|Location:||Monticello, Charlottesville, VA, United States|
|Occupation Dates:||c. 1801-1810. Phasing and mean ceramic dates can be found on the Chronology page.|
|Excavator(s):||William Boyer; William Kelso.|
|Dates excavated:||1981, 1989-1991.|
The Stewart-Watkins site is named for its two primary occupants: William Stewart, a blacksmith, and Elisha Watkins, a carpenter. Historical evidence suggests that Stewart, along with his family, began living there in 1801 (Betts 1987: 425, 444 and Oberg 2008: 676). It is likely, however, that the domestic structure was constructed as much as a year earlier for Mr. Powel, a blacksmith and nailer who himself never actually resided at Monticello. The site appears to have been abandoned, and the building was probably dismantled following Watkins’ departure in 1810 (Heath 1991b:3).
Stewart-Watkins is located on the southern slope of Monticello Mountain approximately 40 feet north of Monticello’s third roundabout and approximately 650 feet south-southwest of the western end of Mulberry Row. The domestic structure lies at the center of a more extensive artifact scatter. This building was likely of log construction with a stone foundation. Additional architectural remains include a stone and brick chimney base (F13), a stone hearth (F14), the possible remains of one or more fallen stone chimney (F02 & F03), and a large cellar (F01).
The presence of a building at this site and/or its attribution to Stewart and Watkins is attested to in at least six of Jefferson’s maps and survey notes (Jefferson: N156, N201, N203, N204, N209, and N215). Additional maps (Jefferson: N214, N215 and N225) refer to an oak tree sometimes called “Steward’s Oak” (Jefferson: N215) that was located “before Stewart’s door” (Jefferson: N203) or “at Watkins’s H[ouse]” (Jefferson: N215) and was regularly used by Jefferson as a survey point along the third roundabout. These maps and survey notes all date to the first decade of the 19th century, the first survey being conducted in 1803 and the final in July of 1809. There is no reference to this house on any earlier or later maps.
The remaining documentary evidence relates to William Stewart’s employment with Thomas Jefferson. In a letter from James Traquair dated May 12th, 1801 Jefferson was informed that his agreement with Stewart had been sent in Traquair’s previous letter (Oberg 2007: 104). Unfortunately this earlier letter and the enclosed agreement have been lost. Two days later in a post-script to a letter from Jefferson to his son-in-law Thomas Mann Randolph he noted that “I have engaged a capital white smith, who is a nailer also, to go on from Philadelphia in July” (Betts 1987: 443). Foreshadowing the rocky relationship ahead, Stewart ended up leaving nearly two months earlier than expected. As a letter dated May 30th, 1801 from James Traquair to Jefferson notes “(he) is William Stewart, the smith you expected, the people for whom he wrought, have failed and he has been a loser, which soured him so much, that he would go off at once” (Betts 1987: 424-5). His arrival in Richmond two weeks later was even less auspicious. Thomas Jefferson’s business agent, George Jefferson (no relation), forwarded Stewart forty dollars based on Jefferson’s letter of reference though he was apprehensive of the man who “…was either much intoxicated, or is actually a mad-man…[and who] gave me such incoherent answers that I could not understand him” (Betts 1987: 425).
Stewart apparently did not immediately occupy the site now named for him since he came initially without his family (Betts 1987: 425). In a letter to James Dinsmore dated June 22nd, 1801 Jefferson stated that Dinsmore should “…provide for him till I come which will now be in a little more than a month. when his family comes on they are to be fixed in the house built for Powel…” (Betts 1987: 444). As it turns out, Stewart had not brought his family until much later in 1801. Based on accounts Jefferson paid for him, Stewart had been away from Monticello gathering his family from Philadelphia starting in the middle of October (Bear and Stanton 1997: 1060). He had not returned to Virginia until the middle of November, as George Jefferson was “obliged” to pay a ship’s captain for the passage of Stewart’s family of six in November of 1801, or else “…suffer him to go to Jail” (Oberg 2008: 676). And it was not until the 18th of that month that Jefferson’s daughter Martha informed him that “Stewart your white smith is returned” (Betts and Bear 1986: 213).
