Central States Archaeological Societies
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The Finding of Two Clay Trade Pipes

by V. Gary Henry, Asheville

Central States Archaeological Societies 2011 July Journal

North Carolina

At top left: Figure 1 Clay trade pipe found in Unicoi County, Tennessee.
At top right: Figure 2 Clay trade pipe found by in Buncombe County, North Carolina.

This is from a series of articles originally prepared for a book project on favorite Indian artifact hunting tales. Several others have been published previously in this Journal.

I found my first pipe during the 1968 to 1971 time period that I lived in Nashville, Tennessee. My job as the Research Supervisor for the Tennessee Game and Fish Commission entailed travel to all parts of the state, including Unicoi County in eastern Tennessee. The Game and Fish Commission had a wildlife management area (Unicoi Wildlife Management Area) in the county. The area manager of the management area lived just outside and east of Erwin, Tennessee. His garden area at his residence was on an Indian site. I always hunted it when I was in the area and it was suitable to hunt.

I will never forget finding my first complete pipe on this site (Figure 1). Even though it was only a clay trade pipe, it was still a significant find to me. It is 1 1/8 inches high, 1 ½ inches long including a 5/8 inch stem. The stem contains a recessed area that is likely the remains of a longer inserted stem that reduces the inside diameter to 1/16 inch. I cannot determine the material of which the recessed stem is made. The bowl has seven vertical facets (not 6 as in a hexagon) and the stem is round. My records show that I found 65 artifacts including points, point pieces, tools and the pipe, in Unicoi County. Most, or all, of them likely came from this site. I vaguely remember checking out another area or two but I do not remember being successful in finding any artifacts from these other sites.

I retired from my career work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the year 2000. At this time I started mowing a few yards for spending money. In 2003, the owner of a residence in Asheville on which I mowed the yard had some renovations done on the swimming pool in the back yard. These renovations included some excavation work. When the work was completed, these areas were seeded down and became part of the yard that I mowed.

In mowing the yard on June 12, 2003, I noticed what looked like a piece of rusted water pipe sticking out of the ground. I recalled seeing it before, but it was now sticking up a little higher and I thought I better remove it, because eventually it might stick up far enough for my mower blade to hit. When I picked it out of the ground I was surprised, to say the least, to discover a clay trade pipe (Figure 2). It is only the second pipe I have ever found. And both of which were clay trade pipes.
This pipe is 1 11/16 inches high by 1 7/16 inches long, including the short 5/16 inch damaged stem. The bowl is hexagon shaped, and the stem is round and slightly damaged. The residence I mowed was on an elevated bench or toe slope within 100 yards of a small tributary, so finding Indian relics in the area is understandable. Although I have not noticed any other relics, the area normally contains no cleared ground for artifact hunting. I regret I did not know about the renovation work until it was completed so I could have looked over the area.