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Small boy helps unearth historic stone from Island yard

by jmaloni

•Taken from the Oct. 17 Islandwide Dispatch

Fri, Oct 24th 2014 06:45 pm
An historic stone unearthed from a Whitehaven Road property will be unveiled at River Lea Oct. 19. Caleb Armbruster was one of the excavators of the stone from his grandmother's property.
An historic stone unearthed from a Whitehaven Road property will be unveiled at River Lea Oct. 19. Caleb Armbruster was one of the excavators of the stone from his grandmother's property.

by Alice E. Gerard

Caleb Armbruster has always been a "woods boy," said his grandmother, Cathy. As a baby, he suffered from colic, a condition that causes infants to cry excessively for hours at a time. "I took him to the woods, and he'd stop crying," she said.

After Caleb got over his colic, Cathy continued to take him out to the woods near her Whitehaven Road house. "I taught him about nature, trees, and plants. To this day, he heads right to the woods. His toy cars are in the dirt, and he always digs. He is really enthusiastic, smart, and strong," Cathy said.

Cathy, who asked to be identified only as "Cathy from Whitehaven Road," said that she encouraged her grandson to dig in the yard. She said that Caleb, who is now 6 years old, "loves nature and trees and investigating bugs. He'd stay in the woods all day if he could. Whenever his father works outside, he's out there with him, catching rabbits and chopping trees. He wants to know what plants and vegetables you can eat."

When Cathy and her husband moved to their house seven years ago, the yard was full of objects.

"The yard is a treasure chest of history," Cathy said. She said that her grandson found bottles and metal in the yard. "I pulled up three horse-pulled plows. One of them was John Deere. We found milk cans, old cast iron wheels from tractors, metal seats, and buckboards." A buckboard is an open, four-wheeled type of horse-drawn carriage that originated in the eastern part of the United States and went west with the pioneers.

"Most of the stuff is gone," Cathy said. She said that she sold the hand-carved tools to a farmer in Wilson. "A man from Grand Island bought the plows."

"It was a lot of stuff and a lot of work. I went in that back yard when I first moved there and started cleaning it out. Now there is no more metal. It is all gone," Cathy said.

When Cathy plants trees, flowers, or vegetables, she gets Caleb to dig the hole. "He has a special trick. He's good. He runs the hose and, when the mud gets wet, he digs and digs and digs. He makes the perfect hole."

Two years ago, Caleb began digging around a large object. He carefully exposed the object. There were obstacles in the way: metal objects and the roots of an apple tree, which had wrapped itself around the object.

The object was a large stone, weighing approximately 650 pounds. There is some disagreement over whether the stone is a millstone or a sharpening stone.

Cathy said that the stone is a millstone. She said that she researched it and that "it looked like a stone that was used to make apple cider." The land on which the house and yard are located was once an apple orchard, part of a farm belonging to the Stamler family.

Ricky Hoover, a Boy Scout who has taken the stone on as an Eagle Scout project, said, "It's made of sandstone, and it is too soft and too small to be a millstone." He said that he believes that the stone is a sharpening stone.

At the site where the stone was located, there had once been an old mill. What was needed at a mill was a grinding stone, Ricky explained.

When it became apparent that the stone that Caleb had been working to unearth was of historical significance, the word got out. Eight months ago, Cathy said, people from the Village of Williamsville got in touch with her. "They contacted me, came over, took a lot of photographs, measured it, and then begged for it," Cathy said.

Cathy asked the Williamsville people if they were willing to pay for the stone. They said that they have no money to pay for the stone.

"I would have liked to have sold it," Cathy said.

At about the same time, Cathy heard from Helen Black of the Grand Island Historical Society. The Grand Island Historical Society also did not have money in its budget for the purchase of the stone.

Cathy said that she discussed the disposition of the stone with her husband. "We came to the conclusion that, if no one had the money to pay for it, it stays on Grand Island, where it originally came from."

Cathy said that Black came to look at the stone. "She told me about a Boy Scout who was in need of an Eagle Scout project, and that is how I met Ricky Hoover."

The stone will be unveiled Sunday, Oct. 19. Cathy said that she is bringing Caleb to the unveiling. "He worked hard that year in digging and digging and digging."

Black said that Caleb's digging had been instrumental in the removal of the stone. "He paved the way for the big guys to get it out."

Cathy said that donating the stone to the Grand Island Historical Society is a big deal for her. "I was there when the stone was dug up by a bunch of guys. They rolled it out. I like for everyone to see it. I said, 'You take the stone, and I want a Bible verse on a plaque.' "

The Bible verse that Cathy chose was "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone."

The open house is scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 19, at River Lea in Beaver Island State Park.

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