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Town Creek Excavation
TOWN CREEK INDIAN MOUND
The excavation of the Frutchey mound at Town Creek. The site, seen here in the late 1930s, was the first major archaeological project involving the Historical Commission.

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Town Creek Indian Mound and North Carolina Archaeology

I n 1936, after dealing with trespassers and artifact hunters for years, Lloyd Frutchey decided to flatten the odd, purportedly Indian, embankment on his property in Montgomery County. He planned to use the soil to bolster eroded plots on his farm. Members of North Carolina's budding archaeological community learned of Frutchey's plans and enlisted Christopher Crittenden's help in trying to protect the area. In January 1937 a small delegation, including state officials and an archaeologist, evaluated the mound and approached Frutchey with ideas for preserving it. Following negotiations, it was agreed that Frutchey would deed the mound and a small amount of surrounding land to the state, specifically the Department of Conservation and Development, which would administer the site and care for the artifacts found there. The area was known as Frutchey State Park, or the Frutchey mound, until the 1940s, when its name was changed to Town Creek, after a nearby rivulet.

Funds were hard to come by during the early years of excavation at the site. It now seems quite fortunate that money was not available to develop the site according to early State Parks plans. If funds had been available, much of what is now excavated at Town Creek might have been destroyed by the construction of a large parking lot. In November 1939 excavations at Town Creek were approved as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. Some of the best archaeological work performed at the site was completed during the WPA years. The United States' involvement in World War II effectively put an end to all WPA projects; Town Creek excavations were discontinued until 1949.

Upon his return from military service in 1946, Joffre Coe visited Town Creek to inspect for pillaging or damage and then went directly to Chapel Hill to set up the university's archaeological lab, which for years thereafter served as the repository for all of the state's archaeological relics. Coe, the archaeological supervisor of Town Creek beginning in 1937, continued in that capacity for more than fifty years. Between 1950 and 1951 the state acquired fifty-two additional acres of land around the original site. At the time, plans were advanced for restoring the mound and palisade, reconstructing a town house on the mound, and interpreting the site through permanent museum exhibits.

Town Creek Indian Mound became a part of what was then the Department of Archives and History's new Division of Historic Sites in 1955. By that time the mound had been restored and the stockade around the original site had been reconstructed. The site received electrical power in 1960, at which time a manager's house was begun; an access road was paved in 1962. Town Creek was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1965. Additional pre-Columbian facilities reconstructed at the site include a major and a minor temple, a burial hut, and a mortuary hut. A learning center, built in 1991 to increase educational and interpretive opportunities, offers space for demonstrations of Native American skills and crafts.

Ansley Herring Wegner
Research Branch

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