Shanties on the Mountainside: A Look at Labor on the Blue Ridge Railroad

Author(s): John M Hyche

Year: 2018


From 1850 to 1860, the Blue Ridge Mountains were home to roughly 1,900 Irish laborers as they worked on the construction of the Virginia Central Railroad. Upon its completion, the railroad  stretched from Norfolk, Virginia, to the Ohio River. Along the Blue Ridge Mountains, several cuts and tunnels were constructed by the Irish immigrants including the 4,263ft Blue Ridge Tunnel. In 2011, a local non-profit organization, focused on pinpointing the remains of Irish shantytown homes, contacted the University of Maryland, to see if an archaeological survey could aid their search. Over the course of two years, archaeological research shed light on the material culture of  transient labor and  brought attention to the strong ties to the landscape held by community members. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the archaeological evidence collected and determine if the data conclusively points to the existence of shantytowns at the two sites investigated. 

Cite this Record

Shanties on the Mountainside: A Look at Labor on the Blue Ridge Railroad. John M Hyche. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2018 ( tDAR id: 441531)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 967