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The Ransom And Sarah Williams Farmstead: Post-Emancipation Transitions Of An African American Family In Central Texas
Texas Historical Commission
In conjunction with the proposed construction of the southwest segment of State Highway 45 in southern Travis County, the Texas Department of Transportation sponsored archeological testing and data recovery efforts at the Ransom Williams farmstead. Prewitt and Associates, Inc., conducted an interdisciplinary community-based historic archeological study of the farmstead from 2005 through 2011. Extensive archival research reveals that the 45-acre farm was owned and occupied by Ransom Williams and his wife Sarah, both former slaves, from about 1871 to ca. 1905. The Williams family lived in the predominantly white rural community of Bear Creek, but they had connections to the nearby freedmen communities of Antioch Colony in northern Hays County and Manchaca in southern Travis County. The stories of the Ransom Williams family and their connections to these communities are enhanced by extensive oral history research, with over 46 hours of taped and transcribed interviews with 27 descendant community members.
Data recovery investigations focused on a landscape archeological study to define the layout and design of the entire farmstead, including a stock pond and a network of dry-laid rock walls that facilitated water drainage, demarcated property boundaries, and formed livestock pens. Intensive hand excavations were used to examine features associated with the Williams house, outbuildings and activity areas, and a large trash midden. This work recovered more than 26,000 artifacts. They constitute an impressive material culture assemblage that is associated, with few exceptions, with the Williams family tenure on the land.
The combined archival data, oral history interviews, and archeological evidence tell the fascinating story of how one African American farm family lived and thrived in central Texas during Reconstruction and into the Jim Crow era.
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