|Location:||The Hermitage, Nashville, TN, United States|
|Occupation Dates:||1820s through early 20th century|
|Excavator(s):||Samuel Smith, Larry McKee, Interns and Earthwatch volunteers|
|Dates excavated:||1976, 1995|
Cabin 1 is one of four 20-by-40 foot double pen brick buildings situated on the Field Quarter site, which is located approximately a third of a mile north of the Jackson family mansion (McKee 1990:7). The site consists of the remains of four brick duplex cabins that once housed a large number of enslaved African-Americans owned by the Jacksons, as well as subsurface remains of at least two log structures that pre-date the brick dwellings. The area is bounded on four sides by trees and fencelines, and its southern half is split more or less in two by the stream flowing from a centrally-located spring. Until the late 1980s, the land had been used as pasture for cattle.
Little documentary evidence exists about the more than 100 slaves owned by Andrew Jackson, therefore archaeology is the main way of gaining an understanding of the lifeways of slaves at The Hermitage. One goal of the archaeological work at The Hermitage has been to identify foundations or structures on the plantation grounds used to house enslaved laborers. A complementary goal in locating the building remains was to recover collections of associated artifacts which would provide information on life and activity in the cabins and dates of occupation.
Two seasons of excavations were conducted at Cabin 1, in 1976 and 1995. In 1976, two 2-by-2 meter units were excavated and confirmed the presence of a 20-by-40 foot limestone block foundation that was called Cabin 1. Hermitage archaeologists and Earthwatch volunteers carried out additional excavations at Cabin 1 during the 1995 summer field season under the direction of Dr. Larry McKee, the Director of Archaeology at The Hermitage. These excavations explored both the interior and exterior of the cabin. A total of two 2-by-2 meter units and two 10-by-10 foot units were excavated at the Cabin 1 site.
Only minimal documentary evidence exists about the more than 160 slaves owned by Andrew Jackson. The field quarter was home to as many as sixty of these slaves. Through lists of names and ages made by the Jacksons at different times and indirect references in letters and account books, one can create a bare outline of the numbers of slaves, some of their names, the makeup of a few of the more favored slave families, and even match particular individuals to specific occupations. But the details of daily life are largely missing. Where did these people live and in what conditions? What did they eat and where did they get their food? How were their houses furnished and what did they do with what free time they had? And in general, how did they make do with, and how did they add to, the minimal conditions of life provided by their owners?
Land records indicate that Andrew Jackson and his family moved to The Hermitage property in 1804, initially occupying log structures that already existed on the property. The Davidson County tax list of 1805 lists nine taxable slaves for Jackson and in an 1814 letter Jackson indicated that he owned at least 40 enslaved individuals (Brigance 1976:16-17). These records indicate that the housing needs for Jackson’s slaves increased soon after their arrival at The Hermitage. Yet the documentation on slave life at The Hermitage is so minimal that there is no clear record on the number, type, location, or date of the construction of slave residences. No accurate or even sketchy maps of the estate’s layout and building locations survive from the nineteenth century. A few key references in letters, receipt books, and traveler’s accounts do provide some preliminary impressions about slave housing at The Hermitage. These records indicate that Jackson’s slaves lived in both brick and log cabins, and these were apparently scattered about the property rather than located in a single well-defined quarter.
The Field Quarter site was one location used to house African-American slaves at The Hermitage, beginning shortly after Jackson settled on the property. Although Jackson did not technically own the land encompassing the Field Quarter until 1821, he had defacto control of this property as early as 1806 (Brigance 1976:62-66). Archaeological evidence indicates that this was the site for two generations of slave housing: the first corresponding with Jackson’s’ original Hermitage homesite; the second sometime after Jackson moved into their brick mansion in 1821. The earliest historic structures at the Field Quarter were wood, probably log, cabins. The KES site, excavated in 1990, provides the first concrete evidence of this earliest occupation.
Sometime after 1821, when the Hermitage mansion was completed, four brick duplex cabins were constructed at the Field Quarter. Two factors probably contributed to the decision to build these cabins. First, the wood structures may have been built initially as temporary structures, particularly given the fact that Jackson did not own this land outright until 1821. Thus, after two decades they may have been in a state of extreme disrepair. The second factor was the growing number of slaves at The Hermitage. The 1820 U.S. census listed 44 slaves at The Hermitage, a number that rose to nearly 100 by 1830. This growing population had housing needs that were not being met with existing structures, requiring more to be built.
