As seen in the October 2002 edition of W&ET Magazine
Ye Olde Button Factory
By: Ed Fedory
"Well, maybe it wasn't a button factory, but it sure produced
buttons like one!"
Finds from the former factory location included an early Artillery button, a Militia Rifleman button, and a "Log Cabin" button from Harrison's 1840 presidential campaign.
When all of the facts behind this interesting site were revealed,
it threw me back to some of my earliest memories? to fruit cake tins filled
to the brim with buttons by my grandmother? to the sound of a bell and the
unfamiliar clatter of a horse's hooves as it pulled an old cart down the
paved road? memories of a young boy running to the window and then to the
sidewalk to watch the giant animal slowly make its way up the busy city
street. I remember the old man sitting high up on the wagon, the reins
loosely held between old gnarled fingers. With barely a twitch of the
leather reins, the horse would stop on the side of the street where a
housewife would be standing with a bundle of old and tattered clothing.
After a short, negotiation the bundle was thrown on the massive pile of
clothes in the bed of the wagon. The old man would climb back into his
seat, make a clucking sound with his mouth, and horse, wagon, and man would
continue their seemingly endless route along the streets of the city.
Besides yielding scores of buttons, the site of the old factory contained a number of early bullets, two Colonial shoe buckles, a spigot, several old pocket watches, and a wide assortment of other artifacts.
"You couldn't walk more than a couple feet without getting a strong
signal running through your headset," related Jimmy. "I thought it was
pretty neat finding several early buttons when I first started searching
the site, but then I saw that buttons were pretty much all that I was
digging. By the end of that initial hunt, I thought I had found the site of
a button manufacturing center, except for one fact: a few of the buttons
may have been similar, but no two were alike."
A number of old coins were recovered, among them some Indian Heads, a large cent, and a Seated Liberty dime and quarter.
I guess you couldn't process the fabric unless they were sans
buttons, and that undesired part of the shirt, skirt, or uniform was
pitched out the window of the mill. Seeing a Union Civil War era button
sitting among the masses presented me with the picture of some old veteran
whose closet had just been cleaned out and sent to the mill after his
death? the rag heap for a uniform once so proudly worn.
This baggage tag from the long-defunct Catskill Mountain Railroad would be a welcome addition to any collection.
"My first target near the foundation was another button which was
larger and older than most I had found at the mill," related Jimmy. "I
really only got an idea of how old the site might have been when I dug up
my first shoe buckle. I was able to recover two buckles from the site,
along with a Colonial era keg spigot and a number of rifle balls.
Interestingly, one of the balls had been flattened and pierced to be used
as a fishing sinker."
Evidence of what was probably a previous occupation appeared in the form of a brass keg spigot, musketballs, tombac buttons, and a couple of Colonial era shoe buckles.
Jimmy recovered a number of Indian Head cents and a Seated Liberty
dime from the site, but the main target was always the buttons. "They were
everywhere!" according to Jimmy, who seemed to get more excited as he
continued with his tale. "Even today, when I go back to the site, I never
know exactly what I will be pulling from the ground, but I am sure of one
thing: the majority of the targets will still be buttons!"