The Fred Yarbrough Site, in east central Van Zandt County, is located four miles northeast of Grand Saline in an area of rolling plains spotted with growths of hardwood trees. The site consists of two unconnected parts. Area A is a low knoll some fifty yards south of the Sabine River with stone artifacts on and in it, and Area B is a circular place in a plowed field with many prehistoric earthenware shards, 300 yards to the south of the knoll. Both areas were completely excavated by the Work Projects Administration from April through September of 1940. In the middle 1940s Alex D. Krieger examined the collection of artifacts, and in 1962 LeRoy Johnson, Jr., analyzed the specimens and published a lengthy study. Because the site had several stratified prehistoric Indian occupations, it became the key prehistoric pottery site of East Texas.
The knoll, Area A, is a natural rise ten feet above the Sabine floodplain capped with a zone of sandy soil three feet deep containing chipped-stone debris. In Area A several periods of occupation were mixed together, although there was also some stratigraphic separation. The earliest period, Paleo-Indian, is represented by a few lance-shaped flint and quartzite spear points of the Clovis, San Patrice, Meserve, and other types. Occupation from around 7000 B.C. by early Archaic Age people is evidenced by quartzite gouges or adzes, rounded and grooved net weights, and slightly barbed spear points of the Yantis type or other types.
Later Archaic Age people were at the site from 6000 to 2500 B.C. and left spear points with long rectangular tangs, among which the Morrill and Wells points were common, as well as sandstone grinding slabs and hand-held milling stones. The Yarbrough Site is the key representative of the early La Harpe Culture, which existed from 3000 or 2000 B.C. to the time of Christ. The sandy pottery, Gary points, and spear points with pointed tangs characteristic of late La Harpe Culture are also found at Area A. Finally, a few potsherds of still later pottery makers, dating to A.D. 1300 or 1400, were found on the knoll.
In the knoll was fair separation by depth of the early La Harpe spear points, which were most common in lower levels; the late La Harpe points, which dominated higher levels; and the potsherds, which were higher yet. The pre-La Harpe periods were recognized by resemblance of specific artifacts to related, well-dated specimens from other archeological sites. At the end of Archaic times, Area A was also used as a small cemetery.
Area B may have been a house site. The spot producing potsherds was about twenty feet in diameter and represents a much later group of people, whose cultural remains are called the Sanders Focus. The inhabitants practiced corn agriculture and were potters who made beakers, cups, large flat bowls, and deep bowls with shoulders below the rim. Deer ulnas made into punches or awls were almost the only other artifacts found in Area B besides the pottery, which may date to A.D. 800–1000. By this time the Indian population of the region had probably reached its peak. A few potsherds of even later pottery makers, dating to A.D. 1300 or 1400, were found on the knoll, Area A. The potters of both areas A and B were ancestors of the Caddo Indians who lived in East Texas in historic times directly east of what is now Van Zandt County. The artifacts and records of the Yarbrough Site are now housed at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory of the University of Texas at Austin.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every dollar helps.
LeRoy Johnson, Jr., The Yarbrough and Miller Sites of Northeastern Texas, with a Preliminary Definition of the La Harpe Aspect," Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 32 (1962). Alex D. Krieger, Culture Complexes and Chronology in Northern Texas, with Extension of Puebloan Datings to the Mississippi Valley (University of Texas Publication 4640 [Austin, 1946]). Dee Ann Suhm et al., "An Introductory Handbook of Texas Archeology," Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 25 (1954).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
LeRoy Johnson, Jr.,
“Fred Yarbrough Site,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 18, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
January 1, 1995