How Did Charcoal Lands Promote Freedom?

Author(s): Benjamin P. Carter

Year: 2023


This is a poster submission presented at the 2023 annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology.

Vast tracts of forest were cut down and converted into charcoal to fuel the iron industry of the United States during the 19th century. These landscapes tended to occupy "waste lands"- hilly, rocky, and poorly-watered (i.e., nonarable) land. Once used, the land was a tangled patchwork of brambles, scrub brush and young trees. At Six Penny Creek, Pennsylvania, a small, rural Black community developed between two vast tracts of charcoal land. Analysis of the landscape through community knowledge, historic maps, LiDAR and pedestrian survey demonstrates the ways in which the residents engaged with the landscape to build their community (houses of stone and wood, field stone walls, etc.), supply it with food and fresh water, and, most importantly, guide formerly enslaved people through the forests to the community and beyond. The community leveraged their entanglements with "waste lands" to provide an important, but rarely discussed, component of the Underground Railroad.

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How Did Charcoal Lands Promote Freedom?. Benjamin P. Carter. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Lisbon, Portugal. 2023 ( tDAR id: 475745)

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