Saturday, March 30, 2013

Unearthing Community: Archaeology of the Beman Triangle

Unearthed in the dig, photo by Bill Burkhart
The Middlesex County Historical Society, located in the General Mansfield House, 151 Main Street, will be the first stop for the exhibit, “Unearthing Community: Archaeology of the Beman Triangle.” The public may view the exhibit beginning Saturday, April 6 through the end of May. Museum hours are Monday – Thursday, 10 am to 3 pm and the first Saturday of the month, 12 pm to 3 pm.

Between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Avenue, an innocuous looking triangle of land forms the “Leverett Beman Historic District,” listed on the State Register of Historic Places and part of the Connecticut Freedom Trail. This area, known also as the “Beman Triangle,” is the site of one of the earliest planned African American communities in the United States. Through much of the mid- to late-nineteenth centuries, multiple houses stood on this land, all owned and inhabited by free black property owners. Many of these buildings still stand today. The Beman Triangle community had close ties to the AME Zion Church in Middletown, founded in the 1820s. Leverett Beman, the son of the first pastor of the AME Zion Church Jehiel Beman, owned a house on the triangle by the 1840s, neighbor to another Church member. In 1847, Beman owned the land and had the Triangle surveyed and divided into small plots, which could then be sold to other members of the Church community.

This exhibit presents information from excavations at the Beman Triangle. A short field season in April, 2012 conducted by Wesleyan University students and members of the greater Middletown community focused on deposits behind two houses in the triangle. Artifacts from these excavations help to build a picture of daily life in these households during the late nineteenth century. The exhibit will show a range of materials relating to healthcare and
everyday practices, such as cooking and dining. These are used to begin to construct a narrative about life inside the houses, including the degree to which such material is typical of the time period. Material from one of the houses has also provided a range of artifacts which seem to relate to late-nineteenth century pharmaceutical production, opening up conversations as to the nature of healthcare at this time.

The exhibit is curated by Wesleyan University students Amy Cao, Hyunjin Cho, and Sarah Chrystler under the direction of Sarah Croucher, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology. Funding was provided by Deans of Division I and Division II and the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, Wesleyan University. The Mansfield House is handicapped accessible. For more information, call the Historical Society at 860-346-0746.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Two Wesleyan honors theses of direct relevance to this topic:

'Their own guardians and protectors' : African-Americans in Middletown, CT. By Jesse Nasta. 2007.

Uncovering communities : a research design for the excavation of the Beman Triangle in Middletown, Connecticut . By Rachel S. Adler. 2004.

For some wider Middletown and Wesleyan context: Attitudes toward blacks and immigrants at Wesleyan University, 1831-1920. By Jeffrey Liss. 1986. (See especially chapter one.)

All theses are available at Olin Library's Special Collections & Archives. Liss' and Nasta's theses are also available to read online via: