CAMP SHELBY, Miss. - This is a press release from Camp Shelby.
A significant discovery was recently made during an archeological dig at the Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center from April 23 to 24.
Sixty volunteers from the Mississippi National Guard, several archeological associations of Miss., state universities, local schools and churches, and three tribal members of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians from Atmore, Ala discovered the first location of an antebellum estate at Camp Shelby.
"This is the first site that I have found on Camp Shelby that dates before the Civil War, so it's pretty significant," said McCarty, the Camp Shelby cultural resources program manager. "We had a gap in the history of Camp Shelby. We know there were Native Americans living here, because we have found plenty of Native American campsites. We know that Camp Shelby was founded during World War I, so we have WWI artifacts and sites as well, and World War II. But I had never found any antebellum sites."
The dig uncovered an antebellum farmstead, which was part of an 800-acre plantation, with artifacts dating from 1820 to 1865. The home was originally owned and built in 1838 by Soloman T. Garraway. The Garraway family also owns the Garraway Cemetery located on the East Gate Road to Camp Shelby. McCarty says that due to the estate site's historical significance, it's eligible to be added to the National Register of Historic Places.
During the dig, the group unearthed the fireplace of what is thought to be the main house of the grounds. They also discovered a post mold where a fence post was once located. Other artifacts found include mouth blown glass, cut nails, a musket shot, and hand-painted and shell edge pearlware and whiteware ceramics. The group also found arrowheads and other Native American artifacts at the location, which indicate that Garraway built his estate on top of a Native American site.
Volunteers from the following organizations participated in the dig: the Mississippi National Guard; the Mississippi Archeological Association; the Mississippi Department of Archives and History; the Mississippi Department of Transportation; the Mississippi Forestry Commission; Willow Grove Baptist Church in Collins; The Institute for Diverse Education; the University of Southern Mississippi; and Mississippi State University.
Among the volunteers was Billy Garraway, the great, great grandson of Soloman Garraway. McCarty said it's instances like this watching someone excavate the land their ancestors lived on that are good teaching moments to get children and youth involved in archeology.
"It's not Indiana Jones," said McCarty. "It's careful excavation in a little square - no digging straight down. It's very tedious work. But it's rewarding because you find all this information, these artifacts that tell the story about the people that once lived there," she added.
Five students from The Institute for Diverse Education (TIDE) in Hattiesburg were also among the volunteers. TIDE is a private non-profit middle and high school for students with learning differences, such as dyslexia. Christie Brady, the executive director of TIDE, said the school focuses on minimizing stress, and events like this that are hands-on and outside of a traditional setting can be helpful to the students.
"They really had a wonderful day because they got to make the connection between a lot of different topics in science and history and see things in a real-world basis," said Brady. "Every one of them found an artifact of some kind. They loved it, they really did and they're ready to do it again."
McCarty conducted a series of surveys of state land at Camp Shelby in order to determine the area to be excavated. She plans to conduct four more tests at the site and will conduct another dig later in the fall. The equipment used to conduct the excavation was donated by McCarty, the Mississippi Archeological Association, the University of Southern Mississippi, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.