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Introduction to the summer of 1971 excavations at the Hutto Pond site

In 1971, the Division of Archives, History and Records Management (now the Division of Historical Resources) at the request of the Florida Department of Transportation conducted archaeological excavations at site 8MD18 just southwest of Madison, Florida. The Hutto Pond site was discovered during a survey of the proposed I-10 corridor (Interstate 10 ultimately would serve as a direct link across the southern U.S. between Jacksonville and Los Angeles) by state archaeologist B. Calvin Jones. It was deemed potentially significant, which triggered Phase II test excavations at Hutto Pond. Unfortunately, back then DOT would not fund the analyses and write-ups of excavated archaeological sites. More than 44 years after the fieldwork occurred there, though, an opportunity arose to complete the analysis of artifacts by Louis Tesar and to craft a report on this highly significant but long-neglected archaeological site. Under the direction of Daniel (Dan) Penton and Frank Fryman, D.A.H.R.M. hired five students from Florida State University’s Department of Anthropology. While Fryman did some of the mapping, he spent very little time on site. Penton acted as the crew chief and principal investigator. The field crew consisted of Christa Brown, William D. (Bill) Browning, Brent Mabry, Jacqueline (Jackie) Moore, David Swindell and Mike Wisenbaker. The crew received a handsome sum of $1.75 per hour (70 dollars a week) but no per diem for their efforts. We stayed on site during the week, going home after work every Friday and returning there early on Monday mornings. While the men lived in tents, the women slept in a tiny Scotty trailer. An occasional evening meal of a hamburger, fries and a coke in nearby Madison amounted to gourmet fare for us. We really lucked out on one occasion, though, when Mrs. Willie Clare Copeland, the town historian and some of her friends, visited Hutto Pond. Observing our harsh living conditions, she graciously invited the entire crew to her lovely home for dinner, where Mrs. Copeland served us a savory, homemade meal. Mrs. Copeland, a life-long resident of Madison, passed away at the age of 94 on July 8, 2006. Initially, the whole crew worked at the site for four weeks in July. We found such a variety of artifacts, both in terms of cultures and types, however, that FDOT and D.A.H.R.M. extended the work, sans Brown and Moore, for another three weeks in August. During our time at Hutto Pond, the crew established strong bonds and friendships with one another and learned a tremendous amount about practical archaeology and camaraderie. Perhaps being decades removed from that experience served to enhance our fond recollections of it. For as British archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler so aptly put it, “adventure is remembered in tranquility, devoid of the ills and anxieties, fleas (gnats and flies in our case), fevers, thirst and toothache, which are liable to be the more insistent experience.” Most of us also experienced our first dealings with the press during that summer at Hutto Pond. Reporters from the local Madison Enterprise-Recorder newspaper were the most frequent and interested but the larger Valdosta Daily Times and Tallahassee Democrat also paid us visits and wrote articles about the site. In any event, four of us from that that crew, Browning, Penton, Swindell (part time) and Wisenbaker, wound up having careers in professional archaeology. Christa Brown went on to marry an archaeologist (Bob Wilson). Brent Mabry eventually was elected as a county commissioner in Franklin County and continues to be involved in the day-to-day affairs in the historic town of Apalachicola. Sadly, Jackie Moore (1988), Bill Browning (1993) and David Swindell (2004) all have passed away. A couple of notable milestones that occurred during that momentous year included Congress passing the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age in America from 21 to 18 - as the Vietnam War raged on. After that, we no longer sang with conviction the lyrics “old enough for killin' but not for votin’” from Barry McQuire’s protest song Eve of Destruction. In the fall, Walt Disney World opened in Orlando and forever changed the landscape and tenor of central Florida. In 1971, a gallon of gas cost 40 cents, average U.S. income was $10,600 per year and the median price of a new home was $25,500. Florida’s population stood at just under seven million then whereas now it’s rapidly approaching 20 million. Listening to popular songs from that era such as Rod Stewart’s Maggie May and Paul and Linda McCartney’s Uncle Albert still stoke treasured memories of that summer in the field where from 200 to 10,000 years earlier, Native Americans had been drawn like moths to a light. Today thousands of vehicles each day race over the Hutto Pond site on I-10 totally oblivious to the intriguing events that have occurred there over ten millennia. Upon our arrival at the site it was a fallow field but had been part of the peach orchard, seen in background, before being bought by the government as right-of-way for the interstate. Check out next Friday's issue to read on...

Story Submitted by Mike Wisenbaker

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