Monday, December 31, 2007

Atzerodt's Carriage Shop

Before getting into today's subject, I want to congratulate April: today she shipped to the University of Alabama Press our edited volume, The Archaeology of Institutional Life. April spearheaded the project, and she put huge amounts of time into collecting and editing the papers from a number of prominent archaeologists from the US, United Kingdom, and Australia. Well done April.

And now, for a few bits about someone who has as much in common with April as Mother Teresa has with Lucretia Borgia: our old friend George Andrew Atzerodt. I have been reading Michael Kauffman's American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies (Random House, 2004).

Kauffman characterizes Atzerodt as an ill-kempt weasel, devoted to the pursuit of wealth, but never successful, a drunkard, and the sort of person much of middle class and upper class Washington society would have avoided. I suspect Port Tobacco society didn't welcome his company either. Scott caught some of the flavor of this miscreant in an earlier posting. Kauffman reports many of Atzerodt's movements in the months leading up to, and the days following, the assassination of President Lincoln, including Atzerodt's locking up the carriage shop in Port Tobacco. He sprinkles names of Charles countians throughout his narrative, including Reverend Lemuel Wilmer, Samuel Cox, and others familiar to area genealogists and historians. Kauffman also describes Atzerodt's aborted plan to assasinate Vice President Andrew Johnson.

American Brutus is a good read, provides as definitive an account of the conspiracy as we are likely to see, and recreates some of the atmosphere of Southern Maryland and Washington, DC, during the Civil War. While the project team does not anticipate making significant contributions to the conspiracy story, we do hope to provide more details about life in the region generally, and Port Tobacco specifically.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

More on the Centennial

In digging our shovel test pits along the northern part of the Compton field, we were pretty sure that we had at least one 18th-century site, possibly pre-dating the American Revolution. This period is of particular interest for a variety of reasons, not least of which is Jean Lee's book, The Price of Nationhood: The American Revolution in Charles County (W. W. Norton, 1994). Dr. Lee's book, necessarily, has much to say about Port Tobacco. After all, it was the county seat and, as such, a hotbed of revolutionary sentiments as well as post-war dissatisfaction over war debts, economic depression, and foreclosures.

The Price of Nationhood is an excellent book and we are in the enviable position of reconstructing the appearance of the town in which so many of the events Dr. Lee describes occurred. The archaeological team is a little like a team of set designers, researching and describing the stage and props that provide the background to the play.

One part of the 'stage' that I wrote about yesterday was the site of the Centennial Hotel. The distributions of 18th-century ceramics and early 19th-century pearlware leave no doubt that buildings were on the site from sometime in the 18th century onward. Additional analysis will allow us to determine just how early in the 18th century. Now, a skeptic might say: hey, those are ceramics! You've shown where people threw out trash and not necessarily where they lived. Well, we have considered that issue. Take a look at this drawing.

Distribution of handwrought nails in the area of the Centennial Hotel.

The circles indicate shovel tests that yielded large quantities of masonry rubble (brick and mortar). The contours represent a simulation of handwrought nail density across the area. Handwrought (literally, made by hand) nails were used throughout the Colonial Period and into the 19th century. They were largely supplanted by machine-cut (mass-produced) nails between the 1830s and 1850s (dates vary depending on the part of the country in which the site is located).

The concentrations of handwrought nails correspond with concentrations of masonry rubble. Together they suggest four separate buildings pre-dating the middle of the 19th century. The distributions of 18th and early 19th-century ceramics clearly correspond to the distributions of architectural materials; therefore, we have found part of the stage on which Jean Lee's actors performed. Additional investigation will draw our vision of that stage into better focus.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Where is the Centennial?

As archaeologists, we pride ourselves on how clever we can be in figuring out what happened long ago with little more evidence than a few potsherds and nails. Sometimes, however, we are humbled: our clever methods produce seemingly conflicting results. That may be the story for our work around the Centennial Hotel site.

Centennial Hotel, ca. 1915.

Our shovel testing in this portion of the field owned by the Compton family produced large numbers of artifacts including those that could be attributed to the 18th century (creamware, white salt-glazed stoneware, Westerwald stoneware, etc.) and to the early 19th century (sp., pearlware). We simulated the distributions of these two groups of ceramic sherds based on the actual values recovered from our test pits. Notice the results:

Distribution of 18th-century ceramics in the area of the Centennial Hotel.

Distribution of pearlware in the area of the Centennial Hotel.

The distributions do not match. The earlier material clusters close to the village green, the later material is 50 ft further to the south. The 18th-century material corresponds more closely to the approximate location of the hotel based on the 1888 survey of the town (red polygons on the maps).
Are we seeing different patterns in trash disposal, the later material being discarded farther from the buildings, or are there two sets of structures. We need to dig more holes.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Blog Amongst Blogs

Our blog has been getting some attention in the blogosphere. Check out the post about archaeology blogs at the Ancient World Bloggers Group.

"The Port Tobacco Archaeological Project also maintains a great blog that tracks their progress on an 18th century site in Maryland. "

Dr. Jeb Card's archaeology blog, In Small Things Found, has a permanent link to us, that is how much Jeb loves us.

This attention is partly the result of our listing in Volume 27 of the Four Stone Hearth blog carnival that I mentioned in a previous post.

If you know of any other blogs that mention our blog, let us know.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Courthouse and the Underground Railroad

Thanks to the National Park Service, we have acquired copies of the Courthouse's nomination for the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. The following text, copied from the nomination form, summarizes the event that led to the listing.

"The Port Tobacco Courthouse, Charles County, Maryland (MD), is verifiably associated with the Underground Railroad, because there Mark Caesar (presumably free from Charles County) and Bill Wheeler (from Charles County, master Benjamin Contee) were tried in 1845. Mark Caesar was considered an "accomplice of slave flight." While some contemporary white accounts refer to an "insurrection" led by the two, it is possible that the African Americans involved considered it a break for freedom and were equipped with weapons for self-defense. Mark Caesar and Bill Wheeler left Charles County (Co.) and were accompanied by more and more armed freedom seekers. The group reached the area of Rockville, MD where 31 were captured and others continued to flee, some as far as Carroll Co. MD (which borders with Pennsylvania). Although court records of the trial are missing, Maryland State Archives (MSA) researchers found documentation of Mark Caesar in the Maryland Penitentiary Prisoners Record (1850), found a special law passed to ensure life imprisonment for Wheeler if he were not executed, and found numerous newspaper accounts of the 1845 escape, which frightened local whites by its daring. Previously, Mark Caesar did not enter official documentation -- not in the censuses for Anne Arundel Co., Baltimore Co., Charles Co. (1830-50) nor among landowners listed for the 3 counties."

Scott is on the case and will bring us more details about the individuals involved in the near future.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Leonard Neale

I am glad to see the Port Tobacco Blog returning from it's brief Christmas vacation. Like many of you, I look forward to what April, Jim, and Peter come up with through their continued research and lab analysis. The following is another brief biographical sketch of someone associated with Port Tobacco.

