Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Charles H. Faulkner

Committee Members

David G. Anderson, Benita J. Howell, Janis Appier


This archaeological study investigates a 19th- and early 20th-century farmstead in Knox County, Tennessee. Archaeological investigations at Marble Springs (40KN125) in 2002 and 2003 originally aimed to recover information on the lifeways of John Sevier, the first governor of Tennessee. However, these investigations revealed a dense assemblage of artifacts from the Kirby family who resided on the site after Sevier from 1847 to 1932. Using a combination of archaeological data, oral history testimony, and archival documents, this dissertation focuses on the Kirby occupation of the site. In an attempt to view the changing lifeways of the Kirbys over four generations and 85 years at Marble Springs, four primary avenues of inquiry are addressed: rural capitalism, the agricultural ladder, the intersections of gender, class, and race, and the informal economy. These four areas demonstrate how and why the Kirbys transitioned from small-acreage, self-sufficient farmers in the 19th-century to full-time moonshiners in the 20th-century. Rather than resisting participation in the capitalist economy, the Kirbys resisted dependence on an economic system within which they could no longer flourish. Although direct evidence of moonshining was not discovered at the site, the high frequency of container glass, such as canning and other food jars, gives indirect evidence of these activities. Other evidence of the shift from agriculture to moonshining was discovered in the form of purchased food containers, ceramic and glass tableware vessels, and personal and recreational items. The high frequency of these items suggests that although the Kirbys resisted dependency on capitalism, they aspired to social respectability in their community through conspicuous material consumption in hopes of counteracting their reputations for disease, poverty, and illegal liquor production and distribution.

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