Archaeology at the Mill Progress Report – Pt. 3

Earlier this year, lead archaeologist, Dr. Mike Johnson, wrote up a progress report of the archaeological work that has been done at the Mill to date.  We’re excited to present  the final section of the paper, Part 3 of his “Thoroughfare Gap Archaeology News” below (Click HERE for Part 1 and Click HERE for Part 2).  

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The rest of this newsletter will focus on the prehistoric aspects of Thoroughfare Gap archeology, which is Johnson’s research interest.  However, Johnson will continue to provide preliminary assessments of historic results as appropriate.

Currently, the excavation levels are below the historic artifact zone, with a possible exception of a disturbance in the northeast corner of Square 2 (N960E3476).  No evidence of a cellar or historic pits have been detected in the three test squares.  As a result it is likely that any prehistoric occupations have not been disturbed by historic period activity.

This is supported by a discovery on September 3 that what was originally thought to be evidence of a shallow relic stream bed from when Broad Run was running across the feature, many thousands of years ago, was actually a prehistoric artifact.  Figure 8 shows the large, water rolled boulder after it was cleaned off at the bottom of level 105 in Square 3.  The inset image shows that the boulder was discolored from burning and it has a battered area (arrow) that was from using it as an anvil stone, probably from splitting high quality stream cobbles.  Level 105 also produced the highest concentration of worked quartz artifacts yet recovered from any excavation level on the site.  Figure 9 shows a clear quartz biface fragment and a large quartz unifacial core fragment.  These artifacts located on the same level; in an isolated context, and in proximity to an “immovable” object, the anvil, strongly suggest that the excavation has encountered a relatively undisturbed surface.

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Figure 8.  Plan view of Sq. 3, level 105 with large anvil stone.

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Figure 9.  Clear quartz biface (1) and quartz unifacial quartz core fragment (2) from Sq. 3, level 105.

Recently, two possible Middle Archaic, Morrow Mountain-like points were recovered from the other two squares (Figure 10).  Both were laying relatively flat, indicating minor displacement, and were at approximately the same level.  Morrow Mountain points date to approximately 7,000 to 7,500 years ago (B.P).  It is possible that the two points could be Late Archaic (4,500-3,700 B.P.), Savannah River knife/saw-like tools.  However, the use of quartz in Savannah River points is rare.  On the other hand, hornfels was commonly used in the Savannah River period.  The unusually high number of meta-volcanic artifacts from both squares suggests the Morrow Mountain age.

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Figure 10.  Hornfels Morrow Mountain-like point (1) from Sq. 1, Level 105, and quartz Morrow Mountain point (2) from Sq. 2, Level 104.

As stated above, the meta-volcanic stone occurring on this site probably comes from geological formations located south of the James River.  Major prehistoric meta-volcanic quarries occurred at Morrow Mountain in central North Carolina, where the stone was commonly used during that cultural period.  Unlike Savannah River artifacts, Morrow Mountain artifacts are uncommon in Northern Virginia, which makes the resolution of this question important to the major prehistoric research question about the use of water gaps as places where people came periodically from great distances to meet.

These are preliminary evaluations of recent data, only just uncovered in the last few weeks.  With the recent discoveries, especially of potentially minor disturbance to the prehistoric components, it is possible that the site has good stratigraphic integrity.  That would make the site’s prehistoric components extremely rare in an interior upland context.  Most stratified sites have been found along major waterways, such as rivers and estuaries, where large volumes of loose sediment/sand are available for both water and wind transport.

 

Archaeology at the Mill Progress Report – Pt. 2

Earlier this year, lead archaeologist, Dr. Mike Johnson, wrote up a progress report of the archaeological work that has been done at the Mill to date.  We’re excited to present  Part 2 of his “Thoroughfare Gap Archaeology News” below (Click HERE for Part 1).  Expect to see Part 3 of the September TGA news posted here in the near future.  

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Based on that assessment, at the beginning of this year three, four-foot squares were laid out in that area.  Square 1 was placed adjacent to and outside the western wall of the historic foundation.  That was to identify a possible builder’s trench for a possible house and to avoid historic disturbance to the prehistoric stratigraphy, which might be higher inside the foundation.  Square 2 was placed just inside the foundation immediately east of Square 1 and Square 3 was placed in the center of the foundation immediately east of Square 2.