Roughly two years later Stewart’s wife Mary died. She is buried in the Jefferson family cemetery at Monticello; the only non-Jefferson family member to be so interred. And, though her grave marker is inscribed with a date of November 5th, 1805, she died some time in the late fall of 1803. Her death seems to have set in motion another of Stewart’s episodes. According to accounts Jefferson paid, it seems Stewart was at Monticello in the summer of 1803 but by November he had gone to Philadelphia (Bear and Stanton 1997: 1106, 1112 & 1113). Later in November he visited Jefferson in Washington and it was noted that Stewart was “…on his way back to his family, whom he will probably join Thursday or Friday” (Betts and Bear 1986: 249). A letter dated January 14th, 1804 from Jefferson’s daughter Martha sheds some light on the episode and also relates the changes in the Stewart family living at Monticello:
…Higginbotham begged me to tell you that Stewarts goods having been attached during the time of his supposed flight the sale was to take place in a few days. That with regard to himself a word from you would satisfy him, and no doubt the other creditors would be as well pleased to have the debt in your hands, of those however he said nothing nor do I exactly understand the use of saying what he did for Mrs. Stuart being dead, and Mrs. Lewis having taken charge of the girls, it appears to me of very little importance to prevent the sale of the furniture. Humanity cannot be interested in the fate of a man so well able to provide for himself. And his sons are old enough to be put to any trade he chuses. Nor do I believe the desire of supporting them selves to be wanting on their side, but how far they can do any thing without his concurrence or whether they can obtain that I am unable to say. I have fulfilled my commission in delivering Higginbothams message (Betts and Bear 1986: 252).
The only historical evidence for the actual phsyical construction of the dwelling at the Stewart-Watkins Site comes from a March 14th, 1803 Memorandum Book entry. In it Jefferson noted that he “Paid Michael Hope for work on Stewart’s house 18D [dollars]” (Bear and Stanton 1997: 1094). Michael Hope was a stonemason who performed various jobs for Jefferson from 1802 until 1805 inluding work on Jefferson’s mills (Bear and Stanton 1997 and Betts 1987: 353). Because the work on Stewart’s house was performed some time after Stewart and his family’s arrival at Monticello, it may be related to some sort of addition or expansion of the original dwelling, or work on outbuildings or other stonework. The only evidence of mortared stone masony at the Stewart-Watkins Site is that from the west chimney as well as the few stones still mortared in place along the south wall. Therefore it is likely that this work performed by Hope was related to an eastern addition to the original core structure which was in place for Stewart and his family upon arrival.
During Stewart’s tenure at Monticello Thomas Jefferson consistently was required to cover expenditures that outpaced Stewart’s salary. On May 8th, 1804 a settling of accounts between Stewart and Jefferson showed that William Stewart was $45.35 in debt to Jefferson (Bear and Stanton 1997: 1126). This state of affairs was so often the case that a survey of Jefferson’s Memorandum Book reveals that between September 26th, 1801 and the final payment on September 6th, 1806 a total of only $90.35, or $18.07 per year on average, was paid to Stewart in the form of cash as wages (with only $4 in 1804 and $0 in 1805) (Bear and Stanton 1997). It is interesting to note however, that Stewart was employed by Jefferson for another whole year, at least, after this last cash payment. A survey of Stewart’s debts over the period of his employment, through at least November of 1807, shows that Jefferson paid roughly $846, or $141 per year to Stewarts creditors (Bear and Stanton 1997). In addition to his salary Stewart also was provisioned with food while employed at Monticello. On April 3rd, 1802, Jefferson paid $20 for a cow and $14.50 for beef for Stewart (Bear and Stanton 1997: 1070). In an 1806 memorandum given to Edmund Bacon, Jefferson’s overseer, Stewart was to be provisioned with 500 pounds of pork (Bear 1967: 54).
On November 24th of the following year Jefferson notified Bacon, that “…Stewart must be immediately dismissed. if he will do those jobs I mentioned before he goes, he may stay and do them, & have provisions while about them” (Betts 1987: 426). When exactly Stewart left the mountaintop is unclear, however a letter from Edmund Bacon to Jefferson dated February 26th, 1808 notes that “Inclosed is an account handed me by Stewart when he left Monticello…” (cited in Heath 1991b: 15). The final historical reference to Stewart was in a letter from Daniel Davis to Jefferson in which he refers to “…Mr Wm Stewart who formerly lived with you” (Looney 2004: 419).
