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Around The D – Page 3 – The Davidson College Archives & Special Collections Blog

Welcome to the E.H. Little Library, Ashley!

Ashley Mills and the Davidson Public Library sculpture

1. You’re just beginning to get to know the E.H. Little Library – what’s your background and how has it contributed to your work in the library?  Please tell us about your current educational endeavor as well.

My background is varied. I grew up on a barrier island in Florida, so I’ve worked in several areas of the hospitality industry. I was originally an Art major at the University of Florida, ultimately graduated with a degree in Sociology and Education, and took a lot of history classes on the side. I taught Middle School Social Studies (and substitute taught at all grade levels), spent several years focused on my children as a stay-at-home mom, passed my licenses to work in Financial Advising, and later moved into Underwriting Case Management. When I had the opportunity to change careers and go back to school, I put a lot of thought into the aspects that I’ve truly loved about jobs, and researched career paths that related to my personality types, and when it hit me – Library Science – it felt like one of those facepalm moments. “Of course! Why did it take me so long to get here?” I’ve always been an avid reader (picture the kid who walked the halls with a book held in front of her face), but apart from that, I love planning, organizing, research, learning new things, and helping people. I feel like all of these are supported and encouraged in libraries. I am currently in my second semester of a Master of Library Science degree, through East Carolina University’s remote program, and every class I take is further evidence that I love this field. 

2. What about the Acquisitions & Collections Specialist position interested you?

In general, this position interested me because it is both very detail orientated and involves a lot of searching and organization, which is right up my alley. I get to satisfy my curiosity by perusing the books that come across my desk on subjects I might not have sought out on my own. I was also interested in it for the opportunity it gave me to gain quality library experience – with the library systems integration, cataloging, inventory projects and hopefully eventually what will probably be a giant project of prepping and storing the collection during a massive library remodel – I look at it all as an opportunity to grow! My husband told me the other day, “I’ve never met anyone who was more perfectly matched to their job than you.” I look forward to professional development opportunities and learning more about the “real world aspects” of the different areas that librarians can specialize in, as I work towards my own degree.

3. Are there any projects you’re particularly passionate about introducing to Davidson? I would love to be involved in some type of diversity audit of our collection. I think we’ll need to get through a few other types of inventory and conversion projects first, so we have a better starting point, but something to consider down the road. Prior to my arrival the Collections Strategies team had already discussed identifying local and BIPOC owned bookstores we could divert some purchases to instead of our larger vendors, and I’m currently researching and compiling a list to move forward with that, in addition to playing with some ideas to get our Main Street Books Browsing collection rotating more regularly.  I also think it would be fun to work with other teams to cultivate, purchase and then highlight in the lobby “mini collections” for students that center around current news issues or social trends; “adulting,” mental health, developing study skills, or even around some of the most popular subjects of classes taught here at Davidson.

4. You haven’t been here long yet, but what has been your most memorable or surprising experience at Davidson thus far?

My most surprising experience has been how peaceful it is here – my days fly by, and I go home content and mentally ready to be knocked over by my (very large) puppy and cornered by my 3 chatterbox kids the second I walk in the door. Although Covid/Omicron meant my first few weeks were a little different than planned – with most of the faculty/staff unexpectedly working remotely – as I slowly meet everyone I am so pleased by the welcoming atmosphere and overall Library vibe.

5. What are three things you want Davidson’s community to know about you?

I’m going to answer this question with some ice-breaker game type facts:

  1. I love being involved in my “Women’s Adventure Club” – we’ve experienced yoga sessions with Llamas, navigating white water rapids after our guide was thrown out, hiking, archery, a “U-Pick” wildflower farm, game show nights, crafts, winery 5ks…anything that gets us out there and having fun together.
  2. I’m a huge believer that anyone can connect, and age is just a number – so it doesn’t matter if you are a student worker, or think you have totally different interests than me, or are soon to retire – I would love to meet you or lend a helping hand!
  3. Not only have my husband and I known each other our entire lives, but I can honestly say that I exist because of my Mother-in-law. You can ask me the story if we meet in person!
Mills Family

Guest Blogger: Hope Anderson, C’22 Biology Major “ArcGIS and the Arboretum: New Technology Contributes to our Understanding and Appreciation of Trees on Campus”

Hope Anderson is a senior biology major and mathematics minor from Carrboro, North Carolina. She currently serves as the co-Editor-in-Chief of the Davidsonian. She is also a member of Turner Eating House and on the Executive Board of Pre-PhDs of Davidson Science and Women in Math. 

