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Matriarch of the The Dry, Alice McDonald, and project archaeologist and Principal Investigator, Michelle Slaughter, were interviewed by Ryan Warner for an episode of Colorado Matters that first aired March 2, 2020. You can listed to that interview and read the accompanying story here.
The Legacy of The Dry
Lulu Craig and the Descendants of Otero County’s
African American Homestead Community
Friday, May 3 at 7:00pm
An update on the Archaeology Project at The Dry
and showing of the film “Happy Birthday Mrs. Craig”
706 West 3rd Street
La Junta, Colorado
Saturday, May 4 from 1:00 – 3:00pm
Open House at the Craig Homestead
Near County Roads 10 and C, South of Manzanola, Colorado
Saturday May 4, 4:00-8:30pm
Birding and History weekend at Boggsville
(with presentation about The Dry Archaeology project)
Boggsville is located south of Las Animas. From Highway 50, take Highway 101 approx. 2 miles south of town.
4:00pm Gathering, music, exhibits! Try your hand at milking a goat, see
spinning, weaving, carding, felting a hat, and see goat products: soap, lotion, cheese
4:30pm Stories of Boggsville and Old Times
5:00pm Archaeology tour with Richard Carrillo, Archaeologist
6:00pm Dutch Oven meal — $7 at site
6:45-7:30pm (dusk) Program: Archaeology and History of “The Dry”,
a former African-American homesteading community south of Manzanola.
Program presented by Michelle Slaughter, Denver archaeologist.
7:30pm Descend to the Purgatory: Birding and Wildlife along the Purgatoire River
Check out this link to a video that we made in the field! Dr. Cruz explains how we were able to read the soil at Viola Mitchell’s homestead to determine where the floor of the structure was.
Today, while Dores and Erik continued excavating Viola Mitchell’s homestead, Jennifer and Jess went to the homestead owned by Mrs. Alice McDonald’s parents (Harvey and Rolan Craig). They began an extensive surface survey, taking careful note of the various artifacts scattered on the ground.
In their search, they noticed several exceptional objects:
As we entered week two of our Summer 2012 season at the Dry, we said goodbye to team members Jamie Devine and Delfin Weis and welcomed new team member Erik DeMarche. We continued to peel away the layers within the designated units, now finding fewer and fewer artifacts as we dig deeper. This is a clue to us that we have reached the point where we will no longer find items from the time when structure was used. One major area of the site is now done to this “sterile” level.
Yesterday we were joined at the site by descendants Mrs. Alice McDonald and Mrs. Darlene Derbigny. Both women were gracious enough to share some of their stories and memories associated with the Dry for a video interview conducted by our team members. Mrs. McDonald and Mrs. Derbigny recalled some of their favorite foods to eat at the Dry, what daily tasks were like, and why the land was important to their family. They both also spoke of the perseverance of the settlers to make a living. We hope to use this footage and historic photographs to make a short film about life at the Dry.
We’ve had an exciting breakthrough in our work at Viola Mitchell’s homestead. While we’ve been able to locate the packed floor of the structure we are excavating, we were puzzled by a lack of other clues that pointed towards this being a dugout home. For example, if the settlers were digging into the ground to create their home, then we should have found more evidence of large movements of dirt. Although the term “dugout” can mean of a variety of different structures (that would look different in the archaeological record) we became increasingly confident that we were not in fact looking at a dugout.
Dr. Dores Cruz did some research on the various types of structures built on homesteads during this period, and determined that what we are looking at might be a claim shanty instead. Claim shanties, like dugouts, could take a variety of forms, but were typically structures built hastily on the surface of the land in order to lay claim to a homestead.
This new hypothesis fits well with the information we have so far. The dirt floor was found relatively close to the surface, which suggests that the structure did not have a deep foundation. In addition, the estimated size of the structure aligns with the common size of claim shanties during the period.
We are continuing to excavate this week in hopes of finding more evidence that might support this idea. We’ve also begun researching other archaeological investigations of similar structures, and looking at documentary sources about claim shanties. Be on the look out for more updates on this research process!
Today we kept working on the units that we opened up yesterday, and were visited by descendant Mrs. Alice McDonald, her niece Geneva, and History Colorado representative Tom Carr.
Yesterday marked the first day of our Summer 2012 field season! For the next two weeks we will be continuing to investigate various parts of the Dry, building off of the survey work done over the past two years.
Based on previous surveys and the ground penetrating radar work done by Jennifer Moon, we decided to excavate an area on the Viola Mitchell homestead where we believe that her original dugout home was. Yesterday we began the excavation process by deciding which specific areas to dig in, selecting areas within a grid that we had laid out on the surface of the earth.
Once we had laid out our units, the areas we will excavate, we carefully mapped out and labeled each area. We began the initial excavation process yesterday by peeling away the top layers of several units. Even after just one day of work we have already had exciting results! Several units were producing an abundance of artifacts, many items similar to what we had found on the surface. After digging down several centimeters on another unit, we noticed a change in the soil, suggesting that this might have been the original wall of the dugout!
As we continue our work today and throughout the rest of the week, we hope to continue to learn more about this possible wall and any other remnants of the structure. Stay tuned for more developments from the field…
At the Dry, some of the most common objects that we would come across were related to the canning process. Although the artifact counts tell us that the amount of canning happening varied from homestead to homestead, we still had the sense that this activity played an important role in many people’s lives.
Today, canning has come back in “fashion.” The local food movement has encouraged more people to be in touch with the sources of their food. If you’re interested in learning more about canning (and even try your hand at it!) check out the wonderful resource called “Canning Across America”
On the site you can explore the recipes, resources, and stories shared by people from all over the country. If you have your own experiences to share, you should contribute!