Thursday, November 29, 2007

How Old is the Village Square?

Testing in front of the courthouse. TP3 (blue dashed circle) produced 18th-century artifacts.

During the "Great Volunteer Weekend" in late October (the stuff of legends), Pete excavated TP3 with a number of volunteers. They removed seven levels of soil around the remnant of a brick foundation. Long-time residents have identified this location as one of two houses built by a local character out of bricks "cannibalized" out of the demolished courthouse and jail. But the our local character clearly wasn't the first one to have lived barely 50 ft in front of the courthouse.

The excavators recovered relatively few artifacts from the 3 ft by 3 ft unit, but among those pieces were 13 sherds of creamware and one of British Brown stoneware, all classic 18th-century artifacts. Twelve of the creamware sherds came from the lowest level of the excavation.

The surviving maps of Port Tobacco all date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and all of them may have been based on the 1888 Page survey, which clearly shows the courthouse and a number of buildings around the periphery of a village square. We do not question the accuracy of Page's survey, but we have wondered whether there had always been a village square; hence the reason behind excavating TP3. We are not sold on the evidence, but there is reason to continue testing the area in front of the courthouse to determine whether the square dates back to 1727/8, or if it is a much later construction, possibly created to further the town's assertion that it should remain the county seat. We'll have more on the results of the testing in front of the courthouse after our next round of fieldwork next week.


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