Monday, July 25, 2011

French's Tavern

Lauren and Brandy testing
at Frenchs Tavern
French's Tavern, on the National Register of Historic Places, is located in the eastern portion of the historic Indian Camp tract. The tavern is really three structures linked together over time. A 2-and-1/2 story house fronts Old Buckingham Road. Attached to the west is a 1-and-1/2 story wing. A modern addition links the wing to a 2-story annex. Most of the house dates to the late 18th-century or early 19th-centuries, when Frances Eppes Harris owned a store there and Hugh French operated the tavern for which the property is currently named. Architectural historians who studied the house in the 1980s believed that the wing was the original structure on the property, and that it might date to the early 1730s, when Frances Eppes, the original property owner,  mentioned "ye house there lately built" on the land that he left to his daughter Martha in his will.

In the woods behind the house is a rock-lined spring leading off of a branch of Indian Camp Creek. North of the spring are the remains of an antebellum slave cabin that we tested last summer. We are currently testing the area between the cabin and the house, looking for evidence of original dependencies that might have served the 1730s house, including the elusive slave quarters. Last week, as the temperatures soared to 100 degrees, we dug test units in the woods and the modern lawn associated with French's Tavern. The property is littered with historic (and prehistoric) artifacts which we found during our recent testing. Many others have already been collected by both past and present property owners. One area in the woods yielded creamware, Fulham stoneware, and a wrought nail, evidence of a site dating to the second half of the 18th century. The remainder of the area tested so far contained pearlware, a ceramic that was first produced in 1779 (after Jefferson sold the property to his brother-in-law), or later-dating artifacts.

In the coming week, we'll start testing near the foundations of the wing, looking for clues about when it was constructed, and near another foundation that past residents of the property have identified as the "old kitchen." If the kitchen stood before the 1790s, an enslaved cook and her family may have lived there, and this site may prove to be important for our study of eighteenth-century slavery on the property.

Monday, July 18, 2011

36 Wingos shovel tests done!

Esther digging test pit
As of Tuesday morning, we completed thirty-six 2x2 foot shovel tests at Wingo's Quarter to check for any signs of activity north of the house site. We have already begun opening up 5x5 foot units near units opened during previous field seasons. Several of the shovel tests were done where a 2007 gradiometer survey showed magnetic anomalies, and several 5x5 units have been planned to check out other areas with magnetic anomalies.

Artifact wise, our thirty-six shovel tests did not net us much more than a few quartz lithic flakes , a wrought nail, and a piece of barbed wire (which is definitely of later vintage than the slave quarters). We found no features associated with the quarter, but plenty of plow scars and greenstone, an odd, soft, yellow rock. The tests over the magnetic anomalies did not show anything unusual. It seems residential activities at Wingos may indeed have been concentrated on the southern side of the hill. But, we will await the analysis of 72 bags of soil samples (one for the plow zone, one for the subsoil from each shovel test) back at UTK for certain chemical concentrations. We will look at the chemical data to determine whether there were any specific activities going on in the vicinity of the quarters. Despite the disturbances wrought on stratigraphic evidence (soil layers and artifact locations) by plows, we may be able to glean some information from the soil chemistry, such as potential locations of livestock pens and agricultural activity.

We currently have four 5x5 units open, and one underway just north and west of where two subfloor pits related to a dwelling were found in 2009. After thirty-six mostly empty shovel tests, we were all thrilled to see multiple wrought nails start showing up, along with the first few pieces of creamware! Due to the disturbances of plows, we are also unearthing prehistoric lithics including a quartzite point, quartz preforms, and flakes. Next week we will take a closer look at a feature of softer, darker soil we discovered on Friday within the subsoil of one 5x5 unit.

Esther Rimer
Esther is a graduate student at UTK

Monday, July 11, 2011

New Field Season Starts

Brad Hatch and Chelsea Coates digging shovel test pits
Our team from the University of Tennessee returned on July 5 to Indian Camp in Powhatan County and Wingos in Bedford to continue studying two eighteenth century slave quarters. 

Indian Camp began as a 1200-acre plantation in the 1730s. By the 1760s, John Wayles had purchased land south and west of the original property boundaries. By the time he died in 1773, Indian Camp and the adjacent land, which he sometimes called St. James', contained 3600 acres.

How do we find the sites we are looking for on such a large piece of property, with only a few weeks of field work per year? We've started with historic maps that show buildings about where they might have been, have looked at aerial photographs for clues to past land use, have talked to local residents, and, along with these sources of information, are beginning to examine places where people were most likely to settle--near existing roads, near springs where they could get fresh water, and on land that was probably marginal for agricultural purposes in the 1700s, but still level and dry enough to build on.

This week, we started in a large field in the northwest corner of the property, where a 19th-century map shows a group of outbuildings or slave cabins. Even though the map is later than the time period that we are interested in, it is possible that the cabins it depicts replaced an earlier slave quarter. So far, we have dug more than 75 small holes (shovel test pits) looking for artifacts or changes in soil color that will indicate that people lived in a particular area.