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.

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