Of the four brick cabins, only one–Cabin 3–appears to have been abandoned permanently prior to emancipation. Artifacts from this structure recovered in 1990 indicate it was abandoned in the late 1850s (Thomas 1995:54-60). Andrew Jackson, Jr., who had inherited The Hermitage after Andrew Jackson’s death in 1845, sold The Hermitage in 1856 and moved to Mississippi in 1858. In an 1856 newspaper ad announcing that the 500 acres of the plantation encompassing this portion of the property was for sale, Andrew Jackson Jr. listed the tract’s attributes: “Several fine springs, good cotton gin, overseer’s house, saw mill, four double brick negro cabins, blacksmith and carpenter’s shop, &c.” Presumably, the four cabins were abandoned when the land was sold.
However, Jackson Jr. failed in Mississippi, and eventually returned to The Hermitage in 1860 with an unknown number of slaves. The remaining three brick cabins at the Field Quarter (1, 2, and 4) appear to have been reoccupied after Jackson’s return in 1860, although we have no information about who these occupants were. Initially, some probably were slaves of Jackson’s, and it is likely that some of these individuals also occupied the cabins after emancipation. Documentary records and interviews with former longtime Hermitage employees, as well as the presence of twentieth-century artifacts, indicate that Cabin 1 was occupied into the 1920s, and some of its brick walls may have been standing as late as 1929 (Brigance 1976:20).
One interesting feature uncovered in Cabin 1 that is directly linked to the documentary record is a layer of brick paving found outside the foundation walls. This is probably the same brick paving that can be seen in a stereo-view image believed to have been taken at the Hermitage in the 1870s. The inscription on the back of the print reads, “Relics of the Hermitage, Tenn. Andrew Jackson’s servant and her great grandchildren.” This image shows an old woman with two children, posing in front of an old, weathered brick structure. The woman and one child are sitting on a bench next to the doorway in front of the cabin, and at their feet is a brick paving similar to that uncovered in excavations at Cabin 1. No similar pavement has been located at any of the other brick cabin sites on the property.
Excavation history, procedure, and methods
1976 Excavation Season
Two seasons of archaeological investigation have been conducted at Cabin 1. Sam Smith of the Tennessee Division of Archaeology directed the first season of excavations in the summer of 1976. These excavations took place on a low terrace or knoll located approximately 350 feet north of a major spring. Although no buildings remained standing in the area, surface indications of their former presence, in the form of scattered bricks and limestone chunks, depressions, and a grove of Ailanthus altissima (the non-native Chinese tree of heaven), were apparent.
A total of two 2-by-2 meter excavation units were excavated in the area of the Cabin 1 site during the 1976 field season. The two units were excavated following the natural layering of deposits at the site. The results of the excavations confirmed the presence of a limestone block foundation. Soil from excavation levels and features was screened through quarter inch mesh. Additionally, Feature 3, a layer of brickwork, was uncovered along the exterior of the south foundation wall. Excavators interpreted the brickwork as a brick paving or floor along what would have been the front of the cabin. Excavations beneath the brick layer found evidence of an old drip-line beneath the brick floor, indicating that the bricks were a later modification.
1995 Excavation Season
In 1995, the main focus of work at Cabin 1 was to locate a corner of the structure and to collect a sample of material from both the interior and exterior of the cabin. Excavators assumed there was a formal plan of construction at the Field Quarter, and predicted the location of the southeast foundation corner by pulling measuring tapes from the southwest corner of Cabin 3 (50 feet to the east) and the northeast corner of Cabin 2 (70 feet to the south). This assumption proved correct, as the corner appeared only inches from where the tapes crossed.