Davidson community members walking across campus would be remiss not to notice the little silver tags adorning many of the trees along their path. These tags date back to 1982 when the college first received its designation as an arboretum (Dick, “The Davidson College Arboretum”).  As of 2005, the arboretum contained over 3000 individually labeled trees and shrubs (Davidson, “Arboretum”).

Figure 7: Collecting a DBH Measurement

Nearly forty years after its establishment, the arboretum’s records remain almost entirely on paper. The most current map, created by Physical Plant in the early 90s, is a huge printed poster divided into grids and subgrids. Since then, available technology has improved dramatically. My fall 2021 independent research with Dr. Susana Wadgymar and collaborator Chloe Fisher (‘23) aims to digitize and update the arboretum’s records for both community and scientific use. To visualize data in a spatial format, we created a map of campus using Geographic Information System (GIS), which permits the storage, visualization, and analysis of data as a map ( “What Is a Geographic Information System (GIS)? U.S. Geological Survey”). In specific, ArcGIS is a popular and powerful GIS software used to create interactive and customizable maps online. Our goal was to use ArcGIS to establish a database and store arboretum data for years to come.

The Davidson arboretum is significant for several reasons. First, trees play a large role in carbon sequestration, or keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The arboretum also cools campus and creates shady areas. Finally, the diverse collection of trees represented help us study and preserve native and engaged species in our region. We created an ArcGIS map with the help of visiting assistant professor of anthropology Dr. Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire. ArcGIS maps are primarily composed of a basemap and one or more layers of information. Our arboretum map includes two layers—a feature layer storing data points, each corresponding to a tree, and a grid to help us divide campus into useful 50 x 50 meter squares. See figures 1-4 for additional information on how ArcGIS layers and the basemap work together. 

 Figure 1: Arboretum map showing both the feature layer and grid layer. Green points represent tagged trees and red represent untagged.

Figure 2: Arboretum map with only the feature layer visible.
Figure 3: Arboretum map showing both feature layers turned off; only the basemap remains.
Figure 4: ArcGIS layers can be overlaid on a variety of preset basemaps which users can quickly toggle between. Users can also create their own basemap. 

Students in Dr. Lamoureux-St-Hilaire’s fall 2021 Imaging the Earth class collected the majority of the data thus far using the ArcGIS Field Maps app. Each student spent a week in October recording data, collecting information on a tree’s location, whether or not it is tagged, whether the tree is coniferous or deciduous (see figs. 5 and 6), and the tree’s diameter at breast height (DBH, see fig. 7 at the top of the post). DBH is a simple but powerful dendrological measurement often used as a proxy for biomass and can be analyzed alongside height to approximate a tree’s carbon sequestration. Find a video demonstrating how to collect all these measurements at the end of this post. 

Figure 5: An example of a deciduous tree on campus. 
Figure 6: An example of a coniferous tree on campus.

After the initial census, Chloe and I started auditing individual grid squares (see fig. 1) to fill in any missing trees. This project is far from over; next semester Chloe and I will continue to audit the current data and identify trees without tags. We also plan to revisit previously collected points to update data the anthropology students didn’t collect, such as height and species. We’re hoping to involve additional members of the Davidson community with an interest in the arboretum. In future years, students can use the same map to collect new measurements for each tree, in order to continually update the online version of the map and compare data across years. 

Thank you to Dr. Lamoureux-St-Hilaire, Dr. Susana Wadgymar, and Chloe Fisher for all their help this semester. I look forward to continuing this project in the spring and setting up future lab members for even more exciting research. 

