Claude V. Jackson III
HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS OF A SUNKEN FEDERAL PERIOD VESSEL NEAR ORIENTAL, NORTH CAROLINA.
(Under the direction of Professor John A. Tilley) Department of History, November 1991.
The purpose of this study is to present the results of archaeological and historical investigations of a shipwreck located near Oriental, North Carolina. The discovery and subsequent, excavation of shipwreck determined to be of federal period age, provided the author with a rare opportunity to document a vessel used in the commerce of the lower Neuse River during this period.
Excavations conducted on the vessel during a two week period in August 1988 revealed the remains of a fifty-eight foot schooner buried in the mud of Otter Creek. Much of the schooner constructed from white oak was in an excellent state of preservation. International high school students from an organization known as Operation Raleigh, and staff of the state Underwater Archaeology Unit assisted the author in excavating two trenches, one athwartship and the other longitudinal, to expose the ship for analysis. Additional excavations were conducted in the stern area and starboard of the ship.
Documentation of the vessel's architecture included the keel, apron, two breasthooks, floors and futtocks, sternpost, stern knee, ceiling, and keelson. Pine sheathing present on the wreck for protection against damage from ship worms, indicated its use in southern or tropical waters. Structural components of the Otter Creek wreck were compared, when possible, to similar components from other documented ships of this period found on the east coast. Construction techniques were found to be similar to those of the Chesapeake Bay region except for the placement of the two mast steps of the Otter Creek wreck directly over the keelson scarfs. The forward mast step placed on the extreme end of the keelson also exhibited an unusual characteristic of being cut in the vertical plane, while the aft mast step was horizontally scarfed.
Artifactual materials obtained from the wreck included bottle and pane glass, stoneware, Creamware, Pearlware and what may be whiteware. Four pipe stems and a bowl were also recovered. Wooden artifacts found on the wreck included several cask components and a mallet. A terminus ante quem date of 1772 was provided by an unusual metal button impressed from a Spanish coin. Analysis of faunal and botanical specimens showed a wide variety of domestic food resources, and the ship's possible trade at a tropical port. The relatively few artifacts from the wreck tend to indicate that the vessel was scuttled and abandoned in the shallow water of Otter Creek. Historical documentation suggests that the wreck may be associated with the Famifold Green family based upon property ownership where the ship was discovered. Famifold Green and his descendents played a key role in the development of the lower Neuse River area referred to as the "cradle of Neuse colonization" and the subsequent growth of New Bern.