Thursday, October 01, 2015

I've been an archaeologist since 1986. For most of this time I have specialized in historical archaeology- excavating sites dating from about 1700 to the 1930s. I've worked for my company since 1992, and have excavated many historic period sites in southern Arizona. Occasionally we recover artifacts that can be linked to a specific person. Our recent work on Block 92, at the northwest corner of E. Broadway Blvd and S. 5th Avenue, is one such case.

The first individual to live on Lot 8 of the block was David John Boleyn, known in Tucson as Jack Boleyn. He was born in New York state in the 1840s and arrived in Tucson with the railroad in 1880. He set up a transfer business, hauling freight around Tucson and surrounding areas. In 1881, he was one of the founding members of the Tucson volunteer fire department. By 1883, he was the Chief of the department, a position to held for most of the years until 1898. Ironically, in that year his buildings on Lot 8 burned and the charred debris was thrown down a well shaft, which Desert Archaeology excavated in June 2015.

Among the artifacts found in the well were metal buttons marked FD for Fire Department. A photograph of Jack Boleyn shows him wearing his uniform with its shiny buttons. He is also wearing an identification badge. An identical badge was found in a planting hole during the excavations.

Jack continued to help out on fires after he retired as Fire Chief in 1898. In 1910 he was helping out on a fire at the Goldring Store when the roof collapsed. A beam fell on his stomach, perhaps causing internal injuries. Water had accumulated on the tin roof, boiling from the intense heat, and this also fell on Boleyn, scalding him from the waist down. He was able to walk home, but died the next day. His funeral was attended by the mayor, city council, and the volunteer fireman. His grave in Evergreen Cemetery was unmarked until 2008, when a modern tombstone was installed.

One of the reasons I like doing historical archaeology is being able to learn details about the people whose homes I dig up. In Jack's case he was known for being a strong man, a hard drinker. He was also a bigamist, at one time married to three different women at the same time. I think I would probably have liked this man in person.

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