SOU Archaeologists Discover Original Peter Britt Cabin: One of The Earliest Known Pioneer Cabin Sites in the State of Jefferson

(Ashland, Ore) The Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology (SOULA) announced the discovery of Peter Britt’s original log cabin at the Jacksonville City Council meeting at 7:00 p.m Tuesday (Oct. 19) night. Select artifacts from the archaeological excavation were on display during the meeting. Peter Britt built the log cabin on the hill overlooking what is now Jacksonville when he came to Oregon in 1852. According to Mark Tveskov, the director of SOULA and an associate professor of Anthropology at SOU, the cabin site is “rare and highly significant, as it is one of the earliest known cabin sites yet discovered and professionally excavated in the State of Jefferson.” Britt used this cabin as his primary residence until 1856 when he began work on a larger home. The discovery was made during recent archaeology work done in the Britt Gardens, in conjunction with the Jubilee Week, September 20th -24th, 2010. SOULA archaeologists worked with SOU students and volunteers from the Southern Oregon Historical Society on the excavations. Analysis of the hundreds of artifacts recovered from the two-week excavation is ongoing at SOU.

Students sifting for clues at the Peter Britt homestead

Peter Britt was an early settler in the Rogue Valley and is best known for his early photography and his agricultural innovations that helped spur the wine and pear industries in southern Oregon. Peter Britt documented Southern Oregon and its residents during the dynamic frontier period, and is credited with taking the first photograph of Crater Lake. The project is part of a park restoration plan by the City of Jacksonville. Historians have researched and identified many of the traditional Britt plantings, and the city is updating the park to restore the gardens to their Britt era splendor.

The Britt homestead burned down to its foundation more than 50 years ago. Archaeologists dug more than 40 holes across the site, and will use this data to investigate how the Britt family lived and used the landscape over time. Artifacts recovered from two “trash pits” on the site will allow archaeologists to compare changes in the Britt Family diet over time, and personal items such as toys, pipes, and jewelry, will help illustrate the daily lives of the family.

SOULA will continue to work on the site during park reconstruction, and will use data recovered from the September excavations to target key areas such as the 1852 cabin. The Britt homestead is one of the most significant historical sites in southern Oregon due to the lasting contributions of Peter Britt to the industry and culture of the Rogue Valley. According to SOULA archaeologist Chelsea Rose, who is leading the project, “Investigations into well known historical figures such as Peter Britt can be particularly rewarding as archaeologists can use existing documents such as photographs, diaries, and oral histories in conjunction with archaeological findings to obtain information on specific aspects or events in the person’s life.”

For more information, contact Mark Tveskov at 541-552-6345 tveskovm@sou.edu or Chelsea Rose at 541-261-3087 chelseaErose@gmail.com .

About Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology

The Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology conducts archaeological research throughout southwest Oregon. Our work in the field and in the lab allows students to gain practicum experience towards the anthropology major and the Cultural Resource Management certificate. Consequently there is an applied orientation to our work, and each project is conducted in collaboration with federal and local agencies and Indian Tribes.  We currently have ongoing research projects with the Coquille Indian Tribe, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Medford District Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Oregon State Parks, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), Jackson County, and the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

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