|Occupation Dates:||1820s through early 20th century|
|Excavator(s):||Larry McKee, Interns and Earthwatch volunteers|
Enslaved laborers at Andrew Jackson’s The Hermitage lived in one of three main quartering areas on the property. Housing for the enslaved was located in areas now known as the Mansion Backyard, the First Hermitage, and the Field Quarter. Archaeological work conducted by Samuel Smith in 1976 uncovered evidence for two brick duplexes at the Field Quarter. In the Spring of 1990, Larry McKee and his team began a large-scale shovel-test-pit survey to determine the extent of subsuface remains over a 15 acre area surrounding these structures. During the summer fo 1990, McKee and is team uncovered evidence for three additional dwellings at the Field Quarter. In Spring 1991, McKee returned to the area to complete the STP survey. This page describes the work associated with the Field Quarter STP surveys (McKee 1991, 1992).
There is little documentary evidence available about the more than one hundred slaves owned by Andrew Jackson. Through lists of names and ages made by the Jacksons at different times, and indirect references in letters and account books, there is a bare outline of the numbers and names of slaves, the makeup of a few of the more favored slave families, and some matching of particular individuals to specific occupations. 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 construction of slave residences. No accurate or even sketchy maps of the estate’s layout and building locations survives from the nineteenth century.
However, a few key references in letters, receipt books, and traveler’s accounts do provide some preliminary impressions about slave housing at The Hermitage. The area known as the Field Quarter at the Hermitage is located one-third mile north of the mansion in what has been called the “North Field”. The site’s location, on a terrace running east to west about 100 yards away from a deep spring, made it an ideal location for the dwellings of the Jackson family’s slaves. It was home to as many as eighty enslaved individuals between the 1820s and the 1850s, who worked in the outlying fields. The 1820 U.S. census listed 44 slaves at the Hermitage, a number that rose to nearly 100 by 1830. The Field Quarter would have been a crowded and lively place, and perhaps one of the centers of the plantation community, though the documentary record provides little information on life there. The quarter now lies on an isolated part of the property, which for most of twentieth century had been used as a cattle pasture.
In the 1970s, longtime Hermitage employees who were interviewed about their recollections of the “North Field” or Field Quarter remembered only one or two brick buildings still standing in the 1920s located near a deep and still very active spring.
Excavation History, Procedure, and Methods
Prior to the start of the STP survey in 1990 little was known about how the Jackson family had used the 15-acre patch of land known as the “North field”. The area was bounded on four sides by trees and fence lines and its southern half was split in two by a stream flowing north/south from the spring. Archaeological investigation in the Field Quarter began with a survey conducted in 1976 by Samuel D. Smith of the Tennessee Division of Archaeology. The survey confirmed the locations of two of the 20 by 40 foot limestone block foundations in the Field Quarter and Smith hoped that “more thorough investigation of these sites can be undertaken at a future date” (Smith 1976).
In order to determine the specific distribution of subsurface remains over the entire fifteen acres, shovel tests were dug in the area during the spring of 1990 and 1991. To create the grid for the STP survey excavators first established a baseline that was 1150 feet long and oriented to magnetic north. The baseline was designated by two concrete benchmarks. One benchmark, located 200 feet northeast of the spring, served as the origin point of the STP grid system as well as the unit excavations that would take place later in the summer. Each STP was designated by a combination of its northing and easting coordinate. The STPs were 1-foot square in size and were dug in 50-foot intervals. All the dirt was screened through ¼ inch mesh and stratigraphy for each pit was recorded. All artifacts found were bagged by provenience and returned to the lab for washing and cataloging, with the exception of brick and limestone rubble, which was tallied in the notes on each test and left in the field.
One hundred and fifty four of these tests were dug, providing complete coverage of the area north and southeast of the spring, and more limited coverage of the low-lying, almost boggy area southwest of it. The shovel tests identified artifact clusters that suggested the possible presence of at least two additional cabin sites within two hundred feet to the east areas tested during prior excavations.
The STP survey continued during the 1991 season with the excavation of 172 1-x-1 ft STPs across a three and a half acre area centered on the central core of the site. The tests were put in at 25-ft intervals across an area measuring 350 by 400 ft. This operation added to information gained from the previous year’s testing program, in which pits were put in at 50-ft intervals across a much more extensive area. The 1991 tests provided a much finer-grained look at the surface topography and subsurface distribution of artifacts and structural remains at the field quarter.
Summary of Research and Analysis
During the 1990 survey 154 of these tests were dug, providing complete coverage to the area north and southeast of the spring, and more limited coverage of the low-lying, almost boggy area southwest of it. Elevation measurements and artifact counts were evaluated by the SURFER surface and contouring software package, which produced preliminary topographic and artifact density maps. Although information from this computer analysis will undergo further refinement, the work confirms what could be seen in the field during the tests: the area of occupation was largely limited to the knoll north of the spring, with evidence of another residence (possibly the overseer’s house) at the extreme south edge of the tract, near a partially filled stonelined well.
