A CHANGING LANDSCAPE
summer of 1997, the University of Maryland and the National Capital
Region's Regional Archeology Program of the National Park Service joined
efforts in a cooperative agreement to investigate the history of Sudley
Post Office located at Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia
(Figure 1.1). The purpose of
this investigation was to locate, identify, evaluate, and sample any
archeological resources that the emergency stabilization of Sudley Post
Office might impact. The
historical and archeological investigations of Sudley Post Office
addressed several research questions including:
the construction date of Sudley Post Office, a detailed
reconstruction of the household occupation history, how the use of space
changed over time, and how the physical and material world of the
occupants reflected the larger social and economic changes that occurred
throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the Sudley area.
This report details the results of the archeological and historical
investigations of Sudley Post Office and provides an interpretive
discussion of the findings.
The occupational history of Sudley Post Office provides a diverse context in which to examine some of the large-scale social and economic changes of the Sudley area during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The diversity of household information stems from the occupation of Sudley Post Office by three different households between the 1840s and 1930s. The historical research conducted during this study has determined that the structure was built by the Thornberry family sometime in the mid-1840s. John Thornberry, a wheelwright by trade, operated a shop on the property. The Thornberrys occupied the site during the First and Second Battles of Manassas and continued to live on the property until 1871. The Matthews family then occupied Sudley until 1903. Elizabeth Matthews served as the post mistress for the Sudley community and operated the post office from her residence. Her husband, Carson Matthews, was a farmer who worked family land located south of the site. The last permanent occupation of Sudley Post Office was by the Davis family from the 1910s to the late 1920s. The Davis family was African-American whose members still reside in the Sudley community today. Joe Davis was a day-laborer in the community. In the 1930s, the Woodward family of Alexandria, Virginia, bought Sudley Post Office. They renovated the structure and used it as a vacation home. These various households used the property and structure in very different ways at different time periods and can provide a cross-section for households of the Sudley area from the mid-nineteenth century through to the early-twentieth century.
As part of this project, the household history of Sudley Post Office was reconstructed from tax records, deeds, census information, and first-hand accounts. Chapter 2 provides the historical background for each household that lived there. Results of the shovel test pit (STP) survey, metal detector survey, and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey are presented in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 presents an overview of the stratigraphic record encountered during the excavation of units. Combining archeological data from Sudley Post Office with historic information provides a glimpse of the changing use of landscape through time. Chapter 5 presents a discussion of these changes. Chapter 6 examines the consumer choices of the Davis household which left the most visible archeological signature at the site. The household goods of the Davis family reveal the kinds of consumer choices an African-American family made and the survival strategies they used to provide for their household. Chapter 7 summarizes the findings of this study and presents recommendations for management of the cultural resources present at Sudley Post Office.