11/24/2002 BILL YOUNG: The rest of the metal
artifacts from Visionary Hill
We found several other metal artifacts associated with the kitchen. Two
badly rusted three-tine forks were recovered. Please note that in those early
times, forks had either two or three prongs rather than the typical four-prong
fork used today. To date, I haven't read any publication explaining why the
prongs on a fork have changed from three to four. I would imagine there is a
simple logical reason probably associated with better sticking and holding
whatever the person was eating. I think this comes under the heading of
Three pewter spoons, all broken at or near where the handle attaches to
the bowl, were recovered. A raised design similar to a sea shell was molded on
the bottom side of each bowl. Each handle had a simple design comprised of
parallel lines. Two fragmentary rusted table knives were also found. A portion
of the blade from a large kitchen knife was recovered along with only the bowl
part of a large iron spoon. I must assume that most of these kitchen utensils
were discarded after the pieces were broken. I would think that when the
occupants of Visionary Hill moved away, they would have taken everything they
owned that was still useable. However, we must remember that children would take
kitchen utensils, especially spoons outside to dig in the dirt and still do!
A small group of interesting metal objects associated with a cast iron
stove may explain why the number of bricks found at the site were so few in
number. One metal leg and a couple of side pieces definitely are part of a
stove. Two sections of one of the top burner plates marked "Charter" indicate
that this stove was manufactured by the Charter Oaks Stove Company. We also
found part of one of the doors marked with the last five letters of the city of
Philadelphia. We didn't recover enough of the stove to determine whether it was
a big rectangular cooking stove or one of the smaller "potbelly" units. If the
original occupants brought a metal cooking stove with them when they first
arrived, they might not have needed a brick fireplace. We also found a complete
damper unit that fits into the vent pipe on a stove. Both the eyelet and the
blade of a large hoe were recovered but I haven't taken the time to see if they
fit together. We also found one small hasp with a small oval loop. The size
probably represents a hasp made for a little box.
Five railroad spikes found on the site have created some questions. We
feel comfortable in stating that the Visionary Hill was abandoned by the
earliest settlers after the sheriff's sale in 1860. Since there wasn't any
railroad in the area until 1871, someone else brought the spikes to the site.
Or, railroads existed in the eastern states in the 1850s which means the early
settlers could have brought the spikes with them for some unknown use.
Curiously, one of the spikes has been heated and bent at an angle about 1 1/2
inches below the head. Someone has removed two of the sides of the head probably
using a forge. The purpose of this modification is not known at this time.
We found a few fence staples across the site, especially near the eastern
fence but these must have entered the soil at a much later date. A number of
fairly large pieces of at least two 5-gallon buckets were recovered. These may
date to either the early or later occupation. Two 6-inch fragments of a sheet of
corrugated metal indicates that at least a portion of the roof had been repaired
utilizing sheet metal. In every excavated unit near or under the house, many
small pieces of metal were recovered. Many of these are tiny fragments of tin
cans but a few are pieces of sheet metal roofing.
I have saved the discussion about the nails that we found until almost the
very last of the metal artifacts. Without the nails, we might still be guessing
as to what type of construction was used to build the house. However, the high
volume of small square nails about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length indicate that the
roof was made of wooden shingles held on with these small nails. On the other
hand, the low volume of larger nails such as 8 penny or even larger size 16
penny indicates that the structure was made of logs rather that milled lumber.
Some of the bigger sizes were recovered but most of these were used to toenail
the roof rafters into place. A few hand-forged nails with very large heads were
produced for a special purpose: It was common for the early settler to use wide
strips of leather to hold doors and shutters in place instead of metal hinges.
We didn't find a single metal hinge on the site. If I placed these few
hand-forged nails in a pile with the forged nails from the 1716 Spanish Mission
I found back in 1983, I would be hard pressed to separate the nails from
Next week: More information about the Heritage Lakes Trail
12/15/2002 BILL YOUNG: More
about the artifacts from Visionary Hill
On the front page of the Nov. 25 Daily Sun was a
photograph of my wife, Bobbie Jean, and two members of the Tarrant County
Archeological Society who came down to help excavate test holes. We were trying
to determine the age of a log cabin that we dismantled and moved to Pioneer
Village this past February. The photo was done by Kirk Sides of the Corsicana
Daily Sun who, along with his wife, spent several hours with us while we put in
the test units. In the photo, Jim Blanton of Fort Worth, is standing next to my
wife and is wearing a hat similar to mine. I have had several people mention
that I was in the photo which is incorrect. At a distance, Jim and I might
resemble each other but up close, it is easy to tell us apart.
