light industry

By 1830 after nearly a century, the colonial plantation era at the Dog River site was coming to an end. The Dog River plantation house, where so many Rochon and Demouy children grew up, stood abandoned and falling apart. The next period of activity on Dog River was light industry, which in many ways followed plantation economics. In the early 19th century, a brickyard was in operation for about ten years on Dog River, and later a sawmill was built. The environs on Dog River and Mobile Bay were well suited to support small enterprises providing raw materials and water transportation routes.

Adam Hollinger Jr. acquired two-thirds of the Dog River property from two of the Demouy children in 1834. Within a few years he had a working sawmill on Dog River. His work force of nearly 200 black slaves cut timber for the mill and labored at other plantation tasks such as tending cattle. Hollinger lost the Dog River land by foreclosure in 1848. This 1850 map still shows the Hollinger plantation with four buildings indicated by the black squares and three enclosures or fenced areas.

Numerous structural brick piers and posts found on the bluff edge overlooking Dog River suggest that the Hollinger home may have been a Creole cottage. Earlier buildings at the site were made of wood posts set into the ground, which would have rotted rather quickly in the wet soils. The floor of this building was probably raised several feet off the ground on brick piers.

A small hide tanning operation dating to the Hollinger occupation was located between the main living area and the slave cabins. Since cattle were raise on most, if not all, plantations around Mobile Bay, cow hides were often processed into leather on site. No doubt the slaves would carry out the unpleasant task of cleaning and preparing animal skins.

These wooden boxes were interpreted as tanning vats. They were constructed of sawn planks of longleaf pine and were intentionally placed in excavated holes. The tanning vats were used in the raising and drenching process of hide preparation, in which hides were soaked in acidic liquors made from vegetable substances.
After abandonment in the 1840s, many items were discarded in the boxes, such as ceramics and glass, as well as a brass sewing thimble, one glass bead, an iron padlock, white clay pipes, a wine glass, a pewter spoon, and numerous fragments of leather.
A brick well located near the wood tanning boxes provided the water necessary in the process of tanning hides. Artifacts found in the well included aboriginal ceramics, a lead-glazed bowl, a blue edge-decorated pearlware plate, an ironstone plate and cup, a blue transfer-printed whiteware plate, and a mocha-decorated whiteware pitcher. Glass beads, white clay pipes, lead shot, and large fragments of aqua, clear, and olive green bottles were also found. A pewter button from an Infantry uniform dating to the 1813-1814 Creek War, probably belonged to Adam Hollinger who fought in that conflict.

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Last Updated:
Thursday, July 23, 2015 8:40 AM