In the mid-nineteenth century, Troy Councill resided in a homestead off what is now Junaluska Road. Like others enslaved by Jordan Councill, Jr., he lived near the land he tended on the hillside overlooking the town of Boone. His descendants along with other free and enslaved Blacks founded the community of Junaluska, one of the oldest African American communities in western North Carolina.
Archaeologists Drs. Alice Wright and Cameron Gokee (Appalachian State University Department of Anthropology) are currently directing research in the area believed to be Troy Councill’s homestead. Since the beginning of April, they have had twelve undergraduates in their archaeological field school surveying the area with the permission of property owners in Weekapaug Grove. “Archaeology can reveal parts of Junaluska’s rich history not covered in historical records,” said Dr. Wright. “This includes the way of life of Boone’s enslaved and post-emancipation Black community.”
During May 3-7, Wright and Gokee coordinated with the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology to undertake ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to identify unmarked graves, including those of many Junaluska residents, at Clarissa Hill Cemetery on the outskirts of Boone. This follows similar work done by the Town of Boone in the Historic Black Cemetery section of Boone Cemetery in 2017.
“This archaeological research will further the mission of the Junaluska Heritage Association to preserve and celebrate the cultural heritage of our community,” said Roberta Jackson, Facilitator of the JHA. If there is continued community interest, Wright and Gokee hope to make this a longer-term project which will continue to train Appalachian State students and reveal more of the rich history of the Junaluska community.
Drs. Wright and Gokee are collaborating with Drs. Kristen Baldwin Deathridge and Andrea Burns (ASU Department of History), Dr. Susan Keefe (ASU Department of Anthropology, emerita), Eric Plaag (Watuaga Historical Society), and the Junaluska Heritage Association. Keefe and the Junaluska Heritage Association recently published an oral history of the community (Junaluska: Oral Histories of a Black Appalachian Community, McFarland Publishing, 2020).