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!