The Bosley Cemetery Removal Project at The Dominican Campus of St. Cecilia Congregation in Nashville, TN

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 30

Jared Barrett
TRC Environmental Corporation

Earlier in the month, State Archaeologist Michael Moore talked about the process of what you should do if you accidently discover a cemetery. This blog post highlights an example of when a cemetery was accidentally discovered and the steps taken in its eventual removal. In August 2016, during the construction of Siena Hall at Aquinas College on The Dominican Campus in Nashville, construction crews accidentally uncovered the remains of the Bosley Cemetery. The Dominican Campus, now owned by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation (St. Cecilia Congregation), had been the site of the Bosley Family home until its purchase by Joseph Warner in 1910. The sisters acquired the property in 1923. One of the most prominent headstones uncovered was that of Charles Bosley Sr. whose family was one of the earliest to settle Davidson County. On behalf of St. Cecilia Congregation, Aquinas College initially contacted the Davidson County Medical examiner who directed them to contact the Tennessee Division of Archaeology (TDOA). Historic archaeologist Ben Nance with the TDOA examined the find and identified two grave shafts and advised St. Cecilia Congregation to hire a private consulting firm to continue excavations and identify any remaining graves.

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View of all nine uncovered graves after the completion of mechanical stripping of the Bosley Cemetery.

Archaeologist Jared Barrett with TRC Environmental Corporation (TRC) was contacted to assist and continue the mechanical stripping of the immediate area of the two graves initially identified by the TDOA. Additional work at the cemetery identified a total of nine graves most of which contained broken tombstones and other monument stones within the grave shaft fill. We also identified the remains of a rock wall along the southern edge of the cemetery. This rock wall would have surrounded the cemetery. After our initial work at the cemetery, Eleanor Whitworth, a Bosley family descendant, informed the St. Cecilia Congregation that the Bosley family had been disinterred and reburied in Mt. Olivet Cemetery on February 18, 1911 on a lot purchased by Mrs. Gertrude Bosley Bowling Whitworth. Today there is a family marker at the Bosley family plot at Mt. Olivet that lists the names of several family members including Charles Bosley Sr. and his wife Eliza.

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Overall layout of the Bosley Cemetery.

Additional excavations were needed at the Bosley Cemetery due to the uncertainty of finding headstones and grave shafts and the question of whether or not the family members had been moved to Mt. Olivet. In November 2016, we conducted additional hand excavations in all nine graves to determine whether the graves contained human remains. Based on our excavations, we determined all nine graves were previously excavated during the removal carried out in 1911. Our hand excavations encountered limestone rubble, headstone pieces, machine made brick fragments, coffin hardware and wood throughout the fill of all nine grave shafts. Our additional work also confirmed that all nine graves still contained human remains. Once human remains were encountered during excavations of a grave shaft, work was halted and the grave shaft backfilled.

The St. Cecilia Congregation worked with Ms.Whitworth and weighed all options about the next steps regarding the treatment of the cemetery. After much discussion and due to the documented current condition of the nine graves, the St. Cecilia Congregation, along with Ms. Whitworth, decided that the best option would be to disinter the remaining graves at the Bosley Cemetery and rebury them on two grave plots located immediately adjacent to the Bosley Family plot at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.

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Excavation in progress of graves at Bosley Cemetery, facing west.

The St. Cecilia Congregation and Whitworth went to the Davidson County Chancery Court and filed an order to terminate the use of the land of the Bosley Cemetery as a burial ground and to allow for the removal of the remains of the descendants to Mt. Olivet Cemetery. The order contained our approach and methods for the removal of the graves which helped satisfy the legal responsibilities with respect to the treatment of human remains, while providing a professional and respectful exhumation and reburial process. The order was granted on July 14th, 2017.

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Broken monument stones encountered in grave fill of Burials 6 and 7.

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Crushed metal coffin uncovered at base of Burial 7.

