Archaeology Month: The Elihu Akin House, South Dartmouth

akin-house-dartmouthOctober is Archaeology Month in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Begun in 1992 as Archaeology Week, it is now a “month-long celebration of archaeology in Massachusetts and around the world. Museums, libraries, archaeologists, and many more people and institutions join Secretary Galvin and the State Archaeologist in hosting exhibits, lectures, walks, and events for adults, children, and teachers.”

To recognize Archaeology Month, the Claire T. Carney Library Archives and Special Collections would like to highlight a collection acquired in late 2013 –the records and artifacts recovered from the Akin House Archaeology Project conducted by Dr. Christina Hodge. The Archives and Special Collections was chosen to be permanent custodian for the artifacts recovered from the site and received the collection from Dr. Hodge in December 2013.  According to state regulations, before a permit is granted to perform an archaeological investigation of a site within the Commonwealth, arrangements must be made for the disposition or display of artifacts, objects and specimens and their accompanying field and laboratory records recovered in an appropriate institution located within the Commonwealth.

The Elihu Akin House was built in 1762 in South Dartmouth on property that was originally part of Jacob Russell’s farm at 762 Dartmouth Street, at the intersection of Rockland Street, on what has been since the 18th century the main route to Ricketson’s Point peninsula. Job Mosher apparently built the house in 1762 as a wedding gift for his bride, Amy Akin. It changed hands after that until it was owned by Elihu Akin, her uncle, a local merchant who was once the proprietor of a thriving shipbuilding business in Padanarum Village (it was later burned by the British, leaving him destitute). It is currently managed by the Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust.

According to the New Bedford Standard Times, in 2003, WHALE, the Waterfront Historic Area League of New Bedford, received approval for $185,000 from Community Preservation Act funds to purchase the house from Akin descendants. WHALE then raised $194,000 for emergency structural work and the home was transferred to the Dartmouth Historic Commission. In 2008, the Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust leased the property from the Historic Commission and took over stewardship, receiving $195,000 in CPA funds to help finance the second phase of the repair work. Much of the house has now been restored, but work is ongoing. The Trust’s end goal, according to Diane Gilbert, is to someday “reopen the building as a ‘study house’ or living history center, educating the public about local history, Colonial times, and period building techniques.”

The Elihu Akin House Archaeology Project was accomplished over two periods in the summers of 2008 and 2009 under the direction of Dr. Christina Hodge, with the assistance of her students in UMass Dartmouth Soc/Ant 180 – “Historical Archaeology of New England” and Soc/Ant 407 “Field Inquiry.”  During the investigations a total of 6,973 artifacts and fragments were recovered during the 2008 season and 3,820 in the 2009 season for a total of 10,793 artifacts and fragments.

All 10,793 artifacts and fragments have been catalogued and are available for access, along with the final report and photographs, in the Claire T. Carney Library Archives and Special Collections at UMass Dartmouth. The final report is also available as an electronic document by request. Access to the collection is not restricted, but does require an appointment. Please contact Judy Farrar at or 508-999-8686.

For more information on Archaeology Month, see the Secretary of State’s web site at <>

For an update on the Akin House, consult the Standard Times article at or contact the Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust.

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