Video – “Collecting basic measurements using the ArcGIS Field Maps app” 

References 

Cottle, Jessica. “National Park and Recreation Month: Davidson College Arboretum.” Around the D: The Davidson College Archives & Special Collections blog (post), July 13, 2018. Accessed December 9, 2021. https://davidsonarchivesandspecialcollections.org/aroundthed/national-park-and-recreation-month-davidson-college-arboretum/.

Davidson, North Carolina 28035894-2000. “Arboretum.” Davidson. Accessed December 9, 2021. https://www.davidson.edu/offices-and-services/physical-plant/arboretum.

Dick, Lacy. “The Davidson College Arboretum: A Time Line | News of Davidson.” Accessed December 9, 2021. https://newsofdavidson.org/2018/07/29/7205/the-davidson-college-arboretum-a-time-line/.

“What Is a Geographic Information System (GIS)? | U.S. Geological Survey.” Accessed December 9, 2021. https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-geographic-information-system-gis.

Guest Blogger: Alice Berndt, C’22 English Major “Meeting My Grandfather in the Pages of Quips and Cranks”

Alice Berndt ’22 (she/her) is an English major and Art History minor from Maplewood, New Jersey. On campus, she interns in the Van Every/Smith Galleries, writes for The Davidsonian, and is on the editorial staff for both Hobart Park and Libertas.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my grandfather since he passed fifteen years ago, it’s how much he loved Davidson College. I recently examined an issue of Quips and Cranks from 1958, his senior year, while working on a project for ENG 422: Creating Narratives. My grandfather, Ross Jordan Smyth, died when I was six years old after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, a disease I never knew him without. As I flipped through the pages of the annual, I saw his face over and over again, at the same age that I am now.

1. Senior Portrait, Quips and Cranks, 1958.

Finding my grandfather alive in the pages of Quips and Cranks — alive and busywas a special experience. The publication lists each senior along with their campus involvement. My grandfather has eighteen clubs, organizations, and accolades next to his name, taking up noticeably more space on the page than some of his peers [Image 1].

I already knew he was an English major like I am. I knew he helped to launch Davidson’s soccer program as an official varsity sport in 1956 (See The Davidsonian article October 5, 1956 for more information) and was captain during his junior and senior years. And I knew he served as student body president, which at the time also meant heading the Honor Council.

2. President of the Student Body Quips and Cranks, 1958.
3. ROTC Regimental Staff, Quips and Cranks, 1958.

But I didn’t know that he was a cheerleader, in the chapel choir, or on the editorial staff of Quips and Cranks. Through these pages, I learned that my grandfather was serious and professional, as seen in his presidential portrait [Image 2] and a shot from ROTC [Image 3].

At the same time, these pages also suggest how much he enjoyed his time at Davidson, participating in many activities and organizations and getting to know a range of people in the process.

4. Honor Men of 1958, Quips and Cranks, 1958

A page in the athletics section titled “Honor Men of 1958” shows my grandfather sprinting across the soccer field [Image 4]. Interestingly, soccer at Davidson only started up again in 1956 after an absence due to students leaving the college to fight in World War II (See Davidson encyclopedia entry for soccer for more information).

5. Student Government “Under the Influence,” Quips and Cranks, 1958

In an image in the student government pages, my grandfather is seated at the head of a table holding a gavel, the same one he holds so earnestly in his presidential portrait. This time he’s captured mid-laugh, the other students at the table frozen in similar expressions. That year student government negotiated with the administration about alcohol consumption on campus. The photo’s caption reads “…seeking a clarification of ‘UNDER THE INFLUENCE’” [Image 5].

6. Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, Quips and Cranks, 1958

In the fraternity section, A photo of SAE brothers enjoying a meal is playfully captioned “Bradford and Smyth retain their composure over the masses” [Image 6].

7. Sigma Alpha Epsilon Year in Review, Quips and Cranks, 1958

Another SAE page lists highlights from the year as inside jokes including one that reads “Ross WHO?” [Image 7]. Those who knew my grandfather often remark with a laugh that he knew, did, and won everything and everyone. But it wasn’t about being the best it was about genuine interest, curiosity, and passion. I can guess that this line is a nod to his ubiquitous presence at Davidson — the way that his energy flowed throughout campus and touched many people. I hope to have had even a fraction of this impact in my time at Davidson.

