Lecture at Sweet Briar Digs into Long Mountain’s Farming Past

| March 12, 2008

Archaeologist Jodi Barnes will be at Sweet Briar College on Wednesday, March 19 to speak about her field work in Amherst County. The illustrated lecture, “From Farms to Forests: The Archaeology of an Appalachian Landscape,” will be held at 4:30 p.m. in Benedict Hall, Room 100.

Jodi Barnes is excavating a former African-American community along Brown Mountain Creek in Amherst County. Lynchburg News and Advance photo by Jill Nance.

Barnes, a doctoral student in anthropology at American University, has been excavating sites in a former African-American community along Brown Mountain Creek. Freed slaves and descendants of slaves lived in the area on Long Mountain, off present-day U.S. 60, from about 1860 to 1920.

Barnes’ research combines material culture, documents and oral history. It also builds on an oral history produced by Dave Benavitch from his conversations with Elie Taft Hughes, who lived in a home on the creek as a child. Benevitch, who is retired from the U.S. Forest Service, worked in the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson national forests and had developed an interest in the community.

Today a section of the Appalachian Trail runs parallel to the creek, and the surrounding woods offer clues to the past. Chimney remains and house foundations mark where homes stood, including that of Mose Richeson. Richeson began buying land on Long Mountain in the late 1860s and eventually he and his sons acquired some 700 acres.

Richeson’s acquisition of so much property likely was “historically significant since the majority of African-American former slaves were not landowners before 1870,” Barnes said.

She hopes to learn more about the impact of emancipation in the mountains and blacks’ transition from slavery to land ownership. She also is interested in the displacement of the families living along Brown Mountain Creek. Barnes said they were forced to leave when the Richeson land was purchased by the national forest service and the city of Lynchburg, which wanted it to build a reservoir.

Admission to the lecture is free and the public is welcome. Contact Lynn Rainville at 381-6432 or lrainville@sbc.edu for more information.

Category: Archaeology