The Changing Landscape of Slavery at Tipton-Haynes

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology 2015, Day 26

Daniel Brock
Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Architectural Historian Robbie Jones inspecting the law office fireplace.

Architectural Historian Robbie Jones inspecting the law office fireplace.

The Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site, located in Johnson City, is an upland south farmstead that was inhabited from the frontier to modern era.  Tipton-Haynes has been described as one of the most historic sites in Tennessee due to its association with two prominent families who resided there from the late eighteenth through mid-nineteenth centuries including Colonel John Tipton, his son John Tipton Junior, and Landon Carter Haynes.  Later, the Simerly family, relatives of the Haynes’, also lived in the house during the later part of the nineteenth century until the state acquired the property in the 1960s.

Because of the site’s long history and its ability to inform on a variety of questions associated with change over time at historic farmsteads, the Tipton-Haynes Landscape Archaeological Project (THLAP) was undertaken to examine the history of construction on site.  Research consisted of using multiple methods of investigation including documentary research, architectural survey, dendrochronology, multi-instrument geophysical survey, and archaeological excavation to discover and explain transformations at the Tipton-Haynes site and obtain an understanding as to why these changes occurred on the landscape.  While the larger project scope focused on the entire site’s landscape history, it also afforded me the opportunity to examine changes in the built environment associated with enslaved African Americans on the property.

Dendrochronogical core collection at the Tipton-Haynes farmhouse.

Dendrochronogical core collection at the Tipton-Haynes farmhouse.

Changing attitudes towards space and living conditions for the enslaved can be seen at Tipton-Haynes.  Results of the project identified the movement of slave living spaces across the property and a decrease in the slave population from five or six individuals owned by the Tipton family to only three during Haynes’ tenancy.  Over time the slave workforce was reduced and removed farther from the Tipton and Haynes household into larger quarters closer to their work responsibilities.

Col. Tipton acquired the property in 1784 and shortly after is believed to have constructed a log cabin for his home based on historical documentation.  When Tipton first moved into his home, his slaves are thought to have resided in a loft space within the frontier cabin.  Tipton rebuilt his log home in 1799 based on dendrochronological investigations.  The cellar is thought to have been expanded at this time and the slaves are believed to have been housed in the renovated cellar which had an exterior entrance and a fireplace.

During the early 1820s, John Tipton Jr. moved back to the site and made renovations to the cabin altering it to a Federal-style farmhouse.  The cabin remained as the core of the house and a frame addition was added to its western edge.  Ground-penetrating radar and archaeological excavation near the rear of the farmhouse revealed a roughly 12 x 12 foot anomaly that was identified as a kitchen outbuilding for Tipton Jr.’s family that was also used as a slave quarter.  Other outbuildings were also constructed towards the rear of the property which were misaligned with the farmhouse.

Dustin Lawson excavating the remains of a chimney fall.

Dustin Lawson excavating the remains of a chimney fall.

Landon Carter Haynes obtained the property in 1839 and eventually renovated the home constructing a Greek-Revival farmhouse with a rear ell addition that contained a kitchen and dining room.  Haynes also built numerous outbuildings and dismantled the kitchen/slave quarter built during Tipton Jr’s tenure.  The slaves were then moved to a larger cabin constructed behind the new ell addition.

Ground penetrating radar data and test unit locations over a previously standing Kitchen/Slave Quarter.

Ground penetrating radar data and test unit locations over a previously standing Kitchen/Slave Quarter.

Modification of the landscape can be related to production on the farm and the influence of progressive farming ideals.  Many farmers were influenced by progressive reform movements meant to increase efficient production.  These movements included ideas about to what to grow, what types of animals to raise, as well as what structures to build and how to place them.  This also included advice on the living conditions of slaves such as proper construction techniques for their quarters as well as their size and arrangement.  While meant to be “progressive,” these farming movements were more concerned with increasing production on a farm or plantation and reinforcing the institution of slavery rather than the well-being of enslaved individuals.

The construction of slave quarters at Tipton-Haynes follows progressive principles which were meant to improve the quality of slave life by providing larger living quarters which prevented overcrowding and created a healthier environment.  The location of the enslaved on the property was also meant to increase efficiency by placing them near their respective duties.  Placement away from the house also underscored the residents’ ideas about racial separation during the nineteenth century.

Map of archaeologically exposed portion of the Kitchen/Slave Quarter.

Map of archaeologically exposed portion of the Kitchen/Slave Quarter.

The arrangement of the farm over time shows the influence of progressive movements with the creation of a nucleated, or consolidated, landscape with specialized outbuildings for production.  When Col. John Tipton constructed his farm in the late eighteenth century, it was a vernacular dispersed landscape fronting the Buffalo Trace.  Later, the property had more specialized outbuildings, including slave quarters, in a consolidated asymmetrical fashion creating a nucleated landscape inspired by progressive farming ideals.  This included the placement of outbuildings and associated work areas to the side and/or rear of the house.

A noticeable difference in the alignment of structures also occurred at the site which follows this same trend.  The construction of outbuildings askew from the farmhouse occurred during Col. Tipton’s and Tipton, Jr.’s tenancy reflecting the segregation between formal space and work space.  Haynes is believed to have followed this same paradigm by continuing to construct more formalized outbuildings such as a law office aligned with the farmhouse as well as informal outbuildings such as the slave quarters and corn crib aligned with other outbuildings in the barn yard.  The placement of structures on the landscape again aims to reinforce social hierarchy and increase efficient production on the farm and reflect the changing face of slavery at Tipton-Haynes.

The Tipton-Haynes landscape from the late-eighteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries (slave living spaces are highlighted in red).

The Tipton-Haynes landscape from the late-eighteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries (slave living spaces are highlighted in red).

The Tipton-Haynes Landscape Archaeological Project was made possible with funding from the Tennessee Historical Commission and the Tennessee Council for Professional ArchaeologyAssistance was also provided by Penny McLaughlin, Site Manager at Tipton-Haynes, Robbie Jones, who served as Architectural Consultant, as well as the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Science and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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