In August 2017, we returned to the Bosley Cemetery and began to remove the graves. According to the Bosley family bible, the following people were buried at the cemetery: Charles Bosley, Sr.; his wife Mrs. Eliza A. Bosley; Mary Bosley, child of Charles and Eliza Bosley; Henry Bosley, child of Charles and Eliza Bosley; Mary Eliza Bosley, child of Charles and Eliza Bosley; Infant daughter of Martha Ann and Charles Bosley, Jr.; Martha Ann (Carden) Bosley, wife of Charles Bosley, Jr.; Charles Bosley, Jr., son of Charles and Eliza Bosley; and Gertrude Bosley Bowling, granddaughter of Charles and Eliza Bosley and wife of Powhattan Bowlinig. The earliest burial in the cemetery dates to 1825 with the latest burial dating to 1873. We uncovered the remains of seven broken tombstones within the grave fill for all those listed in the bible except for the stones of Gertrude Bosley Bowling and Eliza Bosley. Based on the headstones recovered, items recovered from the burials, and human remains, we were able to determine the layout of the cemetery and who was buried in which grave. Most of the excavated graves had small amounts of human remains that were left behind during the initial grave removal in 1911. One grave had only been partially removed with the lower leg, mid section including their arms, ribs, and spine and lower jaw left behind. Another grave contained the crushed remains of a tin coffin at its base with small amounts of foot bones (phalanges and metatarsals) mixed within the fill.

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Overview of the broken headstones recovered from the grave shaft fill at the Bosley Cemetery.

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Overview of broken monument stones recovered from the grave shaft fill at the Bosley Cemetery

We also continued to find large amounts of broken monument stones and the rectangular bases of monuments dumped into the grave shaft fill. We also found limestone rubble and blocks from the stone wall that once surrounded the cemetery. It appears the people who removed the graves in 1911 took the monument stones and the stone from the wall and used it as backfill for the nine graves.  This made excavations difficult at times and we had to use heavy machinery to lift out the larger pieces of stones from the grave shafts.

Now that the graves have been removed, the plan is to reinter them at Mt. Olivet Cemetery within a layout that closely matches the original layout of the Bosley Cemetery. The uncovered headstones will be restored and will remain on The Dominican Campus. The restored headstones will be incorporated into a historic display on campus and will highlight the history of the Bosley family.

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Bringing Back a Special Place: The Rutherford County Archaeological Society’s Old City Cemetery Project

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 27

Laura Bartel, M.A.,
Adjunct Instructor of Anthropology, Motlow State Community College
President Rutherford County Archaeological Society

The Rutherford County Archaeological Society (RCAS), a 501 (c)(3) non-profit association based in Murfreesboro, Tennessee will be three years old this November. 0A4290FD-65BE-48D1-ACE0-33BD052CA103We are a diverse group of varying ages and backgrounds, bringing together local professional archaeologists and community members to share, explore, and experience prehistoric and historic archaeology of the county and beyond. We serve to inform the public about the value of archaeology and the importance of archaeological research. We work together to promote stewardship and preservation of our historic and prehistoric archaeological resources and the cultural heritage that we all share.

Our monthly meetings are open to the public and feature a guest speaker. We host a yearly Archaeology Activity Day with displays and hands-on activities. We also participate in other middle Tennessee archaeology and history-related events and educational outreach programs.

This past year we have expanded our presence and engaged community volunteers with two new projects: our Conservation, Restoration, and Development of Public Programs for Murfreesboro’s Old City Cemetery project, and our short term Civil War battlefield cultural resource management mapping and recovery mission, the Trust Point Hospital Expansion Archaeological Survey and Salvage Project. This blog covers our cemetery project. We will be sharing information about the TrustPoint project when we complete our analysis.

The Old City Cemetery Site
The 3.5-acre site known as Murfreesboro’s “Old City Cemetery” encompasses the buried archaeological remains of the 1820 Old First Presbyterian Church, the church’s original burying ground, and the city’s first public cemetery, added on in 1837. The church was partially excavated in 2003 by Dr. Kevin E. Smith and because of his research and efforts, the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was Dr. Smith who suggested to me that we consider adopting the Old City Cemetery for a community project.

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The front entrance to the Old City Cemetery site. The 40×60 church stood to the right of the entrance and faced the street. 

This special place and hallowed ground represents the early days of “Murfreesborough” and Tennessee. The church was the location of significant social and political events and later Civil War-related activities.  Murfreesboro served as the capital of Tennessee from 1818-1826. The TN legislature met at the church in 1822, as the log county courthouse had burned down. In attendance were James K. Polk, David “Davy” Crockett, Aaron Venable Brown, and several other notable Tennesseans.  At this meeting, Andrew Jackson was nominated for his first run for president in 1824. (He later won in 1828).  During the Civil War, the church served as a field hospital, storehouse, encampment, and perhaps a stable. The church was destroyed by Union soldiers and its remains are now one of the best preserved historic archaeological sites in Tennessee.

Degradation of the Cemetery
There are close to 300 standing gravestones in the church burying ground and cemetery. Many more are partially buried or completely underground. Founding families and early leaders of Murfreesboro, as well as soldiers, enslaved, and other local citizens are buried here.  Hundreds of soldiers from both Union and Confederate armies were buried here temporarily or permanently during the Civil War.  We do not know the location of many of these burials.

