44Hn254, commonly called the Broaddus Flats site, lies on the
western edge of a 300-acre cultivated field approximately 60
feet from the Pamunkey River and on the northwestern side of
State Route 360 in Hanover County, Virginia. Since the mid-twentieth
century, members of the Broaddus family and some locals have
been referring to this low area as “the river field”
because of the alluvial plain and large swamp created by the
bow in the river at this point. The dig site itself is only
25 feet above sea level. Flooding has, in fact, occurred many
times over the centuries—in recent memory when hurricanes
Camille (1969) and Agnes (1972) raced through Virginia. The
plowed topsoil overlying the site is, therefore, 12”–14”
thick and is laden with river-worn quartz and quartzite pebbles.
Modern cultivation has undoubtedly increased the depth of the
topsoil and helped develop it into a rich, dark brown loam.
“Plowscars” as deep as 4” are commonly found
throughout the surface of the subsoil, and yet the present farmer
states that because the site is on the edge of the field (where
he lifts up his machinery to change rows) the chisel plow ‘has
been kind’ to the colonial features below the topsoil.
addition, ‘several large stones’ were removed from
the topsoil and ‘tossed into the river’ by the farmer
in the early 1960s. These were recently found in the shallow
river during the drought of summer and fall 2002. They are identical
to the large siltstone excavated from the cellar in 1994 and
several even exhibit tool marks on some surfaces. I would very
much like for a geologist to examine these stones and enlighten
me on the exact type of stone and their possible point of origin.
The subsoil is uniform in color (yellow-orange, Munsell Soil
Chart 2.5 Y 8/4) and is occasionally mottled by plant root stains
or plow disturbances. Within a few inches, this layer changes
quickly from a sandy texture to more clay-like and to a more
orange color. Less than a foot into this subsoil, one finds
a layer of small river gravel stretching down about another
16 inches. The larger percent of this gravel is white quartz.
Below this layer is orange clay (Munsell Soil Chart 10YR 7/8).
From the first day of excavation
in the fall of 1992, it became quickly evident that most of
the real work on this site would be in removing and sifting
the thick topsoil overlying any colonial features below and
out of harm’s way from the modern cultivation equipment.
On practically every colonial site the author has done work
in the past thirty years, no special care has been taken in
this process—a bulldozer has sufficed in most cases. However,
not knowing how many, if any, artifact-bearing features might
turn up in the future, and also taking into account the great
amount of tantalizing artifacts already spied on the surface,
I decided to use my young and willing student labor force to
sift out and identify all artifacts. We therefore picked the
general area where the linear scatter of artifacts appeared
to be the heaviest and laid out a baseline at the tractor road
adjacent to the river, with two fifty square-foot grid areas
on the edge of the field. This arrangement met with approval
from the farmer and ended up being all we have needed for the
past ten years; the foundations to the main house and the “kitchen
wing,” with its subterranean basement, neatly (and pleasantly)
fit within this grid.
I feel fortunate to have had a very good working relationship
with the owners, Tilghman and Margaret Broaddus, over the years.
They have allowed me to bring students down to the site at all
times of the year. The Old Church Hunt Club, which rents several
thousand acres of the property, has been very helpful as well.
A few of my students have gone on to pursue degrees in anthropology
/ archaeology at Longwood College and others. One has earned
his Master’s Degree in archeology at London University.
the very first day of the dig in 1992, several large colonial
features have been discovered, unearthed and recorded—first,
the bottom three courses of a brick gable end foundation (later
discovered to be the west foundation), then the east gable foundation
exactly 42’ to the east; next, a large (approx. 30’
x 15’) dark fill containing artifacts, charcoal and compacted
gray ash (later found to be the 20’ x 9’ basement
/ refuse pit); next, another subterranean brick foundation to
go with the cellar “wing” to the house (this one
measures 17’ across with openings for a 7’ fireplace
and a 6’ oven); then, a long, wide (approximately 3’)
ditch just to the south of the main house. This latter feature
has been excavated for a distance of over 50’, and test
trenches have shown it to stretch entirely around the house
to form a compound enclosing about a half acre. The distinctive
stains for 4” x 6” posts appear at regular intervals
(8’) at the bottom of this 1.5’ deep feature—posts
that obviously supported a heavy fence or wall. Our next feature
has been an oval “root pit” in front of the east
gable foundation. This feature had identical fill to the cellar
/ refuse pit but went less than 2’ into the subsoil. The
last colonial feature, other than several post holes around
the perimeter of the house, is a narrow (14”) and shallow
(5”) ditch running parallel to the west chimney foundation.
The jury is still out on this feature, but at present (2003)
it appears to be the foundation to a wall for a lean-to on the
side of the house.
Colonial features below the topsoil
often appear as clearly as a photographic negative because of
the very yellow subsoil. Strangely, however, I was puzzled in
the first few years by the paucity of postholes, the most common
disturbances on house sites of this period. Now (2003) that
we have finished all excavations within the confines of the
house itself, postholes have been appearing in the “yard”
area. In fact, a rather important cluster of them was found
in 1999 adjacent to the 42’ X 21’ portion of the
house—undoubtedly the supports for a covered porch entranceway.
A rather confusing array of them has popped up adjacent to the
“kitchen wing”—that is, the northwest corner—and
leading up to the main structure. Distinguishing these features
from the tree and shrub root stains has been a real challenge.
We have been aided in this task by the presence of charcoal
(and even chunks of charred wood) in the postmolds themselves
and by the shape and depth of the shallow roots. Still, the
colonial posts seem to have been seated in shallow holes and
often do not follow any logical pattern (at least none that
the author can discern now). In the area mentioned above there
are two substantial posts measuring 6” x 8” which
could easily have served as anchors for a set of steps coming
out of the “kitchen.” The others may have been a
crude attempt to surround a larger, yet unfinished, feature
with a fence. This clay and gravel filled hole measures 7’
x 2.5’ and, to date, has very few artifacts and one large,
flat quartz stone in it. This feature may turn out to be a privy
or a trash pit.
Date posted: 5.18.03