Image Citations

Image 1. Davidson College. Quips and Cranks. Davidson: Davidson College, 1958. Page 45.

Image 2. Davidson College. Quips and Cranks. Davidson: Davidson College, 1958. Page 87.

Image 3. Davidson College. Quips and Cranks. Davidson: Davidson College, 1958. Page 91.

Image 4. Davidson College. Quips and Cranks. Davidson: Davidson College, 1958. Page 119.

Image 5. Davidson College. Quips and Cranks. Davidson: Davidson College, 1958. Page 86.

Image 6. Davidson College. Quips and Cranks. Davidson: Davidson College, 1958. Page 185.

Image 7. Davidson College. Quips and Cranks. Davidson: Davidson College, 1958. Page 183.

Guest blogger: Samantha Ewing, C’23 English Major “Attitudes Toward Sexual Assault”

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Samantha Ewing C’23 is an English major and Communication Studies minor. She transferred to Davidson in 2020 after spending her freshman year at the University of Georgia. On campus, she is Vice President of SGA, Co Editor-in-Chief of Libertas Magazine, Treasurer of Student Against Sexual Violence (SASV), and a Senior Staff Writer for The Davidsonian.

As the treasurer of SASV for the 2021-2022 academic year, I have become immersed in the fight against rape culture as it plagues college campuses. I would imagine that sexual assault has been prevalent at Davidson since the institution began admitting women in 1972. Yet, it seems that 1990 was the year students began to reckon with the issue as “Rape Awareness Holds Campus Forum” details the founding of the Rape Concerns Committee. 

Excerpt from “Rape Awareness Holds Campus Forum” by Frances Morton (C’ 1993) in the Davidsonian, April 8, 1991.

Encountering this piece in the Davidsonian was disturbing, as it illuminates the history of victim blaming at Davidson. According to the article, the committee showed a film as a part of a forum to increase rape awareness on campus. However, Frances Morton (C’93) describes the film as a narrative fixating on how women can avoid rape, rather than addressing the actions of perpetrators.

Excerpt from “Rape Awareness Holds Campus Forum” by Frances Morton (C’93) in the Davidsonian, April 8, 1991.

Frances Morton, 1991 Quips and Cranks

Women are advised “not to prop open doors,” to “avoid isolated areas and walking alone,” and to “avoid mixed signals.” Each of these instructions frame rape as a consequence for women failing to prevent it, rather than the fault of the rapist; it seems that the committee was not bringing awareness to the issue of rape, but rather, was conditioning women to learn how to avoid it. I was astounded to find such rhetoric from a female student, especially as she was discussing the actions of an organization purposed to combat sexual assault. Additionally, I was shocked to see the word “co-eds” used to refer to female students. Even 20 years after women began to be admitted, they were demarcated into a separate category from the male students, indicating perpetuated division and exclusion. 

The language in this article provides insight into what it must have been like to be a woman on campus in the 1990s. The burden of protection placed on female students is much clearer, as I can now grasp how the community perceived and addressed rape: purely a women’s issue. I can empathize with the trepidation that must have accompanied women, knowing that if they were assaulted, they were the ones that would be held accountable. Being a female student at Davidson in 1991 entailed being othered not just as a student, but as a human being.


Early Davidson and a few intricate Familial Connections

Hello everyone! Andrés Paz ‘21, current JEC Fellow here. As the days get colder and we switch our attires to warmer ones, I figured it would not be a bad idea to talk about some of the early days of Davidson. Why not grab a warm drink and let me tell you a bit about how it looks to research about Davidson as part of the Archives, Special Collections and Community team? 

Before anything, it is relevant to say that some of the sources I touch upon depict racist, discriminatory, or violent language and/or actions. This content can be distressing. It is also helpful to acknowledge that the life of individuals and communities in the past was as complex as we can feel ours to be now. For this reason, much of what I share will be incomplete, but hopefully encourages at least someone to keep reflecting on the meaning of living, working, studying, and just being around Davidson.

