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108 Bray Farm Road N.
Yarmouth Port, MA

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Taylor-Bray Farm Archaeology Project

The Knoll - 2012: Richard and Ruth Taylor Homesite

In October 2012 we set out to find the site of Richard Taylor's 17th century farmhouse. We found it and also found what appears to be a separate structure. We were surprised to find a Native American cache pit probably used to store food like dried corn or nuts within a few feet of the north cellar wall of the 17th century house.

Cellar hole locationThe October 2012 dig at the Farm continued work started with the intensive site survey done in 2011. A green patch visible in an aerial photograph (right) of the Farm was interpreted to possibly represent a Cellar Hole, maybe that of the original Taylor farmhouse. To investigate this possibility, two test trenches were excavated across the area with other shorter trenches and test pits dug nearby.

The trenching determined that it was indeed a Cellar Hole, one dating to the 18th century. This work also revealed seven post holes for an earlier house and a concentration of 18th to early 19th century yard refuse. The four additional shorter trenches excavated revealed an additional post hole and a possible colonial era hearth. The test pits resulted in the identification of three probable slot fence lines and additional evidence of refuse deposits. A total of 10,788 artifacts were recovered at this site.

Archaeologists interpret the earlier post holes as evidence that the original Richard and Ruth Taylor house (ca.1646-1740) was an earthfast/post-in-ground dwelling(1). A rock at the bottom of one post hole is thought to be a stone thrown into the hole during construction to support the post.

The large Cellar Hole is evidence that the later house constructed in the first half of the 18th century, was a large house that may have been reflective of the family's needs for space or for public appearance and being reflective of then current national trends more so than an older 17th century style house would. This later house is believed to have had a stone foundation that was shallowly set in the ground and which replaced an earlier, smaller, earthfast house. The house lot had well-defined areas of refuse disposal and evidence of fence lines separating the area around the house from the larger farm itself were also found.

The existing 18th century Samuel Taylor house contains significant structural members recovered from the 17th century house. Click here to see what those reused elements tell about the earlier house.

Based on the archaeological evidence, the 18th century Taylors' economic life appeared closely tied to the local and national economy. The large size of the Cellar Hole and the provision within it for storing root crops may indicate an agricultural system that resulted in a large surplus that was stored in the cellar. The large size of the Cellar Hole may also indicate its use as a place to store goods that were subsequently sold to the Taylors' neighbors.

Artifacts recovered indicate that the Taylors had access to, and enjoyed the use of, imported ceramics for use on their table and imported food stuffs such as tea and olive oil. The site's position close to the Chase Garden Creek may indicate that the Taylor's used the creek to ship and receive goods to and from Boston. It is known that Taylors in the 17th and 18th centuries served as constables and were on the committee to keep English tea out of the houses of Yarmouth residents in the later 18th century. The family may have lived in a relatively isolated farmstead but it definitely was involved with the affairs of the larger town and country.

The 18th century Taylors are believed to have been in the middle to low upper class of Yarmouth society. Their dress included items of silver, such as the spur buckle recovered during the intensive survey. Their shoe buckles appear to be middle class brass with no silver being recovered while their use of cuff links indicates a desire to keep up with period fashions.

With the interpretation of wealth as reflected by artifacts and architecture, it appears that the Taylors were fairly well-off and wished to express their real or perceived wealth by building a larger house and using finer ceramics to declare identity, goals, and values.

Their tableware included at least one Chinese porcelain tea cup. Ceramics from the site reflect mainly what was identified as fine imported wares (delftware, marbled slipware, trailed slipware, Wheildon type wares, Jackfield type wares, porcelains, creamware, pearlware) with a small amount of coarse domestic redware reflective of the dual uses of ceramics at the site and in society in general: public table display and private food preparation and hygiene.

Glassware showed a surprising paucity of wine and case bottles, possibly indicating that bottles used on the table were refilled from wooden casks or were refilled at the local tavern or inn. The presence of Steigel glass is also indicative of a higher socioeconomic status. The recovery of several fragments of redware that were apparently mended may indicate frugality, sentimentality, or lack of access to replacements during the later part of the 18th century due to the American Revolution and it subsequent societal chaos.

The faunal remains indicate that they consumed mostly older animals as a result of a husbandry system that stressed the products of young to mature cattle and sheep and which culled older, presumably poorly producing individuals. The consumption of swine at the prime of their lives as well as older individuals indicates a swine husbandry system that placed an emphasis on meat versus tallow, again with older individuals being consumed when the ceased producing. Younger individuals of all of these species were also consumed, possibly representing males culled out to be consumed at special occasions such as Easter or Christmas. The lack of dairy vessels in the ceramic assemblage may reflect the raising of cattle for sale versus dairy purposes.


1. For an example of Seventeenth-Century Timber Framing, see how the John Billington house at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts was erected.