Brief Overview Sept 11 Meeting Presentation “Digging Deep at Oaklands Mansion: The 19th Century Backyard Cellar by Laura Bartel

  • In 2019, James Manning, Executive Director of Oaklands Mansion contacted me and asked if I and members of RCAS would excavate the backyard cellar. There is no oral history and no known records regarding the circa 1820 cellar. It is believed to be built by the Maney enslaved. The cellar was accidentally discovered, partially excavated, and backfilled in 1976.
  •  Our project involved excavating the entire cellar to recover artifacts and data to understand its construction, architecture, and condition.  I will be presenting information regarding the numerous artifacts and faunal material found, information about the cellar and its features, and the future of the cellar. I will also discuss some of the findings from the 1976 excavation.  
  • This was an all-volunteer project co-directed by archaeologists Laura Bartel and Zada Law. Other team members included Assistant Director, Olivia Thompson, Clelie Cottle Peacock,  Joey O’Dell, and Christopher Lane.
  • Note: RCAS is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) nonprofit archaeological educational and service association supported entirely by memberships and donations.


Sunday, May 15, 2022

RCAS In May: Displays and Artifacts at Oaklands Mansion, Sunday, May 15

The Rutherford County Archaeological Society(RCAS) will be sharing the past with the public as a participant at Oaklands Mansion’s “Free Day” on Sunday, May 15, 2022 from 10am until 4pm. Admission to tour Oaklands Mansion is free on this day! We will be on site sharing archaeological displays and artifacts and information about some of our local projects. Please come by and see how the past is present in Rutherford County!

Here is detailed information from the website about both day and evening activities and participants:

It doesn’t matter if you are new to Murfreesboro, a long-time resident or you are just passing through, you are invited to visit Oaklands Mansion and grounds for free on Sunday, May 15, 2022. Oaklands Mansion will be open from 10:00AM – 4:00PM for self-guided tours. Signage inside the house explains the evolution of the historic site. Originally constructed as a frontier homestead, the structure evolved into a plantation house that was ultimately adapted to serve as a house museum. Staff and volunteers will be here to meet you and answer questions.

Members of the African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County, the Center for Chinese Music and Culture, Murfreesboro Little Theatre, the Murfreesboro Muslim Youth and the Rutherford County Archeological Society will also be on site to welcome you to Free Day.

Gardeners from Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation will be at the community vegetable garden from 10:00AM – 2:00PM. Oaklands Park is a native tree arboretum that includes walking trails, gardens and wetlands. View or download the map here. Oaklands Park is open daily from dawn until dusk. Oaklands Mansion is owned and operated by Oaklands Association, Inc. a 501 (c) 3 non-profit educational organization.

Volunteers from the Rutherford County Archaeological Society will be here sharing information about some of its projects in the community along with displays and artifacts. Murfreesboro Little Theatre (MLT) will offer free live performances at the base of the History Oak. Come back later that same evening to enjoy free live performances by both MLT and the Middle Tennessee Sinfonietta from 6:00PM – 9:00PM.

More details are here.

There is no charge to attend Free Day. The museum store will be open for gift shopping. My Roots Curbside Culinary food truck will be on site, so come hungry! Both the shop and the food truck accept cash and cards. This event will take place rain or shine. Please bring your own chairs and blankets. Dogs are permitted, but must remain on a leash at all times. For more information visit You can find Oaklands Mansion on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



RCAS APRIL MEETING: Online Presentation by Kevin E. Smith

In lieu of an in-person meeting this month, we are happy to announce a live online presentation sponsored by the Tennessee Division of Archaeology. The TDOA has created a new virtual lecture series for 2022(Third Thursdays, April-October).

The inaugural presentation is on Thursday, April 21 at 6:00pm CDT.

Archaeologist Dr. Kevin E. Smith(MTSU) will present “Exploring Native American Foodways in Ancient Tennessee: More Than Just Corn, Beans, Squash.“

The presentation is free utilizing Zoom and you may sign up at

After signing up, you will be contacted by the TDOA with links on how to access the presentation. Please direct any questions to State Archaeologist Phil Hodge at

Abstract of Presentation, by Dr. Kevin E. Smith

Explorers of Tennessee’s Cumberland River valley in the 1700s reported forests of American bamboo miles in diameter and so dense only children could squeeze through them. Archaeologists have usually assumed that this now critically endangered ecosystem developed in the 1600s after indigenous people abandoned the area. For ancient Nashville between about AD 1200 and 1500, I will examine some exciting new research about the antiquity of these Cumberland Valley bamboo forests – and how they intersect with the history, culture, traditions – and food – of indigenous people. Along the way, I will also explore the relationship of beaver ponds and maize fields, tame deer herds, and a continent-wide trade network of useful plants beyond maize, beans, and squash.

RCAS note: We hope you join us for this special presentation of some of the early Native American lifeways in Tennessee and the environment in which the people lived and interacted.

March Meeting featuring Macie Orrand, Collections Manager for the Tennessee Division of Archaeology

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The Rutherford County Archaeological Society is excited to host a special presentation for our upcoming meeting, Saturday, March 26 at 1:00 pm at the Oaklands Mansion event room. Doors open at 12:30. Our meetings are free and open to the public, and we hope you are able to join us.

Our special guest speaker is Macie Orrand, M.A., Collections Manager for the Tennessee Division of Archaeology, who will be presenting “Guardians of Antiquity: The Care and Management of Archaeological Collections. Macie is an MTSU alumna with a B. S. in Anthropology and an M.A. in Anthropology from Georgia State University along with Museum Anthropology certification.

