Colonial era, Native American artifacts on display at historic Milford house this weekend

Native American artifacts unearthed in Milford will be among the objects on display at the John Downs House this weekend, according to the Milford Preservation Trust board member Timothy Chaucer.

Chaucer said many of the artifacts on display were found at a dig at the house, which also is known as the Minuteman House.

“We found many artifacts that will be on display, including a Hibernia halfpenny that dates back to the first quarter of the 18th Century,” he said.

Hibernia was the name once used for Ireland, Chaucer said, and, as an English colony, there would have been many of these coins in the area. The coin features an image of a woman playing the harp.

“(That) is kind of (interestin) being that the harp is the symbol of Ireland to this day,” Chaucer said.

In addition to the Colonial artifacts, there also will be several Native American pieces on display, including a stone ax that is estimated to be between 4,000 and 6,000 years old.

Chaucer said the display was the trust’s first since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group also is considering opening the John Downs House for Connecticut Museum Day in September.

“We couldn’t hold an event last year because of COVID, so we are excited to have one this year,” he said. “We may have the exhibit up for Connecticut Museum Day, but that decision hasn’t been fully made. Before we knew the date the state had set for Connecticut Museum Day, we had picked these two days.”

For this weekend’s opening, there also may be some volunteers working at the dig site at the back of the property, allowing visitors to see an actual excavation in progress.

Events and exhibits like these allow people to see the inside of the John Downs House. Chaucer said it gives the public a chance to appreciate local history and to learn more about Downs.

According to the Milford Hall of Fame Committee, John Downs was a weaver, school teacher and militia member who fought in the Revolutionary War with Connecticut forces at the battles of Brooklyn Heights and Harlem Heights in the New York Campaign, in addition to seeing action in fights in New Haven and Fairfield. He also served as a Milford Minuteman. His life is well-documented, as he also kept a diary of his daily activities for 47 years.

Chaucer said the house is on the National Register of Historic Places as dating to 1750, but there are features in the house, such as a double beehive oven in a large firebox, that were used in earlier structures.

Admission is free but the Preservation Trust is requesting a $5 donation to help restore the house to its 1776 condition.

The house, located at 139 North Street, will be open from 5 to 7 p.m., Friday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday. Visitors should park at the rear of the house and not on the street.