The city-owned cemetery is fenced and closed. The Parks and Recreation Department maintains the property by regular mowing of the grass, but the site is in dire need of attention.  Gravestones are deteriorating from lack of care, many are damaged, and broken stones and box tombs lie about the property. There are sunken areas throughout. In 2008, the Tennessee Preservation Trust named the cemetery as one of the state’s most endangered historic places, noting that the gravestones were suffering from “neglect and improper care.” This special place has been forgotten. Its historic significance is not being shared with the community, school children, or heritage tourists.

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The stones have been neglected and some have been damaged by caustic solutions such as bleach, have fallen over, and are partially buried. Several broken box tombs lie about the cemetery.

Our Project in Brief
In March 2017, with approval and a use agreement from the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, we began our revitalization project. RCAS and other community volunteers are helping to bring back this special place. I direct the project, Matthew Whitten serves as our cemetery fieldwork crew chief and GPS/GIS coordinator, Dan Allen is our professional cemetery conservationist, who is donating his time and materials for repairs, and Peggy Paulson serves as our prime genealogy researcher.

We have many objectives and have begun with non-damaging gravestone cleaning, repair and conservation of the stones, and advising the city on grounds maintenance. We will be conducting a re-survey of the stones, monuments, and other features and map their location with a high-resolution GPS to create a GIS data file. We will digitize existing maps and records and new information. Our public interpretation objectives include staffing open days, providing presentations and tours, erecting signage, and creating a brochure and a map for self-guided tours.

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(Left) Cleaning day at the Maney-Murfree family plot. We use the safe and effective biocide, D/2.  (Right) Dan Allen and Matt Whitten repairing and re-setting a broken obelisk.

Other important objectives are planned and include having geophysical research done to determine the location of buried gravestones, unmarked graves, and empty burial shafts. We also want to erect a visual representation of the Old First Presbyterian Church, ideally with a “ghost structure” which resembles a basic frame. An advantage of this type of representation is that the bottom area is open, allowing for any future excavations.

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Erecting a ghost structure over the archaeological site of the Old First Presbyterian Church, like this example from Old Salem, North Carolina, would have tremendous benefits for public interpretation, education, and heritage tourism.

Although we have many plans for this site, our first and foremost goal is to rescue it from further degradation. We accept the responsibility of preserving and protecting this special place and to remember and honor those who are buried there.  By providing the community with a public history and archaeology hands-on experience, promoting stewardship and preservation of local sites, and by providing a place where history can be experienced, we hope to make a meaningful difference. With the dedicated efforts of the members of RCAS, community volunteers, and support from the public, this earliest piece of Murfreesboro – a forgotten treasure in our midst – will become a place of which the city, state, and country can be proud.

Battle of Franklin Federal Forward Line near Carter House

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 26

Jared Barrett
TRC Environmental Corporation

In 2016, the two properties located south of the Carter House known collectively as the Lovell properties were purchased in efforts to preserve the center of the Battle of Franklin. One of the groups that was part of this effort was The Battle of Franklin Trust (BOFT). The BOFT is a Tennessee nonprofit corporation that manages two historic sites in Franklin, the Carter House and Carnton. Before they could begin their preservation efforts, they needed to determine if any intact remnants of the main Federal fortification line remained on either property.

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Figure 1. Overall map of excavations carried out by TRC in 2017 at the Federal fortification line.

In 2016, The Battle of Franklin Trust contacted TRC Environmental Corporation (TRC) to assist with this effort. In May 2017, TRC staff led by Jared Barrett picked up where they left off in 2009, 2014, and 2015 and conducted archaeological investigations focused on a search for the precise location of the Federal fortification lines associated with the Battle of Franklin (November 30, 1864). You can read about our previous work at the Battle of Franklin in a previous “30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology” blog post.

The effort focused on an area south of downtown Franklin in what is recognized as the general location of the center of the Battle of Franklin west of Columbia Pike and north of Strahl Street (Figure 1). Previous work carried out by TRC in 2009 west of this area searched for and found intact remnants of the Federal fortification lines. The 2017 excavations were guided by the results of the 2009 investigation, along with continued consultations with local experts and documentary sources on the Civil War in Franklin (Figure 2). The 2017 investigations were successful in finding and documenting well-preserved sections of the Federal fortification lines.

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Figure 2. Moscow Carter 1897 map of the Battle of Franklin showing the Carter House, Federal Fortification line (1864), and areas excavated by TRC.