The historical evidence relating to Elisha Watkins is less extensive. This may be, in part, due to his short tenure as carpenter at Monticello. It also is likely due to the fact that his employment occured after Jefferson’s retirement from the presidency and thus much of their communication could have been in person rather than via written letters (Heath 1999c: 196). Jefferson’s first letter to Watkins in fact made reference to a previous face to face communication. In the letter, dated August 22nd, 1808, Jefferson noted that “When you were here to offer me your services for next year, we separated on the subject of price” (Betts 1987: 458), he then agreed to Watkins’ demand for $150, though Jefferson had initially offered him $120. The agreement also included 600 pounds of pork and “corn as usual” (Betts 1987: 459) and a brief description of the expected work: “…emploiment the first year will be as a carpenter, with 2 or 3 men under you for work to be done…the paling a large inclosure of garden and orchard, building some graneries and other work of that kind” (Betts 1976: 377). Watkins arrived at Monticello for work some time after September 27th, 1808. A letter from Jefferson, with more detailed directions for Watkins’ work states that they are “…for mr Watkins when he comes” (Betts 1976: 377). As noted above Watkins’ tenure at Monticello was short-lived. A little more than sixteen months later Jefferon was trying to replace him. In a letter to Jesse Perry, a carpenter and younger brother of another Monticello carpenter and Shadwell lessee Jonathan Perry, Jefferson stated that “Mr. Watkins, who superintended & worked with my out-carpenters, has left me this year” (Betts 1987: 459). A survey of Jefferson’s Memorandum Books shows that he paid out $129.50 in debt accrued by Watkins to local merchants such as David Higginbotham and Matthew Maury (Bear and Stanton 1997). However, there are no accounts of any cash payments from Jefferson to Watkins in the form of wages. Several years after Watkins had left Monticello Jefferson tried to press him on a promise he had made to Jefferson to make a wheat machine. In this letter to Jeremiah Goodman Jefferson noted that he would have the opportunity of seeing Watkins at Poplar Forest (Betts 1976: 540). This is the last record of Elisha Watkins in the historical records of Thomas Jefferson.
Though the site is named for Stewart and Watkins, the house in which they lived was initially built for a blacksmith and nailer named Powel. Powel and his family were expected to come to Monticello as early as the first of July, 1800 (Oberg 2005: 47), though Jefferson was trying to engage Powel to come to work for him as early as December 1799 (Oberg 2004: 274). He apparently did not arrive during the summer of 1800. The delay may have resulted form the death of his wife and the subsequent hardship of caring for his children. According to a letter from Richard Richardson dated December 23rd, 1800 Jefferson “…Expected him since the death of his wife to come as a single man” without his children for whom Powel was trying to find lodging elsewhere (Oberg 2005: 341). As late as the end of January, 1801 Jefferson was still expecting him to come. He never arrived though and by May of 1801 Stewart had been hired. It is not clear from the documentary evidence exactly when the house was built for Powel but it seems reasonable to believe that it may have been built as early as the spring or summer of 1800, a full year before Stewart’s arrival, and that it was built to house a family rather than a bachelor.
Excavation history, procedure and methods
Dr. William Boyer, Professor of Anthropology at James Madison University, first excavated at the Stewart-Watkins site during a 1981 Monticello-based summer field school (Boyer 1981). Numerous Jefferson plats and the clearly-visible rubble scatter associated with the north wall and chimney scatters guided this initial survey and allowed Boyer to pinpoint the likely location of the Stewart-Watkins site. Beginning in June of 1989, William Kelso and his staff returned to the site found by Boyer to engage in a more complete, area excavation for the purpose of confiming its association with Stewart and Watkins (Heath 1991b). This phase of excavation was completed in December 1990. The following discussion is summarized from Heath’s 1991 report on the excavations at the Stewart-Watkins Site.
Two strategies were undertaken during this phase. The first involved an open area excavation over the core of the site. The second involved randomly and strategically placed units spread across the surrounding landform. To establish spatial control over the core of the site the Wheeler-box method of gridding was employed using 10’ squares; each of which included 2-foot balks along the north and east sides. The resulting 8-by-8 foot excavation units were then each sub-divided into four 4-by-4 foot quadrants for greater spatial control. Twenty-two 8-by-8 foot units were excavated in this manner across the site. To further expose certain features, portions of the 2-foot wide balks then were excavated. Ten of these units measured 2-by-8 feet and four of them were 2-by-10 feet. To “test for the locations of outbuildings, garden features, fencelines or additional artifact deposits” (Heath 1991b:19) fifty-seven additional 4-by-4 foot units were spaced randomly to the north, west, and south of the house features. An additional twenty units were strategically placed based on the results of the random testing. As part of this additional testing of the yards at Stewart-Watkins one 10-by-10 foot unit was opened while five of the 4-by-4 foot units were expanded to 6-by-6 feet and three of them were expanded to 6-by-4 feet. A single 2-by-2 foot unit (ER 1337) was excavated to test the area where the back-dirt pile would be located. Most archaeological deposits were screened using ¼” screens. “Bricks, mortar and stones were weighed by quadrant, and a sample of each was saved” (Heath 1991b:19).
