Frazer Farmstead

Site No: 15Hr42
County: Harrison
Research Focus: Farmstead, rural life, American Civil War (ca. 1817-1862)

The Frazier farmstead was founded on the South fork of the Licking River just north of Cynthiana in 1817 by James Finley and went through several owners before it was purchased in 1845 by Dr. Joel C. Frazer. Joel Frazer lived here a few years and then passed the land to his son Hubbard Frazer, who lived here until his death in 1860. Archival and archaeological research revealed that this site was incorporated into Camp Frazer (also known as Camp Tod) during the American Civil War and the Frazier house was used as a hospital and for storage by the Union Army until Confederate troops under John Hunt Morgan burned it on July 17, 1862 in their raid on Cynthiana. Archaeology was undertaken at the Frazer house in advance of construction for a highway bypass around the town of Cynthiana.

The excavations located the remains of the house and many associated features; including an intact limestone foundation, several cellars with stratified fill, a sheet midden, trash pits, and many post holes, some from the house and some from fence lines that demarcated the yard. The excavations suggest that the brick house was enlarged several times and by 1860 had at least six rooms. Analysis of the ceramics recovered from the excavations suggest that the wealth of the occupants increased over time. For example, index values that measure the cost of the ceramics used in the house nearly double from the early to the mid-nineteenth century. Many military items were also found. These include a Smith Carbine tool, a trigger guard from a M1816 rifle, and a flintlock pick and brush, alone with many Minie balls and other ammunition.

Archaeological and historical research indicates that a portion of the house survived the July 1862 fire but was later burned by Camp Frazer’s Quartermaster on September 2, 1862, as the Union troops evacuated in advance of Confederates led by General Kirby Smith following the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky. This history helps explain the large quantity of Civil War era bullets and gun parts found during the excavations. Large quantities of military “Eagle” buttons were found in a large clump in one of the cellars; probably these buttons were being stored here in a wooden box at the time of the fire. A large quantity of burned 4-hole bone buttons found during the excavations were likely being stored for use on army tents.