BY SEAN CURRAN
Over my time volunteering at the Jay Heritage Center, I have come to realize how much unique American history is contained within. Every time I arrive at the Center I am treated with a new adventure and I have learned so much about our nation’s founding.
For example, as the Center is also an active archaeological site, I spent several days this past summer helping to excavate specific dig spots on the property. We ultimately uncovered artifacts that spanned several centuries of history including arrowheads, bricks and hand wrought nails. In previous years, archeologists have been able to uncover prehistoric blades known as “flakes” evidencing early Native American occupation on the property from thousands of years ago, as well as 18th century stoneware and copper buttons used in daily life. One significant find by archeologists several years back, was an 18th century British Army buckle, supporting accounts that British troops may have camped out at the farmhouse when John Jay’s parents had to vacate it for safety reasons during the Revolutionary War.
On another occasion, I was able to see John Jay’s grave up close, when one of his relatives visited the Jay Heritage Center and allowed us to enter into the private Jay family cemetery with him. There I was able to see first hand the inspiring epitaph written by his son Peter Augustus Jay, as well as the final resting place of many of John Jay’s ancestors.
That said, the vast majority of my most memorable experiences at the Jay Heritage Center are also readily accessible to the public. For example, I wandered around the Van Norden carriage house and learned about Mary Rutherfurd Jay, a famous garden architect who was a descendant of John Jay. In exploring the nooks and crannies of the Jay Mansion, I learned new information about another Jay descendants, such as Jack Ide, an aeronautic engineer and government spy before and during World War II.
Among the highlights of my experience at the Jay Heritage Center has been Jay Day, an annual event hosted by the Center each September. This past year, hundreds of adults and children attended. The festivities included horse rides, face painting, and lawn games. From my vantage point on the porch of the Jay Mansion, I was able to see children exploring the inside of the Jay Mansion, while others painted on a giant canvas laid out on the field. This seemed to epitomize the essence of the Jay Heritage Center, as hundreds of people explored the history of this property. I enjoyed seeing this new chapter in the history of this property unfold before me.
My experience volunteering at the Jay Heritage Center has been fabulous. It has been filled with endless new adventures and history. Having grown up several miles down the road, I feel a connection to this place that has helped to nurture my passion for history. I have especially enjoyed sharing this place with others, as I want them to have the chance to experience such historical landmark just as I have.
Photo of Sean Curran scanning and cataloguing the John Jay Ide Papers at JHC (Boston College ’22)