Winter and Brown Lecture About Excavation of “Black Lucy’s Acre”

In the 1940s, Ripley Bullen and his wife, Adaleigh, discovered on Woburn Street in Andover a house that had burnt down and collapsed over 100 years earlier. The house was in almost perfect condition; it essentially formed a time capsule. Through archaeological findings and research of historical backgrounds, the Bullens discovered that the home was owned by Lucy Foster, an enslaved black woman who lived in Andover from the late 18th to early 19th centuries. “It’s black history, archaeological history, and women’s history…all in our own backyard,” said Barbara Brown, Archivist and Collection Manager for the Arts History Center in Lawrence, Ma. Last Tuesday night the Northeast Chapter of the Massachusetts Archaeology Society sponsored a lecture at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology entitled “Black Lucy’s Garden Site: A Retrospective Examination” discussing the signficance of the artifacts found at Foster’s home. Of the two speakers for the night, the first to speak was Curator of the Peabody Museum Eugene Winter. He presented the details of the archaeological aspect of Foster’s story, displaying a slideshow of artifacts and explaining how they got to be there and what they might say about Foster. Mr. Winter showed the audience a slide of a collection of pipes. According to Mr. Winter, since it would be unlikely for Foster to have smoked, she probably had some company come to her home. Mr. Winter also displayed a flat round stone with a small hole in the center. While archaeologists still are not certain what its purpose was, they assume that it was a sharpening stone of sorts. Other artifacts that Mr. Winter showed included rusty padlocks, colorful ceramic material, ornate teapots and teacups, and flint stones used to make fires. The second speaker was Ms. Brown. Using Mr. Winter’s archaeological evidence and her own research, Ms. Brown tried to disprove many of the conclusions that the Bullens had reached about Foster’s life. One specific detail that Ms. Brown rebutted was Mr. Bullen’s claim that Lucy was a gift given to Joseph Foster, her original owner. According to the 1767 “Names and Property Valuation for Province Tax Assessment,” Mr. Foster did not own any slaves. Lucy Foster’s story is considered significant because, she, as a black slave in the late 1700s, owned a house. Ms. Brown outlined the sequence of events, mainly the deaths of her owners, which led to her possession of the house dubbed “Lucy’s Garden.” Foster was treated, at least economically, the same as surrounding whites. Ms. Brown has been an avid historian ever since she could read history books and visit museums, and she says that Mr. Winter is the same way with archaeology. She said that “both brought a lifetime of enthusiasm” to the presentation.