Friday, January 17, 2020

Notable Women of Pennsylvania Archaeology – Louise Welles Murray (1854-1931)

Continuing with the theme of notable women of Pennsylvania Archaeology, we now turn our attention to Louise Welles Murray. A native of Athens, PA in Bradford county, Mrs. Murray was by all accounts, an exceptional individual. At age 3 1/2, she entered school and at 18 graduated from Wells College in Aurora, NY while also attending the Moravian Seminary in Bethlehem, PA and Mr. Brown’s school in Auburn, NY. She is credited with bringing attention to the archaeological resources of Bradford County and the town of Athens, which sits at the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chemung Rivers near the New York state line in northeastern Pennsylvania. She is also credited with founding the Tioga Point Museum of which she served as the director until her death in 1931.

Mrs. Murray was described as an “ardent lover of accuracy” giving her time freely so that others might share in her knowledge of the area’s early inhabitants. She was an authority on Pennsylvania history.

Louise Welles Murray (1854-1831)

Louise Welles Murray’s interest in historical research appears to have been seeded by the fulfillment of a request made by her mother that she should publish material relating to some French Refugees and their Azilum. Louise’s grandfather was Bartholomew Laporte, a French Émigré and one of the 1794 founders of French Asylum. After 14 years of research, her volume, “The Story of Some French Refugees and their Azilum” was published in 1903. A second edition was published in 1917 with additional information gathered by Mrs. Murray.

In 1882, when Native American burials were discovered in the garden plot of her home in Athens, it attracted the attention of both Louise and her husband Millard P. Murray.   For Mrs. Murray, this was the beginning of a 50-year interest in the native inhabitants of Pennsylvania. The site would come to be known as the Murray Garden site (36Br2). This site, significant for its evidence of early Susquehannock pottery, is believed to have been occupied about 1525.

A selection of early Susquehannock pottery recovered from the Murray Garden site.

Members of the Susquehanna Archaeological Expedition were invited by the Murrays to excavate their garden site in 1919. The results of which she published in two parts in the journal American Anthropologist (1921) under the title “Aboriginal Sites in and Near ‘Teaoga,’ Now Athens, Pennsylvania”.

In 1931, shortly before Louise Welles Murray’s death, she heard Donald Cadzow speak about his excavations at Safe Harbor. Cadzow encouraged her to apply for a grant to carry out excavations in the area, which she obtained with the goal of having Cadzow direct archaeological excavations in Athens. At the time of Louise Welles Murray’s death, she had recently been elected second vice president for the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology.

The Spalding Memorial Library Building which houses the Tioga Point Museum, founded by Louise Welles Murray

Throughout her professional life, Louise Welles Murray exhibited a thirst for knowledge and a desire to share that knowledge with those around her. She strongly advocated for record keeping during archaeological excavations and looked down upon the actions of those who dug sites with no care for recording artifacts or the locations from which they were found.
We hope you have enjoyed this edition of Notable Women in Pennsylvania Archaeology. It is an honor to celebrate the contributions of these pioneers in the field — Frances Dorrance, Mary Butler, Verna Cowin, Catherine McCann and Louise Welles Murray. We hope our readers recognize the significant contributions these women have made in preserving the past. We hope that you’ll be inspired to read some of their publications and learn more about our archaeological heritage in Pennsylvania.

A list of online books by Louise Welles Murray can be found through the library at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Evening Times [Sayre, Pennsylvania]
1931            Obituary for Louise Welles Murray. April 23:3. Sayre, Pennsylvania.

Kent, Barry
1984            Susquehanna’s Indians. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Harrisburg.

Murray, Louise Welles
1921            Aboriginal Sites in and Near “Teaoga,” Now Athens Part I, Pennsylvania. American Anthropologist, 23(2):183-214
1921            Aboriginal Sites in and Near “Teaoga,” Now Athens Part II, Pennsylvania. American Anthropologist, 23(3):268-297

Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology
1931            Louise Welles Murray. Bulletin of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology 2(2):1-3

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

Friday, January 3, 2020

A New Year and a New Exhibit – The 2020 PA State Farm Show

A new year has just arrived, and like every year we kick it off with our largest outreach event, the Pennsylvania State Farm Show. The largest indoor agricultural event in the United States this year is the 104th PA Farm Show, and we are busy as usual in preparations. The Farm Show begins tomorrow Saturday, January 4th and runs through Saturday, January 11th. As in past years, The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s exhibit is in the main hall of the Farm Show Agricultural Complex, across from the carousel on the MacClay Street side of the building. This year the State Museum’s exhibit will receive an update, providing a broader view of what the museum has to offer.