The remnants of the line discovered in 2017 appear to match up with its location on the Moscow Carter map. Our excavations did find the turn in the line is more gradual than the sharp turn portrayed on Carter’s map. These remains consist of an apparently continuous ditch line of varying depths running east-west approximately 246 feet south of the Carter House, then curving to the northwest and ending where TRC found the line in 2009 (Figure 3). Mechanical excavation across the area exposed the top of the ditch in three sections. The TRC team carried out hand excavation of 16 Test Units (TU) within the three sections of the ditch feature.

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Figure 3. Segment of the Federal fortification line uncovered in 2017 located south of the Carter House (yellow flags outline fortification line).

The profile of the fortification line generally follows a shallow U shape with a relatively wide flat floor and general sloping sides (Figure 4). In some areas along the line there appears to have been a narrow step or ledge intentionally created near the top edges of the ditch (see Figure 4). Also uncovered along some areas of the line at its base appears to be a narrow drainage ditch feature. This feature was not found during our excavations of the line in 2009, 2014, or 2015.

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Figure 4. Segment of the Federal fortification line uncovered in 2017 shows it in profile and planview along with the step up feature and possible drainage ditch.

Most of these excavated segments yielded a scatter of fired and unfired (“dropped”) small arms ammunition and other military artifacts on the distinct hard-packed floor of the feature, reminiscent of finds within the fortification ditch excavated by TRC in 2009, 2014, and 2015. Two TUs excavated within one of the sections of the Federal fortification line excavated south of the Carter House recovered a canteen, a US cartridge buckle, buckles, and dropped ammunition on the floor of the trench feature (Figure 5).

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Figure 5. Canteen, US Cartridge buckle, buckles, and dropped ammunition uncovered at the base of the Federal fortification line south of the Carter House.

There is a notable difference in the number of fired vs dropped ammunition recovered from the three sections excavated in 2017. Excavations in Sections 1 and 2 recovered a greater number of fired ammunition than dropped ammunition. Excavations in Section 3 recovered a relatively even number of fired vs dropped ammunition. This difference in recovered fired vs dropped ammunition from these three sections of the ditch may be evidence of how quickly the fortification line in Sections 1 and 2 was overrun by the advancing Confederate Army at the beginning of the battle. The Union forces on either side and in back of the line would have naturally concentrated their fire on this position which may account for the higher number of recovered fired rounds of ammunition.

The multiple sections of a ditch feature with associated military artifacts discovered during the 2017 investigation is clearly a remnant of the Federal fortification line associated with the Battle of Franklin. The excavation results provide clear confirmation of the location and route of the line and helps fill in the gap between Columbia Pike and where TRC found the line 2009. Because of our excavations in 2009, 2014, 2015, and 2017, there is now an approximately 875 foot section of the center of the main defensive line preserved south of downtown Franklin.

Now that the Federal fortification line has been located, the plan is to leave the remaining unexcavated segments of the Federal fortification line and preserve it from future development. The preserved location will now be used to help tell the overall story of the Battle of Franklin.

http://tnne.ws/2ptYYQW

http://boft.org/

Root Cellars in Housing for Enslaved African Americans at The Hermitage

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 15

Larry McKee
Environmental Resources Management (ERM)

Figure 1 site map

Figure 1. Map of nineteenth-century buildings and features at The Hermitage.

The Hermitage, near Nashville, was owned and operated as a cotton plantation by Andrew Jackson and his family through much of the nineteenth century. Opened as a museum in the late 1890s, the site remains a popular tourist attraction. Extensive archaeological research took place at the site from the 1970s through the early 2000s, with a focus on the community of enslaved African Americans who lived and worked on the plantation.

Excavation at the site has found evidence of slave residences in three clusters: near the mansion, at an area known as the First Hermitage, and at an area known as the field quarter (Figures 1 and 2). Twenty-two separate slave dwellings have been identified at The Hermitage. These residences were a mix of brick, log, and wood-framed structures built and rebuilt over the course of fifty years. Archaeological investigation of sixteen of the residences found that eleven have interior sub-floor pits, generally referred to as root cellars (Figures 3 and 4).

Figure 2 Field Quarter Rendering

Figure 2. Artist’s rendering of the four brick duplex dwellings at the Hermitage field quarter.

Finding root cellars at The Hermitage connects the experiences of the site’s enslaved community to many other plantations across southeastern North America. Starting in the 1970s, archaeological research on Colonial-era sites in the Mid-Atlantic states consistently found root cellars associated with the remains of slave dwellings. Archaeologists began to expect to find these features at plantation site dwellings, and so it was no surprise to discover root cellars associated with residences for the enslaved at The Hermitage.

