The Catherine Brown Cowpen, Barnwell County, South Carolina ____________________________________________________________________________________ 

Between 1998 and 2000 I collaborated on an archaeology report about data recovery excavations conducted at the Catherine Brown cowpen in Barnwell County, South Carolina.  Archaeological results from the Catherine Brown cowpen illustrate the site structure and material conditions that existed among cattle raisers in the South Carolina backcountry.  




Brooks, Richard D., Mark D. Groover, and Samuel C. Smith  2000  Living on the Edge: The Archaeology of Cattle Raisers in the South Carolina Backcountry.  Savannah River Archaeological Research Paper 10.  Occasional Papers of the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program, South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Columbia.





The following report presents the results of archaeological excavations conducted at site 38BR291, the Catherine Brown cowpen.  The Brown cowpen is located near Steel Creek in Barnwell County, South Carolina on the Savannah River Site, a nuclear research facility operated by the U.S. Department of Energy.  Data recovery excavations were conducted in 1984 at the site in response to the L-Lake project.  The L-­Lake project created a small reservoir in the project area.

Occupied between the 1750s and early 1780s, the Catherine Brown cowpen was located on the edge of colonial settlement in the South Carolina backcountry.  Cattle raising was an important part of the frontier economy in the South, yet the topic has been largely overlooked by historians.  The archaeology conducted at the site is significant since it provides a rare glimpse of material conditions associated with livestock raisers that resided on the colonial frontier.  To date, the Brown site is the only cowpen fully excavated in South Carolina. Archaeological investigations at the site revealed an earthfast or post-in-ground English-style cottage and an adjacent cattle pen.  The cattle pen contained a butchering area and several activity loci denoted by prominent artifact concentrations. Archaeological information also suggests the cowpen was intentionally destroyed during the Revolutionary War.

Excavations revealed that material life at the cowpen was characterized by-both continuity and culture change.  Cultural continuity is illustrated by the persistence of several folk-based material traditions at the site.  Conversely, culture change within the Brown household is aptly illustrated by the use of industrially manufactured consumer goods.  The, site was occupied by the Catherine Brown household.  The Brown family originally resided in Virginia before settling the cowpen.  Based on land and slave ownership, the Brown family was among the upper quarter of wealth holders in the study area.  Although the Brown family was affluent by backcountry standards, considered in its entirety, the material culture used by the site recipients was relatively modest.  This characteristic suggests the Brown family practiced a standard of living that was probably similar to most of their neighbors.  In addition to an unassuming standard of living, the material culture documented at the site also illustrates an interesting amalgam of folk traditions.  Catherine and Bartlett Brown may have been Welsh.  Possible Welsh influences are evident in the dwelling size, floor plan, chimney construction, and chimney placement. Welsh material traditions are also possibly denoted by the fence styles that were used to construct the livestock enclosure.  Although domestic architecture and landscape elements at the site reflect European folk influences, the portable material culture used by the site residents indicates they also relied upon locally produced colono ware as a utilitarian ceramic.  Colono ware, a type of colonial period folk pottery, was probably manufactured by enslaved individuals at the site or local Native Americans.  Colono ware comprises a third of the ceramics recovered from excavations.  Although the material record encountered at the site demonstrates continuity with folk architectural and ceramic traditions, culture change is also indicated by the appreciable amount of industrially manufactured goods recovered from the residence.  As indicated by discarded tableware, tea ware, glass wine bottles, tobacco pipe fragments, and personal objects, the residents of the Brown site actively participated in the formative consumerism and popular culture that began during the 18th century with the advent of industrial-level manufacturing in England.  Residing on the edge of settlement in the colonial South, members of the Brown household relied upon folk-based material traditions that originated with several different ethnic groups.  However, they also adopted early consumerism that would eventually become a distinguishing characteristic of material life during the 19th and 20th.centuries in North America.


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