Archaeology and Rediscovering the Past

"Taylor-Bray Farm is unique ..I can't think of another site like this. We will be able to compare the material found here with other local and regional sites to better understand many aspects of prehistoric and early historic life...the farm also has great potential to educate people about the importance of archaeology and the need to preserve & protect sites like this."

As early as 10,000 years ago, Native people seasonally inhabited part of what is now Taylor-Bray Farm. Around 1640 the European colonization that had begun in Plymouth in 1620 had spread to Cape Cod and the first European settlers, including Richard and Ruth Taylor, made their homes at Yarmouth. The property remained in the Taylor family until the late nineteenth century when the widow of the last of the Taylor descendants sold the farm to Willie and George Bray. They farmed the property until their respective deaths in 1937 and 1941. The farm was owned from the late 1940s though 1987 by the Williams family and then the Karras family, both of whom continued the farming traditions. In 1987, the town of Yarmouth purchased the farm for “historic preservation and conservation purposes.

Beginning in 2009 a farm project began documenting generations of human habitation at the farm. Preserving and interpreting the farm’s archaeological resources enhances our understanding of the historic and pre-colonial activities of the people who called the place home for over ten millennia.

Work began informally in 2009 when Taylor-Bray Farm Preservation Association volunteers discovered a trove of artifacts beneath the extant farmhouse floorboards. To understand the significance of these artifacts and the farm’s overall historical potential, the Association turned to Craig Chartier of the Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery Project. Beginning with an initial archaeological reconnaissance in 2010, this work grew into an organized, multi-year effort to learn about and preserve the farm’s past.

Over nine years the project has recovered several thousand prehistoric artifacts including spear points, knives, drills, scrapers and other stone tools. We have also identified hearth and post-mold soil feature evidence of Native housing called wetus. Significant concentrations of fire-cracked rock have also been identified indicating a seasonal prehistoric camp site with hearths for boiling water, cooking or processing foodstuffs, fish and game collected in the wild. A more complete description of the project’s discoveries can be found on the farm’s Native American Presence page.

With the removal of the modern additions to the farmhouse in preparation for its renovation, its structure was made bare. Analysis revealed that significant elements of the structure were materials recovered from an earlier building. Researchers believe that Richard Taylor’s mid 17th century house was taken down by his great grandson, Revolutionary War veteran Samuel Taylor, and materials from it were reused on site for the still standing Taylor-Bray Farmhouse.

Archaeology work has also deepened our knowledge of the farm’s colonial and 19th century past. The site of the original 17th century farmhouse and a large 18th century addition have been located as well as a possible barn. Along with the building sites, we have discovered an amazing array of household artifacts that help us better understand the daily lives of seven generations of Taylors. The Taylor-Bray archaeology project has significantly  strengthened the farm’s status on the National Register of Historic Places. 

After nine years of archaeology fieldwork at the farm, the project ended with the 2017 dig.  The farm still has secrets to give up as archaeologists and local historians work to further interpret the fieldwork findings and engage in research to fill still significant gaps in the ongoing story about this unique site and its former inhabitants.

Although the archaeology fieldwork is at a pause, we will continue to seek out opportunities to share our knowledge about the farm’s past. Public presentations about the Taylor-Bray archaeology finds will be made at local libraries and the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History among other places. We will continue to exhibit artifacts at the Taylor-Bray farmhouse and other venues.

And the farm’s new interpretive signage incorporates a lot of archaeological data as a way of sharing the history of this special place with visitors as they stroll about the grounds.

Community involvement was a key:

Many factors have contributed to the success of the Taylor-Bray rediscovery project, but these stand out. First is the vision and leadership of Craig Chartier who was ably assisted by our other professional archaeologists Blaine Borden and Dan Zoto.

Second is the town Community Preservation Committee and the voters of the town of Yarmouth who approved the historic preservation grants which made the professional archaeology work possible. We are grateful for the generous  grants awarded by the Town of Yarmouth. These grants have allowed us to hire a professional archaeologist to carefully plan field investigations and produce thorough follow-up analytic reports.

Finally, there was the large dedicated group of volunteers who contributed thousands of hours of labor to excavating test pits, screening dirt and carefully recording the results of our fieldwork. This outpouring of help made the Taylor-Bray effort one of the largest community archaeology projects in the state of Massachusetts.

Taylor-Bray Farm Preservation Association
P.O. Box 66 – 108 Bray Farm Road North, Yarmouth Port, MA 02675