The Globe Hotel

The Globe Hotel - Expeditions 24 and 25

The Expedition program was started almost 25 years ago by Dr. John Hall as a way to give high school students hands-on experience in science. Over the years many participants have gone on to careers in various scientific fields while the staff of the Alabama Museum of Natural History has become more proficient each year at running the program. In addition to students, participants now include teachers, historians, and other adults interested in participating in an actual archaeological project.

The particular excavation site was chosen as the first major archaeological project within the town for many reasons. Among them, mapping by the University of South Alabama tied the substantial stone structure to the corner of High and Spring Streets, lots occupied by the Globe Hotel. In addition to the foundations of a large stone building and cellar, several other structures were visible giving anthropologists and historians a chance to study a complex of activity with the potential to reveal more about early life in the town. Also, historical information, though limited, identified the occupants and offered the chance to tie the historical record to the archaeological site.

The Globe was purchased in 1820 by Colonel Benjamin Smoot, an American officer who served in the War of 1812 in the conflict with the British at Fort Bowyer on Mobile Point. Smoot purchased the hotel just on the cusp of a major decline in the town, but he probably did not build the structure. Research has not determined the builder or the date of construction, but the hotel was probably during built several years previous during the hay-day of the town. Smoot operated the building as a hotel and tavern until 1826 when he sold the property to one of his business associates, a former officer under his command, Major Reuben Chamberlain. Reuben was married Hanna Toulmin Wilkinson, a widow, the former wife of James Wilkinson, son of General James Wilkinson, another important officer during the War of 1812. Their son, Theopolis Toulmin Wilkinson was born in 1811. Hanna was the daughter of Judge Harry Toulmin, another prominent figure in southwest Alabama history. The Chamberlains had two daughters, Rubanna and Jane. Mary Welsh remembered the store operated by the Chamberlains when she played with their children in the early 1830s. Archaeological evidence, ceramics and coins, suggests that they lived in the old town until the early 1840s. Theopolis died in 1840 and Reuben was buried in the old Church Street Cemetery in Mobile in 1851. Research on the remaining family continues.

Excavations during 2002 concentrated on four areas of the Globe lots; the cellar of the main building, the kitchen area, and two outbuildings. The cellar proved to be a very substantial structure with thick stone walls to support the upper stories of the building. The area produced huge amounts of building material and a few interesting artifacts including storage containers and an 1812 bayonet. Analysis indicates that significant amounts of brick were also used in the building, although we do not yet understand the complex architecture of the structure.

Excavations at the kitchen, a separate structure behind the hotel, produced few artifacts, but revealed that the building was probably raised on piers. The kitchen may have been two stories allowing convenient access to the first floor of the hotel. The lower floor could have been used for storage or as servants' quarters.

On the south end of the hotel property excavations revealed a long narrow structure, probably a stable apparently with two rooms, an area for horses, and a storeroom for feed and tack. We also found horseshoes and horse tack. Artifact distribution patterns in the area suggest that most of this section of the property was a pasture for horses, and possibly a milk cow, pigs, chickens, and maybe a garden.

A structure found in the central portion of the hotel property is probably the most interesting building investigated in 2002. Narrow (about 12 ft wide) and long (over 50 ft), it contained two rooms with back-to-back fireplaces in the dividing wall. Built in two episodes, the western section had a clay floor while the eastern portion's floor was wood supported on wood floor joists. Some time near the end of the occupation, about 1840 (suggested by the ceramics and confirmed by the presence of an 1838 half-dime), the eastern section was in decay. As the floor rotted and collapsed, the depression was used as a dump for trash, while the western section may have still been occupied. Census records indicate that both Smoot and Chamberlain had slaves. Based upon the location, size, presence of fireplaces in each room, and artifacts, the structure appears to have been their quarters. Urban slavery has been little studied, partly because although we know they were present their living areas have been difficult to define. The Globe project may provide us a window into this segment of the community.

So, where are we in the research at the Globe? The artifact assemblage, particularly from the trash dump, is extensive. Analysis is only just beginning. Not much can be said about the assemblage except that almost every imaginable artifact type is represented: glass beads, buttons, coins, smoking pipes, writing pens, toys, utensils, glassware, sewing needles, thimbles, pins, clothes hooks, musket balls, as well as a tremendous number of ceramics and glassware probably well over 50 restorable vessels. Bone preservation is excellent and suggests that their diet contained few fish or chicken. Apparently beef and pork were preferred, not the cheapest meats available. The Chamberlains' material wealth is reflected in their ceramics, food, and other artifacts. They evidently did not live the poor, deprived, backwater lives that is often depicted on the frontier. And, these preliminary conclusions are just the beginning of what will be learned when the project is complete.

