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Archeological Dig On Long Island An Effort To Preserve History Of Freed Slave Peter Crippen, Huntington's First Black Land Owner

HUNTINGTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- They're digging for history on Long Island.

A centuries-old home cannot be saved, but artifacts buried on the property help tell the story of one of the community's founding Black families.

This old house - with parts dating back to the 1600s - could have ended up in the junk heap of history, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported.

But not anymore.

Archeologists are spending a week digging for treasures around its perimeter.

"We have some glass in here, also a bottle of Vaseline," said archeologist Allison McGovern. "So, it's really exciting to find this material and make connections with the people who lived here."

The house of Creek Road in Halesite is in dangerous disrepair and could not be preserved. But fragments of everyday life tell a forgotten history of Huntington's first Black landowners.

"It was purchased by Peter Crippen in 1864, which is early for an African-American to purchase land anywhere. It stayed in his family for well over 150 years," said Huntington Town Historian Robert Hughes.


It's significance dates back to the early 1800s. Crippen was one of the few free Black men in Virginia. He came north to Huntington to maintain his freedom.

"He had to leave in order to remain free, otherwise he would have been enslaved again," said Irene Moore, of the African-American Historic Designation Council.

Crippen, a brick laborer, became a leader and activist, founding Huntington's first Black church.

"It's very important that we preserve this history so that young persons coming after him can be aware of the contributions," said Rev. Larry Jennings, pastor of Bethel AME Church. "Paving the way for us to become homeowners."

The town received a grant from the Manes Peace Price Foundation to dig for artifacts.

"This should not be forgotten. This should not be turned into a parking lot or a garage. It should be studied and preserved," said Dr. Harvey Manes.

What can be salvaged of the house may be used to help build and African American museum.

The location will get a historical marker as the house of a man who escaped slavery to become one of the founders of Huntington's Black community.

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