Tag Archives: Matthew Reeves

Montpelier Archaeologists Discover James Madison’s Threshing Machine

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The rich red clay at Montpelier, the Virginia home of the Father of the Constitution has given up more secrets: the remnants of James Madison’s barn and threshing machine, and evidence that Dolley’s son destroyed both in an attempt to remove the machine from Montpelier before the new owner took possession.

As archaeologists excavated the field slave quarters this summer, they found perplexing evidence they had to research and decipher. First, they found bits of iron that appeared to be pieces of machinery, which indicated that the building was used to house farming equipment. Then, in the soil layers below the iron pieces, they found a trench, which proved to be the outline of a 16-foot x 16-foot building. The trench also contained a set of postholes that held more iron pieces. “The iron and postholes in the trench tell us that the building was modified to allow a piece of machinery to be mounted inside the building,” said Dr. Matthew Reeves, Montpelier director of archaeology and landscape restoration.

More digging revealed bits of bone and ceramics, which indicate that Continue reading