Excavations on the three squares have been going on throughout the Spring and Summer of 2016.  As of this writing they are approximately 15 inches deep and several inches below the last historic evidence.  The historic part of the site was extremely interesting and produced a wealth of data.  The artifacts indicated that the feature was occupied throughout much of the 19th century.  Burned soil, charcoal and burned artifacts indicate that the site may have burned down, although not due to a fire of the intensity needed to melt glass.  Rock rubble within the foundation indicated that the house walls were stone part of the way up from the ground.  Artifacts also indicated that a female occupant possessed fine quality clothing as indicated by the quality of the female buttons.  The ceramics and glass also indicated some degree of affluence (Figure 5).

tga-1Figure 5.  Sample of historic artifacts from the 2016 test excavations.

Figure 5 shows: (1) a floral decorated brass button; (2) a floral decorated black glass button; (3) one side of a carved bone utensil handle; (4) an agateware doorknob sherd; (5) a cluster of in situ “ironstone” basal sherds; (6) a cut glass (jet ?) cross pendant; (7) a floral embossed tableware bowl sherd; (8) a brass, two piece, Civil War, eagle shield button (the only Civil War era artifact recovered from the excavation); (9) the bottom portion of an elaborately molded black glass bottle, and (10) several mended, hand painted floral and annular pearlware sherds.

Figure 6 shows the raised feature that is within the rectangular lines of large rocks that are the foundation walls.  One can see the drop-off to the screening area on the far side of the raised landform.  One of the large rocks that form the foundation edge can be seen exposed next to the water level to the left.  The closest test square (Square 1 – N960E3468) is just outside the west wall of the foundation.  Two foundation stones can be seen to the south (right) – one under the kneeling pad and the other behind the white spray bottle.  Unlike the other two squares, it produced very little construction rubble, indicating that whatever foundation stone that was above ground collapsed inward.  One can also see a slightly higher mound between the farthest square and the screen area.  It is likely chimney rubble.  The foundation has not been mapped but it paces off at approximately 20 feet east-west and 18 feet north south.

tga-2Figure 6.  Looking east toward the 2016 excavation area showing the raised landform of the foundation.

It is possible that the site is one of the two shown in the foreground of Figure 7 as it is located immediately before the bend to the north in the current railroad bed.  It appears that the collapsed chimney rubble on the archeological foundation is at the east end, like those in the photograph and the position and distance in relation to the mill and old railroad tracks are similar.  The alternative is that the archeological foundation is located from where the picture is being taken.  At some point it might be possible to approximate the distance from the mill to the nearest house by measuring known distances in the photo and relate them to dimensions of other features in the photo.

tga-3Figure 7.  Late 19th century (?) photograph of the mill and Thoroughfare Gap from the east.

Part 3 of this article coming soon!

Archaeology at the Mill Progress Report

Earlier this year, lead archaeologist, Dr. Mike Johnson, wrote up a progress report of the archaeological work that has been done at the Mill to date.  We’re excited to present his “Thoroughfare Gap Archaeology News” below.  Expect to see parts 2 and 3 of the September TGA news posted here in the near future.  

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Hopefully, this will be the first of many updates on the progress of archeological investigations in Thoroughfare Gap by the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Archeological Society of Virginia, working in concert with Turn the Mill Around Foundation.  Prior to the current effort, archeological investigations in the gap have been sporadic with the current work being the first comprehensive investigations of any part of the gap area.

It began several years ago under the oversight and direction of Kay McCarrron, who was the previous Executive Director for Turn the Mill Around Campaign.  It continues under the oversight of Frances Allshouse and direction of Mike Johnson, Ph.D.  Its focus was on identifying potential archeological features and sites that may be impacted by a proposed trail system (Figures 1 and 2) to the east of the Chapman-Beverly Mill.  That was mainly so the significant features could be properly conserved.  Its main objective was to identify historic features that logically would have been associated with the mill and its owners.

figure-1Figure 1.  Preliminary master plan for development of the mill property.

 

firgure-2Figure 2.  Transect interval sample locations.

 

However, McCarron took the opportunity to expand the testing to cover areas of potential research interest beyond mere development related impact areas.

Finding historic, mill related features was no surprise.  The big surprise was the discovery of unusual prehistoric stone artifacts.  Prehistoric artifacts could be expected.  However, many of the artifacts were made of non-local stone, indicating that they were either brought or traded over many miles by people whose only means of transportation was on foot.  That discovery brought former Fairfax County Senior Archeologist, Mike Johnson into the project.  He was involved in research on water gaps, like Thoroughfare Gap, as focal points for very early (20,000-10,000 B.P.) prehistoric trade centers, large interaction camps and transportation bottlenecks.

Over time he took on more and more of the field oversight.  His participation has involved supervising recovery of both the mill related historic and gap related prehistoric archeological information.  The initial field strategy devised by McCarron and Becky Garber was to test the trail impact areas, using controlled shovel test pits spaced at tight intervals across the landscape to the east of the mill.

This strategy was consistent with that used by Johnson in Fairfax County and was ideal for the recovery of the highest quality historic and prehistoric data.  The method is similar to a “Phase I survey,” designed in government archeology to locate sites in areas that have not been previously surveyed.  However, Chapman’s Mill and its complex of supporting features was a recorded site.  Its state registry number is 44FQ271, which means it is the 271st archeological site recorded in Fauquier County (FQ) Virginia (44).

Since the tight interval transect interval sample was being employed on a known site it was considered part of the next phase, Phase II, which is the first part of an assessment of a site’s significance.  Johnson calls this a Phase IIA.

The fieldwork was completed several years ago, with the recovery of enormous quantities of historic and a lesser amount of prehistoric artifacts.  Fieldwork was suspended for more than a year and a half to permit laboratory processing and cataloguing artifacts.  This was necessary prior to determining where to do more intensive test excavations, designed to assess the significance of potential features.

Johnson agreed to assist with the understanding that his contribution would be consistent with his research interest in prehistoric use of water gaps. He did not feel competent enough to do justice to a complex industrial site like Chapman’s Mill.  Although Johnson has basic competence in historical archeology, his advice is to get a qualified industrial archeologist with specific skill and experience in dealing with mill complexes.

The results of that lab work indicated that several areas held a high potential for prehistoric activity areas consistent with Johnson’s research interest.  The distributions of two of the more important exotic stone artifacts (jasper and meta-volcanic) are shown in Figures 3 and 4.  Both stone types are not common on most sites east of the Blue Ridge.  Jasper sources have been identified south of Front Royal, at Point of Rocks on the Potomac and between Fredericksburg and Culpeper.  Meta-volcanic sources have yet to be found north of the James River.

 

figure-3Figure 3.  Phase IIA jasper distribution.

 

figure-4Figure 4.  Meta-volcanic distribution.

 

One of the largest and most intense jasper artifact areas was found to be co-located with the most intense and largest meta-volcanic area as shown in Figures 3 and 4.  Interestingly, this area also is where the Phase IIA testing identified a large stone foundation.  It is also the highest landform, relative to Broad Run, located east of the immediate mill area and south of the railroad tracks.  The higher elevation and distance from Broad Run suggests that it would possibly contain the earliest prehistoric camps.  Relative safety from flooding also is likely the same reason it was used for an historic house.

Part 2 of this article coming soon!

Help Preserve History on Giving Tuesday!

Since 1998, Turn the Mill Around Campaign has worked tirelessly to preserve and promote the historic Chapman – Beverley Mill in Broad Run, Virginia.  The Campaign successfully undertook the massive task of stabilizing the arson-stricken structure, opened the site to the public and engaged with local historians to discover the archaeological history of the Mill.

Every year, thousands of people visit the Mill to enjoy its rich history, impressive architecture and beautiful outdoor space and soon TTMAC will be able to welcome school bus groups thanks to a new bus turnaround and parking area.

Your support has made all of this possible!

As 2016 draws to a close, we hope you will continue to show your support of the Mill.

Join us today, Giving Tuesday, for the official kickoff of TTMAC’s end of year fundraising campaign during which we hope to raise $10,000 to benefit the Chapman – Beverley Mill.

This year it’s easier than ever to donate! In addition donations by mail or via our website, you can now make a donation through Facebook and Twitter. Simply reply ‪#donate‬ + any $ amount (ex:#donate$10) to any post. Within minutes you’ll receive a one time link to register with GoodWorld and that’s it! Every other time you #donate it will be automatic. No other registration required!

