Scull Shoals Mill - Passport in Time

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Scull Shoals Historic Mill Village

Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, Georgia, 2001–2002
by Jill Harrell, FS Archaeologist

The fall 2001 and spring 2002 PIT excavation projects at the 19th-century mill town of Scull Shoals on the Oconee NF in Greene County were a great success! Fall weekends were focused on lab work at the Oconee District Ranger Station, where more than two years’ worth of accumulated artifacts were sorted, washed, and partially analyzed. Over a dozen people showed up for three days to help with this rather laborious but much-needed task. Spring excavation projects were limited to one Saturday a month, but, again, we had record-breaking participation. Turnouts for the public guided tours of the old ghost town were poor, because of bad weather on the second Saturday, but the weather sure didn’t deter the volunteers. Our highly dedicated veteran crew and more than 20 new volunteers continued all-day excavations, working under plastic tarps in thick privet within the downtown village area. These excavations are part of a long-term testing project directed by FS Archaeologists Jill Harrell, Becky Bruce, and retiree Jack Wynn, assisted by various other professional volunteers, and more than a score of amateurs working hard beside them.

Work in the downtown area this year has concentrated on two structures found on surveys a couple of winters ago, buried in the dense privet thickets that surround the village. One was an unassuming brick pile that looked like a push pile from the construction of the adjacent parking lot. Then we cleared off the privet and discovered a brick wall running through the pile. Further work revealed that it was a chimney base with paired hearths, typical of a two-room saddlebag house (two square units with a central chimney). Houses of this type have been found in other places in the village and were possibly homes for some of the mill workers.

The other structure was first thought to be a standard two-chimney house, but as we began to clear off the heavy privet cover and open up the area, we discovered that it was more than 55 feet long, with a low brick wall running its full length. Furthermore, this building appeared to be much later than anything else in the village, dating entirely to the 20th century.

In addition to the regular “square-hole archaeology” going on at those sites, some efforts were made to drain the swampy area around the foundations of the town’s power plant. In April, veteran PIT volunteers and a host of others worked hard with hand shovels to deepen the raceway ditches to drain the water from the foundations. This lowered the water 4–5 inches. They also cleaned the accumulated silt off the tops of the stone building foundations to make it easier to see the extent of the building. Later rains obliterated their efforts, so the team attempted to lower the water again in May.

There are no excavation projects planned for the summer, as we instead focus our efforts on the environmental analysis and the design for interpretive trails within the Scull Shoals area. Jointly sponsored by the Friends of Scull Shoals, Inc. (FOSS), and the FS, plans are underway to build approximately 4 miles of foot trails and to design interpretive signs and a self-guided tour brochure to guide visitors through the village and surrounding forest. If you would like to know more about the old mill town or the archaeological projects being undertaken there, see the FOSS web site, Plan to join FOSS, and come work with us in the fall!
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