As we become increasingly interested in certain aspects of Davidson’s past, figuring out how to present a somewhat complete narrative of anything tends to be a hard task, particularly because official records and archives can, in subtle and overt ways, silence the lives and actions of certain groups: enslaved people, women, and children are important examples. As we grapple with such circumstances, it is too easy to write yet another narrative about powerful, influential white men. More important, however, is simply to abstain from grandiose stories of great men who had virtually no flaws. As I just said, we know life is more complex than that!

So, how can it look to do research about Davidson as part of the ASCC team? Let me answer that by (re)telling fragments of a story, which is perhaps more a compendium of facts and half-facts difficult to corroborate that can begin in many places… in the same way that your own research about a person, place, or event could do! 

In its early days, Davidson College opened its doors to young men that came mostly from North and South Carolina. Many of them, as in the case of Dr. James Hiram Houston, Jr. (class of 1845), often came from nearby plantations and the prominent families that ran them.  Only one mile north of campus, Houston came from Capt. James Houston’s “Mt. Mourne.” The Houston house (today known as the George Houston House) is also close to Rufus Reid’s own “Mt. Mourne Plantation” and George W. Stinson’s (Davidson trustee 1842-47) “Woodlawn.” These three 19th century buildings are all in the National Register of Historic Places.* Incidentally, they are also located in an area that was once the land-grant property of Alexander Osborne and later his son Adlai Osborne, an area or plantation that was known as “Belmont.” 

“George Houston House” – Preservation North Carolina Historic Architecture Slide Collection, 1965-2005 (PNC slides), Preservation North Carolina

According to the 1800 Iredell Tax List, “Bellmont” was then valued at $1,800, the Houston’s place at $700, and Ephraim Davidson’s at $550. These were the highest valued properties in lower Iredell. Many decades later, the 1860 Iredell County Slave Schedule still recorded these families among the most prominent slaveholders: Isabella Reid (Rufus Reid’s widow) registered the possession of 62 enslaved persons; James Smith Byers (George W. Stinson’s twice father-in-law) registered 54; George W. Stinson himself reportedly had 43 enslaved people at “Woodlawn”; George F. Davidson (Ephraim Davidson’s son, and you guessed correctly: also J. H. Houston’s guardian while a student at Davidson College) registered 50; William Lee Davidson II also appeared in the records with 26. 

J. H. Houston’s familial connections did not only grant him much economic and social power in the area, but were in fact, fundamental to the history of Davidson College in one way or another.  He was part of Davidson’s Board of Trustees from 1850 to 1856. Observing important sessions as secretary to the board, his name appears, for example, in the minutes of meetings held to accept and manage Maxwell Chamber’s donations to the College. His mother was Sarah Davidson Kerr, whose second husband (they married in 1850) happened to be her cousin William Lee Davidson II, a Davidson trustee from 1836 to 1853. According to the Presbytery Minutes, he sold the initial 469 acres for $1,521 to the institution that would bear his father’s name. Additionally, you might find it interesting that this sale consisted of two tracts, a 269 acre tract referred to as the “Jetton” tract, and a 200 acre tract known as the “Kerr” or “Lynn” tract. Before belonging to W. L. Davidson II, the latter piece of land was in the hands of Alfred D. Kerr, Houston’s uncle. 

Both W. L. Davidson II and A. D. Kerr appear prominently as “grantors” and “grantees” in the Iredell County “Slave Deeds,” which are property deeds such as bills of sale, deeds of trust, divisions of property that are registered with county courts and that contain information about enslaved individuals (see: People Not Property project).  In 1847, for instance, 5 adults named Jim, Mary, John, Amelia, and Caroline, as well as an unnamed child, were bought for $2,375 by W. L. Davidson II, A. D. Kerr, and George F. Davidson (who was also a UNC trustee 1838-1868).[i] In comparison to the great majority of other records, this one stands out for the relatively high amount it represented and the fact that there were 3 different grantees. Could the amount be a hint of the types of skills these 6 people had or the work they would be forced to do? It is also possible that they travelled with W. L. Davidson and Sarah Kerr when they moved to Alabama before 1850. 

