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Case Studies (Mitigation)

Case Studies (Mitigation)

Queensborough Township

An archaeologist performing a dig

Recent archaeological investigations conducted by Southern Research Historic Preservation Consultants for the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration provided an important first glimpse of Colonial and early Federal period life in Burke and Jefferson Counties, Georgia. This excavation was required for compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, to mitigate the adverse effects of the proposed road widening associated with the Fall Line Freeway, which will link Augusta and Columbus. The archaeological site, named Hannah's Quarter for its probable association with the Scots-Irish William Hannah family, dates to the late eighteenth through early nineteenth centuries. Archaeological excavation revealed a small compound, consisting of four buildings. Cultural features, such as pits, post molds, cellars and extremely sparse material culture deposits, evidenced the occupation of this site.

Principal archaeologist Daniel Elliott pieced together from archaeological and historical evidence a picture of life on the plantation of William Hannah. The settlement began as part of the Queensborough Township, which was populated by Scots-Irish Presbyterians from Northern Ireland from about 1768-1772. Archival documents reveal that William Hannah immigrated to Georgia in 1772, accompanied by his wife and two children. He established a small plantation between the forks of Hannah Branch and Duhart Creek, located in the Ogeechee River watershed. As with many other early towns and villages in colonial Georgia, Queensborough itself did not survive the American Revolution, although many of its residents remained in Georgia.

Few Colonial and Federal period sites have been excavated in Georgia, and of these, most are located in towns such as Augusta, Darien, Fort Frederica, New Ebenezer, and Savannah. Even less archaeological investigation has been conducted on rural sites in Georgia's interior Coastal Plain, and much of this has concentrated on plantations rather than farmsteads. As a result of the archaeological and historical study of the Hannah's Quarter site, we have a glimpse of life on the Georgia frontier in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. A more complete story of life in the Queensborough Township and early Jefferson County will have to wait for the discovery of better-preserved sites and future archaeological investigations.

Pipemaker’s Canal

An image of Pipemaker's Canal from the bank

For more than a decade, the Historic Preservation Division (HPD) has reviewed projects that have the potential to affect a series of drainage canals located throughout Savannah and Chatham County. Most of these were subject to compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act because of federal permitting through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As early as 2001, HPD review staff found in reviewing these projects that these non-transportation canals such as Pipemakers, Strawberry, and Hardin should be considered eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Although not a lot of information was available beyond the structures themselves, it was evident that the series of drainage canals formed a system that permitted the development of otherwise marshy or poorly drained wetlands. Therefore, it was our opinion that these drainage canals should be considered eligible under Criterion A, for association with the development of Savannah, and C, as structures. While they continued to serve their historic function of draining water, we understood that continued improvements to the canals were necessary in order to maintain them and increase their capacity.

In 2006, Chatham County Engineering Department proposed improvements to Pipemakers Canal that included doubling the width, dredging and slope work and the addition of maintenance roads. In consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, HPD entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Chatham County to mitigate the adverse effects that would result from this work. One of the mitigation measures was preparation of a written report concerning the history and development of Pipemakers Canal. Ellen I. Harris of the Metropolitan Planning Commission, Savannah for Chatham County Department of Engineering prepared this document entitled A Developmental History of Pipemakers Canal, Chatham County, Georgia. The report is very informative and contains key general background material as well as site-specific documentation. For example, while we originally thought the canals were primarily for development, it turns out that the major impetus was public health, with development following. Also, some of these canals were the result of one of the largest Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects in the state. Pipemakers Creek/Swamp was fully converted into a canal by 1930 and as suburbanization spread across Chatham County after World War II, the canal system was maintained and utilized to drain wet areas to build new subdivisions and accommodate new development.

The report illustrates just how important this network of non-transportation canals was in the history of Savannah, providing drainage for prevention of disease, for agricultural cultivation and for land development. In addition, it is a valuable tool in understanding a historic resource that is being altered both directly and indirectly as a result of modern development.

