Archaeologists from Southern Illinois University investigated the remains of a late nineteenth- to early twentieth-century farmstead owned by James L. and Martha Brown before a coal mining project impacted it. The Browns were formerly enslaved people who, prior to the Civil War, most likely lived on one of the many large plantations that dotted the Henderson County landscape.
In 1878, James Brown was able to purchase nearly 40 acres of land along the Green River. There he built a house, established a farm, and raised a large family. The Browns produced milk and eggs, grew corn, potatoes, and tobacco, and raised a few livestock. They sold some of their produce and meat at local markets.
Research revealed that the house was a rectangular wood-frame building with an addition. Other structures included a smokehouse and a chicken coop.
Artifacts included large quantities of ceramic dish and glass bottle fragments, representing a variety of decorative types and products from across the region and the nation. These materials indicated that the Browns had access to a wide range of goods. They had the ability to purchase national brands and some of the "in-style" dishes of the time.
Toys were numerous: porcelain dolls, tea set fragments, and glass marbles. James and Martha Brown’s eight children would have used and discarded these items. The presence of these objects indicated that the family had some disposable income. Other artifacts, such as brass buttons, a locket, harmonica parts, and a gold-plated ring, suggested that the Browns were able to purchase some luxury goods despite the economic challenges of the late nineteenth century.
Some of the artifacts from the site show that the Brown famliy adopted the popular dining traditions of the late nineteenth century.
For instance, the recovery of tea set fragments suggested that, like their neighbors, the Browns bought the dishes they needed to "take tea," an afternoon ritual that included serving special foods, brewing tea in special teapots, and drinking it from fine tea cups.
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