Van Winkle's Mill: mountain modernity, cultural memory and historical archaeology in the Arkansas Ozarks
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The Arkansas Ozarks hold a particular place in our collective cultural memory. A place that is decidedly rural, anti-modern and white. This dissertation explores how these notions came to dominate our historical consciousness and uses the archaeological excavations carried out at Van Winkle’s Mill (3BE413) between 1997 and 2003 as a platform to challenge and complicate our notions of the history of the Ozarks. Van Winkle’s Mill was a thriving Northwest Arkansas sawmill community from the 1850s through the first decades of the twentieth century. The mill’s founder, Peter Van Winkle, was a regionally important industrialist who identified with both the modern Victorian ideologies and those of the Confederate South. Enslaved labor made up a portion of the mill’s labor force before the war, and several freedmen families continued to work at Van Winkle’s Mill following emancipation. Topics covered by this dissertation include an analysis of the role of popular culture in the formation of cultural memory, a landscape analysis of the mill community, an examination of symbolic consumption by the mill’s African-American workers and a critique of efforts to interpret the mill’s history to popular audiences.