Written by Scott Coleman, Ecological Manager
Before we began building a structure to help preserve the ruins of Quash’s House, we decided to engage with local archaeologists to dig the footings for the 4 posts that we would install, ensuring that we would not lose any of the story or history of the site through our efforts to protect it. Archaeologist Marie Meranda agreed to lead the dig working with Coastal Georgia Historical Society board member Myrna Crook, whose late husband, Dr. Ray Crook led the only previous archaeology projects at this site. Working alongside Marie and Myrna were three dedicated volunteers, Billy Bice, Scott Clark, and Deana Davis. The archaeology crew worked for three days in the field carefully digging four, one meter deep holes and sifting the soil for artifacts. After the field work was completed, Marie and Myrna worked in the Coastal Georgia Historical Society’s archaeology lab to curate the artifacts found in the four holes.
Previous archaeology at the site by Dr. Ray Crook from the University of West Georgia revealed interesting information about the size of Quash’s House – it was 15 x 35 feet, larger than most enslaved
dwellings and it seemed to match Fanny Kemble’s description of the site – “We landed on this forest in the sea by Quash’s House, the only human residence on the island. It was larger and better, and more substantial than the Negro huts in general, and he seemed proud to do the honors to us.” Fanny Kemble’s description of Quash’s House and the dimensions determined by Dr. Crook have led archaeologists and historians to question whether the historic structure at this site may have initially served a different purpose. One theory is that it was a house for a white overseer. Some of the artifacts found at the site during the most recent dig were representative of items that could have been associated with the dwelling of either a white overseer or an enslaved African, leaving the door open for this theory. Others who have studied the history of the island theorize that Quash’s House was previously the colonial home site of Samuel Augsoporger, the Swiss colonist and surveyor for Fort Frederica, who was the first European to receive a royal land grant on Little St. Simons Island in 1760. If accurate, this theory provides another explanation for the larger size of Quash’s House. Items from the colonial era were recovered at the site during the 2019 archaeology project, providing further evidence for the theory of colonial occupation.
Artifacts found during the archaeology project conducted this past summer represent human occupation at this particular site during several periods, the prehistoric (Native American) period, the colonial period, and the antebellum period. Artifacts of note include shell and bone fragments including a decorative bone pin (Prehistoric), a kaolin pipe stem (Colonial), the flint from a flint-lock rifle (Colonial), and a brass button with a carved eagle and wreath (Antebellum). These artifacts and others help to tell the story of the rich human history at this site and at Little St. Simons Island. Although the archaeology work to date cannot tell us exactly who occupied the site and when; it does provide an important glimpse into multiple layers of history at this site.
Prehistoric Bone Pin
Antebellum Brass Button
The Preservation of Quash’s House
After the archaeology crew carefully excavated the holes, Little St. Simons Island Land Steward, Bard Wiesen set out to build a rustic structure that would help to prevent further weather degradation of the historic ruins. Designed after similarly functioning structures on St. Catherines Island, he built a roof
over the ruins. With environmental sustainability in mind, Bard was able to upcycle all of the building materials from the island, the 4 posts were made from the trunks of cedar trees blown down during Hurricane Irma. The wood for the framework came from an old staff house that was being taken down and the materials for the roof came from the old roof of the main Lodge. The end result is a structure that blends well with the natural surroundings at the site and will help to prevent rainfall from further eroding the historic tabby and bricks.
Our hope is that the protective covering over the ruins of Quash’s House will help to preserve the historic physical remains for generations to come. By preserving the physical ruins, we are preserving the opportunity to learn more from this site in the future, and preserving an important platform to tell the stories of those who were here before us.