Jamie Brandon, UAF Research Station
In the spring of 2015 the Arkansas Archeological Survey began a long-term joint research program with Historic Cane Hill, a non-profit dedicated to historic preservation in western Washington County, and Auburn University at Montgomery. This project sought to investigate historic properties in the town of Cane Hill―the earliest settlement in Washington County, founded in 1827. Known for having one of the earliest colleges in the state (Cane Hill College) and for it role in the Civil War (the Battle of Cane Hill), the town is also home to sixteen sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As Historic Cane Hill purchases and restores historic properties in the region, the Arkansas Archeological Survey is conducting research and providing information that will help guide the restorations, and help manage these important sites for future generations of Arkansans.
The first of these research programs was a “Spring Break Dig” at the small, brick building known as the Methodist Manse. Allegedly constructed in 1834, the Methodist Manse would be the oldest building in its original location in Washington County. The Manse was built as the first Methodist Church in Cane Hill, and later served as the pastor’s residence, and the headquarters for General James G. Blunt during nearby Civil War battles. During the twentieth century, the Manse was the residence for Mary Pyeatte, granddaughter of John Rankin Pyeatte, one of the founders of Cane Hill. However, as Historic Cane Hill was poised to restore this building, there were many unanswered questions about this structure and its history.
Led by Drs. Jamie Brandon and Jodi Barnes, over 50 volunteers and staff took part in the excavations between March 23 and 27, 2015. We learned a great deal about the history of the structure―including evidence of a major fire in the late-nineteenth century and massive landscaping in the early twentieth century. Further investigations are planned in 2016.
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