Silk Hope, Cherry Hill, and Dublin/Richmond Hill Plantations

Archaeological investigations conducted by Brockington and Associates, Inc. for the Ford Plantation, LLC provide an excellent example of how Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, as amended, works. The subject property lies on the Lower Coastal Plain of Georgia, in southern Bryan County. Named for automotive icon Henry Ford, who had a residence there in the early to mid-twentieth century, the Ford Plantation property once contained three antebellum rice plantations: Silk Hope, Dublin/Richmond, and Cherry Hill. Brockington and Associates, Inc. began fieldwork in 1998 for a proposed residential development on the subject property that required a permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, thus initiating the Section 106 process.

One of the strengths of archaeology is its ability to compliment history, fill in the gaps, and tell the stories of those people and practices not well-documented in the written record. In this case, archaeology was able to tell us much more about the everyday lives of the enslaved African-American occupants of the plantations than any planter's journal could.

The earliest of the three occupations occurred at the Silk Hope Plantation. Archaeological evidence indicates that, especially at this relatively early date, African traditions had a major influence on slave culture. Archaeologists identified the remains of slave quarters that closely resemble the style of house one would find in West Africa.

Image caption: (Marked colonoware vessel from Silk Hope (highlight with chalk)

Another indication that African cultural traditions were thriving in early colonial and antebellum Georgia comes from some of the pottery recovered at Silk Hope. Colonoware, a type of ceramics produced by enslaved African-Americans for their own use, was recovered from Silk Hope, some bearing engraved markings similar to those found on colonoware in South Carolina and believed by some to represent African religious/cosmological symbols.

 (Sheep burial at Cherry Hill)

Cherry Hill Plantation also produced evidence of African culture among the enslaved African-American population. In addition to colonoware, this site produced possible evidence of an African style initiation ritual involving animal sacrifice. A sheep burial was discovered in the back yard area of one of the slave cabins at Cherry Hill. The skeleton is intact and shows no signs of butchering, so it was evidently not used for food. It may have been a pet, but this seems unlikely in light of ethno-historical accounts of African rituals involving the slaughter of a sheep and subsequent burial in place by digging soil from underneath the body.

(Pewter sheep figurine from Cherry Hill)

Also found in the same general area was a small pewter sheep figurine. Viewshed analysis conducted via geographic information system (GIS) indicates that such a ritual conducted at this location would have been out of sight from the overseer's house-an important detail since such rituals would have likely been forbidden or strongly discouraged.

Such details of African-American culture on the colonial and antebellum Georgia coast are seldom captured in the historical record and might have been lost to the archaeological record if there were not a procedure in place to evaluate historic properties and assess the effects that certain types of "undertakings" might have upon them.

In addition to archaeological data recovery, efforts were also made to mitigate adverse effects to architectural resources present in the Ford Plantation development. An architectural survey of Bryan County conducted in 1976 resulted in the nomination of a National Register Historic District including the mansion built by Henry Ford, the servants' quarters, Ford's laboratory (formerly a steam powered rice mill), and a Civil War gun emplacement overlooking the Ogeechee River. The Section 106 process also dictated that adverse effects to these eligible architectural resources be mitigated.

One of the steps taken to mitigate adverse effects on the Ford National Register District was to redraw its boundaries to include landscape elements such as nearby Sterling Marsh, where inhabitants of the Richmond Plantation once planted rice, and the "Oyster House" - a historic cabin that Ford had relocated to his property. This redrawn district was nominated for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

(The Ford Mansion)

All Ford Era architecture was documented according to standards and guidelines set forth by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), which includes measured drawings, large format photographs, and written history.

Guidelines were put in place to govern locations for new construction to minimize their visual impact on the Ford National Register District. These guidelines also limit the design of new construction to styles consistent with those of the Ford National Register properties.

Finally, a plan was devised for monitoring those historic properties (which included both archaeological and architectural resources) that were to be preserved in place. This plan specifies the resources to be monitored, by whom, and how often. It also sets limits and conditions on the kinds of maintenance or other activity that can be conducted within the boundaries of protected properties.

