REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (WHNT) — An excavation for a planned construction project on Redstone Arsenal has turned into an archeological dig.
Officials said crews in 2019 unearthed what appeared to be artifacts dating back to the mid-19th century, which led to a contractor performing small-scale excavations of the site to assess its significance.
What they found was a portion of a large, rectangular cellar filled with those artifacts, which made the site eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The project is located on the Fennell Plantation site, which was most likely occupied between 1820 and 1940, according to Redstone Arsenal’s Cultural Resource Manager Ben Hoksbergen.
“The current excavation site was probably the location of the main house for the plantation owned by members of the Fennell family from 1843 to 1918,” added Hoksbergen.
Isham J. Fennell was one of the wealthiest planters in Madison County. He owned thousands of acres throughout Alabama, and bought the plantation in 1843, making it his primary home.
“The plantation was subdivided and sold off in the early 20th century,” said Hoksbergen. “In 1919, Moses Love, a local African-American farmer, bought the parcel where the excavation site is located. He sold the land to the U.S. government in 1943 as part of the land acquisition for the Huntsville Arsenal.”
The site will be excavated by New South Associates, Inc. of Stone Mountain, Georgia, who will manage the dig along with conducting historic research and analyzing data from the area.
Any of the artifacts and/or documents found will be “permanently curated” at the Erskine Ramsay Archaeological Repository in Moundville, Alabama, according to Hoksbergen. There will also be efforts made to put significant items and information from the site in an interpretive display somewhere on Redstone Arsenal or in the surrounding community.
Details and findings from the dig will be detailed in a technical report which officials said will be made available to local public libraries.