Professional archaeology in the truly modern sense that we think of today was very slow in coming to the Nashville area. One could make a respectable historical argument for it coming way too late. When I first got truly interested in Tennessee archaeology back in 1971, the local archaeological scene was dominated almost exclusively by avocational archaeologists and artifact collectors. Some of those people had been born as early as 1909, but a great many were fairly young people.
While chatting with one of the older Nashville area artifact collectors one day in the late 1980s, it dawned on me to ask a question that I had never really considered: Other than William E. Myer and Gates P. Thruston, did any really well-known artifact collectors live in Tennessee during the early 20th Century?” The guy thought for a minute and finally said, “Well, you know, there was one old bird. His name was E. F. Hassler, and he lived over on the Cumberland Plateau somewhere. He used to come to some of the Tennessee Archaeological Society meetings in Knoxville back when Tom Lewis and Madeline Kneberg were there.” That would have probably been sometime in the 1940s.
One day not too long ago, I received an e-mail message from an archaeologist who was doing some research on E.F. Hassler. He wanted to know if I knew anything about the life of Mr. Hassler, his artifact collecting activities, and any early contributions he might have made to Tennessee archaeology. Well, the name was familiar from that talk in the late 1980s, but in my half-awake state that morning, I immediately confused him with Albert F. Ganier, an early and rather famous avocational ornithologist in Tennessee and Kentucky—who also made some early contributions to Tennessee archaeology. So, basically, the archaeologist got nothing useful from me about E.F. Hassler. However, I am happy to report that he completed his research and recently published a really excellent little paper on the life of Mr. Hassler and his early contributions to archaeology in Tennessee. This is a really interesting and informative read—the dusting out of a very nice but also very obscure little corner of Tennessee history. The URL link to the published paper is shown below. When you get there, scroll down to page 8.
Reading about something that was as old and hidden away as this was a real privilege, and I hope you will think so too.
Happy reading and have a very nice July 4th holiday!!! Be safe!!!