Iredell County, North Carolina Register of Deeds – Book X, p. 463.

In 1826, when J. H. Houston’s father died, and with A. D. Kerr as executor, 8 children with the names of Sarah, Betty, Lucy, Phebe, Simon, Debby, Bill, and Molly were all granted to W. L. Davidson II for $10.[ii] Similarly, in 1835, Dick, Mary, Jackson, Jane, Isaac and Ibby, appear in the records as a gift from Alfred Kerr to his sister Sarah and George F. Davidson.[iii] These records tell us almost nothing but the names of these children, who surely had descendants of their own.

Despite the fact that our little fragmented story begins with Dr. J. H. Houston Jr., he fails to be the center of it. On the other hand, what appears to be central from this are the questions it raises about the connections between groups such as early trustees, students, nearby plantations, and the communities within and near Davidson. How was the geography of what we know as “Davidson” different? What type of connections did it foster?  Who was able to attend Davidson and in what capacity? Why was it overwhelmingly supported by wealthy slave owners? As our interest and knowledge about the early days of Davidson College increases, maybe similar questions can continue to be our best guide. 

Notes and References:

[i] Iredell County, North Carolina, Deed Book X: 463.
[ii] Iredell County, North Carolina, Deed Book M: 314.
[iii] Iredell County, North Carolina, Deed Book R: 150.

*Many thanks to Andy Poore of Mooresville Public Library for access to relevant documents and his extensive knowledge of the area.

More resources:

JEC Fellow in the Archives!

Hello, everyone! I’m Andrés Paz, Davidson College class of 2021 and current Justice, Equality, and Community (JEC) Fellow in the Archives, Special Collections and Community (ASCC) department. This year I will be working with the Archives team (and many others!) to explore and advance our understanding of the racial history of Davidson College and its surroundings. This is the first of what I hope will be many posts.

Part of a cohort of researchers also at Duke, Furman, and Johnson C. Smith, the JEC Archives Fellow position is funded partially by the Duke Endowment. At Davidson, I have and will collaborate with the ASCC team to identify and process relevant collections, research materials, and create digital scholarship and learning resources to promote dialogue across the community.  Working with cohort, campus, and community partners, including the Davidson College Commission on Race and Slavery, my efforts focus on researching and documenting Davidson’s complicated history with topics such as enslavement, race relations, and civil rights.

Andrés Paz

In the past two months, while acclimating to a new role, I’ve started to work on a few long term projects. Prioritizing accessibility and involvement with the community beyond college grounds, we have identified digital resources related to local history that could be improved. Currently, I am working on rebuilding ASCC’s Shared Stories site as an exhibit. This means going through many documents, photos, and oral histories, and even transcribing some. Another project which represents the bulk of my efforts is a genealogical and land ownership research project. looking at plantations that were located near campus in an attempt to uncover Davidson’s interactions with enslavers and enslavement. For this project, new and worthwhile research in the Local History and Archives of Mooresville Public Library is possible thanks to Andy Poore’s generosity and knowledge of local history. 

There is much else that happens in our department on a daily basis: reference requests, guest lectures, birthday cakes (had to mention it, thanks Sara!), and collaborations with other colleagues in the library (for example: take a look at our new International Student HIstory LibGuide), to mention a few things. As part of the Archives, Special Collections, and Community team, I am happy to connect with anyone interested in using or exploring our college’s archival resources! And more than anything, excited to work around kind and cool people!  

Andrés Paz

Email: anpazramirez@davison.edu

Office: E.H. Little Library, Room 235

Guest Blogger: Paul Mullinax C’22, Environmental Studies Major “The African American Burial Grounds Network Act”

Originally from Athens, GA, Paul Mullinax ‘22 is an Environmental Studies major and Anthropology minor. He is also a member of Davidson’s Varsity Men’s Track and Field team and in his free time is an avid hiker who spends time outdoors.