Leonard Neale was born at Port Tobacco on October 15, 1746 and was one of four brothers who entered the Society of Jesus. Educated at St. Omer's in France, Neale returned to the US and stayed at St. Thomas Manor amongst his religious relatives. He was the founder and first president of Georgetown University in Washington DC and eventually went on to become, in 1800, the first Roman Catholic bishop ordained in the US and the second Archbishop of Baltimore.

Father Neale is also the priest who gave George Washington his Last Rites. Although known as an Episcopalian, Washington professed a wish to convert to Catholicism. Leonard Neale was summoned from St. Thomas on December 14, 1799 to Mount Vernon where the dying former President was baptised and given Last Rites.

George Washington on his deathbed

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas and I know we all look forward to more information of the finds at Port Tobacco. Happy New Year too!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Revised Analysis of Indian Sites

This, the last posting for the next several days, is a bit of an omnibus.

First, on behalf of April, Scott, Pete, and myself, we wish all of our readers a wonderful holiday and a healthy and rewarding new year.

Second, for anyone who has had a problem with the main website (, Dionisios (Dio) Kavadias has effected repairs. Dio created the website prior to leaving the company for graduate work at the University of Chicago. He happened to be in town when Scott informed me of some problems with the site. Hopefully it will function satisfactorily.

Third: the draft report for our first phase of work at Port Tobacco is finished. It has to wend its way through some channels, but I expect to send copies to property owners and partners in the next week or so.

Finally, since we now have some preliminary analysis completed, I offer the following observations on some of our findings. Many of our upcoming postings will draw from the draft report. To start, let's take a second look at the prehistoric finds. Now that we have corrected the catalogue, our analyses will be more accurate. In the image above you see contour lines that represent the simulated distributions of aboriginal stone tools and the waste flakes created as a byproduct of stone tool making. You will recall from a previous posting that we use a computer program to project, or simulate, distributions based on the finds in our shovel tests.

Overall, the distributions haven't changed too much...they are just clearer. There are several clusters of material that indicate the presence of Native American sites. They form an arc that extends eastward from the river, possibly suggesting that the river bank similarly curved to the east during the Woodland periods, 500 to 2000 years ago. Each concentration of material warrants additional study, preferably with series of excavation units, perhaps 5 ft by 5 ft squares. Perhaps over the winter we will conduct a more exhaustive study of the materials we have already collected from the shovel tests in each of these clusters.

So what do Indian sites occupied centuries before European colonization have to do with our study of a Colonial town? Well, first off, Native American cultures are no less important than those of Europeans: they deserve the same attention, and the same respect. Secondly, we are very interested in learning how the landform now occupied by Port Tobacco has been changing, both before and with the onset of European settlement. The distributions of aboriginal materials relative to the river, existing topography, and various types of sediments could prove very useful in reconstructing the recent geology of this portion of the floodplain.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Holiday Blogging

We had a bit of discussion regarding yesterday's post. If you haven't already done so, check out the comments that were posted. Comments are available via the comment link at the bottom of each post. Please, keep the comments coming. My question has not been answered.

Jim and Peter are busy working on the last details of the technical report that describes this year's work at Port Tobacco. They will present us with some of the results of their analyses tomorrow. Then, we shall all take a few days off for the long weekend.

After Friday, December 21st, the next Port Tobacco blog will be Wednesday, December 26th. Hopefully Scott will be back for another profile of a Port Tobaccoan of the past. If not, I will provide a commentary on the research results and future directions of the project.

Safe travels to all this holiday weekend.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Underground Railroad was Neither Underground Nor a Railroad, Discuss.

So today's post is not a story about what I do know about Port Tobacco but rather a statement of something that I do not understand about Port Tobacco. Maybe one of our staff members or readers (any Historic Preservation people from Charles County reading this today?) can enlighten me on this point.

I am not a fan of "Underground Railroad Archaeology" because it seems like nobody really knows what constitutes evidence of the Underground Railroad. Houses with "secret doorways" and "underground tunnels" are common "Underground Railroad Sites" but these features could have served any smuggling purpose or could just be architectural anomalies.

Recently, I was called out to a home near Binghamton because someone found an archaeological site and some bones while digging under their patio. There, under the patio, was the first floor of a historic structure, complete with a doorway. They had no idea that it existed until then. But, I digress.

In my research I have found that the St. Ignatius Church, right down Chapel Point Road from Port Tobacco, has such an underground tunnel that may or may not be part of the Underground Railroad. And, even more surprising to me, the Port Tobacco Courthouse is listed on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

With all the Confederate activity that went on in Port Tobacco, I find this to be an unlikely place for escaped slaves to have been ferried through. Can anyone tell me what the story is behind the courthouse listing?


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rose O'Neal Greenhow

Port Tobacco must have been an interesting place during the Civil War. Conspiracies, spies, combatants, and clandestine operations appear to have been the norm.

Rose O'Neal Greenhow was a seemingly unlikely player. She was born in Port Tobacco in 1813 and was apparently very beautiful as an adult. Her father was a wealthy planter and when he was murdered by a slave in 1817 (see how much fun Port Tobacco was?), her mother raised her amongst the elite of Washington DC. She began spying for the Confederate cause, was arrested, and held in Old Capitol Prison along with her daughter, also named Rose.
Rose O'Neal Greenhow and daughter Rose at Old Capitol Prison
Eventually she was exiled to Richmond when President Jefferson Davis sent her to Europe to further the Southern cause. While returning home, her ship the Condor, was pursued by a Union vessel during a storm. She exited her ship in a small boat in an attempt to escape. Her boat capsized and she drown, mostly because of the $2000 in gold she carried. Her grave is decorated each year on Confederate Memorial Day. No idea what happened to the gold.
Alright folks. The logo we have is excellent, but it would be nice to have other entries as well. I know everyone is bored during this festive, holiday season, so let's see some more, great Port Tobacco art!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Wee Need a Logo, Part 2

Last Monday, I posted a request for help in finding a logo for the Port Tobacco Archaeological Project. So far we have two responses. First, Dancing Willow said she would see if her son's graphic arts class would be interested in coming up with some logo suggestions. Second, we had a submission from Sandi G. Here it is:

So, take a look at Sandi's submission and see if you have any ideas of your own. As I said last Monday, we will entertain suggestions until Feb 1st.

Thanks to Sandi and Dancing Willow for their participation!


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Port Tobacco Freemasonry

Monument erected on the village green in memory of the St. Columba Lodge No. 10, Port Tobacco.

Port Tobacco was more than a collection of homes and businesses. It had a variety of institutions on which the people built a community, including churches and schools, most of which were racially segregated. One of those institutions was the Masonic Lodge about which we have been able to get some information from Edward Schultz’s 1884 history of the Craft in Maryland.

In 1792, a number of members of the George Town Lodge No. 9 (in present day Washington, DC) petitioned to create a branch lodge in Port Tobacco, to which they had moved. They received a charter from the Grand Lodge of Maryland and sustained St. Columba Lodge No. 10 at least until 1798.

