Local News

Archeologists Search Site Of Raleigh's First Family For Artifacts, Insights

Posted August 22, 2001 4:14 a.m. EDT

— Archaeologists dug in the heart of Raleigh Wednesday looking for more evidence of the city's first family. Thirty-two years ago, archaeologists found eight graves, including one believed to be that of the man who owned the land that became the state's Capitol, Joel Lane.

Lane was a state legislator and introduced the bill to create Wake County. He sold the land that became North Carolina's new Capitol.

"This was in the middle of nowhere when he moved here. Joel Lane's plantation covered all of what is now downtown Raleigh," said historian Le Rae Umfleet.

The view from Joel Lane's old plantation home has changed quite a bit in 200 years. His home is now a museum, one block away from where it originally stood, near Boylan Avenue.

A parking lot covers ground that was once the Lane family cemetery. In 1969, archaeologists found the remains and moved them to Raleigh's City Cemetery.

Items from the plot are now on exhibit at the Joel Lane Museum, including house porcelain, coffin nails buckles and cuff links. The team hoped to find more of the same, and perhaps a few more grave sites.

"There are very few late-18th century remains found in Raleigh. It's quite early for Raleigh, and it would be real nice to pick up something from that period," said archeologist Paul Webb

Ground left open when an old home recently came down is a window of opportunity.

"This red soil you see here is pretty much undisturbed subsoil, so we ought to see any pits, grave pits right in the top of it," said Webb.

Three hours of digging was all it took.

"Yeah, we dug out five trenches. We dug along the edge, did not see any sign of graves, just got down to good undisturbed soil, so it's pretty clear that the cemetery didn't come this way," said Webb.

It is, after all, half of an archaeologist's job -- not only to find where artifacts are but also, where they are not.