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Archaeologists excavated the John Arnold site

John Arnold Farmstead

Site ID: 15Lo168

Kentucky Archaeological Survey
Unless specified, we cannot provide site location information.


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​From 1996 to 1997 archaeologists from Wilbur Smith Consulting documented the remains of the John Arnold Farmstead in Logan County. This work was undertaken in advance of the US 431 relocation project.  The Arnold Family had owned it from the 1790s to the 1840s. Researchers investigated the remains of their log house and a detached brick kitchen or slave quarters.  The more recent of the two buildings, slightly smaller than the original structure, had brick chimneys. This suggested it was a more permanant dwelling. Stone and brick building materials were expensive, and the Arnold Family’s ability to purchase these items suggested they were relatively wealthy.  

The recovery of trade beads, straight pins, copper cones, and mouth harps from the original house suggested that enslaved people and lived in it after the Arnolds moved into their new home. These types of items have been found at slave dwellings throughout the American South.​

Historians had once assumed that frontier families, such as the Arnolds, were not involved in the broader economy linked to the eastern seaboard and, as a result, had limited access to luxury items and a more restricted diet. However, research at this site indicated that the Arnold Family was not isolated from national markets, and had a rich and varied diet. ​​

Hearth associated with the slave cabin.


​Artifact analysis indicated that the Arnold Family had access to the same types of goods as people did who lived​​​ in the more populous East.  By purchasing expensive tea wares and other dishes, like shell-edge decorated creamware or whiteware plates, the Arnolds signaled their participation in the genteel dining patterns of the early 1800s. Recovery of the remains of high-quality furnishings and clothing supported this interpretation. Some of these items included metal furniture hardware, oil lamp glass, clock parts, and metal clothing buttons and fasteners.

​Comparison of earlier and later food remains showed that the Arnolds became increasingly successful over time. Investigators recovered​ large amounts of wild plant and animal remains from early features. They interpreted this to mean that the Arnold Family depended on these foods as they cleared land for crops and established a reliable stock of domesticated animals. 

Corn was the primary staple crop throughout the time the Arnolds lived at the site, but dependence on European crops, such as oats, increased in importance.  Earlier deposits yielded a mixture of wild (turtle and squirrel) and domesticated (chicken) animals. Later deposits, however, contained nearly all domesticated animal remains, indicating the importance of beef and pork in the family's diet.

Gunflints:  left, made in Kentucky; right, made in England.

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​​Life on the Frontier​

Archaeological evidence from the John Arnold Farmstead revealed that people living on the western Kentucky frontier were not as isolated from regional and national markets as researchers had once thought. 

The quality and diversity of consumer goods the Arnolds were able to obtain indicated that in the late 1790s, they were well connected t​​​o larger cities like Nashville and Lexington. This connection provided a means for all sorts of goods to enter the Logan County region. 

In addition, the Arnold Family's rich and varied diet indicated that they quickly adapted to conditions on the frontier. Successful production of domesticated foods on their farm, and the family's regular access to consumer goods indicated that they lived much like aspiring farming families back East.​

Expensive decorated pearlware ceramics purchased by the John Arnold family.

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