“Reconstructing Hawthorne”: A Review

Next in our student series is a review of the documentary Reconstructing Hawthorne by Lisa Powell.

Last Wednesday, February 15th, 2017, Armstrong State University was privileged to be both the second and the third groups of people to see the latest film from the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program, entitled Reconstructing Hawthorne. My friend, George “Buddy” Wingard, was kind enough to let us be his “guinea pigs”, while he tried out his new presentation about the Savannah River site’s historical archaeology, and how it pertained to the town Hawthorne. My Historical Archaeology class screened it first, then we had a great turn out that evening for a second screening open to the public.

The film literally starts out with a bang! Actually, to be more historically accurate, it was an H-bomb explosion. This definitely grabs your attention. From there we get a very brief, but very poignant history of the “Cold War”, which has an eerie déjà vu effect on the audience. Given our current situation with Russia, this film may turn into the poster child for our present political climate. However, that was NOT its intention! At its very heart, this film is a story about two men, Mr. George Heath and Mr. Henry Brown. It is the story of two best friends, one white and one black, who grew up together in rural South Carolina in a time when there was still a lot of civil and political unrest. Despite this, these two grew up together on a farm in Hawthorne, South Carolina. That is until they reached their teens, and then their worlds were turned upside down, and they lost track of one another for almost sixty years.

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Mr. George Heath (left) and Mr. Henry Brown (right)

On November 28th, 1950, the Atomic Energy Commission chose an approximately three-hundred square mile area, south of Aiken, SC and east of Augusta, GA along the Savannah River, to house a hydrogen bomb materials facility, the Savannah River Plant. This area was chosen for many reasons, scarcity of population (around 6,000 people), the ability to continue to build year-round (due to its mild annual temperatures), and the fact that such a huge area was readily available. People had between three to eighteen months to move. By move, I mean move everything you want, including your house, your out-house, your chicken coops, barns, and even your deceased loved ones (there were around 12,000 graves exhumed during this time).

Many people affected did not own property, for they were tenant farmers or share croppers. They had to leave with only what had on their backs and perhaps the small number of personal belongings they owned. This is what happened to Mr. Henry Brown and his family. They moved to Jackson, SC. Mr. George Heath’s family took most of the money that was offered, but took a deduction to move their home to a new location.

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Reconstructing Hawthorne film poster

The Savannah River Archaeological Research Program began on the site in 1973. They collected oral and written historical accounts of the towns of Ellenton and Dunbarton. They got plenty of questionnaires back about both Ellenton and Dunbarton, but none about Hawthorne. It wasn’t until many years later when Mr. Heath called to ask if he could visit his old homestead, that they found out he was from Hawthorne.

Later, he introduced them to his friend Mr. Henry Brown, with whom he was recently reunited. The staff took them both back to the place they grew up and worked on the farm. Of course, not much was left, just some rubble and bricks from the old foundation. Yet it was then that a certain kind of magic started to happen, and you could see and honestly almost feel the memories come flooding back as those two walked together (sometimes hand in hand), helping one another over the overgrown environment. It was very heartwarming to bear witness to this reunion.

This is just a small part of what the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program does. They are also responsible for the cultural resource management of the entire site, research (each employee has their own research project), and education (public outreach). They are a part of the University of South Carolina’s South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology. They are the stewards of a great resource of diverse archaeology, and they are doing their part to reach out and share that research and information with the public in many different ways. We at Armstrong have been lucky enough to host two such events now. First a couple of years ago, we were able to screen Discovering Dave: Spirit Captured in Clay, about Dave Drake, a slave potter with a fascinating story. Now we have been privileged to have them back a second time to bring us Reconstructing Hawthorne, another fantastic film. My hope is that Armstrong State University (even through its upcoming transition) will hold onto and continue to foster this relationship with the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program, for the enrichment of both our students and the public in the years to come.

There are many books about the Savannah River Site historical archaeology are available to download for free on their website.For more information about the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program, please check out their website. You can also check out the Reconstructing Hawthorne Facebook page.

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First Time Archaeologist

Robert Masters is next in our series of student posts. He writes about his first experiences doing field archaeology and how that relates to our understanding of history. Stop by our dig at the Sorrel Weed House tomorrow (Feb. 17) and see our student archaeologists in action!