You can also support the Mill by shopping our recently redesigned Mill Store, where you’ll find great holiday stocking stuffers like wine glassestote bags and mill stone magnets.  Or participate in our Adopt a Stone Program where you can adopt one or more of the thousands of stones on the Mill’s south-facing wall or made a donation to one of our commemorative stones.

Turn the Mill Around Campaign thanks you for your continued support!

Historic Mill Seeks Funds and Unveils New Ways to Donate

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Below you’ll find the most recent press release from the Mill  TTMAC is hoping to raise $10,000 by the end of the year and there are several great ways to help out!  Donors can now make a donation, adopt a stone and purchase Mill merchandise all in one spot!  Plus get a sneak preview of the east wall Adopt a Stone program which will begin in Spring 2017.

Broad Run, VA (November 12, 2016) — The Historic Chapman – Beverley Mill seeks $10,000 in end of year contributions through stone adoption program and online gift shop.

If you’ve ever traveled I-66 between The Plains and Gainesville, you may have noticed a large stone structure, now a ruin, standing at the base of the Bull Run Mountains in Thoroughfare Gap.

The building, known as the Chapman – Beverley Mill was built in 1742 and it ground grain and plaster for the surrounding community until the late 1940’s. Recognized as the tallest stacked stone structure in the U. S., the Mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Virginia Landmarks Register and many others.

When it was gutted by arson in 1998, Turn the Mill Around Campaign, a non-profit 501c3 organization, stepped in to preserve the historic Mill. Since then, TTMAC has successfully stabilized the Mill ruins, opened the site to weekend tourists and, most recently, begun work on a bus turnaround and handicap accessible parking area that will open the site to many new visitors.

But as 2016 comes to a close, the organization needs help to continue its mission to preserve, promote and share the Mill and its history. TTMAC hopes to raise $10,000 by the end of the year to benefit the Mill.

“There are lots of new and exciting ways to support the Mill,” said executive director Frances Allshouse. “We’ve streamlined our online shop so that sponsors can now make a donation, purchase Mill merchandise and even adopt a stone from the Mill’s southern wall all in one place.”

The Mill’s store offers tee shirts, tote bags, wine glasses art and even stone coasters and magnets crafted from cores taken from the structure’s walls during its 2006 stabilization.

“We’re especially excited to introduce our new ‘Adopt a Stone’ web page which will make online stone adoptions simpler than ever before. Plus there’s now a way to contribute toward stones that have been set aside to commemorate people or events that are significant to the history of the Mill.”

For more information or to donate, visit chapmansmill.org or email Ms. Allshouse at chapmanmill@gmail.com.

Photos from the Mill

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Photo shoot by Debi Parker Photography

Every year we have some great photo shoots that take place at the Mill.  Here are a few beautiful shots taken in and around the Mill by Debi Parker Photography.  Take a look at the full set HERE.

Interested in scheduling your own shoot?  Visit our Photography page!

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Work Under Way to Improve Access to Mill

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Turn the Mill Around Campaign (TTMAC) is proud to announce that work to improve access to the historic Chapman – Beverley Mill in Broad Run has begun. Following several years of planning and fundraising, the first phase of TTMAC’s accessibility master plan commenced on September 1 with the arrival of construction equipment that will lay down a new bus turnaround and parking area at the Mill site.

TTMAC received the Chapman – Beverley Mill – an historic 1742 grist mill on the border between Fauquier and Prince William Counties – and its associated property shortly after a 1998 arson that nearly destroyed the structure. Since that time, the mission of the campaign has been to both preserve the Mill ruins and make the site accessible to the public. Work to stabilize the Mill was successfully completed in the mid-2000’s enabling TTMAC to safely open the site to the public during weekends. The campaign anticipates that the project currently under way will significantly improve visitor experience at the Mill.

“We’re especially excited about the bus turnaround,” noted Executive Director Frances Allshouse. “When the work is complete, we will be able to accommodate school field trips and bus tour groups that simply would not have been able to get to the Mill otherwise.” The completed project will also boast 15 new parking places and a handicapped / van accessible parking area. “In the coming months, we look forward to being able to share the Mill with even more visitors thanks to the new parking and bus area,” Allshouse continued.

While construction is under way, the site will remain closed to the public. Work is expected to conclude in October.

For more information visit chapmansmill.org or contact Frances Allshouse at 540-253-5888 or by email at chapmanmill@gmail.com.