Saturday, October 13, 2007

Port Tobacco in 1878

The text of the 1878 Maryland Directory is available on-line at the New River Notes website.

Below is what the directory has to say about Port Tobacco. Notice that other than the postmistress, the only women identified are in the millinery and notions business.

Port Tobacco
The county seat, is 2 miles from a station of that name on the Pope's Creek branch of the B. & P. R R., and 4 miles from Chappell's Point on the Potomac River. The situation is near the head of Port Tobacco Creek, a small stream that makes up from the river. Port Tobacco contains the usual number of county buildings. A canal has been dug to drain the marshy ground in the vicinity, and if kept properly cleaned would add much to the health of the town. Climate is mild, and the crops are generally good. Land In fertile, mostly cleared, and is capable of improvement; can be bought at from $5 to $50 per acre, according to location and improvements. Produces 12 bus. wheat, 15 oats, 150 potatoes, 30 to 40 corn, 800 to 1,200 lbs. tobacco, and 1 ton hay. The churches and schools are ample for the accommodation of the inhabitants. Crescentia Grange 57, P. of H., M. Chapman, Master; Wm. Boswell, Secretary. Population 200. Miss , Postmistress.

Attorneys at Law.
Chapman, A G.
Edelen, H H
Hawkins, Josiah
Btone & Mitchell
Stonestreet & Digges

Wade,C. E.

Cobey, A. D.

General Merchandise
Boswell, Wm. & Co.
Lacey, Joseph I.
Padgett, W. W.
Roberts, J. H. & Co.

Centennial, Geo. A Huntt
St Charles, T J Moore

Ammon, Col J S
Ketchicy, William

Millinery and Notions.
Quenzel, Mrs Adelaide
Smoot, Mrs J V

Milton, Chas H

Stoves and Tinware.
Wheeler, B L

Murdock, R L & Son

Watches and Jewelry.
Quenzel, Julius


Friday, October 12, 2007

The History of Archaeology at Port Tobacco, Part 2

In 1971, infrared aerial photographs of Port Tobacco were taken by Air Photographics, Inc.. These photographs were analyzed by J. Glenn Little of Contract Archaeology, Inc. with the goal of identifying subsurface features that might correspond to archaeological sites.

A total of 84 subsurface features were identified and are briefly described in Little's report. Unfortunately the report does not include copies of these images or a map to correlate the described feature to a particular place within the town. Until these are located, Little's report is only valuable in that it attests to the number and variety of features awaiting to be tested with archaeological methods.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

The History of Archaeology at Port Tobacco

The Port Tobacco Archaeological Project is not the first to conduct excavations within the town. The Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco sponsored excavations at the courthouse from January 1967 to May 1968. At this time only the south wing of the courthouse was standing, the main section had been demolished after the fire of 1892. The goals of the excavation were to obtain sample hardware and locate original wall foundations prior to reconstruction of the courthouse.

Only 60% of the area within the foundation was excavated, partly due to limited time and finances. The other reason for the cessation of excavation was that the remains of an earlier structure had been encountered.

The courthouse that burned in 1892 was constructed in 1819. What archaeologists uncovered inside the foundation appeared to date from sometime between 1680 and 1770. Rose-headed nails, clay pipes, and brickwork of a different type and style were found. The older brickwork also passed underneath the west wall of the 1819 foundation, further supporting the interpretation that it was from an earlier structure.

Those involved in the 1967-68 excavations included John and Roberta Wearmouth, Sarah L. Matthay, Phil Stringer, Vivian Malczyk, Jim Gainer, Raymond Coffman, The Steffens family, and Stephen Israel. The artifacts from these excavations are stored in the reconstructed courthouse. We plan on cataloging this material in the near future to include it in our analysis.

Additional excavations and an aerial survey were conducted in the 1970s. These will be the subject of another blog entry.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Artifact of the Day

Before I left for this most recent trip to Binghamton, Jim and I discussed the plan for fieldwork on Saturday, October 6th. I suggested that the team begin testing a new area of the site but at 50-foot instead of 25-foot intervals for now. Based on the maps of the late 1800s, this is an area of the town that appears to have had little historic development so we were not sure how productive it would be.

On Sunday I received an e-mail update from Jim. Not only did they identify two historic features but they also recovered a fair amount of prehistoric material in the form of Potomac Creek pottery and flaked stone.

Scott has been cleaning the artifacts from Saturday's fieldwork and sent out a picture of one he found particularly interesting. I've attached the pic to this post but left out the identification so our readers can decide for themselves what it may be.

I think we may have identified the second area we will explore during the volunteer weekend of Oct 19-21!


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Looking Back...and Forth

The blog is one month old today! Happy Birthday Blog!

