Fort Loudoun Festivities

This coming weekend (March 23-24, 2013), Eric Hughey (Park Manager), his staff, and friends are throwing a large historical party at the Fort Loudoun State Historic Area in Vonore, Tennessee.  It is officially called Garrison Weekend, but I call it a party because the results of serious American history and archaeology (physically displayed, re-enacted, and interpreted for the public) are a cause for celebration.  Fort Loudoun is one of my favorite places in Tennessee.  In recent years, Eric and his fine staff have infused new levels of energy and enthusiasm into the Fort Loudoun visitor experience, beginning with the hearty greeting and personal attention that visitors encounter at the museum.  Your cordial invitation to this party and some detailed archaeological/historical information on Fort Loudoun are available at this URL: 

The major archaeological excavations at Fort Loudoun were conducted in 1975 and 1976, and I particularly remember the summer of 1976.  Carl Kuttruff was the Field Director, and the large Fort Loudoun excavation crew had its living quarters and field kitchen at the old Carson house, a large, white, two-story farmhouse located just off Highway 72-E near Vonore.  A short river gravel road led from the front yard of the house down to the edge of the Little Tennessee River where a one-vehicle cable ferry was afloat to transport people and farm equipment a short distance across a portion of the river to an island.  In the late afternoon, it was cool and inviting down at the river’s edge, and the young archaeologists would go down to sit on the flat bed of the parked ferry, dangle tired feet in the water, chat with a friend, or just lay down flat and rest in thought.  Several of my old friends and acquaintances were on the Fort Loudoun excavation crew, particularly Marion Drescher (archaeology student), Debi Jones (physical anthropology/archaeology student), Dave McMahan (archaeology student), and Linn Brown  (archaeology student).  I have lost track of Marion, Linn, and Debi over the years, but I still stay in touch with my close friend and old university dormitory/apartment mate Dave McMahan, who is the Lead State Archaeologist in Alaska now.

Some of these fine folks and other excavation crew members are shown at work in a series of photographs posted in an archaeology exhibit on a wall at the Fort Loudon Museum.  Every time I look at those photographs, I feel a little wistful and want to go back and talk to those people for a few minutes—in that place and time—as they were then.  A century from now, some historian or archaeologist will long to know the names of all those people in the photographs.  None of their names are shown on the exhibit labels, and it is not clear to me whether the museum staff knows who they are.  In particular, it reminds me of an old Works Progress Administration-era (or perhaps 1940s) photograph that shows a long line of now famous southeastern archaeologists who are dressed very nicely and posing for an outdoor photograph.  Jimmy Griffin and Madeline Kneberg are tucked in right next to each other and smiling (guess she must have forgiven him for urging Tom Lewis to “avoid hiring a woman”).  Many of the archaeologists in this old photograph, which may be in the McClung Museum WPA collection, are identified by name, but several are listed simply as “unknown.”  It would be nice to know who these unknown individuals were and what parts they played in the history of southeastern archaeology.  The loss of their pictorial identities is unfortunate.  It is my earnest hope that the Fort Loudoun Museum (if it does not know already) will put names with the faces and bodies in the Fort Loudoun archaeology photographs so future generations of Tennessee archaeologists and citizens will know the full identities of all these archaeologists and archaeology students who worked so hard at the fort.  Most of these folks are getting up in years now, and there is really only a 20-year or less window of opportunity left to address this issue accurately and with confidence.

Carl Kuttruff completed the Fort Loudoun excavation report, which was published in 2009.  It is a thick, hard-bound volume entitled Fort Loudoun in Tennessee 1756-1760: History, Archaeology, Replication, Exhibits, & Interpretation.  It must weigh close to 10 lb and clearly represents a lot of hard work.  A copy may be obtained at the following address:  Tennessee Division of Archaeology, 1216 Foster Avenue, Nashville, TN 37243 [(615) 741-1588].  Some of you British archaeologists who frequent the Archaeology in Tennessee blog might find this to be an interesting read because Fort Loudoun was built, occupied, and abandoned while the 13 American colonies were still part of the British Empire.

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