Friday, June 22, 2007

Slave quarters unearthed at historical state park

An excavation by Jack Bergstresser, resident archaeologist and director of Tannehill's Iron and Steel Museum, at Tannehill Ironworks and Historical State Park in Birmingham, Alabama (U.S.) has produced evidence of possible slave quarters.

"We're investigating what people here at the park have believed for years," Bergstresser said. "We know that slave labor was used in construction and also probably a part of the labor force at times, but there has been no evidence to this point." In addition to flat construction nails, the items found so far include bits of ceramics, an iron fork, a piece of a cup, a piece of a clay pipe, a green glass bead, a copper ring and a child's marble. For the scientists, those tiny tidbits are proof that the sites were houses.

. . .

When Tannehill furnaces were built in 1858, it is estimated that as many as 600 slaves might have been used both for construction and as part of the work force. Many were probably leased from nearby slave owners, but others apparently lived on site, walking a trail that still exists about 200 yards from the cabin sites to the furnace.

The furnace was destroyed by Union soldiers in 1865. That and the emancipation of the slaves triggered a new element in the local work force.