updated 9/21/2006 8:01:55 PM ET 2006-09-22T00:01:55

Archaeologists have uncovered coins, dishes, bullets, Indian jewelry and other artifacts from the remains of an 18th-century Catholic church rectory in suburban St. Louis that is said to be one of the oldest in the Midwest.

The remains were discovered recently below a half-foot of dirt at a Florissant park, the result of a three-year excavation of the area surrounding the former St. Ferdinand Catholic Church.

Six archaeologists helped uncover about 10,000 items at the park, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“This means a lot for the city,” said Gretchen Crank, head of a committee of Florissant residents helping to oversee the project. “We are now finding facts instead of hearsay.”

Built by French settlers in 1789, St. Ferdinand was one of the first churches in the area and was used for more than 30 years. Officials said that after a shrine was built nearby in 1821, the log church was used for rental property or was occupied by priests until it burned in 1836.

The dig was sponsored by the city of Florissant as part of the bicentennial celebration of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The artifacts likely will be stored at the University of Missouri-Columbia and eventually be available for public display in Florissant and possibly throughout Missouri, Harl said.

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