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The Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Missouri State University just finished an archeological dig near Ash Grove. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark reports.
Two girls tossed the rocks into nearby buckets, sifting through the dirt with their hands. For MSU anthropology students Claire Shannon and Brandy Dishman, it was the last day of a dig that revealed secrets into southwestern Missouri’s racial past.
“We found some morder, which is part of the foundation. We found a lot of charcoal in the northeast…northeast quad, and a lot of burnt metal.”
The girls also made one of the monumental discoveries of the dig.
“Dr. Sobel about had a heart attack, but yeah, it was a 1910 wheat penny. And it was over in that corner, too. And we think we found a hammer for a gun and a lot of shell casings, 22 shell casings, from the first level.”
The project leader is Dr. Elizabeth Sobel, a professor of anthropology at MSU. She spearheaded the excavation on the farmstead of Father Moses Berry, great-grandson of William Berry and ex-slaves Caroline Boone-Berry and her mother Mariah Boone.
“Caroline Boone-Berry and Mariah Boone, before the Civil War, had been slaves owned by members of the Boone family, and according to Berry oral history and historical records support this, they lived before the Civil War. And Caroline would have been born on the Nathan Boone farm just a few miles away on the other side of Ash Grove.”
Sobel said that historical African American farmsteads, particularly in southern Missouri, are scarce.
“What hasn’t been researched quite so much, and where I think the story of the Berry family and this site can contribute is to looking at why did certain, why and how did certain families stay. Certainly in Ash Grove, the Berry family probably owned more land than anybody else that was African American.”
The students appreciated the knowledge they gained from the hands-on project. Student Nikki Panelli says that she enjoys learning about the past.
“It’s really kind of neat because you get to be a part of something that happened in the past so it really tells you a really good story of who was here, and what they did, and how it impacted how we live today.”
All of the artifacts found in the dig will be claimed by Father Moses Berry, who runs the local Ozarks Afro-American Heritage Museum in Ash Grove.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.