In the past, the State Museum’s Farm Show exhibit highlighted different Pennsylvania archaeological topics, the replica dugout canoe and our exhibit panels along with artifacts from our collections. This year the exhibit will still contain archaeological information, but it will also include information highlighting information on other galleries within the State Museum. The archaeological portion of the exhibit will highlight Pre-Contact peoples of Pennsylvania through a representation of the artifacts found in the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at the museum. The replica dugout canoe at the Farm Show is based on one in our gallery which was recovered in Mud Pond, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. The original canoe was radiocarbon dated to 1250 AD. 

An exciting addition to our exhibit this year is the last known Eastern Cougar shot in Pennsylvania which represents the State Museum’s Mammal Hall. The History gallery’s hands on, T.M. Fowler “Bird’s Eye View” maps exhibit will also be present. This popular exhibit was on display last year at the museum, so if you missed it there, here is your opportunity to be captivated by images of Pennsylvania cityscapes from over 100 years ago. The Fowler maps provide a historic perspective of Pennsylvania towns from the late 19th and early 20th century and are essentially the google earth view of that period.  State Museum staff and volunteers will be on hand to answer questions about the exhibit and about the State Museum. There will be plenty of informational brochures and magazines about Pennsylvania archaeology and the State Museum available to everyone, as well as a chance to win a behind the scenes tour, so stop by to enter for your chance to win!

2019 Farm Show Exhibit

As in the past, the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology (SPA) and the Pennsylvania Archaeological Council will be participating in the exhibit. Representatives will be on hand throughout the week of the Farm Show to answer questions about the activities of these organizations and membership. If you are interested in joining a local chapter of the SPA, please stop by the exhibit and receive three past issues of the SPA journal for joining at the Farm Show.

The 20-foot long replica dugout canoe has been an anchor in the exhibit for all to enjoy. Family traditions of group photos every year makes this a popular stop.  Everyone is welcome to stop by and test it out by taking a seat inside and imagining how it would have been to live hundreds of years ago with this as one of the main modes of transportation. You can take in our poster and look at the photos about how dugout canoes were made and how the State Museum’s archaeologists and volunteers made this exact replica using traditional methods and traditional stone tools.

Children enjoying the dugout canoe

The 2020 State Museum’s Farm Show exhibit will also be connected to and integrated with the Pennsylvania State Archives exhibit. The State Archives has been a part of the Farm Show for a few years now, this being their third year, and has become a key component of the Farm Show. The Archive’s exhibit provides individuals with access to dig through historic records and discover new information about their family history. This year they will also feature an opportunity to win a free DNA kit from Ancestry, so make sure to stop by and sign up!

Individuals searching archives data with staff help 

We will continue to share Pennsylvania’s natural and cultural history with all who wish to learn, so please stop by and visit us in the coming week at the PA State Farm Show. We would like to thank all of you for your interest in Pennsylvania’s history and we wish you all a Happy New Year as we continue to Preserve Pennsylvania’s Past for the Future. 

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

Friday, December 20, 2019

Notable Women of Pennsylvania Archaeology — Dr. Catherine Josephine McCann (1908-1986)

Dr. McCann and Dr. Barry Kent (1971), The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Kate McCann was a pioneering woman in the field of Americanist archaeology in the 20th century. Early in her career, she was one of the few women to hold a supervising position on a Works Progress Administration project (WPA) in the 1930s at the Irene Mound site in Savannah, Georgia. She later contributed much to the archaeological record of the middle and upper Delaware Valley in New Jersey and the North Branch of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. Throughout her career she bridged the gap between public interests, avocational archaeologists and professional institutions. She lent her expertise to local Archaeological Society of New Jersey (ASNJ) and Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology (SPA) chapter excavations, published investigation results, promoted the donation and long-term curation of collections for future study, contributed to regional syntheses, and created exhibit spaces for broader education and outreach. 

Born in Carlyle, Montana, McCann studied Latin and classical archaeology, receiving her BA from the University of Montana in 1930 and her MA from the University of Wisconsin in 1931 before pursuing her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1937. McCann was recruited with fellow U of Penn graduate students to fill professional staff positions created as part of New Deal archaeological investigations in the southeast. The Irene Mound site was investigated from 1937 to 1939. It was a unique project for the time, not only for the position that McCann held, joining the team in 1938, but also the important roles that over eighty local African American women fulfilled as the excavators at the site. For images of and more information about their contribution to the WPA Irene Mound investigation visit the Savannah Image Project of Armstrong Atlantic State University (The Women of Irene Mound). 

McCann authored several interim reports on the ecology, faunal remains and pottery of Irene Mound (Browman, 2013) and co-authored the final site report (Caldwell and McCann, 1941). She returned to graduate school in Philadelphia, defending her dissertation in 1947, “Aboriginal Urn Burial in the Southeastern United States”. This same year she participated in several regional investigations including Dr. William Ritchie’s (1949) excavations at the Bell-Philhower site (28Sx29) and headed investigations at the Ware site (McCann, 1950) as a staff archaeologist at the New Jersey State Museum. 