Schultz noted that the proceedings of the Lodge were full and well-kept, and that they included the names, occupations, and residences of initiates. He published the names, which appear below.

A number of St. Columba members, because of the distance of the Lodge from their respective homes, similarly petitioned to create Hiram Lodge No. 27 in Leonard Town, St. Mary’s County, in 1798, which was chartered that year. St. Columba may have disbanded shortly thereafter, as did Hiram.

Ironically, a Lodge existed in Leonard Town between 1759 and 1764. The surviving proceedings for the Lodge include the following entry dated November 4, 1761: “Ordered also that Brother [Ebenezer] Fisher write to Mr. James Mills for the Jewells belonging to the Portobacco Lodge which are now in the possession of the said Mills.” In short, one of the earliest Lodges in Maryland, and in the colonies, had formed in Port Tobacco by 1760, disbanded with members going to George Town and Leonard Town, then revived in 1792 only to disband again with at least some members reviving the Leonard Town Lodge.

Apart from celebrating the feast days of St. John the Baptist (June 24) and St. John the Evangelist (December 27), often with a church service followed by a dinner and ball, it isn’t clear what these Lodges did. Likely they were very different in some respects from Masonic Lodges of the present. Certainly they helped cement good relations among competing merchants, and also between the native born, largely English planters, and the newly arrived Scots merchants.

The project team will be studying institutions at Port Tobacco, including those of post-emancipation African Americans and Colonial and Antebellum European Americans.


List of members of St. Columba Lodge No. 10 of the Society of Free and Accepted York Masons, 1792-1798
Alexander Greer (or Grier), Worshipful Master
Robert Fergusson (or Furgusson), Senior Warden
Judson M. Clagett, Junior Warden
Thomas Mundell
Basil Warring
Robert E. Scott
Gustavus Richard Brown
Zephaniah Turner
Samuel B. Turner
Samuel T. Dyson
Thomas How
Michael Jenifer Stone
William Halkerson
James Freeman
George Gordon
William Craik
Thomas Gardner
Matthew Blair
John Campbell
Thomas Andreis Dyson
Alexander Hamilton
Thomas Buchanan
Philip Barton Key
John Thomas
John Rousby Plater
Gabriel Wood
Walter Dorsey
Isadore Hardy
Boyd Vaughan
Samuel Crawford
Wiiliam Thomas
William Dent Briscoe
Dr. H. William Graham
Dr. John F. Hawkins
William Vincent
Robert Lawson
James Simms
John Mitchell
John Maddox
Henry Barnes
Henry Clements
Stephen Cawood IV
Thomas Sandiford
Samuel Hawkins
John Haw
Alexander Scott
Reverend John Weems
Thomas Phenix
Robert Fergusson, Jr.
John Robertson
James Alstan
Philip Briscoe
Thomas Clagett
George Chapman
Charles Sommervell Smith
David Broyle
Francis Newman
Daniel Jenifer
Bennet Walker
Charles Calvert Egerton
Major Philip Stewart
John Dagg
Joseph Donnison
James Gun
Townly Yates
John Edward Ford
John Monceur Daniel
Benoni Hamilton
Robert Chisley
Joseph Walker
Dr. John Dyson
Philip Barber
George Ph. Greenfield
Henry Sothron
John Hepburn
George Reeder
Jonathan Lewis Briscoe
George W. Campbell
Alexander Smoot
John Leigh

Source: Schultz, Edward T., 32°. History of Freemasonry in Maryland, of All the Rites introduced into Maryland, from the Earliest Time to the Present. Volume I. (J. H. Medairy, Baltimore, 1884).

Carbon Copy?

As an unexpected example of how some research discoveries are totally accidental...

I opened my Port Tobacco album in iPhoto today and the historic photos were sorted slightly different than usual. The side-by-side alignment of two photos led me to notice something that I had not noticed before. The Wade House and the Chimney House are nearly identical in architecture.

That is the Wade House in the top photo and the Chimney House on the left side of the bottom photo.

One reason that I find this particularly interesting is that (as some of you may have noticed) I have a strong interest (or mild obsession) with the cellars of Port Tobacco. This is not about the artifacts that a buried cellar may hold. Instead I am interested in the reasons the cellars were constructed and the reasons some became filled in while others did not. I think the cellars of Port Tobacco will tell us a lot about the early workings of the town and its eventual demise.

I think an area of the town has just been bumped up in priority for spring fieldwork.


Friday, December 14, 2007

100 Blogs...and Counting!

Yesterday was our 100th day of blogging! In that time only 1 day has gone by without an entry, and a couple of days actually saw two entries. In honor of this milestone, I would like to take a moment to thank all of you who log in to read our blogs, especially those who take the time to comment here or send us email. I would also like to thank my co-bloggers, Jim, Peter, and Scott, for their dedication to the blog.

For those readers who haven't been with us from the beginning, I'd like to reprise one of our first blogs...
What You Can Do To Help
In response to comments on yesterday's posts, there are numerous ways to help support the Port Tobacco Archaeological Project.

1. Join the Archeological Society of Maryland (ASM)
We will be having special events for members including a three-day volunteer weekend in mid-October. This event will provide opportunities to assist us with fieldwork and labwork. There will also be presentations on our research each day during the lunch break.

2. Join the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco (SRPT)
This society is active in efforts to preserve and protect the land and buildings that constitute the town. Membership options are as low as $10 for an individual and $15 for a couple.

Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco
PO Box 302
Port Tobacco, MD 20677-0302

3. Make a tax-deductible contribution
Both the ASM and SRPT accept tax-deductible donations. Make a note on your contribution that you would like the funds to be used on the Port Tobacco Archaeological Project. Every little bit helps keep the project alive.

4. Volunteer
We accept volunteer assistance with all aspects of the project and can provide training for most jobs. If you are in Maryland you can contact us about working in the field, the lab, or in the local archives. If you are outside of the state you can assist with archival research at your local library or on the internet. If you have marketing, publicity, or fundraising skills we would love to hear from you too.

For further information about how you can help, feel free to drop me a line at Put Port Tobacco in the subject line to make sure it gets to me.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Courthouse Excavations in 1967/1968

Excavation photograph, probably 1968.

The first archaeological excavation at Port Tobacco for which we have any detailed information was that of the 1815/1818 courthouse, which had largely burned in 1892, the surviving wings subsequently appropriated for other uses. The work was initiated in anticipation of state-funded reconstruction of the courthouse and a brief, incomplete report of the work was prepared by Sarah L. Mathay (May 31, 1968).

The Research Committee of the Port Tobacco Court House Restoration Committee decided in November and December of 1966 to undertake an archaeological investigation of the courthouse. Captain John Mathay, US Army, submitted a plan for the work, but significantly accelerated the work in advance of his transfer from Indian Head Naval Ordnance Center to Fort Bellemore in New York in early February 1967.[1] He managed to prepare a topographic survey (2 ft contour intervals) of the village square area and, between January 27 and February 9, fielded a crew of Boy Scouts, high school students, and a variety of other volunteers. All were trained on the spot for the ten day dig. Sarah Mathay, John's wife, lamented the fact that a full day of training was necessary for many who could only work for three or four days: “It ordinarily takes a full week to master archaeological digging, which is more different from hole digging than is generally supposed” (Mathay 1968:3). We are in awe of the immense capacity for learning of previous generations.

