Hocker Browns Ferry - The Brown's Ferry Vessel: A River...

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The Brown's Ferry Vessel: A River Transport of the Early Eighteenth Century by Fred Hocker Long-time readers of the INA Newslener may remember an article from 1979 (volume 6.1) about a colonial vessel found in South Carolina, at Brown's Ferry. INA had not participated in its excavation, but Richard Steffy of the INA faculty had traveled to South Carolina to record the remains and had built a 1: 10 scale model of a preliminary reconstruction. Soon after, the remains went into a large, purpose-built treatment tank for conservation and there lay in polyethylene glycol (PEG) for nearly a decade. The cy- press, pine, and live oak timbers of the vessel were removed from the tank in the fall of 1990, and INA has resumed its involvement in the project, directing the recording and reconstruction of the hull remains. The vessel was discovered in 1971 by Mr. Hampton Shuping, a sport diver and diving instructor. He reported the find, near the coastal city of Georgetown, to the South Carolina Institute of Archeology and Anthropology (SCIAA), which excavated and raised the remains in 1976 under the direction of Alan Albright, then the state under- water archaeologist. The vessel lay parallel to the bank of the Black River with its stern exposed, but was largely covered by its last cargo, nearly 12,000 bricks. It was also covered by a large amount of 19th- and 20th-century debris, since the site had been the location of a cable ferry (Brown's Ferry) between the 1780s and 1954. Included in the debris were the remains of at least one automobile (a 1912 Maxwell, according to witnesses) and several ferry barges. This rubbish complicated the excavation and made dating the site difficult, although it was eventually learned that all of the material found below the bricks and wedged between the frames could be comfortably placed in the first half of the 18th century, around 1740. This made the Brown's Ferry hull the oldest American-built vessel yet discovered and offered archaeologists and historians a new perspective on shipping and shipbuilding in the colonial South. The site was mapped largely by touch, as the Black River is nearly opaque, but SCIAA artist Darby Erd was able to make astonishingly accurate perspective drawings of the hull as it was found. As excavation progressed, it became apparent that a large portion of the hull survived, although it had been distorted and damaged by the brick cargo. The starboard side, while broken off at the turn of the bilge, survived to its full height over much of the vessel's length, and the port side was almost as complete. The bow had decayed somewhat, but the stem was pre- served to a height of nearly 4 feet (1.2 m). Only the stern had suffered serious decay, as it lay slightly up slope and Left: The lower part of the hull of the Brown's Ferry vessel being lifted from the Black River in 1976. As can be seen here, the bottom ofthe vessel was still solidly fas- tened together when excavated. The hull timbers have undergone nine years of con- servation; after the vessel has been reconstructed it will be displayed in the Rice Museum of Georgetown, South Carolina.
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Hocker Browns Ferry - The Brown's Ferry Vessel: A River...

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