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Student archaeologists excavate pre-Civil War home in Pope Co., IL

Published: Jun. 25, 2018 at 8:27 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 28, 2018 at 5:54 PM CDT
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Students working in the Shawnee National Forest. (Source: Brittany Jacob, KFVS)
Students working in the Shawnee National Forest. (Source: Brittany Jacob, KFVS)

POPE COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - Heartland students got the opportunity to travel back in time to uncover historical remains of one of the only African American Antebellum Settlements in Southern Illinois.

Southern Illinois University Archaeological Field School and the U.S. Forest Service gathered archaeologists and students to excavate a pre-Civil War home in Miller Grove near Vienna, IL for the two weeks.

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SIU Anthropology Student Tony Farace has spent the last two weeks in the Shawnee National Forest uncovering history as part of the US Forest Service archaeological investigation. "It's not something that you can really learn from a book..It's something that needs to be done in the fields," Farace said.

According to the Forest Service, the community was founded in the 1840s by freed African-Americans by the name of Bedford and Abby Miller.

"Basically what this site does for people is it gives them an awareness of what was going on in Illinois at that time," Farace said.
Predating the Civil War in the 1840s, Bedford and Abby Miller found this community after leaving bondage in Tennessee to come to Illinois.

Mary Mccorvie, the Forest Archaeologist said, "There was no slavery in Illinois and you could actually live here in Freedom." McCorvie said, "It's really important for us to let people know about this community and what it represents – freedom."

Farace said he feels he serves a dual purpose. "It shows them that the sites were kind of silence by most people because they don't look at it as significant or finally getting a voice through our archeology that we are doing here."

Teaching students history off campus is exciting, Meridian High School student Ayannah Dickerson said, "Learning about my ancestors and how they migrated here and made a life."

Another SIU Anthropology student, Sophia Julio said this experience is very unique and interesting, "I think it's just really cool to kind of …like as we're finding things, piece together in your own head the scenario that was happening here…"

Grove site is northeast of Vienna and the community consisted of about 12 farmsteads.

McCorvie said one of their future projects is a "virtual interpretation" the site for the public onsite and/or online.

The students will finish up their work on Friday.

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