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City's Archaeological History Highlights Zion Church Community Day

Cross Street AME Zion Church's annual end-of-summer event was a full day of vendors, live music, games and education which drew hundreds of parishioners and Middletown families of all faiths.

The Governor's Footguard, clad in red jackets with zebra-striped lapels, were a magnificent contrast to the soaring peaks of 's massive glass facade, which led off an all-day back-to-school community day Saturday in Middletown.

There was a dunk tank, crafts, the Middletown Bookmobile, food trucks and vendors of all types inside and out of the church.

From the city snowmobile platform, the charismatic and powerful-voiced Rev. Moses L. Harvill introduced President Rosa Browne, who said the 400 backpacks donated by the church congregation were to reduce the burden on parents buying back-to-school supplies.

"In addition to that, we would like to remind everyone to vote this year in November. We all have to get out to vote," Browne said.

Mark Masselli, CEO/president of the , made an empassioned plea to children gathered about the importance of not just emulating basketball stars. "I want you to work hard to be a doctor to make sure that you have a living when you grow up, to make sure that you help the neighborhood. I want you to be an Olympic doctor, not just an Olympic basketball player."

Behind the church, in the grassy area where dozens of games were offered to families along with two bounce houses and reggae music, church member Lucia LaBella led an educational program for children about the .

In Middletown, the triangle of Cross Street, Vine Street and Knowles Avenue forms a natural triangle, where the former AME Zion Church parishioners lived and discarded items 200 years ago.

With several containers of rocks, sand and earth layered like an archaeological site, she explained how this past spring Wesleyan University professors, church and community members gathered for a dig. "They found shoe straps, buttons, pieces of bottles" that had been buried for two centuries in an area used to dump garbage.

She described one dramatic find — the top of a glass vessel discovered during the dig. "We didn't know what the rest was like. Gently we swept away the dirt with a paintbrush. It was like giving birth," LaBella recalled.

"There was utter silence in the backyard, nobody spoke as the bottle was lifted, intact, from the ground. We all gave a huge sigh of relief."

The oval container appeared to be hand-blown, she said, and found near the home of Mennominnee L. Miami, who was listed in the Census as "Dr. Quack," a self-proclaimed pharmacist/doctor. LaBella said glass tubing, beakers and what appeared to be other scientific glass objects were found in the area from 1867.

"The majority of what he used was alcohol," she said, as medicine. "My guess is people just forgot what they were complaining of for a little while," she said with a laugh.

"It was a very moving experience to be a part of that. You don't think this would be in your backyard," LaBella said.

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