First Impressions

As a first time participant in historical archaeology with Professor Seifert, I have learned a lot over my recent trips to both the Benedictine Monastery and Freedman School as well as the Sorrel Weed House. Participating in the digs taught me a lot about how archaeology plays a major role in learning about the past, especially here in Savannah. What surprises me is how Savannah does not have a city ordinance to allow for archaeology at construction sites where artifacts are found. Since Savannah has many historic buildings and was the first settled city in Georgia.

The two sites that I visited have given me some insights into how past people have lived. What surprised me is how much work it takes to perform an archaeology dig. When I first visited the Benedictine Monastery and Freedman School, I realized that archaeology is not just digging over a large area as I thought. Instead it involves digging smaller test pits from which we gather artifacts. While learning how to dig, I realized just how scientific an archaeology dig site is: from mapping to getting soil samples to determining what kind of soil is found to using the metric system when measuring the depth and size of the test unit.

Before beginning the dig at the Sorrel Weed House, the class was told of their ghost tour and how there is a story of a possible skeleton buried in the basement where we began our dig. Once we began to dig we found bones, however, we realized that the bones we were finding had been butchered and were too big or small to be from a person. In saying this, I found it interesting how archaeology was able to provide evidence that not all ghost or haunted stories are completely true and that it is good to have all the facts to back up a claim before telling the story to other people.

Archaeology plays a major role in being able to learn more about our culture. By not having a city ordinance to allow for archaeology digs at construction sites, the city could be losing precious artifacts that relate to the city’s past and thus is destroying the city’s history. I have learned a lot from my first two digs and hope to go on many more in the future. In addition, I encourage everyone to get involved in preserving our city’s history so that it may be preserved for generations to come.

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“Reconstructing Hawthorne” Tonight

My historical archaeology class and I were privileged to be the second group to see the documentary just a few minutes ago. We give it two thumbs up. Come tonight and be among the first to see this new historical documentary.

WHAT: Reconstructing Hawthorne, a documentary film screening and short, introductory talk by the filmmaker and archaeologist George Wingard. Free and open to the public.

WHERE: Armstrong State University, University Hall 157 (see map below)

WHEN: February 15, 2017 at 7pm

Hawthorne was once a small community in Aiken County, South Carolina but with the construction of the Savannah River Site in 1950 it, and its handful of residents, had to be removed. As the years passed, Hawthorne and its story were lost. In the mid-1990s the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program (SRARP) conducted an oral history survey with hundreds of Savannah River Site area former residents.

In 2014, the SRARP partnered with filmmaker Patrick Hayes to make a short film on the community of Hawthorne. Conducting interviews with two of its last residents and discussing how historical documents and the latest archaeological techniques will ensure the protection of the area, this documentary draws the viewer into the very tumultuous time of this small community through documents, photos, and the memories of those who lived it.

George Wingard joined the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program (SRARP) staff in 1993 with a B.A. in Humanities from the University of South Carolina. George is also the co-producer of the documentary Discovering Dave: Spirit Captured in Clay detailing the life and times of the enslaved Edgefield, South Carolina, Potter David Drake. The film has been screened through out the United States and is being used as a teaching aid at several universities. SRARP is a division of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA), which is a department of the University of South Carolina. The SRARP is located on the Savannah River Site (SRS) a Department of Energy (DOE) facility straddling Aiken, Barnwell, and Allendale counties.

For more information contact George Wingard at 803-725-3724, or contact Laura Seifert, Digging Savannah Co-Director, at laura.seifert@armstrong.edu.

armstrong_campus_parking

University Hall is circled in red. Enter Armstrong’s campus via Science Drive and take the first, immediate right onto University Drive. Follow the U-shaped road and park along University Drive  or in the parking area circled in yellow. 

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Visiting the Savannah History Museum

This is the second in a series of posts by students taking Historical Archaeology at Armstrong. In today’s post, Reinali Cermeno visits the Savannah History Museum to learn about history through archaeology in the museum’s exhibits.

Visiting the Savannah History Museum!