Stratigraphic divisions followed the natural layering of the deposits, with the scheme based on expectations for layers of sod, plowzone/other disturbance, abandonment/destruction, and primary occupation. Soil and structural features, such as postholes, foundations, pits, and cellars, were defined and dug as separate entities and given separate context numbers from the usual provenience divisions of levels within grid squares. All deposits below the first sod layer were screened through quarter-inch mesh hardware cloth, and samples from deposits of particular interest (such as root cellars) were waterscreened through eighth-inch window screen. In addition, soil samples were kept from these deposits for flotation analysis in an effort to recover any surviving micro-examples of floral remains, such as charred seeds.
Ultimately, an area covering 175 square feet was opened at Cabin 1, straddling the southeast corner of the structure. The excavators were particularly interested in seeing if a temporal sequence of occupation, which likely spanned the period from the 1820s to late in the 1920s, could be determined. Due to this lengthy occupation, excavators used arbitrary levels of .3 feet within the main artifact-bearing soil layer (2C) for better chronological control.
One unique feature of Cabin 1 is the brickwork that remains intact atop the east foundation. This is the only cabin in the Field Quarter where remnants of a brick wall have been found in situ. There were four courses of brick on the east wall, with a header course adjacent to the foundation and three courses of running bond. This find provides valuable information about the architecture of the Field Quarter cabins.
Brickwork also was present outside the south foundation, where excavators came down on a brick paving or floor. This was the same paving uncovered by Smith in 1976 outside the foundation further west, along what would have been the front of the cabin. It is likely that the paving spanned the entire front of the cabin, beginning 4.5 feet from the southeast corner and approximately 5 feet from the southwest, although there seems to have been more disturbance of the paving toward its western edge. The small portion of the brick paving encountered during the summer of 1995 was left intact.
Larry McKee and Elizabeth Bollwerk
TRC Solutions and Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery
Things you need to know about Field Quarter Cabin 1 before you use the data:
- The DAACS Project ID for Cabin 1 is “1406”. All Cabin 1 contexts and artifact IDs begin with that prefix. A two-digit year representing the field season in which it was excavated, followed by a two-digit project number assigned to Cabin 1 for that particular year, follows the Project ID for all Contexts and Artifact IDs. Cabin 1 was excavated in 1976 and 1995. All contexts for Cabin 1 dug in 1976 begin with “1406-76-03”. All contexts for Cabin 1 dug in 1995 begin with “1406-95-03”.
- The Hermitage employed the “CRN” or “Context Register Number” system for artifact and context management, which DAACS has retained. CRNs were assigned in the field as consecutive three-digit numbers to contexts and their respective artifacts in the order they were dug, and were independent of provenience information. Context/provenience information is found in the DAACS Context Record.
- Two different grid systems were used in 1976 and 1995. However, excavations conducted in 1995 uncovered the area excavated in 1976 and excavators were able to loosely tie the features from the first grid to the grid used in 1995. On the Cabin 1 site map, the unit coordinates for the 1976 quadrats are labeled using the 1976 grid while the units excavated in 1995 are labeled using the 1995 grid coordinates.
- The Cabin 1 coordinates in the DAACS system are those based on the grid used in 1995, which is the datum originally established by Larry McKee in the 1990s. Cabins 1, 2, 3, 4, KES, and shovel testing in the Field Quarter have coordinates based on this datum; a separate grid using the same magnetic north but based a different datum located south of the mansion was used for the following DAACS sites: Yard Cabin, Triplex and Mansion Backyard fieldwork).
- Excavation teams used different units of measurement during the 1976 and 1995 seasons. 1976 measurements were taken in meters and 1995 excavations were measured in feet. All measurements of units and features from both seasons on the Cabin 1 site map are displayed in feet. All 1976 measurements have been converted from meters to feet in the DAACS database context entry records.
- All deposits below the first sod layer were screened through quarter-inch mesh hardware cloth during both seasons. During the 1995 season, samples from deposits of particular interest (such as root cellars) were waterscreened through eighth-inch window screen.
- Stratigraphic divisions followed the natural layering of the deposits. The one exception to method of following natural stratigraphy occurred during the 1995 excavation of the main artifact bearing layer (2C). Layer 2C was divided into arbitrary layers of .3 feet in the hopes of establishing better chronological control.
- While natural stratigraphy was followed during both excavations, not enough information was available to enable the merging of the stratigraphic groups identified from the 1976 excavations with those uncovered in 1995. As a result two separate Harris Matrices were generated to represent the relationships between stratigraphic groups for each excavation season.