Dr. McCann investigating a pit in the Bell section of the Bell-Philhower site (Ritchie, 1949: Plate  3)

After 1957, Dr. McCann shifted her professional focus to sites in Bradford County, Pennsylvania following her appointment as curator at the Tioga Point Museum in Athens. Here she investigated the Wilson (36Br58) and Wells (36Br59) sites (McCann, 1962; Lucy and McCann, 1972) working closely with the Andaste Chapter of the SPA. 

Foundations of Pennsylvania Prehistory

McCann also served as curator at The William Penn Memorial Museum during a time of transition between The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s original location in the Executive Office Building of the state Capital and its current location. Hired in the year of the new site’s groundbreaking in 1962 under Fred Kinsey and John Witthoft, McCann and other eventual staff curators Barry C. Kent, Ira F. Smith III and Vance Packard would be instrumental in the final design of the Hall of Anthropology. The gallery officially opened over a decade later, December 9th, 1975, after the museum opened its doors to the public in 1964 (Smith, 2005). She also co-edited and was a contributing author to Foundations of Pennsylvania Prehistory (McCann, 1971) during her tenure with the Commission, and received the J. Alden Mason award from the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology shortly after retirement. She is pictured above holding the award decree with Dr. Barry Kent. 

Dr. McCann continued to work with avocational archaeologists to publish SPA projects she had directed in previous years including a co-authored article with Charles Lucy on the Wells site (36Br59). She passed away in 1986 due to complications of multiple sclerosis.  Lucy, an avocational archaeologist, collaborator and friend, authored her memorial in the Pennsylvania Archaeologist (1989). Additional images of Dr. McCann in the field are available at the Tioga Point Museum in the Lucy Collection.   

We hope you have enjoyed the last edition of Notable Women in Pennsylvania Archaeology for 2019. It was an honor to celebrate the contributions of four 20th century pioneers in the field — Frances Dorrance, Mary Butler, Verna Cowin, and Catherine McCann. We plan to intermittently continue the series in 2020. 

From all of us at the Section of Archaeology, we wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season. Thank you for your continued support of our mission to preserve our past for our future in the new year. 

For those who still have a hard-to-shop-for person on their holiday gift list, consider the latest volume in the Recent Research in Pennsylvania Archaeology series, The Susquehannocks: New Perspectives on Settlement and Cultural Identity, now on sale at a discounted price of $20.97 through the Pennsylvania State University Press.

References and Selected Publications

Browman, David L.
2013 Cultural Negotiations: The Role of Women in the Founding of Americanist Archaeology. Critical studies in the history of anthropology. University of Nebraska Press. Catherine J. McCann, (pp. 158-159). 

Caldwell, Joseph and Catherine McCann
1941 Irene Mound Site, Chatham County, Georgia. Archaeological Project Report. Works Project Administration. Savannah, Georgia. The University of Georgia Press, Athens. 

Lucy, Charles L.
1989 Memorial: Catherine J. McCann. Pennsylvania Archaeologist. (59:1:55). 

Lucy, Charles L. and Catherine J. McCann
1983 The Wells site, Asylum township, Bradford county. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 53(3:1-12)

Lyon, Edwin A. 
1996 A New Deal for Southeastern Archaeology. University of Alabama Press. (pp.109-111).

McCann, Catherine J.
1947 Aboriginal urn burials in the Southeastern United States. Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

1950 The Ware site, Salem county, New Jersey. American Antiquity, 15(4), Menasha, Wisconsin.
1957 Six late sites in southern and central New Jersey. Bulletin No. 13, Archaeological Society of New Jersey.
1961 An outline of Bradford county Indian history. The Settler Vol. VI, Bradford County Historical Society, Towanda.

1962 The Wilson site. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 32(2:43-55).
1968 Pennsylvania archaeology, an introduction. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

1971 Notes on the pottery of the Clemson and Book Mounds. In Foundations of Pennsylvania Prehistory. Barry Kent, Ira Smith III, and Catherine McCann (editors), Anthropological Series No. 1, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. 

1972 Some caches and so-called caches from eastern Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 42(1-2:16-26).

Ritchie, William R.
1949 The Bell-Philhower Site Sussex County New Jersey. Prehistoric Research Series 3(2). Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis. Preface (p. 149); Plate 3A (p. 245).

Savanah Images Project, Armstrong Atlantic State University
N.D. The Women of The Irene Mound. Image Catalog and Oral History Interview from The Irene Mound Collection, Coastal Georgia Archaeological Society, Georgia Historical Society, Savannah Georgia. Web Resource. 

Smith, Eric L. 
2005 The State Museum of Pennsylvania: A Centennial History, 1905-2005. Chapter 5: Developing the Museum Galleries, 1965-1979, (p. 26). Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. 

Whalen, Gail
N.D. Elusive Women of Irene: The WPA Excavation of Irene Mound. Essay, Savannah Image Project of Armstrong Atlantic State University. Web Resource. 

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