Over the last couple years, Davidson College has begun addressing the problematic aspects of its history, particularly its connection to the Davidson family, their plantation, and their ownership of slaves. What’s left of the plantation, referred to as the Beaver Dam Estate, is just a short five-minute drive from Davidson’s campus. During the 2021 spring semester our class, Ethical Archaeological Research, set out to research this plot of land in hopes of uncovering and preserving a story that had yet to be told. In particular, we believe there is strong evidence of a cemetery used by the enslaved people of Beaver Dam, an important discovery that should be preserved. For this reason, it is imperative that we understand the current state, county, and federal laws surrounding historic black cemeteries and what this could mean for Beaver Dam.

Color photo of a clearing in the woods near Beaver Dam Plantation; possible location of a cemetery for enslaved people.
A view of the Beaver Dam Plantation house from the hypothesized location of the historical cemetery used by the enslaved (photo by Dr. Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire).

 As of the writing of this blog post, there is currently no federal law protecting historic African American cemeteries. These cemeteries are often at risk of being destroyed due to development, but a new bill could change that. Just recently the African American Burial Grounds Network Act was unanimously passed by the Senate and is now waiting to be voted on by the House. This bill could implement a network to help coordinate experts and community leaders to help with the preservation of historically significant cemeteries such as the one at Beaver Dam.

Originally proposed in the House in 2019 by Alma Adams, Rep for North Carolina’s 12th District which includes Davidson, the bill initially failed to make headway. This was for a few reasons. For one, the cost of such a program seemed difficult to justify given what other projects already existed. There already exists a National Underground Railroad Network to Free as well as the African American Civil Right Networks. On top of that The Reconstruction Era National Historic Network and a network focusing on the interpretation and commemoration of the Transcontinental Railroad were already in the works to be set up. These concerns were brought to life by the Deputy Director of the DOI and NPs during a subcommittee meeting in May of 2019. They stated that for the reasons of costs and preexisting and similar projects, they would not support the bill, nor the creation of this network. Luckily the Bill was revived, this time in the Senate, by Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and is progressing much better than its predecessor.

The proposed network would work similarly to the already existing networks previously mentioned, working through the NPS and providing funding for technical support, recording, documentation, and other forms of aid to any project that requests help. This is exactly the kind of help that the Beaver Dam project could benefit from, and with a little luck, it may not be long before we have the resources necessary to proceed with the next steps of this project.

Complementary information may be found here:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/legislation-protect-african-american-burial-grounds-passes-senate-180976642/

https://afro.com/senate-passes-bill-to-create-african-american-burial-grounds-network/

https://www.brown.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/brown-bill-national-network-african-american-burial-grounds

Guest Blogger: Sara Wilson C’22 Anthropology Major “Mapping the Landscape of Beaver Dam”

Sara Wilson (she/her) is a senior Anthropology major from outside San Francisco, California. She is interested in osteology, archaeology, and ethical research methods in anthropology.

Maps and spatial data increase understanding of the Beaver Dam site during both historical and contemporary times, which lays the groundwork for potential future archaeological investigation. The goal of these maps is to help identify where the houses and cemetery for the enslaved people at Beaver Dam (documented on historical documents) were located. Satellite imagery, LiDAR data, and historical maps were combined in the ArcGIS Pro software to highlight the topography and possible locations of the cemetery and houses. While in-person site survey is integral and yields meaningful discoveries, creating maps is worthwhile as they can reveal patterns, nuances, and spatial relationships that may not be immediately obvious.

As shown by satellite imagery of Beaver Dam, the property is now far smaller than when it was a working plantation, which underscores the possibility that significant features may have been destroyed by neighboring housing developments.

Satellite map of the Beaver Dam site

Two historical maps of the Beaver Dam plantation site are sketches from 1865 and 1925. Despite being imprecise, these maps indicate important information that is absent from most historical accounts of Beaver Dam. Both maps included an area for enslaved people’s houses and a cemetery for enslaved people. While the scale of these historical maps is off, analyzing them in conjunction with current satellite imagery and LiDAR data, allowed us to narrow down the potential locations of the houses and cemetery. Topographic raster analyses based on LiDAR data, including hillshade, slope, and elevation contour, reveal a steep incline down to a creek bed along the eastern side of the property. The historical maps position the enslaved houses relative to the main house and to the creek, so having the actual locations of both helps deduce where the remains of the houses may be located. Analyses of the maps indicate that if there ever were houses between the Beaver Dam house and the creek as indicated by the 1865 map, it is likely they are located between the current tree line and west side of the creek.

