Holstein Races Against Time to Save Historic Site
built the site's stately farmhouse in 1850 near a beautiful natural
boiling spring in Oxford, which is how the area acquired the name
By Eddie Burkhalter
JSU News Bureau
Jacksonville State University archaeologist Harry Holstein
is racing against time to complete research at some of the most important
archaeological sites in Calhoun County.
conducting archaeological investigations for more than 25 years at Davis
Farm in Oxford, Holstein said he may be on the verge of making important
discoveries -- but fears time is running out because portions of the
property is likely to be commercially developed.
Jacksonville State's Archaeological Resource Laboratory
archaeologists have recorded 14 prehistoric and historic archaeological
sites on the Davis Farm property. Data from these sites reveal Native
Americans have occupied the property from about 9,000 B.C. up to the
"The first were the Paleoindians at the end of the Ice
Age. By the time you get to the eighth or ninth century, all of those
14 sites were part of a prehistoric community called a Mississippian
ceremonial center. It was a mini-Moundville," said Holstein.
According to the professor, possibly the site's most important
archaeological treasures may still be hidden under the soil. "We think
the property is part of the prehistoric 16th Century town called Ulabahali,"
Based on his previous research, Holstein believes in 1540
A.D. Hernando de Soto's
Spanish explorers visited the Davis farm site. This would make the property
a 16th century Spanish contact site, which is important in terms of
history and preservation because of the rarity of such unique contact
sites in the southeastern United States.
To validate the land as a Spanish contact site, Holstein
needs to find what is known as late Mississippian artifacts and diagnostic
16th century Spanish artifacts of that time period. And this means he
needs more time.
"At Ulabahali (Davis Farm), we have already recovered
the late Mississippian Indian artifacts, but we haven't been able to
do enough excavations to find the rarer16th Century Spanish artifacts,"
During the 16th century the Davis Farm property would
have been a regional religious and political center.
main ceremonial and political structure at the site was an earthen flat-topped
mound nearly 40 feet tall, and it was first recorded by an explorer
in 1890 passing through the Boiling Springs area. Presently, all that
is left of the mound structure is its base. Now standing at only five
feet high in what is presently the Hudgins sod farm property, Holstein
believes the base of the mound contains buried Mississippian and possibly
the elusive 16th Century Spanish artifacts.
"It was the focal point of the community, and the largest
structure in Calhoun County until the 19th century," said Holstein.
JSU operated a field school at the mound in 1991. The excavators were
able to document the mound's location. The City of Oxford recently purchased
the Hudgins sod farm containing the mound site, and plans are under
way to build a park at the location.
Holstein said he has been meeting with Oxford's city officials
to give further details about the importance of the area. Holstein said
he hopes Oxford will eventually help preserve the mound.
On the northern portion of the Davis Farm property, preservation
of the archaeological sites appears to be in peril. The historic Davis
Farm house and farm buildings site are located adjacent to the highly
developed I-20 Golden Springs interchange.
Thomas Carver built the site's stately farmhouse in 1850
near a beautiful natural boiling spring in Oxford, which is how the
area acquired the name Boiling Springs. The house is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places.
"Mr. Carver by the 1860's developed the property into
a successful upland plantation with over 1800 acres of farmland. He
built a mercantile store and one of the county's first post offices
on the property. By 1862, 32 slaves lived in eight cabins on the property,"
"Because it's right on Interstate 20, you can get to it
from both the east or westbound lanes. It's got a beautiful park-like
setting with hardwoods and the boiling spring.The farmhouse and out
buildings would make a great infrastructure for a rest area and welcome
center," he said.
Holstein also believes the site would be ideal for a museum
documenting the prehistoric and colorful historic past of the property.
"We have a lot of artifacts from our excavations [that could be displayed
there], and many private collectors have found some amazing ceremonial
artifacts in and around the mound."
The home site is located in the only undeveloped spot
in the vicinity. Holstein hopes preservation-minded people will remove
the property from the market.
"We need to get people interested in this, and we need
money [to purchase the land]," Holstein said, who believes the land
could serve the area well as a rest area and information center.
The question is, will preservation efforts move fast
For Holstein, the race against time continues.
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