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News Macon historical museum acquires artifact

The Macon County Historical Museum recently acquired a water trough thought to be used by the Cherokee. The trough sits on the sidewalk outside the museum. Photos by Vickie CarpenterVisitors to downtown Franklin can take in authentic artifacts of the area inside the Macon County Historical Museum for hours if they so choose, but now they can also see what is believed to be an artifact handmade by the Cherokee indians right outside on the sidewalk.

The 3,500 pound trough arrived outside the historical museum at 5:30 a.m. by way of crane just last week.

“It was loaded on a flat bed truck with a crane and then unloaded right here by crane again,” said Robert Shook, Curator and director of the museum. “That's quite a stone that it's made from. I don't know how the Cherokee moved it.”

The trough can really only be speculated about at this point. It was probably made by the Cherokee and used to run spring water through and to keep things cold. Later on it is beieved to have been used by Penland’s Delivery Stable in Frog Town where it served as a watering trough.

“Some folks think that maybe it’s a little bit too shallow to have been in a spring box,” said Shook.

The stone trough possesses some very unique features. Made from a single piece of stone, it is obvious how much work went into the functionality of the piece of “machinery.”

Photos by Vickie Carpenter“When you look at it, you can see that they had to have chiseled the stone,” says Shook. “There are no marks that would indicate the use of a drill.”

The trough was presented to the museum by the family of Tom Jenkins, its last owner. According to Shook, there are two more of the troughs in the Wayah community and possibly another in the Hickory Knoll area.

“Mayor Bob Scott facilitated this transaction. He set us up with the Jenkins family and then we worked out the details,” said Shook.

Just as no one knows the “why” behind the trough, nobody can be really sure about the age of the artifact because no matter how old the stone itself is, it doesn't make it possible to know when the work on the water trough was done.

“You can't carbon date it so you really have to look at the time periods when things like these were being used,” Shook said. “If I had to guess, I would say that it was possibly made in the 1600s or 1700s.”

As for what the museum plans to do with the trough in the future, Shook says the only short term plans are to move it down the sidewalk a bit, but with a little brain storming, there may be something bigger in its future.

“Maybe we can figure out a way to put it in the garden and get some water running through it,” he says.

Anybody who may want to see the trough or share more information about its history can go to West Main Street and speak with Shook or any of the volunteers who are usually on site to speak to visitors. Admission is free.

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