Figure 3 work on FQ Cabin 3

Figure 3. Excavation around the root cellars within Cabin 3 West at the field quarter.

Figure 4 Triplex Middle work

Figure 4. Initial excavation of the brick-lined root cellar within the Triplex Middle dwelling near the Hermitage mansion.

The size of sub-floor pits associated with slave housing is variable, with examples at The Hermitage and other sites ranging from as small as two to three feet square up to seven to eight feet on a side. Cellar depths rarely exceed more than three feet. Residents would have accessed the cellars by trap doors in the wooden floors of the associated structures, while in houses with dirt floors the pits were likely simply covered by planks. These cellars would have been primarily intended for long-term storage of raw produce such as turnips and potatoes.

The Hermitage root cellars show general consistent placement near to and aligned with fireplaces within the dwellings, a pattern seen at many other plantation sites. At the same time, the Hermitage pits are notably variable, with some cellars consisting of single chambers, and others with two or three separate but adjacent chambers (Figures 5 and 6). Some of the pits had brick linings and floors, some were lined with wooden planks, and some were simply squared-off holes dug into the site’s stiff clay subsoil. This variation among the Hermitage root cellars sharply contrasts with the otherwise very standardized size and configuration of the encompassing structures. From this, it is clear that root cellars were not part of the original design and construction of the dwellings, but were added later by residents following a loosely defined template for how to build a small cellar.

Figure 5 root cellar drawings

Figure 5. Examples of the range of root cellar sizes and configurations within Hermitage slave dwellings.

Researchers interested in root cellars have focused on three interpretations of their functions: as simple food storage pits; as “hidey holes” for personal items owned by the enslaved; and, at least in some cases, as “shrines” containing bundles of items related to African religious practices. There is also interest in whether root cellars can be linked to African architectural traditions, and how the presence of these added dwelling features relate to plantation management practices. As usual with archaeological research and interpretation, there is no clear accepted understanding of the role of these features within the complex social setting of plantation slavery.

Figure 6 Triplex Middle complete

Figure 6. View of completed excavation of the root cellar within the Triplex Middle dwelling.

Artifacts recovered from the soil filling the Hermitage root cellars yielded no direct clues about the original use of the features, and the work found no caches of spiritualized items within the pits. It is also of note that the Hermitage mansion kitchen has a large root cellar, and these features are present beneath the original Jackson family dwelling at the First Hermitage. The presence of root cellars in a wide variety of Hermitage residences and buildings points to the general utility of these storage pits, rather than as expressions of a specific cultural tradition. Curiously, the apparent last slave dwelling constructed on the property does not have root cellars. This is the still-standing structure known as Alfred’s Cabin, erected in the 1850s. The lack of subfloor pits here may reflect tightening restrictions on the activity of plantation slave communities, seen throughout the South in the twilight years of the institution in the U.S.

Finding a root cellar during excavations at The Hermitage was always an exciting event for those of us lucky enough to work as archaeologists at the site. Importantly, the pits serve to show how the enslaved African Americans at the site worked to define their lives and homes in big and small ways independently from what was intended by their purported “masters.” Public interpretation at the Hermitage now showcases the root cellars as one of many important results of research on the enslaved plantation community, assuring that site visitors get a thorough introduction to the presence of slavery at The Hermitage.

 

Published studies of root cellars and slave dwellings:

McKee, Larry

1992    The Ideals and Realities Behind the Design and Use of Nine­teenth-Century Virginia Slave Cabins. In: The Art and Mystery of Historical Archaeology: Essays in Honor of James Deetz. , Mary C. Beaudry and Anne Yentsch, eds. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.

2002    The Archaeological Study of Slavery and Plantation Life in Tennessee. In: Trial and Triumph: Essays in Tennessee’s African American History. Carroll Van West, ed. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Samford, Patricia M.

2007    Subfloor Pits and the Archaeology of Slavery in Colonial Virginia. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

Aunt Lou’s Place

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 13

Paul G. Avery
Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc.

I’m fortunate that my job sometimes involves wandering around and exploring places where most people don’t, or won’t, go.  Sometimes that means woods, swamps, or forgotten corners of old farmer’s fields.  But sometimes it means places right out in the open where people have just stopped looking.  Every now and then, these explorations result in finding something interesting; maybe not significant in terms of the legal definition of that term, but important just the same.

