2007-2008 Gist Settlement Project

Paul Turner is a direct descendent of the original Emancipated Slaves. Mr. Turner currently lives on and farms the land and has been a caretaker of the settlement. During the archeological project Mr. Turner came to talk to the students about the settlement and stories of when he was younger. The Research History Class would like to send our thanks to Mr. Turner.

From Interview with Mr. Turner:

1. What was the last time period people lived in the log cabins?

"They were still living there when I left for the navy in 1950"

2. What was it like growing up in the Gist Settlement?

"Oh, everybody was struggling…meagerly living with no electricity”

I thought it was cool that we got to meet a living descendent of the Emancipated Slaves. He told us all of his first hand experiences that you would not be able to know unless you were there as he was. It was very accurate and I thought it was important that we got to actually meet a living member of that time that lived through it. I will remember meeting Mr. Turner the most. He brought all of his dogs with him, and there were ten or more of them. I thought it was cool meeting him and that is what I will remember most about that day.


To meet Mr. Turner was truly a memory to cherish. It was great that he knew and remembered so much. The fact that he just was so open about sharing everything was great. I also liked the dogs he brought with him.


I have always wondered what it would be like to be an archeologist ever since I was little, spending countless hours in my back yard digging for whatever I could find. Luckily for me, I was able to experience just what it was like, when we went on our field trip to Mr. Turner’s land. When we first arrived all I could see was a small portion of what used to be a home, but eventually I learned that there was a lot more to the house then just being a roof over someone’s head.

I started off on the wrong foot, because when we arrived my car immediately died, but with just a little jiggle of my battery cable, Mr. Larue had managed to get it started back up again. From there on it was smooth sailing. The archeologists broke us up into three groups. I had the luxury of teaming up with Jessie, Monica, Tesla, and Kelsey. They placed my group right next to the house. We spent several hours searching through countless buckets of dirt that the archeologist had dug up for us. The archeologist had set up screens for us to pour our dirt on.

After we scattered the dirt across the wire screens we repetitiously moved the dirt around in order to get the dirt to fall through. Once all the dirt had passed through the screens, we looked at the objects that remained to see if any of it had importance. The group that I worked with found a doorknob, a button, a belt buckle, a marble, a keyhole, and several animal bones, most of which were squirrel bones. Right next to our station were the bones of a coyote. One of the other groups found a Dove Tail arrowhead. The part that I found most interesting was talking to Jarrod who was the archeologist in charge of the dig. I found it very intriguing when he described the bones to us and told us how to identified the animals by their bones.

After we had finished digging Mr. Turner arrived at the site with what seemed to be twenty dogs. He shared several stories about his relatives that lived in the homes. He told us that one of the relatives that lived near the houses was a black sheep in the family and performed very mean acts. One of those acts consisted of placing dynamite in the homes. I was amazed when I heard that, because I never thought that someone could be so mean back then. I guess I have been so used to hearing how people were very peaceful and how they had manors.

The archeological dig was very fun for me, because it brought back my early childhood memories, plus I had the privilege of talking to a professional archeologist who shared a lot of his knowledge with me. To top it off Mr. Turner gave us a description of what it was like to live in the homes when they were standing. I like history, and the archeological dig was the perfect opportunity for me to feel like I have helped restore our country’s history.


Research History Member 2007-08

You know the visions you have when you’re little about finding dinosaur bones? That was my initial thought when I heard we were going out to the Gist Settlement.

When we arrived, we were split up into groups in which we began sifting through dirt that came from under and around the home that once stood there. It’s kind of odd, the things you find. You don’t think about losing buttons or pennies until you look down at your shirt or reach your hand into your pocket and discover nothing except lint and a hole. It made me wonder if maybe someday someone would find such things that once belonged to me.

It’s the intricate, little things that made us smile that day. You would’ve never guessed that finding pieces of a plate or shards of glass would make one smile, but they were clues to the bigger puzzle of who these people were and what they lived like.

I always enjoy meeting people who have helped shape who we are. So naturally, I took an immediate liking to Mr. Turner. Although, I’m not sure anyone that did meet Mr. Turner could deny the brightness he brought with him. His smile was contagious. His joy was overwhelming. To think that his family went through such horrific struggles and he’s still smiling blows me away. Mr. Turner’s family lived in those one-room cabins. That is quite heart-breaking.

I was glad that I felt I had helped him put together some unsolved mysteries of his past and further developed some history of his family. In a way, I felt that we were paying him for what he went through…although I don’t think our debt to the slaves will ever be repaid.


Research History Member 2007-08

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