The Pope site (44SN180) was located approximately three miles west of Capron, Virginia, in Southampton County, along U.S. Route 58. The archaeological remains represent a rural, late eighteenth- to early nineteenth-century farmstead. Prominent features include a large brick and cob foundation and cellar of a frame house, two post-in-ground structures with cellars, and an outbuilding (Reinhart 1987:3,112).
The Pope site was identified in early 1986 during a Phase I survey conducted by Lyle Browning, a VDOT archaeologist, in advance of highway construction. Phase II and III surveys were subsequently conducted at the site by archaeologists from the College of William and Mary between May and August 1986 (Reinhart 1987:7).
Based on Southampton County deed books, by 1786, the area including the Pope site was completely out of Native American ownership, when Thomas Ridley purchased land from John Holladay and James Ridley. Between 1785 and 1815, Ridley owned from 20 to 39 enslaved individuals. Upon his death in 1815, Thomas Ridley's property passed to his son, Francis. Francis Ridley owned the Pope site until 1879 and owned nearly 3500 acres and upwards of 125 slaves (Reinhart 1987:103-110).
While Southampton County was the scene of one of America’s most bloody slave uprisings, Nat Turner’s rebellion in July 1831, there is no evidence that the Pope site or its inhabitants were involved (Reinhart 1987:108-109).
Excavation history, procedure and methods
The Phase II survey of the Pope site consisted of a systematic shovel test survey. A 350 x 125 foot grid was laid across the site. The grid consisted of quadrants measuring 25 x 25 feet, fourteen quadrants long and five wide, for a total of seventy STP's. A single STP was placed at the center of each quadrant and was dug to subsoil. All sediment was screened through ¼-inch hardware cloth (Reinhart 1987:13).
Based on features found during the Phase II survey, the Pope site was determined to be an important part of early Southampton County history. Because the site was in the path of proposed highway construction, a complete excavation of the site was conducted. The plowzone was mechanically removed to reveal 246 features intruding subsoil; the most significant being those related to three structures and multiple fencelines. The topsoil and plowzone removed by the gradall was discarded without screening. Most features were sectioned in halves or quarters, profiles were drawn, then completely excavated. The cellars were divided into quadrants, with the southeast quarter excavated first. The sediment directly above the cellar floors was removed separately, otherwise, the features were excavated in natural layers. Large postholes and pits were sectioned in half, with the southern portion excavated first (Reinhart 1987:14-15).
Except for Feature 7, all the features at the Pope site were screened through ¼-inch hardware cloth. The decision not to screen Feature 7 was based on the high-frequency, low-analytical value of brick fragments, the large size of the feature, and the low density of other types of artifacts (Reinhart 1987:15-16,18).
Summary of research and analysis
Three dwellings and an outbuilding were identified at the Pope site. The most substantial dwelling, Structure 1 on the site map, was a frame building with a brick and cob foundation, and cellar; all subsumed under Feature 7 (DAACS feature number F007). The foundation hole measured roughly 16 foot square. Evidence for a chimney base was found in the northeast corner of Feature 7. A line of posts just north of the cellar could have supported a porch. Based on the number of artifacts, the cellar was most likely not used as a trash depository and when Feature 7 was no longer inhabited, the site was abandoned (Reinhart 1987:28,31).
Some sixty feet to the southeast of F007 was one of two post-in-ground dwellings, Structure 2 on the site map. The structure was composed of a cellar (F001) and its associated postholes. The building measured 16 x 12 feet with a 5-foot porch or shed on the south side. The structure was torn down as opposed to being burnt down and the cellar remained open for some time after the destruction of the house (Reinhart 1987:31,38).
One hundred and twenty feet east of F001 was the second earthfast dwelling, Structure 4 on the site map. The archaeological remains of this structure consist of a cellar (F005) and its associated postholes. This building also measured 16 x 12 feet. This cellar was also used as a trash pit after its destruction. The trash was concentrated on the west side of the cellar indicating that this structure occupied the eastern edge of the site (Reinhart 1987:38-39,45).
The outbuilding (F053 and Structure 3 on the site map) was located thirty-seven feet east of F001 and seventy-five feet west of F005. It measured 8 x 7 feet and had a large, irregular patch of burnt sediment in its center. Feature 53 was tentatively identified as a smokehouse by its excavators. This identification is based on the burnt area in the center of the floor combined with the lack of evidence suggesting the structure itself burned. In addition, the building's small size and limited quantity of domestic artifacts added to this conclusion (Reinhart 1987:45-46,52).
Two pits to the east of F053 were probably associated with exterior activity areas. Feature 19 (6.5 x 3.5 feet) and Feature 21 (6.75 x 3.5 feet) were both a foot or less deep (Reinhart 1987:52,55).
In addition to structures, the other major archaeological features consist of multiple fencelines constructed at various times during the site's occupation. Three north-south fencelines were designated by DAACS as Feature Groups 04, 07, and 10. And the three east-west fencelines were designated FG05, 08, and 09. The north-south fencelines all had trees growing along the line and they may have served as posts. Fenceline FG10 is probably the oldest of the north-south lines. The posts lacked molds indicating they were removed and the few artifacts recovered points to its removal prior to the construction of Structure 2 (DAACS FG01). Fenceline FG07 was built after FG10, along the edge of FG01. The low frequency of artifacts recovered from the posts indicate a contemporaneous construction with FG01. And the large amount of artifacts recovered from FG04 point to a construction date late in the site's history (Reinhart 1987:56-63).
Two of the east-west fencelines (FG08 and FG09) were located on the east side of the site, between the two post-in-ground dwellings. Feature Group 08 was the earlier of the two and three of its posts were most likely destroyed by the construction of the two dwellings and outbuilding. It definitely predates the outbuilding (Feature 053) due to the fact that the fenceline would have run through the structure. Feature Group 09 was built after FG08, probably as a replacement, and possibly served to separate activity areas, as features 19 and 21 are located on either side of it. The third east-west fenceline was located on the southwest edge of the site and may have been partially destroyed by FG01. It was composed of square posts except for two round posts at a close interval (DAACS features F041F and F041G) that probably indicate the location of a gate (Reinhart 1987:56-63).