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The 1997 Excavations at New Salem: The Lost Rutledge Tavern

The 1997 season addressed a decades-old controversy regarding the site of the Rutledge Tavern, as well as the home of town founder James Camron, which wes never replicated. 

Rutledge tavern 1922.jpg

The 1918 replica of the Rutledge Tavern.

RutledgeCellar 1930s.jpg

One of the few photos associated with the 1930s excavations at the empty lot due north of the replica tavern, where a large cellar feature was discovered.

The replica Rutledge Tavern (first constructed in 1918) was erroneously placed on the archaeological site that is actually affiliated with the home of the town’s founder, Reverend John Camron. The error was first observed during the 1930s, but was eventually forgotten. The actual tavern site was also briefly investigated by archaeologists in the 1930s, but due to a controversial local tradition involving the nearby replica tavern, it was decided to ignore the archeological evidence found there. 

In 1994, photos of the 1930s excavations at the actual site of the tavern were rediscovered. The evidence placed the tavern on a conspicuously vacant lot at the intersection of the two streets that crossed through the village. The 1997 field season reopened the 1930s excavations, and recorded the base of the large subfloor tavern cellar that had been largely emptied of most of its artifacts decades earlier. The rediscovery was, however, able to document the rough layout of a portion of James Rutledge’s Tavern, and also mark its precise location

View of the 1997 excavations at the same empty lot. This trench relocated the cellar discovered in the 1930s.

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