As of May 31, 1968, the team had excavated 17 units, size unspecified. Given John Mathay’s imposition of a ten-foot grid, 22 whole and 11 partial units covering the courthouse and wings, we suspect the units were 10 ft by 10 ft. An overall site map and a partial map of the courthouse excavation accompany the report in the files of the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco. No other documentation of this, or any other excavation, has yet surfaced in their collections.

Because of Captain Mathay’s re-billeting, inclement weather, and tension between the sponsoring organizations (the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco and the Historical Society of Charles County), the project remained dormant until November 4, 1967, at which time work resumed under Sarah Mathay and John Wearmouth, then chair of the Research Committee. Local volunteers again supplied the labor and fieldwork continued until December 18, by which point: “The foundations of the North wing and the west and north walls and half the south wall of the main or center section were located and cleaned out. Artifact washing and cataloguing continued on rainy days, but a considerable backlog remained” (Mathay 1968:3).

The team returned to the field on April 20, 1968, under the sole auspices of the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco. By the end of May, 1968, the team had exposed and recorded the entirety of the foundation, backfilled and cleaned the site, and inventoried the artifact collection. The information they collected on the building footprint and hardware contributed to the design and reconstruction of the building that now occupies the site.
The lack of a complete, detailed report is regrettable. Perhaps, if we can one day find all of the relevant notes, photographs, and collections, we can analyze their data and write a comprehensive report.
[1] Mathay had worked for Charles Cleland at Skegemog Point in 1965 and Lyle Stone at Fort Michilimackinac in 1965/6, and served as curator of weapons at the Michigan State University Museum in 1965/6. He held a Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia Military Institute [1964]. Although poorly credentialed for supervising this kind of work today, at the time his level of training and experience was not unusual for the field. His supervisor at Michilimackinac, after all, was a graduate student.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Port Tobacco's Christ Church

Jim Gibb and I are busily preparing the final manuscript for an edited volume on the archaeology of schools, almshouses, orphanages, prisons, an other institutions. My chapter in this volume deals with the need to understand that the history of an institution is often not tied to a single building or location. In the book I deal with schoolhouses, which were often constructed and reconstructed to meet the demands of a changing community and local, state, and federal regulations.

We've already blogged about the move of Port Tobacco's Christ Church to La Plata. The stone building was dismantled and re-erected 3 miles from its original location. But these two sites, the one in Port Tobacco and the one in La Plata, are not only the ones related to this church.

A history of the Christ Church is available on its website. Here, the first incarnation of the church is described as a log building at the head of Port Tobacco Creek, constructed in 1683. This building was replaced in 1709, although no information is provided to determine if the location had changed. This building, likely the one described elsewhere, was destroyed by a tornado in 1808. A brick church was consecrated in 1818; no mention is made as to where the congregation met for the 10 years in between. The 1818 building was demolished after it fell into disrepair and a new stone church was constructed in the 1870s and "reconfigured" in 1884. This 1884 building is the one that was relocated to La Plata, but the church that stands there now is still not the same church. A fire destroyed much of that church in 1905. Since then, additions have been constructed and repairs after the 2002 tornado were extensive.

In sum, there is the potential for five Port Tobacco Christ Church footprints to exist within the town! Each demolition event should have left a significant archaeological deposit. The question is, where were these churches located. Some may have been built on existing foundations but as the building size, shape, and construction materials changed, so would the footprint. Also, if a new church was planned, it is likely that construction on it began before the existing building was demolished.

To complicate matters, the Christ Church of Port Tobacco was not established until 1692. So the 1683 church predates this institution. To complicate matters further, the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco believes that the locations of the church and the courthouse were swapped after both were destroyed by a tornado, presumably the 1808 tornado. Which suggests that the foundation that was encountered under the courthouse may have been that of the 1709 church!

So, given this history of the Christ Church I am still a bit confused by this sign that stands at Port Tobacco today. It says "Old Christ Church 1692" and is in front of the "ruin" of the removed 1884 church, but points away from it. What is it pointing to? The site of the original log church? If so, it is not very specific as to where that church was located.

Isn't archaeology fun?


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Daniel Dulany

Our notable for this week may prove to be a bit more refreshing to read about. Daniel Dulany arrived at Port Tobacco in 1703 and did not conspire to murder or find himself enslaved. He did, however, find himself indentured to George Plater II for a period of 3 years. This was not unusual as many of those who immigrated were given passage in return for a finite period of servitude.

Apparently Plater saw potential in young Dulany and he served as a law clerk for Plater. At the conclusion of his indenture, Dulany studied law in London and returned to Maryland to become a prominent Annapolis lawyer and one of the state's first major land developers. At his death in 1753, he owned 47,000 acres of land and is credited with the founding of Frederick Town, named in honor of Lord Baltimore's son. He is buried in the family vault at St. Anne's Church in Annapolis.
It is interesting to note that Dulany arrived in 1703 so Port Tobacco was already established as a major port town by then. The Port Tobacco Archaeological Project team would be quite excited to find some of the 17th century components of the site.
Note from the Managing Director: While we have not yet completed the analysis of the fieldwork to date, it is clear that we found several ceramic sherds that date to the late 17th or very early 18th centuries. We are running a little bit behind, but should have the report ready early next week.

Monday, December 10, 2007

We Need A Logo

Peter is away from the lab today so in his place I present you with the following request....

Are you creative and artistic? Want to donate these services to help us out?
The Port Tobacco Archaeological Project needs a logo.
We are looking for a simple black and white line drawing that can adorn our webpages, business cards, and such. Ideally it would convey the goals of the project and/or the importance of the town.

In return we offer you our gratitude and a blog post all about you and your logo design.

We will entertain logo suggestions until February 1st. If we receive multiple submissions we will post them on the blog and let our readers help us select the best one.

Ready? Set? Draw!


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Odds and Ends

You probably noticed the new slideshow in the left column. I've started uploading project photos to our new account. You can click n an image in the slideshow to pause it and go backwards or forwards too. Alternatively you can go straight to our Flickr page ( ) to see all the photos and comment on them. We will be adding descriptions soon.

Photo Poll
Speaking of photographs, I want to thank everyone who voted in the photo poll. Since the 1st and 2nd place photos were separated by only a few votes, I decided to submit both of them to the contest. The voting for the official contest will happen at the Society for Historical Archaeology conference in early January. I'll let everyone know how our photos place.

New Poll
There is a new poll question.