In her own words: My presentation will highlight the importance of collections care and the responsibility and roles of collection managers and archaeologists to ensure that archaeological collections are available for generations to come. Curation is often an afterthought but is arguably the most valuable process within the field! I will discuss collections care and all that goes in to it, including logistics and planning of everyday tasks like policy writing, processing and procedures, repository maintenance, and emergency management planning. I will also discuss my development of the TN Collections Management Community of Practice (COP) group and how I hope to expand communication among collection managers across the state. Finally, I will provide insight into the knowledge I’ve gained over the past months working with other curators from institutions and agencies all over the southeast and what I envision for the future of archaeological collections care work.


February Meeting! Saturday, Feb. 19, 1:00PM Oaklands Mansion

Doors open at 12:30PM


The Rutherford County Archaeological Society is happy to announce a special meeting on Saturday, February 19th, 1:00 PM at Oaklands Mansion, 900 N. Maney Ave., Murfreesboro,TN, 37130. The meeting is free and open to the public. Doors open at 12:30 PM. We look forward to seeing you!

Our guest speaker is Nick Fielder, who will present “Using the Past to Predict the Future.” A former state archaeologist, Nick was on TV news recently talking about a proposed 174 acre residential development in Williamson County that may impact Native American archaeological sites. Nick will illustrate how he and other Tennessee archaeologists have come to this conclusion. He will be sharing his photographs of several sites near the project area that were discovered during construction and the analysis of site file data from 77 sites in a 3 mile radius. Nick has spoken to our group previously and and we are looking forward to another informative and entertaining talk.

NOTE: Oaklands Mansion’s event room size allows for social distancing and we wear masks for the protection of those who have age, health, and other increased vulnerabilities to COVID. Thank you for your care and consideration.

The Rutherford County Archaeological Society(RCAS) is an all-volunteer, 501 (c)(3) non-profit service organization. Promoting public archaeology, we bring together folks from all walks of life and professional archaeologists. We serve to educate and foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of archaeology, to demonstrate the importance of research, and to promote the stewardship, preservation, and protection of our cultural resources.
We also serve the community with an ongoing project at Murfreesboro’s historic Old City Cemetery, which entails conservation, preservation, research, interpretation, and public programs
We are funded solely by memberships and donations.

November Meeting!


Saturday, Nov.27 at Oaklands Mansion Event Room

900 N. Maney Ave., Murfreesboro, TN 37130

12:30pm  Meet and Greet, 1:00pm  Presentation

We are happy to announce our “Thankshistory” November Meeting featuring archaeologist Dr. Andrew Wyatt, Associate Professor of Anthropology at MTSU. Dr. Wyatt will present “Recovering Nashville’s African American History: Archaeology at Ft. Negley’s Bass Street Community. Doors open for a meet and greet (with snacks and treats!) at 12:30pm. The presentation will begin at 1:00 pm. We look forward to seeing you. Free!

Summary by Dr. Wyatt
Recovering Nashville’s African American History: Archaeology in Fort Negley’s Bass Street Community 
During the Union occupation of Nashville during the Civil War, the army utilized the labor of formerly enslaved persons to construct Fort Negley on St. Cloud Hill. These laborers and their families set up camps on the sides of the hill, sleeping in tents or makeshift shelters. After the war, the now free African Americans remained, built houses, and formed the first post-Emancipation Black neighborhood in Nashville on the north side of St. Cloud Hill along Bass Street. This neighborhood grew as more African Americans moved to the area, businesses were established, and the Bass Street Baptist church was founded in 1879. Despite threats to their safety by the Ku Klux Klan who regularly held cross burnings on Fort Negley, the neighborhood flourished. In the 1930’s, the WPA reconstruction project at Fort Negley removed some of the residents of the neighborhood, and the construction of Interstate 40 and 65 eliminated the last of residents in the 1960’s. All that remain are some house foundations, the footprint of the Bass Street church, and a plethora of artifacts from the nearly 100 year occupation. However, some of the former residents of the neighborhood are still alive today and have been telling their stories.  
The Bass Street Community Archaeology Project has been working in this neighborhood since 2017, and in that time we have begun to piece together the daily lives of the residents who lived here. In this presentation I will discuss the origins of one of the few Reconstruction-era African American archaeology projects in the country, what we have found so far, and what the future holds for the study of this unique and invaluable part of Nashville’s history.  


October 2021

Come see us at the Old City Cemetery, Sunday, October 24, 2:00-4:30PM

 Be at a place where you can experience the earliest days of Murfreesboro! Please join the Rutherford County Archaeological Society (RCAS) as we host another Public Open Day on Sunday, October 24 from 2:00 to 4:30PM at the “Old City Cemetery.” The cemetery is downtown at E. Vine and S. Maney (Note: this is not Evergreen Cemetery). Due to its fragile nature and endangered status, the cemetery is not regularly open to visitors. The site includes the buried remains of the 1820 Old First Presbyterian Church, its original burying ground, and acreage added to become the city’s first public cemetery in 1837.
Enjoy our displays and handouts, take a self-guided tour, select graves are featured and all soldiers’ graves and memorials will be marked with flags. See where the church once stood. Learn about our ongoing historic preservation project for Murfreesboro’s special place of history and hallowed ground.
Open at 2:00, at 2:30 there will be a brief ceremony at the entrance. The Rutherford County Chapter of the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities (APTA) will unveil a county historic marker. RCAS will also be presenting the addition of a National Register of Historic Places plaque. The site has actually been on the NRHP for over a decade.
This is a free event. Please be aware that there is uneven ground in the cemetery. There are no facilities. Children must be accompanied by an adult. There is plenty of parking available in the parking lot directly across the street. Questions?
We look forward to seeing you!

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