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Archeology for Interpreters > 9. Use What You Know: Highlighted Case Study

Why did archeologists decide to dig there?

Archeologists worked in the intersection because VDOT is adding turn lanes on both roads, constructing a foot bridge over a nearby creek, and placing existing utilities underground to improve the intersection, ease traffic delays, and increase safety. The archeologists' work fulfilled the legal mandate of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), as amended.

While archeologists knew a good deal about the project area's history through archival research, they did find some surprises—like the Hooe Dependency Site!

The Hooe Dependency Site does not exist in historical records. Archeologists encountered the site while digging shovel test pits (STPs) under aerial utility lines scheduled to be buried during intersection improvements. Although specific information about the site was absent from historical records, archival materials provided much information about past land use and occupants. This information allowed the archeologists to place evidence from the Hooe Dependency site in historical context, determine when the site was occupied, and identify its most likely occupants.

As part of their research design, archeologists consulted a variety of resources as they investigated the project area's history. Archival resources used included deed books and personal property, will, inventory, and census records from Prince William County, Virginia. Other archival records consulted were Works Project's Administration (WPA) publications, United States Bureau of the Census records, and miscellaneous photograph, document, and map collections. Archeological reports describing work at other sites within the park and other secondary sources provided additional information about the region's history.

[photo] Photograph 
                  of Hazel Plain, ca. 1937. (Manassas National Battlefield Park 

Photograph of Hazel Plain, ca. 1937. (Manassas National Battlefield Park Archives)

Historical research reveals that the Hooe Dependency site is located on land originally owned by Robert “King” Carter in the eighteenth century. In the late eighteenth century the land passed to Bernard Hooe, whose family occupied the land until the mid 1830s. Hooe established Hazel Plain, one of the largest plantation complexes in the area. The complex consisted of a main house and several associated outbuildings—also referred to as dependencies. Apparently, the Hooe Dependency was one such outbuilding, although it was not mentioned specifically in historical documents.

The Hazel Plain community included a large number of enslaved African Americans living at various locations across the property. Quarters for enslaved field hands appear to have been located in cultivated areas at the far edges of the property. Although historical records do not indicate how many enslaved field hands occupied these field quarters throughout the Hooe family's tenure, they indicate that the Hooes retained over fifty enslaved individuals between 1810 and 1822—a large number for a Piedmont plantation.

During this peak period, Hazel Plain's enslaved population was involved in a wide variety of agricultural and craft tasks. In 1823 the Hooe family transferred a large number of enslaved African Americans from Hazel Plain to other properties. By 1826 only two domestic enslaved individuals remained at Hazel Plain, indicating that agricultural and craft activities at Hazel Plain had virtually ended. This is probably when the Hooe Dependency ceased to be occupied by an enslaved household. The Hooe estate and its associated enslaved laborers were sold in 1836. By the time the Battle of First Manassas was fought in 1861, the Hooe Dependency had been abandoned for at least twenty-five years.

Use What You Know

The What do Archeologists Do? section of this guide introduces you to methods archeologists use to locate sites. Questions you may consider as you plan to interpret how archeologists located the Hooe Dependency Site at Manassas National Battlefield Park are:

  • Why don't archeologists just dig where they know they will find a site?
  • What sources may archeologists consult when they conduct research?
  • What is this site's social context?
  • What message or messages about archeology and historical research do you want visitors to take away with them?