Downtown Savannah is known for its beautiful architecture, wonderful restaurants, and abundant history. On February 8, I had the pleasure of visiting the Savannah History Museum located on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. I can honestly say I had an amazing experience learning about Savannah’s historical archaeology! The museum is located in the Central of Georgia Railway’s Passenger Depot and Terminus facility where it operated until 1971, and reopened as a history exposition in the 1980’s. They have educational exhibits and a collection of over 50,000 artifacts. The museum takes us through Savannah’s history from 1733, covering the Revolution and Civil War, all the way through modern day including musical, cultural, and artistic historical contributions.

The first exhibit of the museum pertained to the Native Americans. In an enclosed glass case, there were six artifacts, belonging to the Native Americans, and on the bottom of the case you had six modern day tools. The concept was to match the artifact to what in modern day America it would be used for. If you were right a green light would light up! For example, there was an arrow head made between A.D. 507-1157, and the matching modern day tool would be a bullet that is used for hunting. This activity was fun, and I think it’s helpful so people understand artifacts.

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Native American hands-on exhibit at the Savannah History Museum

Another exhibit that displayed Savannah historical archeology was the Colonial exhibit. This exhibit had many artifacts ranging in size from small pins to a beautiful vase. The vase belonged to John Gardiner who established a tannery in 1802, two blocks northwest from where it’s  currently located. A pearlware platter was found by archaeologists who excavated his yard and believe it was made between 1792 and 1840. Collecting data from the artifacts has many benefits that can help us understand more about their diet, customs, and status.

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Pearlware platter

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Artifacts can tell us about foodways, how and what people were eating.

The museum also has exhibits on other very interesting subjects such as: the rise of cotton, life on the water, Dr. Belford: Dentist of Savannah, Central of Georgia Railway, Savannah and the American Revolution, and Women of Merit: Juliette Gordon Low and the Girl Scouts just to name a few. I think it is a must-see museum! As residents or visitors to Savannah you should definitely stop by and learn about the amazing history of Savannah. Also check out the cool artifacts discovered by some of the best archaeologists here in Savannah. The donations and public support will continue to make a big difference in enhancing the current exhibit, and help archaeologists discover the missing parts of Savannah’s history in the future.

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Savannah & St. Augustine: A Tale of Two Cities

Today we begin a new series of blog posts written by students taking my Historical Archaeology class at Armstrong. They will explore many issues of historical archaeology, Savannah’s archaeology, and whatever else is on their minds. Up first is Katelyn Waits.

Savannah & St. Augustine: A Tale of Two Cities

Travel down Interstate 95 from Georgia to Florida and you will pass through some major cities with historical value. Savannah is a prime example of a city that holds this importance. But have we discovered everything there is to offer within this city? Many historic cities have strong historical archeology programs, which provide their citizens and tourists with information about that given place. I’ve decided to prove the importance of these programs by comparing Savannah to a city that is close in proximity.

A city that has a large historical archeological program is St. Augustine, Florida. Like Savannah, St. Augustine served as a buffer between the Spanish colonies, to the south, and the English colonies to the north. Over the years, both cities were exposed to major events and are drenched in rich history that attract thousands of tourist each year. But, there is a major difference in both cities. St. Augustine has had a well-established archeology program since the 1930’s, which was expanded into a historical archeology program held annually by both the University of Florida and Florida State University in the late 1960’s.

Because of the dedication to St. Augustine’s history through historical archeology, there is a better understanding of what life was like in the past. In the city, there are a variety of different types of archeological sites from several different time periods. Artifacts found in excavations of these sites show evidence of different cultures residing in the area and historical events that happened before, during, and after settlement of the city. All of these artifacts and historical information is stored in the Living History Museum of St. Augustine, which helps “bring to life” the past for tourists who are visiting.

History and historical archeology are important because they provide a way to reconstruct the lives of the past individuals. It also provides the means to prove current history right or wrong, giving a more accurate history that is supported by artifacts and documents found during excavation.

Although Savannah has had some archeological advancements, it hasn’t been able to live up to its full potential as a way of documenting and reconstructing the past. This information is necessary to receive knowledge about cultures, to gain the truth about historical events, and learn how we can avoid mistakes made in the past.

If you agree that there should be more archeological projects done in the Savannah area, please sign the petition!