Many other outbuildings were present on the Globe property. While most of the other buildings in the complex align with the town grid, a mysterious structure partially exposed in 2002 does not. What is its function? The well had been located, but where are the outhouses and 1820s trash dumps? Many questions wait the new season of excavation.

Expedition 25 will mark the silver anniversary of the program and a reunion will be held over the July 4th weekend. Publicity will be especially intense this year. In previous years coverage has extended from Huntsville to Mobile with articles appearing in the Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile and many local papers. Television coverage is also anticipated from local stations. Footage taken last year by Alabama Public TV will be combined with this year's project and included in a future program of the popular series produced by Dr. Dough Phillips, Discovering Alabama.

Selected Readings

Ball, T. H.
1879 Clarke County and Its Surroundings. Three previous printings dated 1879, 1962, and 1973 have been combined in the latest edition published in 1994 by the Clarke County Historical Society, Grove Hill, Alabama.

Brantley, William, H., Jr.
1947 Three Capitals, A Book about the First Three Capitals of Alabama: St. Stephens, Huntsville & Cahaba, 1818-1826. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa. Reprinted 1976.

Elliot, Jack D., Jr.
1998 The Streets of Old St. Stephens, an Examination of the Plats of Three Towns: Franklin, Rodney, St. Stephens. Prepared for the St. Stephens Historical Commission, St. Stephens, Alabama.

Fairley, Nan
1998 The Lost Capitals. Alabama Heritage. Number 48, Spring 1998, pp. 18-31. University of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Graham, John Simpson
1923 History of Clarke County. Published in 1923 by the Birmingham Printing Co., Birmingham, Alabama and republished in 1994 by the Southern Historical Press, Inc., Greenville, South Carolina.

Hamilton, Peter J.
1910 Colonial Mobile. Second edition. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Harris, Stuart W.
1980 Dead Towns of Alabama. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Holmes, Jack D. L.
1965 Notes on the Spanish Fort San Esteban de Tombecbe. Alabama Review. Vol. XVIII, pp.281-290.

Litfin, James C, and Rebecca A. Hawkins
1996 Phase I Survey of 190 Acres of the Citadel Limestone Quarry Property, Washington County, Alabama. Prepared for Medusa, Inc., Citadel Cement Division, Demopolis, Alabama. Copy on file at the St. Stephens Historical Commission, St. Stephens, Alabama.

Mattie, Jacqueline A., Doris Brown, and Barbara Waddell (compilers)
1997 Old St. Stephens: Historical Records Survey. Prepared for the St. Stephens Historical Commission, St. Stephens, Alabama.

Nöel Hume, Ivor
1972 Artifacts of Colonial America. Alfred A. Knoph, New York.

Pate, James P. (Editor)
1998 The Reminiscences of George Strother Gaines: Pioneer and Statesman of Early Alabama and Mississippi, 1805-1843. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

Shorter, George W.
2002 Archaeology at Old St. Stephens: Mapping and Testing. Report prepared for the Alabama Historical Commission, Montgomery, Alabama. Published by the University of South Alabama's Center for Archaeological Studies, Mobile.

Slaughter, E.M., and Mary J. Welsh
1899 Map of the City of Old St. Stephens as it Appeared A.D. 1841. Alabama Historical Association, copy in the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

Stowe, Noel R., and Rebecca N. Stowe
1996 Summary of Archaeological Investigations at the Site of Old St. Stephens (1995-1996). Report on file and prepared for the St. Stephens Historical Commission, St. Stephens, Alabama.

Strickland, Ben and Jean
1984 Records of the Choctaw Trading Post, St. Stephens, Mississippi Territory, 1816-1824, Book 2. Published by the authors in Moss Point, Mississippi.

1987 Washington County, Mississippi Territory, 1803-1816 Tax Rolls. Published by the authors in Moss Point, Mississippi.

Welsh, Mary
1899 Reminiscences of Old Saint Stephens, of More than Sixty-five Years Ago, in Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society 1898-1899, Vol. III, pp. 208-226, 1899.

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Last updated Tuesday, April 03, 2007