The Milam Street Bridge Artifact Assemblage: Houstonians Joined by the Common Thread of Artifacts - A Story Spanning from the Civil War to Modern Day
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Buffalo Bayou has connected Houston, Texas to Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico since Houston’s founding in 1837. During the American Civil War of 1861-65, Houston served as a storehouse for weapons, ammunition, food, clothing, and other supplies destined for the war effort in Galveston and the rest of the Confederacy. Near the end or soon after the Civil War ended, Confederate material supplies were lost or abandoned in Buffalo Bayou under the Milam Street Bridge in Houston. In 1968, the Southwestern Historical Exploration Society (SHES) recovered around 1000 artifacts with an 80-ton dragline crane operated off the Milam Street Bridge. About 650 artifacts from this collection were rediscovered by the Houston Archeological Society in 2015, stored in filing boxes at the Heritage Society at Sam Houston Park. This dissertation serves as an artifact and document-based study using newspaper accounts, sworn statements, and archaeological reports to assemble and detail the history of the Milam Street Artifact Assemblage – from abandonment in the bayou to rediscovery at the Heritage Society. In many ways it is a personal account that aims at connecting the author to the place and circumstances that led to the loss and rediscovery of this artifact collection. Through document, artifact, and map analysis, three theories are proposed and critically analyzed concerning how and why these artifacts were lost in Buffalo Bayou. Finally, a relevant subset of the artifacts have been conserved for museum exhibits including at the Heritage Society at Sam Houston Park in Houston and the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. Issues and ethical stances surrounding documenting, preserving, conserving, and curating historical artifacts are presented based on lessons-learned creating these museum exhibits and the mismanaging of this artifact assemblage since its discovery in 1968.
Farrar, Joshua Robert (2020). The Milam Street Bridge Artifact Assemblage: Houstonians Joined by the Common Thread of Artifacts - A Story Spanning from the Civil War to Modern Day. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from