Four days later, Joan Sherrouse wrote a very good
article about the double pen dog-trot cabin that we moved from the Timothy area
to Pioneer Village. A few days after the article appeared in the Corsicana Daily
Sun, I received a phone call from Bob Lakin whose wife, Mary Lakin, donated the
cabin to the Navarro County Historical Society. He said that I needed to contact
Wayne Burkhalter at Chatfield who could give me some important information
pertaining to the log cabin. I contacted Mr. Burkhalter who told me that the
cabin was the original stage stop in the city of Chatfield and that the
structure had been moved from Chatfield to the Timothy area. He stated that Rob
Witherspoon bought what they refer to as the "Pinkston Place" and soon
thereafter, Mr. Witherspoon moved the old stage stop to this tract of land. Mr.
Burkhalter said this cabin was moved prior to his growing up in the Chatfield
area. This is a great piece of information provided by Mr. Burkhalter since it
helps confirm the date we had determined by the various artifacts that we found
when we tested the site. Even though we will never be able to date the cedar
logs from the cabin, we can now surmise that this stage stop was originally
built during the early beginnings of Chatfield in the 1850s.
One thing of interest pertaining to the moving of this
structure: None of the logs were marked with any type of numbering or lettering
indicating that the cabin had been moved. Typically, when a log structure was
relocated, the logs were marked in some fashion so that when the cabin was
rebuilt, it was much easier to reassemble. In this particular case, the logs
were notched by three different individuals using three separate types of
notches: Single-dove, double-dove and square. This may have aided the persons
reassembling the cabin.
Before I start writing about the other artifacts from
Visionary Hill, let's review what we know so far. First, the Native Americans
utilized the site off and on from as early as 9,000 years ago (one artifact, a
Waco Sinker) to around 1,400 A.D. (eight diagnostic arrow points). However, the
largest concentration of dart points date from around 1,500 B.C. to 500 A.D.
(Gary points). Nearly everything recovered is either dart points or fragments of
the same. Other stone tools are almost completely absent and only a few tiny
sherds of Native American pottery would indicate the presence of one small
The artifacts from the historic component tell us a lot
about the people but also raise several unanswered questions. In the category of
brick, there are less than six bricks present. This raises questions about the
presence of a chimney. The bone recovered from the site indicate deer, pig,
fish, and bird, either turkey or chicken, and the presence of egg shell tells us
they were raising chickens.
Under the various sub-classes of metal, parts from a
wagon indicates they stored part of a wagon near the house. Stove parts,
possibly from both a cook stove and a pot-barrel stove tell us they had a little
extra money to purchase these items imported from the northern states. Musket
balls of several different calibers and percussion caps and one part of a
percussion cap container indicate the presence of several different guns, both
pistols and rifles. One complete brass spur and two pieces of another different
type of brass spur indicate horses. Also, the one complete spur is a military
type probably indicating that someone fought in the Civil War.
A few barrel staves indicate the presence of at least
one barrel. This vessel was probably used possibly to store water drawn from the
un-lined well still present at the site. Several kitchen utensils such as pewter
spoons, three- tine bone handle forks, and bone handle knives along with blade
sections from two larger butchering knives tell us food was consumed at the
site. Many square nails, most of which are roofing nails tell us that the
structure was a log cabin rather then being constructed of milled lumber. A lot
of tiny metal fragments tell us they purchased some food products packaged in
cans. And finally, the presence of numerous charcoal fragments in the area where
the structure once stood tells us that the log house eventually burned down.
Keep in mind that many of the above artifacts can be
found around any rural homestead site. However, the particular age of each
category lets me know that Visionary Hill is older than most sites in the
county. Next week, I will write about some of the other classifications that
will help prove the age of Visionary Hill.
Next week: More metal and glass from Visionary Hill
12/22/2002 BILL YOUNG: The Rest of the
Metal Artifacts From Visionary Hill
In the last article, I wrote a brief review covering the various
artifacts to date from Visionary Hill and what each tells us about the site.
I also alluded to the fact that many of the items could be found on any
rural site that dates prior to the early 1900s.
For an archeologist to efficiently date a historic site, it takes a
combination of all of the artifacts recovered from the site. Each general
category contributes something to the process while certain individual
artifacts help to fine tune, not only the dating of a site but hopefully,
something about the day to day lives of the persons occupying the site.
In the next few weeks, the articles will cover several categories that
will explain why we are comfortable with the beginning and ending dates for
the first occupation of the site.
First, there are a few more metal objects that need to be mentioned. One
worn-out horse shoe found very near to the original location of the house
along with the spurs written about previously attest to the presence of
horses. I seriously doubt the horses were kept near the house, but it is my
opinion someone living at the house picked up the discarded horse shoe and
may have nailed it to the wall for good luck.
The old saying that "two heads are better than one" is very appropriate.
