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The collection was started about 1914 by Philander Ward Hartwell who came to Hummelstown from New York State in 1913 to become the editor and publisher of the Hummelstown Sun, and was actively continued by him until his death in 1940. In the early days only the sites along the Swatara Creek which could be reached on foot were hunted, but when the automobile came into use, more distant sites were visited, hence the territory represented in the collection includes the Central Pennsylvania region of the Susquehanna River and tributaries from Sunbury to Maryland and a few sites below the line.
Possibly one fourth of the collection is from sites along the Swatara Creek. While there were apparently no very large occupations in the immediate vicinity of Hummelstown, two areas on the upper Swatara --- Harpers and Jonestown --- contributed heavily to the collection. Much of the fine jasper and quartzite is from Swatara Creek sites.
The greater portion of the collection is from the Susquehanna River sites. Some of these were very large, being occupied for many centuries and possibly in location palisaded towns which developed in the era before the arrival of white men in America.
Mr. Hartwell found more then half the entire collection personally. However, the collection was a family affair, his wife Mrs. Ada Jane Hartwell, and sons Richard H. and Clifton B. also hunted extensively. The collection is now displayed here at the Hummelstown Area Historical Society.
The bulk of the artifacts were gathered between 1920 and 1940. During that period expeditions were made very frequently with sometimes five experienced hunters. Over the years a more or less regular route of sites was built up and these were watched carefully for proper conditions. It was not unusual to bring home 200 pieces for a day’s work. More then 500 artifacts were found in about eight hours’ hunting on Three Mile Island in the Susquehanna after the 1936 flood.
Displayed are about 20,000 artifacts, though possibly five times that number are included in the entire collection. The most numerous artifact is the projectile point, used first on the spear and later on arrow shafts. The triangular point was the latest type developed and it is believed used exclusively as an arrowhead. Axes, celts, knives, atlatl weights, hammerstones, agricultural tools, problematical objects, fragments of pottery in clay and soapstone and many other objects are included.
The collection covers all Indian Epochs from Paleo to Historic. The oldest are fluted points possibly 15,000 years old, newest is an iron trade ax. Many of the objects were made by the Susquehannocks who were resident people until the historic period began.
P.W. Hartwell Collection
Jasper is a type of quartz, displaying various shades of red, yellow and brown. Fine grained and opaque, it was ideal for Indian weaponry since it fractures into sharp-edged pieces. Jasper contains hematite or limonite, which accounts for its characteristic color. Occasionally agate-jasper contains small veins of white chalcedony or “bleeding-jasper” coated with tiny red quartz crystals.
The small Lehigh county community of Vera Cruz immediately south of Allentown is the location of what was possibly the most important jasper quarry in the Keystone State. Delaware Indians discovered this site and other small quarries in the surrounding hills. Over one hundred open pits were in operation at the Vera Cruz Quarry. Tribesmen traveled along the Delaware and Lehigh rivers and over the network of trails crisscrossing the Appalachians to reach the rich jasper deposits.
Indians found jasper ideal for arrowheads, spear points, axes, tools and weapons. As much of the valuable mineral was taken back to the villages as could be carried. This necessitated ridding the large chunks of waste and fashioning “blanks” from the useful jasper. In fields surrounding the quarries the ground is mixed with jasper chips which were discarded during preparation of the blanks. Farmers plowing fields today frequently turn up new specimens.
No tribes seem to have established permanent residence at any of the quarries either at Vera Cruz or other small sites in the Reading Hills. Accumulation of cooking wates, fire traces and other evidence however clearly indicate that the immediate area was used for long periods of time during the mining operations.