Newspaper Coverage
Port Tobacco was part of another Maryland Independent article. You can read it here. Our own Jim Gibb is quoted throughout. Here is a snippet:

Amateur archeologists contribute to the preservation of Southern Maryland’s history. More than two dozen volunteers joined archeologists during the past few months to help do the initial survey at Port Tobacco. The volunteers helped archeologists clean, analyze and record information for a report intended to convince the state, Charles County government and local residents to pitch in financially and physically to keep the project in motion.‘‘It’s really important to build up steam on this,” he said. ‘‘We need consistent commitment of local funding to really make this thing happen. This is a long-term project.”

So far, the excavation has uncovered 15 boxes filled with a variety of artifacts, Gibb said.

"Given the fact that we’re just doing a shovel test, it’s extraordinary,” he said. "There wasn’t a single test unit that didn’t produce at least one artifact. Some units produced a couple of gallon-sized bags full. That’s a lot to come out of a little hole.”

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Wacky Find of the Week

We haven't done a 'Wacky Find of the Week' before, and we probably will not make a habit of it, but here we go.

Volunteers Carol, Elsie and Phil tolerated some very cold, windy, and snowy weather this past week, along with April, Pete, Scott, and me. In partial reward, we found the spoon pictured above. Very likely it belonged to one of the Barbour children...we found it in a shovel test pit (#418) in front of Stagg Hall.

The photograph does not do it justice, but it is a Snow White Spoon, the sleepy princess appearing at the top of the obverse side and the seven dwarf's on both sides of the handle. Bashful, Sneezy, and Doc are on the obverse side, Grumpy, Happy, Dopey and Sleepy on the reverse. The spoon is marked "1847 Rogers Bros" and bears the copyright mark of WD (Walt Disney).

This is a highly significant find. As soon as we figure out why, we will let you know. Anyone care to research it and find out when it was made (not 1847, obviously)?


Friday, December 7, 2007

Limits of Shovel Testing

Tuesday the team was shovel testing in front of the Chimney House and Stagg Hall. While screening the soil from STP 409, they recovered a Lincoln cent, then a Late Archaic projectile point, and then another Lincoln cent. Sometime during the process they also recovered a sherd of British Brown stoneware.

The pennies are dated 1942 and 1948. The point is several thousand years old, and the ceramic sherd is an 18th-century import (probably from before the American Revolution). Together this group of objects illustrates one of the principal limitations of digging shovel test pits that are less than 1½-ft in diameter: we can't control for stratigraphy. That is, we aren't sure whether these four artifacts came from one layer of soil or several, nor do we know if the point came from the lowest portion of the soil profile, the sherd from the middle, and the two pennies from the upper. We can be sure that they represent aboriginal, 18th-century Euro-American, and 1940s occupation of the immediate vicinity.

We do not know whether the layers of soil representing those occupations retain their integrity; that is, whether or not they have been disturbed by utility installation, cultivation, or driveway construction. That is why we need to dig larger units (3 ft by 3 ft, or 5 ft by 5 ft) in which we can carefully remove one layer, or stratum, at a time and collect the artifacts separately for each. Hopefully, we will begin digging such larger units in the Spring.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Back to the Lab!

April has defrosted and is winging her way back to Binghamton. We spent a productive day in the laboratory. Scott finished all of the washing for our brief foray into the north part of town and April and I launched another grant application in hopes of funding the project next year. April also polished up our artifact catalogue a bit more and I started on the report for our work in the south part of town. Friday I will share some of our findings, informally, with the Board of the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco...just a few slides, artifacts, and some comments on where we are on this incredible voyage. Starting next week I should be sharing with everybody the findings of the analyses as we work through our data.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Report from the Field

First the good news: There was no wind out at Port Tobacco today. The last two days saw gusts up to 40mph and we were exhausted from trying to stay upright.
Now the bad news: There was a constant wet snow today which turned us into muddy frozen popsicles. I could not feel my toes for most of the day. I was happy to get home and discover they were still attached.

We completed the shovel test pit survey of the front yard of Stagg Hall. We recovered more fire cracked rock and other evidence of a prehistoric occupation of this area. We also encountered a large number of tobacco pipe stems and stoneware near the village square, possibly suggestive of the location of an 18th century tavern.

We then moved into the rear yard of the Chimney House in an attempt to identify the location of Atzerodt's carriage shop. The artifact density was relatively low in the rear yard but what we did find was mainly architectural debris. The findings are inconclusive at this point but once the artifacts are washed and analyzed we may have a better idea of what was located there.

We have decided to cancel fieldwork for tomorrow. The site is a muddy mess and it will take a few days for the soils to dry out. We will still be working, just in the comforts of the Gibb Archaeological Consulting headquaters. The last three days have produced an artifact assemblage that needs to be processed and Jim and I have more grant applications to work on.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Lynching at Port Tobacco

The crew has been working in the front yards of the Chimney House and Stagg Hall for the past two days and we are making exciting finds. I'll leave the details of this effort to Jim and April to blog about. While having lunch yesterday in the court house (it was cold!), Jim and I discussed the fact that many of the notables from Port Tobacco were not the most savory type. Being a port town, by nature, it attracted not only wealthy merchants and land owners, but also a large array of scaliwags as well. George Atzerodt is perhaps the most notorious along with those responsible for the beatings of Josiah Henson and his father as well as other slaves. Today I reference you to a mob lynching that took place in 1896. Joseph Cocking was held in the Port Tobacco jail awaiting trial for the murder of his wife and sister-in-law. A mob of about 30 people, masked and some dressed in women's clothing, removed Cocking from the jail and hung him from a nearby bridge. There are several speculations about the reason for this. Some say it was because the mob wanted to save the tax payer the expense of a trial. Maybe it was because they just didn't like him anyway. We'll never know.

We are looking forward to two more days in the field and can hopefully finish the yards of Stagg Hall and Chimney House. I just found out today that Atzerodt's carriage shop was located directly behind the Chimney House. I'll let you know if we find any supporting evidence.

Report from the Field

Scott should be providing another blog on the people of Port Tobacco today but here is a quick report from the field to keep you updated.

It was another cold day at Port Tobacco. We continued our shovel test pit survey at Chimney House and Stagg Hall. We recovered artifacts from a wide range of time periods. One STP contained a quartz projectile point along with two pennies from the 1940s. Another had a fragment of incised prehistoric pottery. The Native American occupation of the site may have been much more significant than we had thought.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Report from the Field

It was chilly and windy but such trivial matters can't stop the Port Tobacco Archaeological Project! We extended our mapping grid to the Chimney House with the total station and flagged the locations for our shovel test pits. As is usual at Port Tobacco, every shovel test pit revealed its own unique history. Scott's team encountered two STPS with about 40 pounds of brick rubble in each. My team had one STP filled with plaster and another filled with large oyster shells. The other STPS excavated today contained a bit of everything, from tin-glazed earthenwares to yellowware.

This is our first official foray into the north part of Port Tobacco so we are a bit short on interpretation until we have a chance to do more research. For now we will just say that the artifacts recovered today are likely the remnants of the row of businesses that fronted on the north side of the village square.