SURFER analysis of artifact counts from the shovel tests also showed strong evidence for at least two additional cabin sites within two hundred feet to the east of Smith’s 1970’s tests (McKee 1990:9). These areas would later be designated as Cabin 3 and KES. A test put in at grid point N250W50 revealed a dense deposit of artifacts, brick, and limestone. A five-foot square unit opened over the area uncovered a section of the Cabin 3’s foundation. A second cabin, later designated KES, was revealed when STP N150E060 hit an obvious feature filled with bone, brick, ash, and other artifacts. The initial full-scale excavation revealed the feature to be an oval pit ca. 4-x-8 ft. Labeled Feature 275, the pit was topped with brick rubble and bone and filled to a depth of 1.75 ft with dark, midden-like soil laced with ash and charcoal.
The 1991 STP survey revealed that although the relatively level terrace on which the buildings were situated continues for some distance to the northeast and southeast, the high artifact density zone tapers off sharply just a short distance from the quarter’s core area. Analysis by Hermitage staff using SURFER (McKee 1992:Figure 3) revealed that artifact densities were not only highest around the structures, but there was also clustering around specific portions of the buildings. The strip of land running between the four brick cabins shows a sharp drop-off in artifact density, implying that this corridor through the row of buildings may have been kept relatively clean. Based on the results of that analysis McKee suggested it may have functioned as a commons or plaza area for the field quarter residents. Analysis by DAACS staff using a spatial interpolation method called kriging (Figures 2, 3, and 4) found similar clustering patterns of artifacts around the locations of the four cabins but failed to replicate the drop off patterns between the buildings. However, the kriging analysis but did reveal some interesting variation with regards to Whiteware and Ironstone patterning. Whiteware was found in the areas surrounding all four cabins, while Ironstone was mostly associated with the areas surrounding Cabins, 1, 3, and 4. The spatial distribution of machine cut nails exhibited still different spatial patterning as the nails tended be associated with Cabins 1, 2, and 3.
Larry McKee and Elizabeth Bollwerk
TRC Solutions and Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery
- The DAACS Project ID for Field Quarter Survey is “1409”.
- Field measurements are in feet and tenths of feet
- All excavated sediment was passed through 1/4 inch mesh.
- Each STP was designated by a combination of its northing and easting coordinate.
- A total of 326 shovel-test-pits were excavated in the Field Quarter area in 1990 and 1991.
There were no archaeological features identified or excavated during the Field Quarter STP survey.
DAACS staff aim to produce a seriation-based chronology for each site using the same methods (see Neiman, Galle, and Wheeler 2003 for technical details). The use of common methods for all sites in the archive is designed to increase comparability among temporal phases at different sites. The methods they produced are summarized below. Archive users may also use the Mean Ceramic Date queries provided on the Query the Database section of this website to calculate MCDs for individual contexts or features.
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 Field Quarter STP Survey, the principal investigators did not develop a chronology for the site. The DAACS chronology presented here is the only current chronology for the site.
As with other sites in the Archive, the seriation chronology for Field Quarter STP Survey was derived from ceramic assemblages of individual contexts not assigned to stratigraphic groups. No stratigraphic groups were assigned for this site at the time of writing. Ceramic data comes from 329 contexts associated with 329 excavated 1-x-1 foot Shovel Test Pits. To reduce the noise introduced by sampling error, only ceramic assemblages with more than five sherds were included. We excluded assemblages from unit clean-up and surface collections. The seriation chronology presented here is the result of a correspondence analysis (CA) of ware-type frequencies from contexts that meet these requirements.
DAACS has currently been unable to produce a statistically significant seriation-based chronology for the Yard Cabin STPs; however, the site-wide Mean Ceramic Date and the BLUE MCD, which gives less influence to ceramic types with long manufacturing spans, point to the occupation’s temporal placement as the third quarter of the nineteenth century. The MCD and BLUEMCD are listed in the table below.
The table also provides three TPQ estimates. The first TPQ estimate is the usual one – the maximum beginning manufacturing date among all the ware-types in the assemblage. Two other measures that are less sensitive to excavation errors and taphonomic processes that might introduce a small amount of anomalously late material into an assemblage were used. They are TPQp90 and TPQp95. The TPQp95 of 1830 provides a robust estimate of the site’s TPQ based on the 95th percentile of the beginning manufacturing dates for all the artifacts comprising the assemblage. The TPQp90 of 1820 provides a more robust estimate of the site’s TPQ based on the 90th percentile of the beginning manufacturing dates for all the artifacts comprising the assemblage.
|Site||MCD||BLUE MCD||TPQ||TPQp90||TPQp95||Total Count|
The Field Quarter STP Survey 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).
There is no Harris Matrix for the Field Quarter STP survey. Excavation consisted solely of a shovel-test-pit survey.
PDF of site map showing excavated shovel test pit locations.
CAD site plan in .dgn format.
Harris, Edward C.
1979 Principles of Archaeological Stratigraphy. Academic Press, London, England.
1990 Preliminary Report on the 1990 Excavation at the Hermitage Field Quarter Site. Ms. on file, The Ladies' Hermitage Association, Hermitage, Tennessee.
1991 Summary Report of the 1990 Hermitage Field Quarter Excavation. Tennessee Anthropological Association Newsletter 16(1):1-17.
1992 Summary Report of the 1991 Field Quarter Excavation Hermitage Archaeology
Smith, Samuel D.
1976 An Archaeological and Historical Assessment of the First Hermitage. Tennesse Division of Archaeology Research Series No. 2. Published by the Tennesse Division of Conservation, Nashville, Tennesse.