Elevation contour lines over hillshade analysis of the Beaver Dam site

However, if there was a cluster of houses past the creek as shown in the 1925 map, the River Run housing development was unfortunately likely built on top of it, given the creek marks the eastern boundary of the property. The historical maps indicate that the cemetery was located south-southeast of the main house. This is also supported by topographic data, given that cemeteries are typically located on higher ground. If this project moves forward, the cemetery area should be marked and preserved, and the location of houses could be investigated through archaeological investigations.

1865 map georeferenced over satellite imagery of Beaver Dam site.
1925 map georeferenced over satellite imagery of Beaver Dam site.
Concluding location estimations of houses and cemetery for enslaved people at Beaver Dam.

This mapping project will have continued utility if the Beaver Dam project proceeds, as geolocating features, artifacts, and other archaeological findings would be a useful visualization technique. These maps are also helpful for working with the community, as they are a way to communicate information that is visually interesting and more accessible.

Guest Blogger: Isabel Nowak Anthropology Major C’23, “The History of Beaver Dam”

Isabel Nowak is a junior anthropology student at Davidson College. In spring 2021, they spearheaded archival research in Dr. Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire’s Ethical Archaeology seminar which investigated the silenced history of Beaver Dam Historical Park.

Hello! My name is Isabel Nowak, and Spring semester 2021, I was enrolled in a seminar with Dr. Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire where my peers and I investigated the local Beaver Dam historical park. Beaver Dam’s history isn’t super well-publicized, so I thought I’d share some of it here.

 The first major player in our story is William Lee Davidson, not to be confused with his father General William Lee Davidson, who died in the Battle of Cowan’s Ford a month after his son’s birth in 1781. In 1808, Davidson purchased 451 acres on Beaver Dam Creek (hence the name of the property), where he established a plantation. The actual house that still stands today was not completed until 1829.

 Sometime between October 1847 and December 1848, William Lee Davidson moved to Alabama, and in preparation, he sold his tract on Beaver Dam Creek to Joseph Patterson, who moved in with his wife and son. Patterson died suddenly in 1858, and his son John subsequently inherited the property. The Pattersons were gone by 1880, and following decades were full of exchanges (usually to settle debt), and over time, the property was divided up.

In 1937, then-owner Caldwell Hovis sold 8.5 acres consisting of the plantation house and immediate area to Dr. Chalmers G. Davidson, who restored the house from 1945 to 1975, when he moved in. The house was listed as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Site in 1977 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Davidson College purchased the house and 8 acres of the adjoining lands in 1998 due to the land’s significance to the college’s past. Indeed, in 1935 a committee of the Concord Presbytery met at the plantation house and decided on the location of what came to be Davidson College, named after William Lee Davidson’s father, General William Lee Davidson. However, not many sources mention Beaver Dam’s darker history.

Excerpt of the Will of William Lee Davidson including a list of enslaved people.
List of enslaved people held by Joseph Patterson

Jim, Linda, Aaron, Martha, Jim, Sarah, Harriet, Horace, John, Phebe, Rose, and Amy. Jane, Darky, Tilly, Lee, Taylor, Frances, Dallas, and Mary. These are the enslaved peoples referred to by name in the will/probate records of William Lee Davidson and Joseph Patterson respectively. According to census records corresponding to years he occupied Beaver Dam, William Lee Davidson owned 15 slaves in 1820, 21 in 1830, and 26 in 1840. Joseph Patterson owned 25 slaves by 1850. We don’t know a lot about the enslaved people that lived and worked on the Beaver Dam plantation. There are no written records of most of them. But, hopefully, this investigation into Beaver Dam will raise awareness of its history, and the people who lived and died there.