The team will be back at the site tomorrow, regardless of what Mother Nature throws our way. Wednesday may be a different matter. With snow/sleet/rain forcasted, we may need to spend that day in the lab.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tomorrow's Target

Synchronize watches: our target tomorrow is the Chimney House just to the right of the courthouse, at 9:30AM.
No: it doesn't look like this today. The picture was taken in the late 1930s, I think, when it was owned by the renowned avocational archaeologist, Alice L. L. Ferguson. It was surrounded by tobacco and apparently abandoned and deteriorated at the time.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

This Week's Campaign

The drawing is an 1888 survey of Port Tobacco completed by a man named Page. We have re-drafted his plat and scaled it to our project map. You can see the extent of our shovel testing to date, relative to the town as it appeared in 1888. (You may want to click on the drawing to make it larger, opening it in your image software.)

This week, from Monday December 3rd to Thursday the 4th, we begin work in the northern part of town. We will shovel test the Volman's property. Their residence, Chimneys House, is one of the three surviving Colonial buildings in Port Tobacco. April will post blogs from the field on our progress. This work represents a new phase of our study and the results will appear in a separate report. We are working on the report for the southern part of town now.

Volunteers, as always, are welcome. Just check the blog for any last minute cancellations due to inclement weather.


Friday, November 30, 2007

More on the Square

April is still hobnobbing with her fellow wizards in Washington, DC...the annual conference of the American Anthropological Association. We expect her to return to us all the smarter for having gone. While awaiting her return, I offer this little bit more on the excavation of TP3 in front of the courthouse where, as you will recall from yesterday, we are trying to determine the age of the town square. Had it been there as long as the courthouse, or was it a later development modeled on New England town squares in the wake of the centennial (1876) celebration?

The photograph above shows the mortared brick foundation along the east edge of the unit. The drawing illustrates the profiles of the West and North walls. The excavators were very conservative in removing the soil, resulting in eight identified strata, including the brick foundation. The Munsell soil color values (e.g., 10YR3/3 is dark brown) and soil textures suggest that A & B and F & G could be combined into two layers. The dates included with the soil descriptions are based on my review of the artifact catalogue.

Strata F and G contain prehistoric and Colonial materials. The layers above formed during the 19th and 20th centuries. The little bit of masonry rubble (common red soft mud brick and lime mortar) in those lower layers suggest that the brick foundation may date to the Colonial period, while the large quantity of masonry rubble in Strata B and C suggests that the structure was demolished late in the historic period.

Based on this small unit, we cannot stay definitively whether this is an 18th-century building or a 20th-century building constructed of cannibalized brick; but the artifacts strongly suggest that this part of the site was occupied in the 18th century.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

How Old is the Village Square?

Testing in front of the courthouse. TP3 (blue dashed circle) produced 18th-century artifacts.

During the "Great Volunteer Weekend" in late October (the stuff of legends), Pete excavated TP3 with a number of volunteers. They removed seven levels of soil around the remnant of a brick foundation. Long-time residents have identified this location as one of two houses built by a local character out of bricks "cannibalized" out of the demolished courthouse and jail. But the our local character clearly wasn't the first one to have lived barely 50 ft in front of the courthouse.

The excavators recovered relatively few artifacts from the 3 ft by 3 ft unit, but among those pieces were 13 sherds of creamware and one of British Brown stoneware, all classic 18th-century artifacts. Twelve of the creamware sherds came from the lowest level of the excavation.

The surviving maps of Port Tobacco all date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and all of them may have been based on the 1888 Page survey, which clearly shows the courthouse and a number of buildings around the periphery of a village square. We do not question the accuracy of Page's survey, but we have wondered whether there had always been a village square; hence the reason behind excavating TP3. We are not sold on the evidence, but there is reason to continue testing the area in front of the courthouse to determine whether the square dates back to 1727/8, or if it is a much later construction, possibly created to further the town's assertion that it should remain the county seat. We'll have more on the results of the testing in front of the courthouse after our next round of fieldwork next week.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Native American Site Found

Portion of site where the team has identified a prehistoric Indian site based on stone flakes (contour lines) and pottery (blue dots) recovered from shovel tests. Click on image to enlarge.

We've been cleaning up the catalogue and just beginning the various analyses in preparation for report writing. (Jim's adage: If it isn't properly reported, it isn't archaeology.) I've started off with a spatial analysis of Native American pottery and flaked stone. That means I've been looking at where Indian pottery and the slivers of stone resulting from stone tool-making occur. As you can see from the map, we have a concentration of stone flakes (the contour lines) with a smattering of Indian pottery (the blue dots). I used a computer program to simulate the distribution of flakes across the site based on the number of pieces found in each of the shovel test pits. Shovel test 265 produced the largest number of flakes in this particular area, a total of 13.

There being too few pottery sherds to conduct a similar analysis, I simply color-coded those shovel tests that produced at least one sherd. They likely are related to the flake distribution and, together, the flakes and sherds suggest that we found a Late Woodland (post AD 900) Indian site 50 ft away from the Episcopal Church foundation.

Better yet, this is only one of three prehistoric Indian sites identified as a result of our shovel testing. There is a smaller one to the southwest and a much larger and richer Indian site closer to the river bank.

The analysis of the Indian component of the site does not end here: we will be looking more carefully at the kinds of objects recovered from each of the three sites, including dates of occupation from the pottery and projectile point (arrowhead) styles, distinguishing between tool manufacture and repair, and searching for evidence of food processing and preparation. Keep in mind that each of the three Indian sites lies within, or overlaps, a Colonial or 19th-century site. Busy place, this Port Tobacco.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Josiah Henson

As I mentioned last week, I'd like to feature another historical figure with ties to Port Tobacco. Today's blog features Josiah Henson.

Henson was a slave near Port Tobacco and is alleged to be the person that Harriet Beecher Stowe based her character Uncle Tom on in her work Uncle Tom's Cabin. Born at Port Tobacco in 1789, Henson provided one of the first known narratives by a slave about his captivity. In his autobiography he mentions names of owners near Port Tobacco. "I was born, June 15, 1789, in Charles County, Maryland, on a farm belonging to Mr. Francis N., about a mile from Port Tobacco. My mother was the property of Dr. Josiah McP., but was hired by Mr. N., to whom my father belonged."
Research has revealed that Mr. N refers to Francis Newman and Dr. McP is Dr. Josiah McPherson. He also references a blacksmith named Hewes who was responsible for a severe whipping administered to his father.
It is also noted that Matthew Henson, the explorer who reached the North Pole in 1909 with Robert Peary, is the great grand nephew of Josiah.
I know I speak for the whole team when I say we are looking forward to another few days in the field the first week of December. Archaeology folks like us live for this!

Monday, November 26, 2007


Let me apologize for the lack of blogging last week as I have been out on sites and not in the office. So we've covered many things in our artifact discussions including ceramics, gun flints, and tobacco pipes. And there are many other things to talk about as well in terms of artifacts. One thing we find alot of, especially at Port Tobacco, are nails. With most sites having buildings on them, nails are sure to be found.

While today's nails are rounded and are called "wire" nails, they have changed throughout history. Nails can be traced back thousands of years and have been in use around the world.