The original excavators of the Cabin 1 site assigned numbers to individual features. Between 1987 and 2003, all archaeological features identified at The Hermitage were assigned consecutive feature numbers, regardless of excavation year and location on the property. For example, the first feature identified at the beginning of Larry McKee’s field work in 1987 was Feature 1. By the end of the excavation season in 2003 over 900 features had been identified and excavated at The Hermitage since 1987.
A single feature, Feature 3, was identified during testing in 1976. All other features were identified and excavated in 1995 and their numbers range, non consecutively, in the 600s. Since Cabin 1 feature numbers were assigned by the excavators, they do not have a F-prefix as DAACS-assigned feature numbers do.
Feature groups are sets of features whose spatial arrangements indicate they were part of a single structure (e.g. structural postholes, subfloor pits, and hearth) or landscape element (e.g. postholes that comprise a fenceline). Feature Groups at The Hermitage were assigned by DAACS and they have a FG-prefix, which precedes the number (i.e. FG01 equals Feature Group 1).
|599||Not a Basin/Cut||95-03-03|
|613||Not a Basin/Cut||95-03-19|
|620||Not a Basin/Cut||95-03-33, 95-03-35|
|629||Hearth, possible||95-03-40, 95-03-43, 95-03-44|
|638||Not a Basin/Cut||95-03-52, 95-03-59, 95-03-60|
|642||Not a Basin/Cut||95-03-54, 95-03-56|
DAACS staff performs a standard set of analyses to produce a seriation-based intra-site chronology for each site included in the Archive. We aspire to use the same analytical methods for each site, specifically correspondence analysis and ware-type manufacturing dates, to develop and assign ceramic assemblages from excavated contexts to site-specific occupation phases (see Neiman, Galle, and Wheeler 2003 for technical details). We provide a mean ceramic date (MCD) and terminus post quem (TPQ) for each intra-site phase. The phases are recorded in the DAACS Phase field of the database.
The use of common analytical methods is designed to increase comparability among phases at different sites. The methods, any changes we made to those methods that are specific to the site and the phase assignments our methods produce are summarized below. DAACS encourages users of Archive data to help explore improvements to our methods.
For some sites, the original excavators developed intra-site chronologies and, where these exist, they are described on the Background page for the site. In the case of The Hermitage’s Cabin 1, the principal investigators did not develop a chronology for the site. The DAACS chronology presented here is the only current chronology for the site.
DAACS Seriation Method
As with other sites in the Archive, the seriation chronology for the Cabin 1 site was derived from ceramic assemblages aggregated at the level of stratigraphic groups and individual contexts not assigned to stratigraphic groups. To reduce the noise introduced by sampling error, only ceramic assemblages with more than 5 sherds and more than two ceramic types were included. Assemblages from topsoil, unit clean-up, and surface collections were excluded from the analysis. The seriation chronology presented here is the result of a correspondence analysis (CA) of ware-type frequencies from contexts that meet these requirements (Figures 1 and 2).
The CA results produced a strong correlation between Dimension 1 scores and MCDs (Figure 3), suggesting that Dimension 1 represents time from right (early) to left (late). While less than three 10 x 10 foot qudrats were excavated Cabin 1, the excavation to subsoil produced earlier dates than Cabin 2, which had more extensive areal coverage but was not excavated below Level 2B in most units. Based on the dips in ceramic counts observed in a histogram of Dimension 1 scores, where the vertical axis measures ceramic assemblage size, we divided the Cabin 1 site into three occupational phases (Figure 4).
Cabin 1 Site Phases
DAACS Phases are groups of assemblages that have similar correspondence-analysis scores, similar MCDs, or both, and are therefore inferred to be broadly contemporary. Phases have a P-prefix that precedes the phase number (e.g. P01 equals Phase 1).