On a project last year, we were heading to an area to survey by crossing over a large clearing where a housing development is being constructed.  Most of the soil in the clearing had been stripped away, revealing the bedrock in many places.  But a small house and pole shed had been left on small islands of unstripped soil. With no soil remaining, archaeology wasn’t going to tell us much, but the place needed to be recorded anyway.1

2The house was very small, just three rooms.  Two of the rooms were part of a frame house which looked to have been built sometime in the early to mid-20th century.  The third room was a hand-hewn log pen which formed the rear of the house.  It was still standing, but in poor condition.  The windows were mostly gone so the elements have begun to take their toll.  There was no sign of indoor plumbing and no fireplace.  A flue marked the location of a wood stove in the corner of one room.  The only thing most of us would consider a necessity we could see was electricity.  The farm buildings around the house were constructed of small logs left in the round and rough-sawn lumber.  All were obviously built by the farmer and showed the ingenuity and adaptability which most farmers seem to possess.  I could tell they made do with what they had.4

Looking around the interior of the house was a little disturbing at first, as the entire floor in all three rooms was covered by what appeared to be trash.  There were some pieces of busted furniture, cans, and jars, but most of it appeared to be paper.  We could see newspapers, magazines, and lots of unidentifiable stuff.  But we could also see envelopes that held letters and cards, coloring book pages, and school work.  Two small school portraits were found on the stove just inside the log pen, one of which was inscribed to “Aunt Lou”.  This house wasn’t just full of trash; it was full of somebody’s memories, full of their history.

I’ve seen this kind of thing before, and I always wonder about the people who lived there and what happened for all of this stuff to get left behind.  Did “Aunt Lou” have to leave her little farmstead to live with relatives or in a facility in her later years?  Did her family move away before she passed?  Did they not have the means to go through it all?  Did they just not care?

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I don’t know how this place came to be the way it is and I don’t know what happened to “Aunt Lou” and her family.  I’ll probably never know.  But part of my job is to record this exact kind of place, and it’s a part that I take very seriously.  It’s very easy to say, “eh, it’s just another little farmstead”, write my report, and go on to the next project.  Honestly, that’s just the reality of this business.  But I know I may be the only person who cares about this place at all.  I may be the last person who looks at it as anything but an obstacle.  This house isn’t a mansion or a plantation house, and as far as I know, no one who you’ve ever heard of lived there.  But it’s a place where someone’s Aunt Lou lived.  It’s a place where tough people worked hard in rough conditions to make a living.  It’s a place where kids were raised, moved away, and came back to visit.  It’s a place like thousands of others in the rural South, but like no other to the people who lived and visited there.  Yeah, it’s important.

By now, there are probably beautiful new homes, with manicured lawns, and HOA fees where Aunt Lou’s house used to be. I suppose that’s progress.  But somebody out there remembers Aunt Lou’s house, and I’ll make sure that it’s remembered in the historical record, too.

Excavations at 40KN334 Downtown Knoxville, Tennessee

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology 2016, Day 24

Katherine Wright
Tennessee Valley Archaeological Research

In June and July 2013, Tennessee Valley Archaeological Research (TVAR), under contract with Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), conducted Phase III data recovery excavations at 40KN334, a site just to the west of present day Market Square  in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. During the course of this project, TVAR conducted both historical document research and archaeological investigations with the purpose of learning more about the early settlement of Knoxville, urban domestic site use, and change in the transition from an agriculturally-based to an industrially-based economy.

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1890 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of the project area.

Although Knoxville was first settled in the early 1780s, the project area lies outside of the original Knoxville city plan. By 1890, the project area featured seven individual residences, a portion of an eighth residence (Kern House), and a boarding house known as “the Windsor.” In addition, the project area extends into a portion of a lot I refer to here as “the Mission Home” and later the site of Roberts Flats.

The Windsor Hotel first opened its doors in early 1889 and was a three-story structure “furnished in the most modern style,” according to a local paper. The building featured two store rooms on its first story and flats on the upper stories. During its lifetime, the building housed a dressmaker’s shop, a doctors’ office, a drug store, a lighting company, and the meeting hall for Unitarian church service, among other things.

The Mission Home, founded by Reverend  John R. Lauritzen, a German Lutheran minister, and his wife Louisa S., opened on June 18, 1890 as a refuge for homeless women and children, as well as those attempting to leave prostitution. In exchange, the women were required to convert to Christianity and participate in washing and sewing work. The building also served as a detention center for women convicted of city violations such as prostitution and drunkenness. To accommodate more women, the Mission Home relocated in 1892 and the building was razed in order to build Roberts Flats.