Before the modern wire nail, we had the machine cut nail. Which was just that, a nail that was cut from a piece of flat iron to shape a nail. There were different kinds of machine cut nails too. Some had no head to them, some with machine heads and others with hand tooled heads. These nails came into use in the America's around the mid-18th Century and up until the early 20th Century.

The predecessor of the machine cut nail was the hand wrought nail which was forged from iron and were not very uniform.

While nails are always a nice find on a site because it tells us that there were buildings there, the dating of nails can be difficult at best. Since the production of different kinds of nails overlap each other in terms of time, the best we can do is use them to date by century which doesn't give us the more exact dates we always strive to find.

On another note, I hope everyone enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday!


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Railroad Woes

1864 map.

1897 map.

On January 1, 1873, the Popes Creek Branch of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad opened for regular service between Upper Marlboro in Prince George's County to Popes Creek, Maryland. Take a look at the 1864 map of the region, drafted by the United States Army. The railroad, of course, isn't there, but Port Tobacco is. Now look at the 1897 map: not only does it depict the railroad, but it shows the railroad passing through the relatively new town of La Plata and bypassing Port Tobacco. La Plata does not appear on the 1864 map.

This is not an unusual story. Hollywood westerns often portray parties feuding over the location of prospective railroads, each side recognizing the economic benefits of being a station and the potential economic catastrophe of being bypassed in favor of a neighboring settlement. Such stories are true, and they are no less true for Eastern localities than those on the plains and deserts of the West. Port Tobacco was not on the line and La Plata was: the outcome seemed certain, but it is a testament to the resolve of Port Tobaccoans and the home field advantage of hosting the county seat that it took more than 20 years for La Plata to prevail.

By the way: April and I have been busy editing some works for publication, one that I am revising with some other colleagues on the responses of New York State farmers to the rapid growth of the cheese factory system, the other an edited volume that April has spearheaded on the archaeology of institutions (schools, asylums, prisons). Sorry: neither is likely to appear on the shelves of your local bookseller.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Robert Guy Barbour Describes the Swann House

While the Port Tobacco maps of the late 1800s contain a lot of detail concerning the center of town, the southwest area of town is not as detailed. I find two of these vague structures particularly intriguing. One is an unlabeled building in the field where we identified the remains of a structure built with post supports instead of the common brick foundations. The other is labeled "Swann" and is currently located in an area of brush we have yet to test, although foundation remains are visible. It is likely that these two structures were relatively old, compared to the others in town in the 1800s, and their archaeological deposits may provide us with important insight into the earlier history of Port Tobacco.

The Swann House is simply described by Barbour as:
"An attractive old dwelling situated on the extreme Southwest corner of the village on the Port Tobacco-Warehouse Road".

Two photographs of the Swann House, in a less attractive time, are below.

The above photograph bears little resemblance to the sketch of the Swann House made by Barbour.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Historic Archaeology Photos, Part 4

To end our series of photographs from the 1960s excavations at Port Tobacco, I leave you with a photograph that I have no interpretation for. Two young boys are working with piles of bricks at the site of the reconstructed courthouse (the well is visible in the top left). The boy in the foreground appears to have a hatchet and is using it on a brick. I would welcome any interpretations (serious or not). As always, click on the photo for a larger image.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Greetings!

On behalf of April, Pete, Scott and myself, I thank all of our supporters. The Port Tobacco Archaeological Project is an enormous undertaking that we have only just begun, but if the support and encouragement that we have received to date is any indication, we can expect a long and productive effort of which we can all be proud.

Thanks to John, Walt and Maxine: with your help Pete finished the cleaning, repackaging, and cataloguing last week. We recovered nearly 25,000 artifacts from 359 shovel tests and two 3 ft by 3 ft excavation units. At least 25% of those artifacts are ceramics dating to the founding of our nation.

Thanks to the Board of the Archeological Society of Maryland for taking a chance on this project and to the membership for providing support in the field and lab.

Thank you Maryland Historical Trust, and especially staffers Maureen Kavanagh, Charlie Hall and Bruce Thompson for logistical support and use of the laboratory. The initial Non-Capital grant made by the Trust to the project, by way of the Archeological Society of Maryland, was critical to the launching of the project.

Cathy Hardy and her staff at Charles County: your encouragement and support added to the joy of this project and increased our efficiency...the latter no small matter when so few resources are available for so large an undertaking.

Thank you Preservation Maryland and the Southern Maryland Heritage Area Consortium for grants and good wishes.

And thank you property owners and residents of Port Tobacco for allowing us to work in your charming community and for sharing your knowledge of its history.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Historic Archaeology Photos, Part 3

Today's photograph of the 1960s archaeology at Port Tobacco shed some light on the laboratory facilities the archaeologists had. While the current project has the luxury of using lab space at both the Maryland Historical Trust and Gibb Archaeological Consulting, and storage space in the reconstructed courthouse, our predecessors appear to have had only a bus to work in (the courthouse not yet rebuilt).


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Notables of Port Tobacco

Port Tobacco was the birthplace or home to some notable characters throughout history. Some went on to do great things and others...not so great. I'd like to add another element to this blog that includes some brief biographical sketches.

George A. Atzerodt

Today's blog features one of the more dispicable products from the town: George Atzerodt, Lincoln assassination conspirator. Atzerodt was a Prussian immigrant and with his brother, opened a carriage shop at Port Tobacco. George was known for rowing his Confederate friends across the Potomac when he was approached by John Surratt and taken to the home of John's mother, Mary. It was then alleged he met with the likes of John Wilkes Booth, David Herold and Lewis Paine.

Most of you know how things turned out: Lincoln was assassinated, Booth was killed and Mary Surratt, David Herold, Lewis Paine, and George Atzerodt were hung from the gallows at Old Capitol Prison in Washington DC.

Four Lincoln assassination conspirators preparing for execution at Old Capitol Prison. Atzerodt's face is circled as Mary Surratt has a hood placed over her head.

It is also notable that Atzerodt was referred to by name as "Port Tobacco" and was also a "notable coward". In 1977, his written confession was discovered and it implicated many of the alleged participants and exhonorated others. In his confession, Atzerodt makes a reference to some proprietors of Port Tobacco at the time. "Surratt bought a boat from Dick Smoot & James Brawner living about Port Tobacco, for which they paid $300.00 and was to give one hundred Dolls. extra for taking care of it till wanted." His last words were "May we all meet in the other world. God take me now."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Historic Archaeology Photos, Part 2

I am still learning a lot from the photographs of the 1960s excavations of Port Tobacco. The photo below is one of many showing surface collecting of the field across from the Burch House. This information is important for two reasons. First, many artifacts from the 1960s work are stored in the courthouse but we have yet to decode the numbering system that should tell us which areas of the town each numbered artifact is from. Second, we conducted a shovel test pit survey of this field (the color photo shows the Burch House during the recent restoration) and need to keep in mind the fact that artifacts were removed from it in the past.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Team Returns to Field December 3

We've had so much fun at Port Tobacco that the project team will return to the field on December 3, 2007 (Monday) and continue working in town until that Thursday. Sorry: we couldn't fit in a weekend. We hope to explore the northern part of the town, work underwritten in part by grants from Preservation Maryland and the Southern Maryland Heritage Area Consortium (many thanks to both).

