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.”