Mysterious bone found under porch

Lisa Depies
Renovations to the front porch of Holly and Michael Finch’s Geneseo home unearthed a mysterious bone.

When renovating their 150-year old house, Holly Finch and her husband, Michael, of Geneseo expected surprises, they just didn’t expect police involvement.

On Oct. 1, the couple started tearing up the floor of the front porch of their home. “My son, Jake?(Williams), began tearing up the boards just past our door, and, when he had enough pulled up to stick his head in and peer around, he said, ‘Mom ... I? see a bone,’” said Finch.

She assumed the bone was from a small animal, but when her husband pulled it out from under the board they discovered what  looked a lot like a human knee joint.

“This knee joint is cleanly cut through the large femur above the knee and also cleanly cut through the tibia below the knee, which seems a bit crazy to us. I?have no idea why anybody would want to cut a leg in those locations ... animal or not,” she said.

Hoping to learn more about the mystery bone, Finch allowed her son to take the bone to his sixth-grade science teacher, Brian Hofer.

The next day, Finch said she received a phone call from Geneseo Middle School principal Matt DeBaene. “He said the science teachers had looked at it and thought it might be human, so the school turned the bone over to the police,” she said.

A state investigator/anthropologist inspected the bone and determined that it was not a human bone, however the bone remains in police custody.

Though the exact origin of the bone remains unknown, Finch said she now wonders if it came from a deer or horse. “I just wish I’d taken a photo of it before Jake took the bone to school.”

Finch said it would have been “interesting” if the bone had turned out to be human, but she’s relieved it’s not.

While the bone was being analyzed, police considered the Finchs’ front porch a crime scene and prohibited the couple from continuing their renovations.

“We can now get back to our project,” she said.

The Finchs’ home at 306 W. North St., was part of the original 15 blocks laid out by Geneseo founders.

Though­ she’s unsure of the exact date, Finch believes the home was built in the 1850s or 1860s.

One of the home’s first owners was Dr. Hume, an early Geneseo physician. “When we first thought the bone was human, we didn’t know if maybe it was the result of an amputation or something. We thought the doctor may have kept the bone for some reason,” said Finch.

The home remained in the Hume family for several generations, and Finch believes it was Hume’s granddaughter who operated a boarding house there in the 1940s. “We originally had all kinds of wild ideas about the bone ... maybe a border had mysteriously disappeared,” she said.

In 1973, Finch — then Holly Amundgaard — and her parents and brother moved into the house.

It has remained in her family ever since, with Finch and her husband and three kids  Jake and Lacey Williams and Daisy Finch, moving into the home three years ago.

“When we moved in, we found the home had lots of water issues,” said Finch. The couple started remodeling the home, with one project leading to another.

“It’s been a major undertaking,”? she said.

However, it’s been a project with historical discoveries. Prior to finding the mysterious bone, the family uncovered old issues of the Chicago Tribune shoved in gaps between the tar-covered tin on the porch roof.

Dated from the 1890s, the newspapers are in delicate condition, but readable in parts. “One article even mentions (First Lady)?Mrs. Benjamin Harrison,” said Finch.

As best as she can tell, the porch roof was added on after the original house was built. “The newspapers confirm that this really is an old house,” she said.

The home’s attic also contains an antique physician’s black bag, that Finch thinks may have belonged to Dr. Hume.

“I’m surprised we keep finding things. When we were growing up, I thought my brother (Chris Amundgaard) and I had been in every nook and cranny in this house,” she said. “I think it’s awesome when we find more things. It just makes us ask more questions about the house.”

Even the structure of the house is a mystery to the couple. Finch jokingly called it a “moron” house. “They kept adding ‘more-on,’” she said. “The basement entrance has been moved several times, and we think the porch originally wrapped around more of the house.

“I love the historical aspect involved with learning more about this home,” she said.