Students Unearth Rare Glimpse of State’s Past

Reproduced by permission, with thanks to Derek Spellman and The Kirksville Daily Express

MARSHALL, MO (AP) –Under the guidance of a University of Missouri Professor, college students are carefully unearthing a rarely sen piece of state history: slave quarters.

Their first week of digging at a site about 11 miles southeast of Marshall yielded toys, a Union soldier’s button from the Civil War, building materials, pieces of ceramic, even a wine bottle still in its place.

“It’s a good window into the past,” said Tim Baumann, an anthropology professor  at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

The artifacts were found about 18 inches deep in the soil covering the two-room dwelling, which measures 15 by 36 feet. Before completing the three-week class in late June, the students will have excavated the walls.

Brett Rogers, a history professor at William Woods University in Fulton, serves as the project’s historian. Rogers followed a paper trail in Marshall to gather information on the house and slave quarters.

Some of the information was provided by 74-year-old Mel Harris, of Slater, who lived in the dwelling – at some point converted into servant quarters – until she was 20. Rogers said the building was occupied well into the 20th century.

“Her parents and grandparents lived here,” Rogers said of Harris. “She was always told this was a slave kitchen.”

Rogers said the building was typical of slave quarters in the upper South. “The people who would have lived here would have been domestics,” he said. “They would have had better jobs.”

The property, known as Oak Grove, is believed to have included at least two other slave quarters, located further away from the main house, where field hands would have lived.

A skirmish between Union and Confederate forces is thought to have occurred on the property, and a Union soldier is rumored to have been buried on the property.

Baumann said the two rooms had separate entrances, which would have probably housed separate families during the era of slavery.

After the Civil War, he said, the rooms may have been rearranged so that several families lived in one room while the other was used as a kitchen.
 
 

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