The Moore-Youse House, Muncie, Indiana ___________________________________________________________________________________
The Moore-Youse house, located in Muncie, Indiana, was occupied by at least four historically known households between the 1830s and 1980s. The last three households to live in the I-house were part of a female centered lineal family, consisting of members of the Moore and Youse families. Between 1864 to the 1980s, the house was passed along the female line from Clara Moore to her daughter Mary "Mame" Moore, and then to Mame's daughter Mary Youse Maxon.
Mame and William Youse in the late 1800s.
The Moore-Youse house, today maintained by the Delaware County Historical Society as a house museum, was the subject of archaeological field work during summer and fall 2004.
BSU archaeology students conducting excavations at the Moore-Youse house, fall 2004.
Artifact density distribution defined at the Moore-Youse house.
The field work was supported through a grant provided by the Lilly II educational endowment. The Moore-Youse house presented a fascinating opportunity to study the development of middle class life in the Midwest during the 1800s. Excavations at the Moore-Youse house were the subject of a conference paper that I presented in 2004 (SEAC-MAC conference paper in pdf format). Drawing upon ideas originally presented in a Historical Archaeology article on landscape change and household succession, in this conference paper landscape change and material characteristics were further examined at the Moore-Youse house from a perspective emphasizing the lineal family.
The Moore-Youse house was also subsequently the thesis topic of Christy Blanch, a former BSU graduate student specializing in historical archaeology. For her thesis research, Christy interpreted the archaeology of the Moore-Youse house from a gender perspective, exploring how ideas and material culture associated with the Victorian period influenced material conditions at the residence during the 1800s.
Blanch, Christina L., 2006, Because of Her Victorian Upbringing: Gender Archaeology at the Moore-Youse House, M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.
Thesis front matter (65 kb pdf file)
Thesis, main document (6.6 mb pdf file)
Star Press article on the research conducted at the Moore-Youse house:
A yard excavation at the oldest building in downtown Muncie sheds
light on family.
From: The Star Press, Muncie, IN, March 4, 2007
MUNCIE -- Archaeologists discovered new information about the family that formerly lived in downtown Muncie's oldest surviving building when they dug through trash more than 100 years old.
Bones and tableware shards indicate the family that once lived in the roughly 150-year-old Moore-Youse Home Museum -- a block from the courthouse -- had trouble giving up old habits during the Victorian Age.
"They were presenting one front, but behind the scenes, something else was going on," said Christina Blanch, a Ball State University anthropology instructor who participated in digging up the side yard of the museum.
The house today remains decorated with the family's original Victorian furnishings, such as a hallstand with a mirror, a Steinway grand piano, a dining room sideboard to display costly items the owners wished to be seen, six J. Ottis Adams paintings, white tablecloths and gilded plates.
The furnishings and the two-story home, with a white picket fence and a front porch, create images of the Victorian Age -- impeccable etiquette, rose gardening, parlors and cleanliness.
But when researchers excavated the yard, they found evidence that, well past the fashionable and socially accepted time frame, the family kept chickens, slaughtered pigs on site and used strictly utilitarian dinnerware called redware. All parts of pigs were found, indicating on-site slaughtering.
During a recent lecture, Blanch said redware -- early American pottery usually locally produced from red clay or a clay that turns reddish upon firing -- was viewed as an indicator of low economic status. It was not for public use. (The excavation also unearthed other tableware, including decorated and shell-edge sherds, that the family could use for entertaining).
"They would have used the things they had," said James Lee, president of the Delaware County Historical Society. "This was a middle-class family, and they would have been very practical."
Lee added: "As the archaeologists dug deeper into the soil, using trowels and brushes ever so slowly, they went farther back in time. They would tell me they were at the 1920s level, then the turn of the century, then the 1890s and so on. They lived a block off the town square, and they had farm animals. Christi calls it an urban farm."
Blanch -- whose mentor on the project was BSU assistant professor Mark Groover -- didn't mention it in her lecture, but the archaeologists also found venison, turtle and mollusk remains, Lee said.
The Victorian period in Muncie began in the 1840s pioneer days and ended before World War I. During that time, Muncie transitioned from an agricultural community to a factory town.
People threw their table scraps and other trash in their yards because there were no sewers or garbage collection. Pigs and chickens would eat the garbage.
Researchers were surprised that they found no liquor bottles or tobacco-pipe stems. It was a social norm during the Victorian Age for men to drink and smoke.
Ball State undertook the project in part because the historical record for the American Victorian period is incomplete as a result of gender, race and class bias, Blanch said.
"We need archaeology to learn about a range of things, from what the actual housing conditions in colonial times for Virginia slaves were like, to what daily life was like for Victorian women," she said.
The Moore-Youse family had a strong female line. Over 118 years, the house was passed from female to female -- from Clara Moore to her daughter Mame Youse to her daughter Mary Youse.
"The house was so important to the females that they never moved, but lived their entire lives in the family home, even though there were other options," Blanch said. Mary Youse married Jack Maxon, a very successful Muncie businessman.
Mary Maxon died in 1982. In her will, she donated the home to the historical society.
If they were alive, what would the three women think about archaeologists digging through their trash?
"They'd probably like it," Blanch said. "They would think it's pretty cool that their names live on."
And that their house still stands.
Christy Blanch at the Moore-Youse house.
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