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Black Pioneers

Until 1997 systematic archeological investigations of African American sites had not been conducted in Nebraska . With the encouragement of Omaha historian Pat Kennedy, the Archeology Division initiated a pilot project. Society staff and volunteers, conducted several days of exploratory excavation last October at the Benton Aldrich site in Nemaha County. The Aldrich family was very involved in encouraging former slave families to relocate to southeast Nebraska. Several black families evidently lived on the Aldrich place in the late 1870s and 1880s -- working for the Aldrich's or on neighboring farms until they could get established financially. The archeological explorations focused on two structures believed to originally have been constructed about 1880 by or for black pioneers. Sample excavations were also undertaken at the Aldrich house. Research questions being addressed involve architecture, socioeconomic status, subsistence practices, and material culture.
map is image of excavated features on the Aldrich Farm.

In the fall of 1998, Pat Kennedy and Rob Bozell searched for additional archeological ruins of Black Pioneers in the hills above Brownville. Based on Kennedy's archival research, two well preserved sites were discovered. They are probably associated with the Stafford family who lived in the area from 1889-1905.
photo of archeological excavation in progress on the Aldrich Farm.


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Last updated 24 March 1999

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