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Goodbye Davis Plantation Home, And Oh...LSU...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Many of you will remember all the news with the destruction of the stone mound in Oxford, Alabama atop a hill that was used for fill dirt for the proposed Sam's Club there.


Well, the last thing I wanted to write about was something else negative going on with the mound or the whole Sam's fill-dirt thing, or the creation of the sports complex across the street.


In fact, the sports complex development has been on hold since February when the Corps of Engineers found out that they hadn't been notified that ancient remains had been found there.  From the Star article early this year:


"As part of the wetlands permit process, archaeology is incorporated," Holstein said. "We told them there were 24 archaeological sites on that parcel of land, including a temple mound and village areas. The Historical Commission concurred, and the city signed off on it."
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"They're going to find more bodies," he said. "(Indians) didn't just bury one person in a large town like that."


The Star has an article that came out recently about the whole affair.


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What happened last month, though is really unfortunate.  


An arsonist set fire to the historic Davis Farm plantation house and destroyed it.




The house was built around 1839 near a natural boiling spring, on one of the mounds. This is a pic we took of the house in March - you can see the elevation that the house is on:

This is a bit better view of it:



The main ceremonial mound on the farm was almost 40' high (it's now only about 5'). The Davis Farm was put on the Alabama Historical Commission / Alabama Preservation Alliance / University of West Alabama 2005 'Places in Peril'.


Last month in the Anniston Star, Harry Holstein who is the professor of archaeology and anthropology at Jacksonville State University, was an author of a piece that read in part:


The Davis Farm property bridges both prehistoric and historical time periods. Initially, beginning as early as 8500 B.C., migratory bands of Native Americans chose to live at this location for many of the same reasons the historical landowners chose to live there: a large spring next to a major waterway, fertile land and abundant game surrounding the area. Two thousand years ago, an Indian village was well established along both sides of Choccolocco Creek in the vicinity of the former Davis Farm house.
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Calhoun County was previously owned by members of the Creek Nation; Cho-Yoholo was but one of the Creek Indians who resided near the boiling spring on what would later become the Davis farmstead. 
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 Handwritten notes from the Bessie Coleman Robinson historical collection indicate more than one mound once stood on the property, adding “the house stands on one.”
Christian reported artifacts were found when the fields were plowed, and his wife’s grandfather had once found human remains covered by large stones when plowing the field in front of the farmhouse. In 1935, the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) documented the antebellum house and its surrounding buildings, which included former slave quarters. It is likely some of the slaves are also buried on the property.
Based upon decades of investigations conducted in the immediate vicinity of the farmhouse, there is a tremendous amount of archaeological material remaining that would enhance the rich heritage of Native Americans and other historical residents of this area. This information needs to be preserved.
Previously, the concept of utilizing a portion of the property as an Interstate 20 welcome center was proposed. The area necessary for a welcome center would consist of a narrow strip of land running from the south edge of I-20 and along the west side of Boiling Springs Road to Choccolocco Creek. By creating a narrow strip of park-like land, the proposed facility could be tied into the Oxford sports complex on the other side of Choccolocco Creek by utilizing the historic iron truss bridge as part of a walking trail.
This would make a wonderful welcome center, regional information center, local museum and park surrounding the spring. Since there are excellent photographs of the original house from the 1935 HABS architectural survey, a replica could be constructed on the original footprint. This replica of the antebellum plantation, natural spring and surrounding park could then become the focal point for attracting thousands of tourists traveling I-20 and local residents alike.


An arrest has been made and the person has confessed to setting the home on fire.


I hope the project that Dr. Holstein mentioned, with the welcome center, museum, and park happens.  That's probably one of the only good things that can come from all of this.


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Oh!  And then!


LSU had decided not to allow people on the mounds on campus during home games beginning this year. They published this:

Don't Tread on Me: University Takes Steps to Preserve LSU Mounds
The iconic LSU Mounds are in danger due to their popularity. The high traffic of home football games is detrimental to the structural integrity of these archaeological treasures.
Louisianans know a thing or two about preservation. History, heritage, culture – when these things are threatened, people generally band together and take a stand to save important elements of the state's unique composition. Archaeological concerns may not be as traditionally ingrained, but are no less important.
LSU researchers are hoping to cultivate the public's preservationist instincts to save one of the most iconic attributes of the university's campus – the LSU Mounds, which will no longer be accessible during home game days.
The LSU Mounds, which date back approximately 6,000 years to the Archaic period, are some of the oldest Native American mounds found in Louisiana, and have long been in danger due to their popularity and also from natural processes. To preserve them and minimize irrevocable damage, the LSU Mounds will have restricted access on heavy traffic days, namely home football games.
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"This offers a chance for the public to see archaeology in action," said Mann. "We're hoping the LSU community will support our efforts to keep the mounds around for generations of Tigers to enjoy."


So then...on September 28th, the AP wrote:


Less than two weeks after LSU announced plans to block off 6,000-year-old Indian mounds on football weekends to protect them from traffic, it took down the barricades.
University spokesman Herb Vincent tells The Advocate that ropes and poles around the mounds were removed early Saturday for safety reasons. Later that day, children used signs reading "Please do not slide on the mounds" and "Help preserve the mounds" as sleds.


Gracious.


And delicious.


Update: This month, LSU decided to fence off the mounds again on high-traffic days, like home games.  Thank you, LSU!

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