Constructed ca. 1900, Roberts Flats is named after Reuben Z. Roberts, who acquired the building lot from Mary J. Askin in 1888. The brick apartment building consisted of three stories and a basement.  At its inception, Roberts Flats contained four units. It later grew to contain 29 units by the 1950s. The building housed between 13 and 36 tenants who generally held working-class jobs such as bookkeeper, traveling salesman, sign painter and watchmaker. The building was razed in 1981.

Kern, his wife Henrietta, and their 11 children moved into the Kern House (within the project area) in 1872. It was a two-story Italianate residence with several outbuildings, such as two stables and a carriage house. The house was razed in 1937.

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The Kern House ca. 1880.

Peter Kern was a former mayor of Knoxville and arguably one of Knoxville’s most influential businessmen during the latter half of the nineteenth century. His family legacy continues, as the Kern Bakery still has a prominent presence in East Tennessee. Kern was born in 1835 near Heidelberg, Germany, and immigrated to the United States in 1854. When the Civil War broke out, he joined the Confederate Army and was later wounded in battle. Sometime between August 1864 and April 1865, Kern was arrested in Knoxville by the occupying Union troops and was forced to remain there until the war ended. He began selling cookies to Union troops toward the end of the war, which eventually lead to the establishment of the extremely successful Peter Kern Company. In 1875, the Kern Building was constructed on the southwest corner of Market Square, which still stands today.

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Foundation walls of Roberts Flats during excavation

During excavations at 40KN334, brick  walkways, foundation walls, and thousands of artifacts were uncovered. Based on the recovery of creamware, pearlware, dark olive green glass, free-blown bottles, cut nails, and thin flat glass, the eastern portion of the site is the oldest, perhaps dating as early as the 1820s.  Although the Mission Home is first seen on a map in 1871, the artifacts recovered during excavations point to an earlier construction.  Furthermore, a number of children-related artifacts, such as marbles, slate writing tablets, and porcelain doll parts, were recovered from the Mission Home area.

Following Reconstruction, Knoxville began experiencing growth and industrial and commercial development. The older building in the eastern area of the site was razed and replaced by the Kern House. The presence of a successful politician and businessman supports the archaeological findings, such as a higher percentage of fine earthenware and cut glass, and indicates that the neighborhood inhabitants belonged to more affluent classes. There was growth in the Knoxville housing industry as the local population increased. The establishment of public utilities undoubtedly facilitated turn-of-the-century developments of apartment complexes like Roberts Flats in the western portion of the site to meet some of the growing demand for housing.

figure-4

Bottles: a, Bromo-Seltzer Emerson Drug Company; b, Buckeye Pile Ointment; c, Cheesebrough M.F.C.Co. Vaseline; d, Hood’s Sarsaparilla C.I. Hood & Co.; e, Carter’s Ink; f, Dr. King’s New Discovery for Consumption; g, Cher O soda

In general, it appears that this block of Knoxville started out as a middle- to lower-upper class neighborhood in the mid-nineteenth century as evidenced by the artifact assemblages from Mission Home and excavation unit contexts.  This is further supported by Peter Kern establishing his residence within the block.  Sometime around the turn of the century the dynamics of the block began to change as seen in historic documentation describing the residents of the block as primarily boarders and immigrants. The final transition occurred with a predominance of commercial uses of structures within the block.

 

The Battle of Franklin Cotton Gin Project

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology 2016, Day 19

Jared Barrett
TRC Environmental Corporation

Franklin’s Charge is a Tennessee nonprofit corporation dedicated to preserving America’s threatened Civil War battlefields in Williamson County, Tennessee. Part of this preservation effort focused on acquiring the Cotton Gin property along Columbia Avenue with hopes of building a park and building a replica of the Carter’s Cotton Gin, which was near the center of the 1864 Battle of Franklin. However, before they could build the park, they needed to find Carter’s Cotton Gin.

Overall map of excavations carried out by TRC in 2014 and 2015 at the Cotton Gin.

Overall map of excavations carried out by TRC in 2014 and 2015 at the Cotton Gin.

In 2014, Franklin’s Charge contacted TRC Environmental Corporation (TRC) to assist with this effort. In September 2014 and May 2015, TRC staff led by Larry McKee and Jared Barrett picked up where they left off in 2009 and conducted archaeological investigations focused on a search for the precise location of the Carter Hill Cotton Gin and nearby Federal fortification lines associated with the Battle of Franklin (November 30, 1864).

Aerial view of exposed cotton gin foundation in 2015.

Aerial view of exposed cotton gin foundation in 2015.