Bibliography

Visit Savannah

St. Augustine, Florida from the Florida Museum of Natural History

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Reconstructing Hawthorne, a documentary film screening

WHAT: Reconstructing Hawthorne, a documentary film screening and Q&A with the filmmaker and archaeologist George Wingard. Free and open to the public.

WHERE: Armstrong State University, University Hall 157

WHEN: February 15, 2017 at 7pm

Hawthorne was once a small community in Aiken County, South Carolina but with the construction of the Savannah River Site in 1950 it, and its handful of residents, had to be removed. As the years passed, Hawthorne and its story were lost. In the mid-1990s the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program (SRARP) conducted an oral history survey with hundreds of Savannah River Site area former residents.

In 2014, the SRARP partnered with filmmaker Patrick Hayes to make a short film on the community of Hawthorne. Conducting interviews with two of its last residents and discussing how historical documents and the latest archaeological techniques will ensure the protection of the area, this documentary draws the viewer into the very tumultuous time of this small community through documents, photos, and the memories of those who lived it.

George Wingard joined the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program (SRARP) staff in 1993 with a B.A. in Humanities from the University of South Carolina. George is also the co-producer of the documentary Discovering Dave: Spirit Captured in Clay detailing the life and times of the enslaved Edgefield, South Carolina, Potter David Drake. The film has been screened through out the United States and is being used as a teaching aid at several universities. SRARP is a division of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA), which is a department of the University of South Carolina. The SRARP is located on the Savannah River Site (SRS) a Department of Energy (DOE) facility straddling Aiken, Barnwell, and Allendale counties.

For more information contact George Wingard at 803-725-3724, or contact Laura Seifert, Digging Savannah Co-Director, at laura.seifert@armstrong.edu.

armstrong_campus_parking

University Hall is circled in red. Please park along University Drive or in the P4 parking lot circled in yellow.

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Thanks for coming! updated!

A huge thanks to everyone who came to my talk yesterday, and thanks to St. Peters Episcopal Church on Skidaway Island for being such wonderful hosts! Next semester, I will post dates when we are excavating, and I encourage everyone to visit the site for updates and latest finds. One attendee asked how everyone can help. Here is a list of small equipment items we need:

  • Large and small root cutters
  • Tarps
  • Brown paper lunch bags (to hold artifacts in the field)
  • Trays for lab and field (something similar to a cafeteria tray)
  • Knee pads
  • Work gloves
  • Buckets
  • Large 8-inch long nails (these mark the corners of our excavation units)
  • Bug spray

These equipment donations can be dropped off at The Landings Public Works Building, which is behind and to the right of the TLA Administration building (through the gate). Public Works is open 7:00-3:30 M-F and will be closed Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday. Also, please make it very clear to staff that it is a donation for Skidaway Audubon/Digging Savannah’s Monastery Dig. Perhaps label the donation somehow, and please let us know who donated it, so we can thank you.

Another on-going need is archival (safe for artifacts) plastic bags and cardboard boxes. These bags are how we preserve the artifacts for long-term study. Both the bags and boxes are expensive (and it’s the shipping that really gets you!). Monetary donations of any amount are appreciated for these. Donations can be made to the Meredith Avery Memorial Anthropology Fund from the Armstrong website. Please be sure to select “other” from the Designation drop-down box and write in the Fund’s name and number 2658 on your contribution.

Again, thank you for the interest and support!

Laura Seifert, Digging Savannah Co-Director

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How can I help?

I occasionally get emails asking how non-students can help or volunteer with Digging Savannah. Most are eager to help with hands-on work like excavation or washing artifacts. But when these opportunities arise, we give them to the students. Unfortunately, at this point we are not a big enough organization to have enough work for any volunteers of this kind. But there are many projects we could be doing!

Archaeology does need more support at many different levels. Here is how you can help (in rough order of importance):

  1. Contact your local officials including the mayor, city council, county commissioners, and Metropolitan Planning Commission staff. Emails are ok, but calling and setting up in person meetings are the way to be remembered and really make your concerns known. Speak up at a city council meeting or county commissioners meeting. Tell them we need a city ordinance requiring archaeology before development, and we need a city archaeologist like St. Augustine, Fl and Alexandria, Va.
  2. Sign the petition for an archaeological ordinance.
  3. Give to the Meredith Avery Memorial Anthropology Fund. Part of Armstrong State University’s giving program, this fund is used for unique, out-of-the-classroom experiences for our students, such as excavations sponsored by Digging Savannah and other field trips.
  4. Join preservation groups like Historic Savannah Foundation and let them know that you care about more than just buildings and structures.
  5. Vote. Local elections are a great way to have your voice heard.
  6. Contact Armstrong State University officials and tell them Digging Savannah is a great program that deserves continued support.
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Benedictine Monastery and Freedmen’s School

I posted some pictures on Instagram and Facebook about our project at the Benedictine Monastery and Freedmen’s School, but I have not had a chance to share more about the project.