(Ford laboratory (renovated 19th century rice mill)

The end result of this whole process has been positive for everyone involved. The Ford Plantation, LLC will have archaeological and historical exhibits that add value to their product. The City of Richmond Hill will also have museum exhibits, as well as a potential increase in heritage tourism. Bryan County Public Schools and libraries will receive cultural heritage education materials incorporating the recent work at Ford Plantation. Finally, we all have the satisfaction of knowing that these chapters in American history will be preserved for generations to come.

Some sources of more information include: From Beautiful Zion to Redbird Creek: A History of Bryan County by Buddy Sullivan, Shades of Gray: The Clay and McAllister families of Bryan County, Georgia by Carolyn Clay Swiggart, and papers posted at the Brockington and Associates, Inc. Web site.

All photographs courtesy of Brockington and Associates, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia.

Walter B. Hill Industrial School, Turin, Coweta County

The Walter B. Hill Industrial School was named in honor of the Special Supervisor of Negro Education when it opened in 1927. In Georgia, the Rosenwald Fund provided grants for 242 school buildings during segregation. The National Trust for Preservation listed Rosenwald Schools as one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2002.

Just southeast of Newnan is the town of Turin, a small Georgia community with a population of 165 residents. In Turin, the mayor has a hands-on approach to town operations: learning to fix potholes, process water bills, and respond to citizens on a first-name basis. Amy Starr, the town's mayor, first became active in Turin politics when she applied for a vacancy on the planning and zoning commission.

In 1999, a contractor submitted a request for a 250-foot cellular communications tower to the planning and zoning commission. The commission, led by Amy Starr, at first recommended denial of the request to the town council. This action led to extensive negotiations between the cell tower company and the town. The cell tower company proposed Turin because the town was in the middle of a dead spot, and there was no cellular tower coverage in the area. Turin was the only location the company could use for its communications tower, but the tower would damage the "view shed" of this historic community.

Since a communications tower company's license is granted through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the FCC licensee is required to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Because the undertaking involves a federal agency, the cellular communications company, on behalf of the FCC, initiated a review process to determine the impact of the project on historic properties. The Historic Preservation Division (HPD) reviewed the proposed project, working with all parties to assess the potential for "adverse effects" on local historic resources. During this process, the role of HPD was consultative, providing technical assistance in the identification of historic properties, assessment of National Register eligibility and potential impact on visual effects in the historic setting of Turin.

One historic resource in question was Turin's Walter B. Hill Industrial School, a Rosenwald school. The Walter B. Hill Industrial School opened in 1927. The school was a three teacher, wooden building. The Rosenwald Fund provided a grant that required matching contributions. African Americans contributed 32% of the construction costs and the Rosenwald Fund contributed 30%. The remaining contributions were from whites (19%) and public funds (19%).

Three teachers taught 80-90 students at Walter B. Hill. Their monthly salaries were $12. The Walter B. Hill Industrial School was the first of six Rosenwald schools built in Coweta County, and was the only one to offer industrial classes. In fact, the school was the only vocational school for African Americans in Coweta County until it was consolidated in 1953. When the school closed, the building became town property, and it was used for storage of the town's fire department equipment.

The Walter B. Hill Industrial School was determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, as this rare African American resource is one of the few remaining Rosenwald schools in Georgia. The Section 106 review process determined an "adverse effect" on this historic resource. When an "adverse effect" occurs, consulting parties negotiate a Memorandum of Agreement, the legally binding document that delineates responsibility and actions required to mitigate adverse effects. For years, Turin wanted to rehabilitate the building for use as a town hall and local history center. In this case, the cell tower company agreed to provide the town with $10,000 for the project.

An additional $100,000 was provided for the project through public referendum in Special Local Option Sales Tax funds. The town hired the Chattahoochee-Flint Regional Development Center (RDC) to provide technical assistance in the first round of building rehabilitation. Lynne Miller, historic preservation planner for the Chattahoochee-Flint RDC, is excited about the project. "This phase will focus on replacing the building's metal roof and strengthening the structure. As funding allows, the town will then rehabilitate the balance of the building exterior, and the shed will be removed."