For the past several months, volunteers with Houston Archeological Society along with respected members and leaders in the Texas archaeology community such as Texas Historical Commission, and the Community Archaeology Research Institute of Houston have been spending their Saturdays digging into the vast acreage of what’s known as The Bernardo Plantation in Hempstead. The discovery and subsequent excavation, begun in 2010, are being hailed in Texas Historical circles as being the most significant archeological find whose historical value is surpassed only by the much-revered Alamo.
I was privileged to be part of this extraordinary effort this Saturday, manned largely by volunteers on what in clearly a shoestring budget, but whose service to the preservationist cause is admirable if not valiant.
It is one thing, as a genealogist, to understand Texas history from one ‘s own familial documentary evidence; it is another to stand in a place and bear witness to not only the physical remnants of Texas history itself — particularly defining Texas history — but to to be fortunate enough to participate in efforts — to dig the ground — in an effort to safeguard it. I was there with a few classmates from my archeology class, taught by The Bone Detective host himself, (if you watch these sorts of Discovery Channel shows), Scotty Moore, Ph.C., who goes to this project faithfully each Saturday, putting in a full day with the other volunteers.
Thus far ongoing excavations have revealed promising finds: two of four chimneys located on either end of the main house. In other nearby areas, digs are underway hoping to uncover what are believed to be, in one location, an outbuilding, and in another, the principle cistern which provided the water supply to the home. In addition it is believed that among the numerous outbuildings, the home of the resident doctor who treated, not only the family, but the numerous slaves, may also be revealed. Needless to say the work is inch-by-inch, with every tiny artifact carefully logged and accounted for.
The Bernardo Plantation’s significance arises from its pivotal role during Texas’s ambition toward sovereignty and war for independence with Mexico. It was at this site where Sam Houston (with Santa Anna’s considerable army hot on his tail,) encamped with his army long enough to rest and recuperates and to receive the famous Twin Sisters cannons. More regionally, however, Bernardo is also considered the largest cotton plantation in Texas during its reign in the 1820s, comprising some 1500 acres, three miles of which fronted the Brazos River. It is estimated some 100 slaves worked at the plantation. It was truly a privilege to be able to participate in this historic project.