For those of you who haven't been with us from the beginning, it seems like time for a recap. For those who are faithful readers, I'll provide a peak into the future of the project.

The Port Tobacco Archaeological Project is a grant-funded public archaeology project to study the history of the Colonial port town of Port Tobacco. We are particularly interested in learning how the town adapted to the southward migration of its port, as sediment began to fill in the Port Tobacco River. In August of this year we began a shovel test pit survey of the town, digging holes of 16 inches in diameter down at 25 foot intervals to recover artifacts and look at soil development. With the first holes dug it became obvious that large areas of the town had their own sediment problems. The cellar of the Burch House may have been filled in by sediment from a catastrophic event, such as a flood or mudslide. Other areas of the town contain large amounts of gravelly sand, either brought in to deal with muddy yards or the result of another landslide.

The relative lack of 20th century construction within the town has preserved the remains of many buildings that are depicted on a series of maps from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Also preserved are building remains that are not depicted on these maps, possibly from earlier occupations, and artifacts from Native American occupants, likely predating the arrival of Colonists.

A small army of volunteers assists the project staff in fieldwork, labwork, and archival research. These people are an integral part of the project and their efforts are greatly appreciated.

This coming Saturday is the annual meeting of the Archeology Society of Maryland. This is an opportunity for us to spread the word about our project and hopefully recruit some more volunteers.

The following weekend (Oct 19-21) is our Archeology Society of Maryland Volunteer Weekend. We will be hosting a herd of volunteers for three days of fieldwork, labwork, lectures, and workshops. Although we encourage you to join ASM before attending the volunteer weekend, membership is not required.

As word spreads about our project, various individuals and agencies that have a lot to offer in the form of information, partnerships, and other support are contacting us. Some local landowners outside of the town limits have invited us to their properties, to evaluate the potential to expand our study to the immediate vicinity.

Jim and I are busy writing grant applications, each to study a specific aspect of the Port Tobacco. Most of these applications would not provide funds until well into 2008 but we are optimistic that we will be able to continue with various aspects of the project throughout the winter months.


Monday, October 8, 2007

White Salt Glazed Stoneware

The earliest example of a white salt glazed stoneware comes from a two handled cup with the date 1720 incised on it. This started a new trend in stonewares coming out of England in the early 18th Century. Twenty years later, white salt glaze was the typical English tableware, damaging the business of delftware potters. These stonewares were being made for many different uses including plates, mugs, cups, chamber pots and wash basins.

The use of block molds gave potters the ability to decorate these wares with more elaborate decorations. The most popular designs were those of the “basket” or “barley” patterns. New floral reliefs were showing up in the mid 18th Century as well as the “scratch blue” designs. These were decorations with incising filled with cobalt before firing to reveal patterns of thin blue lines.

Salt-glazed wares are very popular on early Colonial sites. Several of the STP’s at Port Tobacco have yielded all three of the types mentioned here. Below is a chart showing salt glazed stoneware plates with a variety of rim decorations. Enjoy and of course there is more to come next week about the ceramics of Port Tobacco!


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Port Tobacco Lightning Rod

While excavating shovel test #216, Scott recovered a glass insulator. This is a part of the site in which late 19th-century maps revealed no buildings. The insulator, along with architectural and domestic debris from surrounding units clearly indicate that a building site is present in this location. The thing that made the insulator particularly interesting is the embossed text on its side: "PATENTED" and "AUGUST 26, 1851."

A check of US Patent Office records revealed that George W. Otis of Lynn, Massachusetts, had patented (Letters Patent No. 8,316) an improvement in insulators for lightning rods. The drawings Otis submitted describe how a glass and wood fixture might be attached to the wall of a building to support a lightning rod, while keeping it a safe distance from the structure.

In truth, the object Scott recovered from the unit bears little resemblance to Otis' drawings; but he patented a specific idea about anchoring lightning rods, the manufacturers developed their own specifics about how to construct and assemble the device. As manufactured, the insulator is a truncated cone, about 2 inches high, 1.3 inches in diameter at the top, 1.8 inches at the base. It is pressed glass (likely manufactured by the Sandwich Glass Company of Massachusetts, an early leader in pressed glass manufacturing), colorless with numerous bubbles in the metal. There is a deep, broad V in the top of the piece and a small hemispherical depression in the base.

We do not know when or why the item was acquired by the building's occupants. The patent date provides only a date after which the insulator was manufactured, not when it was made and bought. Were there catastrophic fires ignited by lightning strikes elsewhere in the community, or was this merely a prudent installation replicated on scores of buildings in the area? Further testing in town might provide answers. No doubt the Port Tobacco team will have frequent recourse to the US Patent Office records as we unearth additional objects bearing patent dates or numbers.


P.S. For more on the history of insulators, click here.