Archaeological Investigations at 15McN189 and 15McN190, Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Farmsteads in McCracken County, Kentucky
Susan C. Andrews, John A. Hunter and Henry (Hank) McKelway
From 25 January to 07 February 2017, Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions archaeologists conducted Phase II archaeological evaluations of two historic sites (15McN189 and 15McN190) at the TVA Shawnee Fossil Plant, McCracken County, Kentucky. Sites 15McN189 and 15McN190 were identified during a Phase I survey for borrow soils at Shawnee Fossil Plant. Archival research revealed Edward Fletcher, a freed African American slave, owned the property at 15McN189 and George Fletcher (Edward Fletcher’s brother), a freed African American slave, owned the property at 15McN190.
Site 15McN189, the residence/homestead of Edward Fletcher, dates to the late nineteenth century through early twentieth century. The intact depositional patterns aided in identifying the presence of the dwelling, possible outbuildings, and layout of the farmstead. Site 15McN190, the residence/homestead of George Fletcher, dates to the mid-nineteenth century through early twentieth century. According to Hunter et al. 2016, additional Phase II archaeological work was recommended to unequivocally determine the National Register of Historic Places eligibility of the sites. As part of the initial identification of 15McN189 and 15McN190, remoting sensing was conducted to establish the presence of features.
Additional remoting sensing (3,000 square meters), close interval shovel test probes (n= 174), test unit excavations (n=11), and additional archival research was conducted on both sites during Phase II evaluation efforts. Subsequent excavations revealed activity/refuse areas, outbuilding locations, and dwelling locations. Five features were identified and sampled at 15McN189 and included two post holes, a post mold, a refuse pit, and an intact depositional zone at the base of the plowzone. A total of 485 artifacts were recovered from the features at 15McN189. At 15McN190, six features were identified and sampled and include two cellars, a pier stone, post mold, and a brick concentration. A total of 521 artifacts were recovered from the features at 15McN190.
The results of the Phase II NRHP evaluation at site 15McN189 indicate that it represents the late nineteenth – early twentieth century farm of Edward Fletcher, a freed African American. Excavations revealed intact subsurface deposits and features related to this occupation, with one unit displaying an intact Ab-horizon; three subsurface (post hole/mold) features, two of which acted as foundation piers; and two refuse disposal features, a refuse pit and refuse area/midden, which strongly suggest the potential for additional intact deposits to exist on the site. Horizontal analysis of the artifact assemblage suggests a likely dwelling location and the existence of activity and/or refuse areas and outbuildings around this dwelling area. Evidence for intact foundational remnants associated with the dwelling, a post/pier, was identified along with intact sub-plowzone soils in the northeastern portion of the site within a test unit. A refuse disposal area/midden was identified in the west side yard along a fence line. A possible outbuilding hypothesized to be a detached/summer kitchen was identified to the south, behind the dwelling, and consisted of a post/pier and refuse pit.
The results of the Phase II NRHP evaluation at site 15McN190 indicates that it represents the middle to late nineteenth to early twentieth century farm of George Fletcher and Henry Fuqua (relative of George), both African-Americans. Investigations revealed intact subsurface deposits and features related to this occupation, with two units displaying an intact Ab-horizon; four subsurface (cellars, post hole/mold, pier stones) features, two of which acted as foundation piers and two as cellars. Cellars and foundation remnants coupled with the presence of sub-plowzone midden strongly suggest additional intact deposits exist on the site. Spatial analysis of the artifact assemblage suggests multiple dwelling locations, and several generations of a single African American family occupied the site. The existence of activity and/or refuse areas and outbuildings is also indicated by the presence of midden and artifact concentrations around these possible dwellings.
As both sites are associated with free African-Americans and their associated families, additional
excavations could yield site components like foundation remnants, refuse pits, and other intact subplowzone deposits associated with each generation that would further characterize the house lot and farm and how these spatial arrangements changed over time.
Conclusions from our findings include:
• No significant deviations from the Upland South Farmstead organizational model. Perhaps the functional utility of the organization of the farmstead was maintained. Possibility of sharing facilities between families and closely related individuals.
• Ceramics, highly dominated by flatware in contrast to slave quarter assemblages where hollowware is more common. Suggest distinct change in diet and possibly lifeways.
• Non-decorated ceramics dominate. Little diversity shown in the assemblage. Although popular in style initially, a change to the more popular decorated ceramics at the turn of the century is not apparent. In addition the master provided provisions as they were freed, along with their land. It may be that undecorated whitewares/ironstone was included in their initial provisions.
• No Africanisms, defined in slave quarter contexts were apparent in the assemblages. Given the freedman context though, these types of artifacts would be expected.
• Glassware represents acquisition of toiletries, alcohol, and convenience foods.
• Choice exercised in construction and design of the shotgun house at 15McN189.
The continued presence of potential African American derivatives in material culture, foodways, and yard layout makes these important sites for further study concerning the evolution of African American food consumption and service, yard use, and material culture transformation from enslaved to free. Wood recommended site 15McN189 and 15McN190 as eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.