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Students digging on site.

First a bit of history

After the Civil War, Savannah’s Catholic diocese invited Benedictines from Europe to start schools for African-American children.  In 1874, St. Benedict’s Parish was created and the monks built a successful school on Perry Street in Savannah. In 1876, they expanded to a school on Isle of Hope. Unfortunately, most of the monks and students succumbed to a yellow fever outbreak.

So the Benedictines turned to Hampton Place, a plantation on Skidaway Island originally purchased by the Catholic diocese to start an orphanage. Those plans were halted when the plantation’s main house was lost to fire. The property was turned over to the Benedictines for a manual labor school, meaning the students would spend part of their day in school and the rest working in the fields. The students wouldn’t pay tuition, but instead the crops produced would be sold to support the school. In September 1878 when classes begin, there are 500 people, mostly African-American, living on Skidaway Island, none Catholic.

There were many challenges facing the monks. First, the concept of a manual school was incompatible with many ex-slaves desires for their children. They wanted students to get an education so they could leave the fields for better jobs and opportunities. Also, all of the families were Protestant, and the Protestant preachers were not supportive of the Catholic school. Lobbying from white Protestants on the mainland encouraged Chatham County to open a public school soon after ,and many students attended the public school. The Benedictines’ school also never made enough money from agriculture and relied on support from the local diocese. In 1881 there were 8 teachers and 12 students. By 1883 there were still only 20 students. An 1889 tidal wave ruined Skidaway Island’s fresh water sources and ended the school.

Methodology: Phase I

The project began with historical and archaeological research into Benedictine monasteries and freedmen schools. In the literature search conducted so far, we have found no other similar sites that have been investigated, which makes this site even more important.

The Spring 2016 semester is devoted to Phase I research, or survey. We need to learn what is still present on the site and how well preserved the site is. Our research questions include:

  • Is this definitely the site of the Benedictine monastery and freedman school?
  • How much of the site is preserved? Which portions of the site have been preserved?
  • Is there evidence of earlier or later occupations on the site?
  • What is the layout of the buildings and other living spaces?
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Laying out the grid and shovel test locations.

Students taking Introduction to Archaeology were the field crew for this project. The fieldwork was shovel test pits, which are one-foot diameter holes dug in a grid pattern over the site. We added judgmental locations as necessary to investigate architectural ruins present. Each shovel test was described and mapped. Shovel testing gives us a small sample of the artifacts and soil layers still present. Soil is equally, if not more, informative as artifacts. Different colors of soil and how the soil is layered can tell us much more than the artifacts. For example, when digging a privy, we can test for parasites and other diseases in the soil. We can see where postholes were dug and later wooden posts decayed by examining soil stains. Where we find artifacts within the site and the soil layers are important clues to history.

Lab work and analysis is being conducted in the Armstrong State University Anthropology Lab. Introduction to Archaeology students washed artifacts. After the artifacts dried, they were placed in archival plastic bags. Artifacts are currently undergoing analysis, and the technical report is being written.

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Students wash artifacts in the anthropology lab.

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“Dave the Potter” documentary this Thursday

Read more about the documentary, including an interview with Archaeologist George Wingard, in Jessica Leigh Lebos’ article in the Connect Savannah.

WHAT: Digging Savannah is hosting a screening of the documentary “Discovering Dave– Spirit Captured in Clay” about the literate slave potter Dave who worked in South Carolina’s Edgefield District. A Q&A with the filmmaker and archaeologist George Wingard will follow the film.

WHERE: Armstrong State University, Student Union Ballrooms

WHEN: January 22, 2015 at 6pm (this Thursday)

Parking on the Armstrong campus

Parking on the Armstrong campus

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