with David Sapp of the Boone County Historical Society to conduct a resistivity survey on a farm near Rocheport before future digging in Lexington can begin.

A white plastic pole that stands a few feet above the ground marks the location of a blacksmith shop that was found in the summer of 2006. Another white plastic pole about 600 feet away marks a well and the remains of what is believed to be a tavern or general store found in 2005.

David Sapp of the Boone County Historical Society and Earl Lubensky of the Missouri Archaeological Society are once again leading a search for clues about the once thriving development known as Lexington near Rocheport.


Volunteers are needed for the archaeological dig at the Lexington site near Rocheport. For information call David Sapp, 443- 8964, or Earl Lubensky, 443-5576.

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“We hope to finally discover something between the well and the blacksmith shop,” Sapp said. “If this was a town, there should be something in between.”

This summer’s dig, which is scheduled to end June 23, is the third excavation being done on Bill and Judith Heffernan’s farm near Rocheport. Lexington was a settlement along Boone’s Lick Trail that existed in the 1820s. The trail was what Sapp calls “an equivalent to today’s I-70” because it served as a route to the West.

The trail was abandoned around the 1830s, Sapp said, because of the development of Columbia. “By then, people went through Columbia instead of coming this far north,” Sapp said.

Sapp and Lubensky have reason to believe there are three structures that might be buildings in between the two poles because of a resistivity survey done by Brant Vollman, archaeologist for the Missouri Division of State Parks.

These apparent structures were detected because of their greater resistance to an electrical current than the surrounding soil. The data is transferred into a picture on the computer where the more resistant areas are displayed in dark gray.

While the readings may mean there is some sort of structure below the surface, it doesn’t guarantee such a find.

“It could be harder impacted soil, an old feed lot with a lot of manure, or it could be some type of structure like a store,” Lubensky said.

The dig, which officially began Monday, has not turned up any significant findings yet, Sapp said.

“There is a lack of artifacts,” Sapp said. “This time last year, we had about 20 buckets of stuff like bricks, iron and tools.”

Among the artifacts they have come across are pea-size brown pebbles, likely to be limestone, that have managed to fill one bucket.

Olin Fugit, who is volunteering on the Lexington dig for the third year, added that he had found a nail.

“It’s better than nothing,” he said.

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