Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Earmarks of Settlement




In Anglo-American history, "settlement" is the last stage in conquest, it is when invaders become controlling occupiers rather than: visitors, transients, curiosities, opportunities or necessary evils.  Settlement marks a change in regime, in culture, economy, and society.  On England's first frontier, in the southeast of North America, settlement marked an end to pre-market, subsistence economies, supplanting them with law, centralized order, and markets.  Settlement replaces a life-style rooted in personal freedom with a life-style rooted in personal obligations and liabilities.

Participants in subsistence economies live for today and depend on wit, will, and good fortune to survive tomorrow.  Participants in market economies are expected to defer today's joy in the interest of a less frightening tomorrow.  For example, 'starving time,' that time between the consumption of last years's produce and the arrival of this year's harvest was a common feature of subsistence economy but it was a rarity in market economies.  Thus, the moment of settlement in Contact Era of the southeast marks a major transformation.

We need to know more about this transitional moment.

While mapping old roads we frequently note other artifacts of early social infrastructure nearby; mills, taverns, meeting houses and the like.  Was there a sequence to their imposition on the landscape.  Reason indicates that farmsteads preceded mills, but did mills precede inns?  Common meeting houses, general purpose houses used for public meetings of all kinds, were found throughout the southeastern frontier. How long did it take from the first moments of settlement for settlers to replace the meeting house with sectarian churches?

Mills have purpose driven, common features like races, wheel wells, and dams that tend to be relative to one another across a variety of sites.  Do public houses, inns and tavern similarly have common, purpose driven components predictably distributed?  Was there a trend in settlement from generalized structures toward purpose designed structures?

These questions seem obvious.  Do you know who has already answered them and how well they were answered?

In our earliest settlement times, were there discernible stages of settlement defined by the presence or absense of purpose-designed structures?  The TPA has found mills, taverns and inns, stores, post offices and courthouses.  We generally map roads, trails, and paths and don't have enough time to thoroughly map all artifacts proximate to them but it would be useful to know if there is a pattern we should be looking for as a shortcut to generalizing a site.  Are there predictable patterns for the layout of outbuildings in public building complexes.

Similarly, can we generally forecast relational locations of "out buildings" on farmstead and cabin sites?  Was it generally the case on a successful farmstead that the cabin became the kitchen for the big-house?  Was the big-house invariably located in front of the kitchen?  We know that springboxes were located a certain distance from the cabin(s) they served, but what about wells?  Were public wells normal or were they exception?  Was a private well considered a public asset?  On a grander scale, are  there stages of settlement discernible in public infrastructure?  Do general purpose structures precede purpose-specific structures or vice versa?  We know mills began as mills, but did they also begin as stores or was that an evolution normal or exceptional?

In modern times we know that country general stores in the southeast, until quite recently, were associated with specific church communities.  We know that in backcountry Carolina there were ethnically defined neighborhoods and stores too.  So, in colonial times were stores, mills and other public facilities normally affiliated with sectarian communities?  It would seem such exclusivity would be a luxury, but there may have been compensations (more effective social control of debtors, for example).  So we want to consider these questions in the context of our trail and route finding.  What do the settlement artifacts we find tell us about abandoned public sites?

What can you tell us to make the earmarks we find more meaningful?

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