Contraband, Refugee, Freedman: Archaeological and Historical Investigation of the Western Fringe of Mitchelville, Hilton Head, South Carolina

Author(s): Christopher T. Espenshade; Ramona Grunden

Year: 1991


Archaeological data recovery excavations were undertaken in the western fringe of the former freedmen village of Mitchelville (established 1863), Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The research included: archival research; the excavation of 50 by 50 cm units on a 10 m interval over a 12-acre area; the excavation of blocks of 64 square m at each of three house loci; excavation of a block of 128 square m at a fourth house location; controlled stripping and feature excavation of a two-acre portion of the locus; and detailed descriptive and comparative analyses. The research was conducted in the portion of the former village which may be impacted by the construction of the Palmetto Hall golf and residential community.

The historical research suggested that the Mitchelville fringe was only occupied when the village was at peak population, approximately 1864 through 1870. The excavations recovered assemblages from three early Mitchelville houses, as well as a later (1870-1890) house. The majority of the artifacts were recovered from plow zone contexts, and cultural features were documented at only one block. The analysis suggests that the occupants of the early Mitchelville houses had a restricted material culture, were only lightly involved in the cash economy, and had an assemblage in many ways similar to slave collections. The stripping revealed 19 features from Mitchelville residential lots including: 15 posts, two root cellars, and two barrel wells. The distribution data suggest that each Mitchellville structure had an associated root cellar, but that wells may have been shared by several adjacent lots. The occupants of the Mitchelville fringe apparently had a different lifestyle than that seen in the core village area. The data from the later house and from Trinkley's excavations in the Mitchelville core suggest that the freedmen were slow to enter the cash economy, but then began an evolution which resulted in a more typical tenant/yeoman farmer material culture.

Cite this Record

Contraband, Refugee, Freedman: Archaeological and Historical Investigation of the Western Fringe of Mitchelville, Hilton Head, South Carolina. Christopher T. Espenshade, Ramona Grunden. Brockington and Associates, Inc. 1991 ( tDAR id: 391059) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8RV0PJG

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1863 to 1878

Spatial Coverage

min long: -80.751; min lat: 32.207 ; max long: -80.685; max lat: 32.265 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contributor(s): Ramona Grunden

Principal Investigator(s): Christopher T. Espenshade

Landowner(s): Greenwood Development Corporation

Sponsor(s): Greenwood Development Corporation

Submitted To(s): South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)

Record Identifiers

Brockington and Associates, Inc., report number(s): 0231


General Note: Curation facility: Coastal Discovery Museum, Hilton Head Island, South Caroilna

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