In the summer of 2002, a team of archaeologists and historians from Weaver & Associates and Hopkins & Associates conducted interdisciplinary investigations at the Tullis-Toledano Manor, an antebellum house museum and grounds, located in Biloxi. The investigations were sponsored by the City of Biloxi, with matching funds from the African-American Heritage Preservation Program, funded through the Mississippi Bureau of Buildings, and administered by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
The Manor has been the focus of extensive historical and architectural research, and archaeological investigation, since it was first acquired by the City in 1975. Most of this research has focused on the history of Cristobal Sebastian Toledano, a wealthy cotton and sugar broker from New Orleans, and his second wife, Matilde Clara Pradat, for whom Toledano supposedly built the mansion as a wedding present shortly before the Civil War. Very little mention is ever made of the seven slaves known to have been part of the Toledano household. The goals of our research were to identify these enslaved individuals, trace their actions before and after emancipation, and possibly recover artifacts that might illustrate slave life at the Manor. In addition, research can provide clues as to the social relations between slave and master in what is essentially a seasonal, urban resort context. This information could then be used to devise new interpretive elements and educational exhibits at the Manor.
The 1858 Harrison County Tax Roll shows that Matilde Pradat was in possession of four slaves under 60 years of age among her taxable property, while Christobal Toledano was recorded as owning three slaves. After their marriage in 1860, the 1860 Census for Harrison County lists seven slaves for the Toledano family. The listing in the Census reveal no obvious pattern of marital or other family relationships among these seven individuals. Unfortunately, there are no records of slave purchases or sales by either Matilde Pradat or Christobal Toledano in either the Harrison County deed or chattel records. Also, there is no surviving Slave Register for the county.
The field investigations included a number of tasks: sorting and rebagging previous collections housed at the site; site mapping; conducting an earth conductivity survey in the rear area of the site; systematic shovel testing, and; hand excavations of six 1 by 1 test units. Last, but certainly not least, we offered the opportunity for volunteers to learn about archaeology by participating in the dig.
Once the site grid was established, a geophysical survey was conducted using an EM-38 electrical conductivity meter. Readings were taken within each 20 by 20 meter grid unit at 50 centimeter intervals. Once the data was collected for each individual grid the information was downloaded into a laptop in the field. Points were interpolated using Surfer in order to check the data and produce maps. An area of 4,600 square meters was surveyed. The resulting maps show a number of anomalies—many of these were tested through shovel testing and unit excavation.
Test Unit 1 was located in an area of high conductivity, and where a shovel test had intersected the edge of a feature. It proved to be the edge of a large trench or straight-sided excavation filled with modern metal and other recent debris, extending 1.3 meters below surface. Test Unit 4 excavated in an area of low conductivity also proved to be modern debris. We believe that after Hurricane Camile in 1969 a number of backhoe trenches were opened and filled with the mountains of debris left by the disaster.
Areas of intact deposits do exist at the site, however. In Unit 3, the brick piers from an unrecorded twentieth century structure were uncovered in the northwest corner of the property. The most important find of the project was in the area directly west of the Quarters building along the edge of the property line. In Test Units 2 and 6, stratified deposits were encountered to a depth exceeding 120 cm below surface. Below the humus (Stratum I), is a sterile layer of white sand, Stratum II. The sand caps an intact midden layer, Stratum III, between about 30 and 60 cm below surface. This midden contains artifacts dating from the mid-nineteenth century. Below Stratum III is another layer of sterile sand, Stratum IV, which overlies a prehistoric midden beginning about 60 cm below surface. The Stratum III midden, located just outside the 1860s kitchen and living quarters, suggests these deposits could well be material remains of the Toledano slaves. Vertical separation of these deposits by sterile sand lenses is very fortuitous, resulting in little to no contamination from later occupations. These sand lenses, we believe, are the results of storm events. There were a number of major hurricanes that hit the north central gulf coast in the nineteenth century, including ones in 1831, 1855, and 1869.
The success of the research effort to date has not yet reached the higher goal of personification of the individual slaves, but a clear path for future research has been laid that may achieve that goal.
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