If you would like to join us, please contact me or April.

This will be the end of fieldwork for the calendar year, and possibly for the winter. Over the winter we will begin assembling our archival database, mostly collecting data from the censuses and local newspapers. Several folks have expressed interest in this part of the project and we certainly will avail ourselves of your generosity.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Historic Photos of a Different Kind

For your viewing pleasure, I present you with photographs of the 1960s excavations of the Port Tobacco Courthouse and the St. Charles Hotel. As I was not present, or even alive, when these excavations occurred, my narration will be minimal.

This appears to be the removal of courthouse rubble.

Exposed foundations within the courthouse.

Apparently artifacts of Native American origin were found.

Excavation within the cellar of the St. Charles Hotel. The cellar door of the Chimney House is visible in the background.


Friday, November 16, 2007

The Hotels of Port Tobacco

R.G. Barbour provides descriptions of the two hotels, the Centennial and the St. Charles, that served Port Tobacco in the late 1800s. His descriptions are as follows.

"Opened in 1876. George Hunt, its proprietor, names it in honor of the Centennial Exposition taking place at the same time. It was a comfortable place and a haven for the weary traveler. On "co't" days it accommodated throngs. All of the young bachelors of the village who had no homes dwelt here."

St. Charles
"The St. Charles hotel belonged to the Burch family in its last years. It was torn down in the 90's. It had 25 large bedrooms on the upper floor. The lower floor had a dining room that seated 200 people, a breakfast room, card room, bar room, double parlor, and kitchens. There was also a living room and bedroom for the proprietor. There was another bar room in the basement for the rough customers along with the servants quarters. The trees were very old aspens. This hotel contained the finest ballroom in Southern Maryland and all of the County balls were held here."

These differences in function and clientele should be quite apparent from the archaeological record of each property. The relatively young age of the Centennial (likely open for less than 20 years) and the fact that it was used as a boarding house too may complicate our analyses. While the extravagant artifacts of the St Charles should be easily differentiated from the domestic artifacts of neighboring properties, the more commonplace artifacts I'd expect to find at the Centennial may look a lot like those from the neighboring houses and whatever occupied the property before it.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lab Update

So the past two days were spent at the Maryland Historical Trust lab and much work was accomplished. All the bagging of artifacts has been done and we have moved on to cataloging them.

To date 80% of the artifacts have been catalogued. While lab work is just that, work, it is also an opportunity to learn. Cataloguing requires the ability to differentiate between the different types of artifacts. Nails aren't just nails, there are different types...wire (modern), machine cut, and handwrought as well as others. What's the difference between whiteware, pearlware and creamware? These are some of the things we learn while working with the artifacts.

And of course there is always the artifacts that come up that we aren't sure what they are or how to classify them. The more people working on the catalog, the faster it goes and the better we can be at identifying the artifacts properly.

My plan is to get the catlog finished before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and with the help of our volunteers I am confident that we can get it done.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hey, You Didn't Vote!

Please help us pick the best Port Tobacco archaeology pic!

The entrants are on Sunday's blog which you can get to here. Use the poll in the left hand column to cast your vote.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Happy Birthday Boss!

Just want to add my wishes of Happy Birthday to Dr. Gibb. Jim also gave me my first job in archaeology right out of school, which was just recently. He has been a wonderful boss and teacher in the short time that I have known him and look forward to learning everything he has to teach me. It is a great experience having him as my mentor and boss. Working on the Port Tobacco Archaeological Project has given me the opportunity to work with some great people on a site with great potential and I owe it to Jim.

So I say again, HAPPY BIRTHDAY JIM!!!


The Good Doctor

Today is the birthday of the illustrious Dr. James G. Gibb, founder of the Port Tobacco Archaeological Project and winner of the 2006 William B. Marye Award, which honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to Maryland archeology. Jim has made an outstanding contribution (or two) to all of us who have the pleasure of being involved in the Port Tobacco project. Personally, Jim gave me my first real archaeology job almost exactly 9 years ago. Since then Jim has been a mentor, a friend, and a general pain in my butt. We've worked together on many a project and I fear this trend may continue. I'm doomed. Doomed!

Happy Birthday Jim!


Happy Birthday, Fearless Leader

All great projects like the Port Tobacco project must have an individual that is the driving force. This person is the one who sacrifices their time and personal resources to see a great thing come to fruition. Jim Gibb has gently pushed this effort ahead with no personal gain in mind other than a true interest in the project. In the 5 years Jim and I have been associated, I have seen him do more gratis work than anyone I have ever known. Let's all take a moment to wish Jim a happy five-oh birthday and hope that his back holds out for a least a few more years. Happy Birthday Jim!!


Monday, November 12, 2007

Staffordshire Slipware

(Grigsby, 1993, p.47)

Originally I was going to blog about the piece of North Italian (also known as Pisan) Slipware. However, I need to do some research on it and show the pieces to some colleagues to get some other opinions on the piece. So instead of the Pisan, we are going to learn about Staffordshire Slipware.

The Staffordshire district in England has been making pottery for centuries. In fact there is a written reference to a potter there in 1348 (Grigsby, 1993). Slipware production started to build in the mid-seventeenth century up through the end of the eighteenth century with it starting to disappear in the colonies after the 1770's.

The slipwares from Staffordshire came in different styles which have shown up on American sites of the eighteenth Century. These styles are known as relief-decorated, trailed, combed, and marbled slipware.

The pottery coming out of Staffordshire was usually made with local materials and at first were sold locally until the mid-eighteenth century. They vary in style but the colors are the same throughout. A yellow or brown paste with differing shades of brown slips and glazes.

The decoration varied from potter to potter. The relief decorated styles had press molded designs of roulettes, royal figures, flora and fauna. Many had the date and either the name of the potter or the owner of the piece.

Trailed slipware from the area had patterns of elaborate geometric and floral patterns and were usually unsigned or dated. The process of trailing on slipware is an interesting one. At first glance it looks sloppy until you see the pattern of allowing the slip to trail off from where it was applied to form "peaks and valleys" of the different patterns.

These are just two of the examples of the different types of Staffordshire slipwares that have surfaced on excavations and in museums. I will talk more about the other kinds on another day.

The pictures above show pieces of a staffordshire slipware from Port Tobacco and a dish of the Staffordshire Trailed Slipware from the seventeenth century.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Help Us Pick the Best Port Tobacco Pic

The Society for Historical Archaeology holds a photo festival and competition during each annual meeting. I would like to submit an entry for the category of "Color Archaeological Fieldwork in Progress" from the Port Tobacco Project. Below are the photos I am considering. I would appreciate your help in selecting which one to submit. Use the poll in the left column to cast your vote. Polling closes the morning of the 26th to allow time to prepare the submission.