J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, July 07, 2019

A New Tavern Opened in Brunswick Town

Archeologists from East Carolina University announced that they are exploring the site of an eighteenth-century tavern in Brunswick Town, North Carolina, once capital of that colony.

The building was located by a student using ground-penetrating radar. It appeared as “a submerged structure measuring roughly 400 square feet (37 square meters) and buried under 5 feet (1.5 m) of earth.” A dig revealed more details, including the fact that the structure was destroyed by fire. The walls collapsed in a way that protected the crawl space under the floorboards from the flames, thus preserving an unusually large assortment of everyday objects.

LiveScience reports:
The objects hidden in the building’s crawl space include the brass tap from a wine barrel, unused tobacco pipes, broken mugs and goblets, crushed liquor bottles, and other items typically found in a tavern. An Irish halfpenny dated to 1766 helps narrow down the tavern's latest possible date of operation.
The Charlotte Observer also noted “iron tools that historians can’t yet identify.”

The British military burned Brunswick Town in 1776, and most people abandoned that settlement. (Gov. William Tryon had moved away in 1770, which didn’t help the local economy.) The archeologists seem to think, however, that this building had been destroyed in the preceding decade.

Strikingly, the artifacts include “thimbles, straight pins and clothing fasteners associated with the town’s female populace.” The archeologists note those might have been a male tailor’s tools. Nevertheless, those discoveries led to speculation that the tavern was also a brothel.

Another oddity is that there is no paper record of a building having stood on that spot. Researchers studying Brunswick Town have relied on this 1769 map, but it shows no structure there. So perhaps the business burned before 1769, or perhaps the business was lying really low.

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