Mean ceramic dates for the site-specific phases are given in the table below. The table also includes two estimates of the ceramic TPQ for each phase. The first TPQ estimate is the usual one – the maximum beginning manufacturing date among all the Ware types in the assemblage. The second estimate — TPQp90 — is the 90th percentile of the beginning manufacturing dates among all the sherds in the assemblage, based on their Ware types. This TPQ estimate is more robust against excavation errors and taphonomic processes that might have introduces a few anomalously late sherds in an assemblage.
|Phase||MCD||BLUE MCD||TPQ||TPQp90||TPQp95||Total Count|
Phase 1 at Cabin 1 is comprised of two stratgigraphic groups (SGG02 and SG03) from Quadrat N250W110, the only unit located within the foundation of Cabin 1. Phase 1’s mean ceramic date of 1815 supports architectural and historical data suggesting that these cabins were constructed in the early 1820s. Phase 2 and Phase 3, whose mean ceramic dates are only two years apart, are palimpsests comprised of assemblages from three different stratigraphic groups, plowzone, “destruction”, and “occupation”. Phase 2 is comprised of stratigraphic groups from the units clustered around the southeast corner of Cabin 1, the majority of which are outside of the limestone foundation. Phase 3, whose mean ceramic date is only 2 years later than Phase 2, is comprised of assemblages from stratigraphic groups found in the western unit of Cabin 1, as well as quadrats on the exterior of eastern unit of Cabin 1.
A Seriation Chronology for Cabin 1
The following table presents a seriation chronology for Cabin 1. We use the indefinite article to signify that it is not the only chronology possible, nor the best. We encourage users of Archive data to help explore improvements.
The stratigraphic relationships among stratigraphic groups and unassigned contexts are summarized in the Harris Matrix for the site. Phase assignments from the seriation are shown on the Harris Matrix in color, facilitating comparison of the seriation chronology and the stratigraphic chronology of the site.
Field Quarter Cabin 1 Harris Matrix
The Harris Matrix summarizes stratigraphic relationships among excavated contexts and groups of contexts that DAACS staff has identified as part of the same stratigraphic group. Stratigraphic groups and contexts are represented as boxes, while lines connecting them represent temporal relationships implied by the site’s stratification, as recorded by the site’s excavators (Harris 1979).
Stratigraphic groups, which represent multiple contexts, are identified on the diagram by their numeric designations (e.g. SG01). Contexts that could not be assigned to stratigraphic groups are identified by their individual context numbers (e.g. 95-04-08).
Boxes with color fill represent contexts and stratigraphic groups with ceramic assemblages large enough to be included in the DAACS seriation of the site (see Chronology). Their seriation-based phase assignments are denoted by different colors to facilitate evaluation of the agreement between the stratigraphic and seriation chronologies. Grey boxes represent contexts that were not included in the seriation because of small ceramic samples.
See Cabin 1 Chronology for stratigraphic and phase information.
This Harris Matrix is based on data on stratigraphic relationships recorded among contexts in the DAACS database. It was drawn with the ArchEd application. See http://www.ads.tuwien.ac.at/arched/index.html.
Although it is preferable to merge contexts from multiple field seasons into stratigraphic groups, based on available information, it was difficult to integrate the stratigraphic groups identified from the 1976 excavations with those from the 1995 excavations. As a result two separate Harris Matrices were generated to represent the relationships of stratigraphic groups for each season.
For a printable version, download the Harris Matrix [127.04 KB PDF].
PDF of composite excavator’s plan, compiled by DAACS from original field drawings, with excavation units and features labeled.
PDF of composite excavator’s plan, compiled by DAACS from original field drawings, with only features labeled.
PDF of composite excavator’s plan, compiled by DAACS from original field drawings, with only excavation units labeled.
CAD site plan in .dxf format.
Brigance, Fred W.
1976 Historical Background of the First Hermitage. In An Archaeological and Historical Assessment of the First Hermitage, edited by Samuel D. Smith, pp. 27-92. Research Series No. 2, Division of Archaeology, Tennessee Department of Conservation, Nashville, Tennessee.
1990 Preliminary Report on the 1990 Excavation at the Hermitage Field Quarter Site. Ms. on file, The Ladies' Hermitage Association, Hermitage, Tennessee.
Thomas, Brian W.
1995 Community among Enslaved African Americans on the Hermitage Plantation, 1820s-1850s. Ph. D. diss., Dept. of Anthropology, State Univ. of New York at Binghamton, New York. University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Mich.