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Unearthing the Forgotten Past at Pandenarium, Site 36ME0253

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Growing up in a small northwestern Pennsylvania town, I always assumed that while our local history was important to us – it didn’t always carry the same import to the world beyond.  As so often happens, I was wrong and, in this case, willingly so.  In graduate school, I was fortunate enough to work on a local archaeological site with national, even international implications on our understanding of a shared history.

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Current view of site location

In 1848, Dr. Charles Everett, neighbor, physician, and contemporary to Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, manumitted the slaves residing on his Virginia plantation upon his death.  For five years, the freed African Americans worked, saving money and buying the freedom of their loved ones.  During this time, Dr. Everett’s surviving nephew, a Philadelphia-educated physician with abolitionist connections, Dr. C.D. Everett, began working with northern abolitionists to establish a settlement for the freedmen, freedwomen, and their children. 

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Indian Run at Pandernarium

On November 12, 1854, 63 African Americans arrived in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, and Pandenarium, the new settlement’s name, became a community, in a very real sense.  Almost immediately, nonessential housing was erected along the small stream, Indian Run, despite accounts reporting that 24 houses, their associated wells and graded roadways were awaiting the incoming inhabitants upon their arrival (Weidhmann 1973; Woge 1980; Woods 1999).  The additional houses would later be described as “shacks” situated on the banks of Indian Run and were flooded that fall.  Following the flooding of their new homes, the settlement’s residents moved into the houses that had been built by the abolitionists prior to their arrival. 

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1873 Hopkins Map

 

Over the years, the men, women, and children living at Pandenarium continued to alter the landscape from its original form, renegotiating their world and their place in it.  Why would African American inhabitants of Pandenarium re-organize their new community?  In my thesis, I argued that the community’s spatial layout and its changes over the years and generations speak of a collaborative effort on the part of southern planters, northern abolitionists, and newly freed African American families (Jaillet 2011).  The community’s initial layout appears to have been a combination of a rural northwestern Pennsylvania village template and a Chesapeake plantation template (Hopkins 1873; Jaillet 2011).

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1980 reprint map of Indian Run circa 1900

The similarities to a Chesapeake plantation, reminiscent of a life the former slaves were leaving behind, may be one explanation of why the inhabitants set to work redefining their space almost immediately and continuing to push the settlement’s spatial boundaries in subsequent generations (Jaillet 2011; The Globe 1980).

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Steel nib recovered from John and Rosie Allens’ residence

Archaeological excavation of the multi-generational Allen family residences at Pandenarium helped to reveal a past that had largely been forgotten by the present community.  John and Rosie Allen were two of the settlement’s original adult inhabitants, living upslope of the stream in the row of previously built houses circa 1854 (Hopkins 1873; Jaillet 2011).  A number of personal artifacts were recovered from the John and Rosie Allen’s residence to include a steel nib pen, possibly used by one of the Allens’ children attending the local school, as 1880 census data indicates the elder Allens were illiterate (Jaillet 2011).  One child, Bob Allen, born at Pandenarium, would build a house at the northeastern corner of the settlement, near Indian Run, circa 1880s (Jaillet 2011).  According to the 1880 census, Bob Allen lived in this house with his European American wife, Lizzie, and their four biracial children, Joseph, Samuel, William, and Rettie.  A graphite pencil fragment and a fragmentary children’s teacup were two of

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Graphite pencil fragment

the numerous artifacts recovered from the site (Jaillet 2011).  While it is a small glimpse into the lives of the multiple generations of Allens that lived at Pandenarium, the archaeological record is singular in its ability to flesh out the history of those that

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Chidren’s tea cup fragments

actually lived at Pandenarium.  The space along the banks of Indian Run became a place with cultural value imbued upon its muddy waters by the multiple generations of African American residents at Pandenarium.

 Living within a previously structured environment, the freed slave population and their descendants lived on the site for nearly forty years. By the end of the nineteenth century, many individuals had moved to nearby urban communities abandoning their houses and agricultural plots. With the movement of individuals out of the settlement, the individuals remaining at the site renegotiated their physical environment by redefining the layout of agricultural lands and domestic structures. Several maps from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century depict houses with associated names, each of which can be linked to manumitted slaves that were listed in the elder Everett‟s probate records. The ways in which the individuals negotiated their cultural environment speaks to the agency of the inhabitants of Pandenarium. The ways in which they redefined the physical and social boundaries of the site over time remain largely undetermined. The historical records lack clarity; a clarity that archaeological investigation can provide the site by exploring the spatial boundaries and the social implications of these boundaries.

If you would like to learn more about Pandenarium, a digital copy of Angie’s thesis is available for viewing at the PA HPO office.

 References Cited:

Jaillet, Angela S.

2011 The People of Pandenarium: The Living Landscape of a Freed African American Settlement. Published Thesis. Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Hopkins, G.M.

1873  Atlas of Mercer County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia.

The Globe

1980  Indian Run about 1900.  Reprinted. New Wilmington, PA.

Weidhmann, W. Edward

1973 Indian Run History. Compiled by Educator. The New Wilmington Globe. August 23.

Woge, Mairy J.

1980 The History of Indian Run. The New Wilmington Globe. May 28.

Woods, Ruth Z.

2010 Personal Communication with Author. Mercer County, PA.

1999 History of East Lackawannock Township, Mercer County Pennsylvania 1900-2000. Supervisors of East Lackawannock Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

 

Angela S. Jaillet-Wentling, M.A., RPA

A graduate of Pennsylvania State University (BA – Anthropology, 2008) and Indiana University of Pennsylvania (MA – Applied Archaeology, 2011), Angie currently works for GAI Consultants, Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA as a senior archaeologist.  A new mother, she is learning to balance her role as an NCO in the U.S. Army and her hobbies of outdoor activities and art.

Author: Guest Contributor

The Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office occassionally asks our partners to share their news, successes, challenges, and perspectives on historic preservation matters in Pennsylvania.

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