A few weeks ago, James Orler and Buddy Richards were digging and laying the
new lateral lines for the septic system at the location. I had apiece of old
rusted metal about 6x6 inches square lying in the floorboard of my pickup. I
had assumed that the piece of metal was a small portion of a section of
sheet metal. However, I wasn't convinced that this was apiece of sheet metal
because the corrugations were small and placed very close together.
All sheet metal today has wide and fairly deep indentations, but I
thought that possibly back in the 1800s, sheet metal was produced with small
and shallow indentations. I knew that if it was a piece of sheet metal, it
belonged with the second or possibly a third occupation at Visionary Hill.
The vast numbers of short square nails that were used to attach wooden
shingles to horizontal lathing indicates without question that the first
roof was made of shingles and not tin.
I brought the piece out to show to the two gentlemen mentioned above to
see if they had ever seen sheet metal with this small pattern. Mr. Orler
took one look and said that wasn't sheet metal. Instead, he stated it was
part of an old wash board and without a doubt, he was correct!
I have found only two pieces of this identical material and it really
bothered me that if was sheet metal, there should be other fragments found
at the site. However, since these two pieces represent both sides of a wash
board, they fit comfortably into a category that was both common and very
necessary, prior to electricity and washing machines.
In the first year, we found two pieces of a pewter charger. In Webster's
Dictionary, the definition of a charger is a large plate.
I will try to offer a better explanation. A charger could be either a
metal or ceramic plate slightly larger than the plates used for food
consumption. I don't doubt that some individuals used the charger for a
plate but they were originally intended to hold the ceramic food plate. In
other words, it served as a plate to hold a plate. Whether this means the
plate containing the food was too hot to hold and necessitated the need for
a second plate to hold the hot plate, I am not sure .
I need to mention one other metal object that should have been included
in the section where I was talking about musket balls and percussion caps. I
found a small round piece of brass that is about the size of an eraser on a
pencil. It tapers dramatically on one end where there are two tiny prongs
protruding from the tip.
It is my opinion that this small piece is the metal tip from a wooden
cleaning rod. Since the diameter is very small, I felt sure this cleaning
rod was utilized on a pistol. The two small tangs served as a means to
attach a small cleaning patch.
Typically, when dealing with guns and gunpowder, all objects that came
anywhere near the powder charge in a gun were made of brass. Striking a
piece of brass will not produce a spark which could ignite the gunpowder.
We recovered several other metal pieces from the site that I can not
One is a thick metal bar about eight inches in length and nearly one inch
in width and approximately a half inch thick. Near one end, there is a slot
cut completely through the bar as if cut by a kitchen knife. You can readily
see that the slot is wider at one end and tapered to about the thickness of
a knife blade. If a kitchen knife was utilized to cut this slot, the bar
must have been heated so hot that the a knife could be pushed through the
metal. Because the slot is so narrow, I can not imagine what this piece of
metal was used for.
We also found several bolts and rods that probably had something to do
with a wagon. I have gone over my friend's complete wagon and haven't been
able to observe any of these pieces in place on the wagon.
YOUNG: The glass containers from Visionary Hill
Recently, I was informed by two separate
ladies that each was picking up historic artifacts from old house sites on their
Mrs. Chip Curington has collected several
bags of glass, ceramics and metal from a house site located to the southeast of
Emhouse. I have looked at some of the material and it is my opinion that use of
this particular house began in the late 1890s and probably was continuously
occupied until sometime after World War II. Based on the volume of material, I
am assuming the family who occupied the house were probably land owners and not
The other lady, Mrs. Elizabeth McCrory, is
collecting from a site near Purdon but at this present time, I haven't checked
any of the material.
When an archeologist begins to analyze the
glass and ceramics from a historic site, certain "keys" within each category
help tremendously in determining the beginning and ending age for a house
structure, especially one that began as early as Visionary Hill.
The first of these "keys" is window glass.
At Visionary Hill, we found only 24 small pieces of window glass. They are very
thin and flat and a pale aqua in color. If we were to glue them together, there
still would not be enough to reconstruct one small pane of glass, much less a
complete window. Keep in mind that windows in the 1850s were comprised of eight
small panes. The glass manufacturers were not be able to cast larger panes due
to distortion from the pouring process onto the flat casting tables. This
limitation aids the archeologist in determining when the window pane was
originally made. If we measure the thickness of each shard of window glass and
then determine what is the average thickness, we can get within five years, plus
or minus, of the exact year the window pane was cast. At Visionary Hill, we
measured each piece with a set of calipers and determined that the window was
produced in 1850. This date fits comfortably within the range of time that we
think was the beginning year for the house.
We also recovered two shards of a much
thicker pale aqua glass which we think are sections of either a mirror or the
cover glass for a picture frame. Each piece is entirely too thick to be shards
of window glass.