Summary of research and analysis
Kelso & Heath:
Kelso and Heath archaeologically identified two phases of construction at the Stewart-Watkins site. The first phase consisted of the “core structure” measured roughly 18 feet (north-south) by 24 feet (east-west) (Heath 1991b: 34). It included a slate and brick chimney base (F13), a wood lined cellar (F01), a northern wall (F04) with associated builder’s trench (F07), a brick/stone paving outside its northeast corner, and finally the remnant of a southern wall, or piers that consisted of several greenstone boulders mortared together. An additional feature associated with the core structure was a brick paving (F09) located inside the northeast corner of the structure. The function of this paving was unclear. The fact that it was added after the core structure was built, that it was inside the building and that it would have been below the level of the floor of the building made its function even more of an enigma. Even though it was immediately opposite the exterior paving, which was identified as an entrance area, Heath thought it was unlikely that they were related and that the interior paving may have been related to the reconfiguration of space when the eastern addition was constructed, possibly a footing for an added stairway (Heath 1991b: 37). Kelso suggested it may have been a stove base (Kelso 1997: 76).
The cellar (F01) was located in the southwest corner of the structure, within the limits of the core structure. Its original cut, measured at the base of the cellar, was roughly 10-by-10 feet. Post-abandonment wall collapse resulted in maximal dimensions, prior to excavation, of roughly 13-by-13 feet at the surface with characteristic erosional fans in the uphill, or northeastern and northwestern corners. Heath interpreted it as a “half basement” with a bulkhead entrance through the south wall of the house (Heath 1991b: 31). The cellar was interpreted as being wood-lined, having a pair of vertical posts defining the east and west walls with six sleeper joists oriented north-south and three floor joists laid perpendicular to these (Heath 1991b: 31).
The second phase, or eastern addition, measured roughly 18 feet (north-south) by 12 feet (east-west) (Heath 1991b: 43) and consisted of an eastern stone hearth (F14)/chimney fall (F03) and an eastern extension of the north wall (F04). This addition made the dimensions of the completed structure roughly 18 feet (north-south) by 36 feet (east-west). Stratigraphic evidence suggests that the eastern portion of the north wall was built on top of existing deposits related to the occupation of the site (Heath 1999c: 204). It is possible that the stonework for the construction of this addition was performed by the mason Michael Hope that Jefferson paid for on March 14th, 1803 (Heath 1999c: 204; Bear and Stanton 1997: 1094).
Heath’s analysis of the architectural remains at the Stewart-Watkins site led to several conclusions. First, in terms of the “…inexpensive, readily available, or recycled” materials used, the building was in some ways a reflection of the status of transient white workmen who were employed by Jefferson (Heath 1999c: 208-209). Dwellings for workmen could be built with economy and then dismantled and/or moved with little additional investment for their subsequent reuse. Second, even though the materials used reflected economy and impermanence, construction details such as the stone/brick hearths and the raised, wooden floor were evidence of a greater degree of safety and convenience for the free, white workmen than that enjoyed by their enslaved counterparts (Heath 1999c: 209). Third, the size of the building, in terms of both its floor area and its impressive height from the nearby third roundabout, established the status of its occupants clearly above that of the enslaved laborers at Monticello (Heath 1999c: 208-209).
Analysis by Heath (1999c) of the artifactual remains suggests that interesting spatial patterning existed. Industrial artifacts were clustered in the western portion of the house while artifacts of a domestic nature were clustered in the eastern addition (1999c: 209). Though it is not entirely clear that the archaeological contexts in which these artifacts were found reflected their use location, Heath interprets the spatial patterning to indicate that the western portion of the building was used by Stewart as storage for “…stockpiling scraps of metal and unfinished tools [out of] the scrutiny of Jefferson” (1999c: 210). In addition to the spatial patterning, evidence of the socio-economic status of the occupants was discernible. The artifact assemblage at the Stewart-Watkins site contained “…unvaried and worn ceramics, limited faunal remains indicative of a relatively monotonous meat diet, and a quantity of salvaged industrial materials and tools…[which] point…toward scarcity and economic powerlessness” (Heath 1999c: 208, 211).
