From Preservation Issues, Volume 2, Number 1

Archaeology Profiles

by Patti Wright, Joseph Harl, and Dennis Naglich, Research Analysts, University of Missouri-St. Louis Archaeological Survey
An area in the vicinity of Babler State Park in St. Louis County has provided a particularly rich resource base for the study of Missouri plantation life and slavery. During the middle 19th century, three plantations (owned by Henry Tyler, Robert G. Coleman, and William H. Coleman) were in operation. Bringing with them more than 100 slaves, these interrelated planters came to Missouri in 1837 from Tidewater and Piedmont, Virginia. Each purchased relatively large tracts of land and specialized in hemp production for off-plantation sale.

Historical maps illustrate the presence of one, possibly two, slave cemeteries as well as an African Baptist church and school. Buried beside the African Baptist Church are three veterans of the 68th United States Colored Infantry, a regiment which distinguished itself in combat at Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1864. One of these veterans, Elijah Madison, had previously been a slave on the Robert G. Coleman plantation.

Five farmsteads belonging to "freedmen" who remained in the area after the Civil War were also noted. These include the residences of John Anderson, George and Carrie Brown, David Green, Harrison and Lucy Green, and Louis Rollins.

Exploratory excavations have been conducted at the site of the Tyler residence. There, portions of two foundations, the base of a chimney, and a cistern have been defined. Associated artifacts mainly consist of construction debris. However, ceramic and bottle fragments, marbles, buttons, and portions of household implements have also been recovered. The collection dates to mid-to-late 19th century.

Testing to judge the integrity of David Green's residence has also been completed. A small pit, containing a pontel-base bottle and an oval-shaped post mold, were discovered. Unfortunately, a later structure, represented by a poured-concrete foundation, has destroyed portions of Green's cabin.

Archival research indicates that David Green was born in Virginia around 1835. He was brought to the St. Louis area by either the Tyler or Coleman family. By the 1870 census, he was listed as a farm laborer. His ownership of the small tract was tenuous. The Pitzman 1878 atlas lists Green as the owner of this property, but the 1880 census indicates that he did not own any land and worked as a sharecropper on a plot consisting of 20 tilled acres and 20 acres of woods. This difference could have been an oversight on the part of the census taker. The 1880 census further suggests that Green ran a diversified farm raising corn, wheat, chickens, pigs, and dairy cattle.

Plantation life and slavery have interested historians for decades. Following the lead of these scholars, archaeologists have begun to investigate plantation sites and have attempted to address slavery from an archaeological perspective. Yet the vast majority of these archaeological and historical studies have focused on the American South. Investigations in more marginal areas such as Missouri are lacking. Some differences in the social, economic, and political relations between planter and slaves should be expected based on the distance between Missouri and other slaveholding states. These potential differences make the recording, excavation, and analysis of the remaining deposits extremely important to our understanding of this era in Missouri history.

Missouri Historic Architecture:

Shotgun Houses ca 1880-1930

Characteristics: Photo by Gary Kremer. Ida Bell Burns Lindsay was born in this shotgun house at 515 South 16th Street in St. Joseph. Dr. Lindsay was the first black American to receive a doctorate in Social Work. She later became a Dean at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she founded the School of Social Work.

All text and photos are taken from Preservation Issues
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Historic Preservation Program, P.O. Box 176, Jefferson City, MO 65102
Editor: Karen Grace
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