Silas Denton’s son Amos oversaw the digging, for he was to take a bride in a fortnight and meant to install her in this home. But when the digging began a man threw up a bone. Amos Denton peered at it from over the hill of sand and rocks and proclaimed it a deer femur and ordered the dig to continue. But next a human skull was churned to the surface, brown with sand and green with mold, and a rib cage held together by the mortar of wet clay. Then the men would dig no more.
Amos Denton peered into the graves. There were beads and arrowheads, pottery and the smeared remnants of dried pollen. The Montaukett resolutely refused to dig so much as another shovel full of soil. The men with half-Indian blood stood aside with the picks aloft, shaking their heads in sustained disbelief. The blacks had backed away from the very spot, as if contact with the dead itself was contrary to some unspoken creed.
Denton examined the crew. There was no visible emotion on his face and his eyes were fixed and ridged like stones set in some antiquecrystal vase. This isn’t the first nor the last time Indian bones have been dug up on the South Fork, he announced to all assembled. If the men gathered around him did not commence to dig, he would send a wagon to Sag Harbor and find some out of work white boys happy to dig through bones of Indians or of Father Abraham himself for ten cents. After a moment of hesitation, all the men took up their shovels in unison and set about to work, including Jonah Graves. No one could not afford the lost wage. More than a dozen skeletons and a mound of grave goods were heaped up in a corner of Amos Denton’s field.
When the men returned the next day to finish the digging there wasn’t a trace of the midden. Elijah Falk, a light skinned Negro from Free Town whispered in Jonah Graves’ ear that last night his brother had seen a cohort of Amos Dentons’s field hands with wooden wheelbarrows cart away the Indian bones and pots and arrowheads and dump them in the bay.