The work was done under contract to Franklin’s Charge, with support from the State of Tennessee Wars Commission and in coordination with the Battle of Franklin Trust. The effort focused on an area south of downtown Franklin in what is recognized as the general location of the cotton gin in an area east of Columbia Pike and north of Cleburne Street. Previous work carried out by TRC in 2009 in this area searched for but did not find remains of this structure or any nearby remnants of the Federal fortification lines. The 2014 and 2015 excavations were guided by the results of the 2009 investigation, along with continued consultations with local experts and documentary sources on the Civil War in Franklin. The 2014 and 2015 investigations were successful in finding and documenting the stone foundations of the cotton gin, along with well-preserved sections of the Federal fortification lines.

Moscow Carter 1897 map of the Battle of Franklin showing the cotton gin and Federal fortification line (1864).

Moscow Carter 1897 map of the Battle of Franklin showing the cotton gin and Federal fortification line (1864).

The excavations fully exposed the discontinuous stone foundations of the cotton gin, revealing that its main block measured 41 by 38 feet. The foundations are complicated, showing clear but hard to interpret evidence of several modifications to the facility during its approximate thirty years of use. The foundation was constructed using limestone blocks of varying sizes. No sign of the larger base stone of the cotton press, a separate structure, was found during excavations in 2014 and 2015. The actual location of the cotton gin is 46 feet east of its representation on the well-known 1897 Moscow Carter map of the Federal fortification lines in the area on either side of Columbia Pike.

The stone alignments and clusters defining the location of the cotton gin provide the only reliable data on the cotton gin recovered during the 2015 archaeological investigation. Several pit features found during the work appear to all post-date the demolition of the structure. Only a small number of the artifacts recovered from the excavation actually date to the period when the structure was standing, and none of these shed much light on activities in and around the cotton gin. As discussed earlier, the near total absence of military artifacts recovered from the vicinity of the cotton gin is puzzling, given the structure’s proximity to some of the main fighting during the Battle of Franklin. The stone foundation elements provide strong evidence about the cotton gin but it was disappointing not to have the array of related subsidiary features and artifacts usually found on building sites of this period to help augment the understanding of the structure. Also uncovered during our work in 2014 and 2015 were additional segments of the Federal fortification line.

Segment of the Federal fortification line uncovered in 2014 located south of the cotton gin.

Segment of the Federal fortification line uncovered in 2014 located south of the cotton gin.

The remnants of the Federal fortification line discovered during the 2014 and 2015 excavations are also to the north and with a more curvilinear route than its representation on the Moscow Carter map. These remains consist of an apparently continuous ditch line of varying depths running east-west approximately 30 feet south of the cotton gin, then curving to the north, just east of the cotton gin, and then straightening out back to an east-west orientation as it extends toward Columbia Pike. Mechanical excavation across the area exposed the top of the ditch in four separate areas. The TRC crew carried out hand excavation of five segments of the ditch feature. Four of these excavated segments yielded a scatter of fired and unfired (“dropped”) small arms ammunition and other military artifacts on the distinct hard-packed floor of the feature, reminiscent of finds within the fortification ditch excavated by TRC on the west side of Columbia Pike in 2009. One segment of the Federal fortification line excavated immediately east of Columbia Avenue recovered a bayonet, ram rod, cartridge case, and dropped ammunition on the floor of the trench feature.

Ram rod, bayonet, cartridge case, and ammunition uncovered at the base of the Federal fortification line east of Columbia Avenue.

Ram rod, bayonet, cartridge case, and ammunition uncovered at the base of the Federal fortification line east of Columbia Avenue.

There is a notable disparity in the number of Civil War related artifacts recovered from the sections of the ditch excavated south of the cotton gin, and those sections excavated in in 2015, on the Holt property east of Columbia Pike. The relatively low number of artifacts recovered from the excavated sections of the ditch nearer the cotton gin is somewhat puzzling given the ferocity of the fighting known to have taken place during the battle near this area.

The multiple sections of a ditch feature with associated military artifacts discovered during the 2014 and 2015 investigation is clearly a remnant of the Federal fortification lines associated with the Battle of Franklin known to have been in the area south and west of the cotton gin on the east side of Columbia Pike. The excavation results provide clear confirmation of the location and route of the lines along the stretch from the south side of the cotton gin to the east edge of Columbia Pike.

Now that the cotton gin foundation has been uncovered, the plan is to preserve and leave the remaining unexcavated segments of the Federal fortification line. The rest of the area surrounding the cotton gin and Federal fortification line will be used to create the Carter Hill Battlefield Park, with much of the surrounding area left as open space.