DAACS staff cataloged artifacts and digitized field records from the Stewart-Watkins site excavations during the fall of 2005, 2008, and 2009. The original final site plan in Heath’s report included only those stones that remained at the end of excavation. Some of these stones remained because they were mortared to each other and thus represented in situ architecture, while others were simply left in place when excavation was stopped. This led to a potentially misleading appearance to the end of excavation drawing. For example, there is a subrectangular space in the center of the east chimney fall (F03) where all of the stones and brick were removed down to subsoil that looks as if it were related to the original architecture, but is simply an artifact of differential excavation. Thus, for DAACS, an attempt was made to include all stones and bricks drawn on quadrat plans regardless of whether or not they were collected in the field. This was done in an attempt to show the full extent of the debris fields associated with the two chimney falls (F02 and F03) and to minimize the confusion that might be created by the appearance of the east chimney fall (F03) at the end of excavation.
Thomas Jefferson Foundation
Things you need to know about the Stewart-Watkins Site before you use the data:
- Most excavated contexts were screened through 1/4″ mesh. Contexts that were not screened are noted as having been trowel sorted.
- Measurements are in feet and tenths of feet.
- In the area over the main structure, excavators employed the “Wheeler Box” excavation system of 8-by-8 foot quadrats with 2-foot baulks. Additional 4-by-4 foot quadrats were excavated north, south and west of house location to sample the yard. Other quadrat sizes range from 2-by-2 feet to 10-by-10 feet.
- Artifacts from the single test unit excavated during the 1981 Boyer survey are not cataloged in DAACS.
DAACS staff has assigned feature numbers using the original excavation records. Feature numbers assigned by DAACS have an F-prefix, which precedes the number (i.e. F01 equals Feature 1).
Excavated contexts that belong to the same depositional basin (e.g. a posthole and postmold or the layers in a single pit) have been assigned a single feature number. In addition, single contexts have been given feature numbers when the original field records indicate that the excavators recognized a context’s spatial distinctiveness from surrounding contexts.
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 fence line). Feature Groups assigned by DAACS have an FG-prefix, which precedes the number (i.e. FG01 equals Feature Group 1). Only one feature group was assigned for this project which was the house (FG01).
|F01||Cellar||1339E, 1344C, 1342D, 1343C, 1343D, 1343E, 1343F, 1343G, 1343H, 1343J, 1343K, 1343L, 1343M, 1343N, 1343P, 1343Q, 1343R, 1347C, 1724C, 1724D, 1724E, 1729E, 1729F, 1730C, 1730D, 1724L, 1724N, 1724T, 1730S|
|F02||Rubble Scatter||1339A, 1340A, 1342A, 1342C, 1343A, 1343B, 1724B, 1338A, 1338C, 1730A, 1730B, 1729A, 1729B, 1729C|
|F03||Rubble Scatter||1363A, 1341A, 1362A, 1699B, 1721A, 1697B|
|F07||Trench, builder’s||1364D, 1348E, 1347D, 1346C, 1722D, 1726C|
|F09||Brick in Course|
|F08||Gully||1363B, 1362C, 1682A, 1682C, 1681A, 1681D, 1681E, 1681F, 1363D, 1364C, 1683A, 1683C, 1683E, 1722C, 1699C, 1696A, 1696C, 1722A, 1722B, 1697A, 1698B, 1698C, 1698A|
DAACS Seriation Method
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). Only assemblages with more than five ceramic sherds are included in these ceramic-based seriations. The Stewart-Watkins site had a total of 23 such assemblages which included stratigraphic groups as well as individual contexts. Unfortunately, DAACS was unable to produce a seriation-based chronology for the site. Its short occupation span may be the cause. The site-wide MCD and TPQ point to the occupation’s temporal placement at the end of the eighteenth century.
The Stewart-Watkins Site Mean Ceramic Date
Stewart-Watkins Site 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. SG10) followed by the DAACS analysts’ interpretations of them (e.g. “Buried A-Horizon”). Contexts that could not be assigned to stratigraphic groups are identified by their individual context numbers (e.g. 1728A).
See the Stewart-Watkins Site 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.
For a printable version, download the Harris Matrix [64.04 KB PDF].
PDF of composite excavator’s plan, compiled by Monticello staff from original field drawings, with excavation units and features labeled.
PDF of composite excavator’s plan, compiled by Monticello staff from original field drawings, with only excavation units labeled.
PDF of composite excavator’s plan, compiled by Monticello staff from original field drawings, with only features labeled.
PDF of Stewart-Watkins site, north profile, showing the major stratigraphic groups and F01 (cellar).
PDF of Stewart-Watkins site, east profile, showing the major stratigraphic groups in quadrats 1362, 1363 and 1364.
PDF of Stewart-Watkins site, west profile, showing the major stratigraphic groups in quadrats 1340, 1344 and 1348.
CAD site plan in .dxf format.
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