Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bearded Archaeologist Shows Sherds

All right, that isn't the actual headline for Nancy McConaty's latest story in the Independent, but it fits the picture of Pete in front of the Port Tobacco courthouse, sherds in hand. Here's the link, courtesy of Elsie (thank you Elsie):

The story is about the aboriginal peoples of the Chesapeake at the the time English settlers arrived. It is a story about a story...a journalist's summary about what archaeologists know, or think they know, about local Indians and the invading Susquehannocks from the north.

Coincidentally, April is about to embark on a one month post-doctoral study of collections in Pennsylvania that relate to her dissertation work in New York, research that included among its subjects the Susquehannock. How about an occasional blog from Pennsylvania April?

As modern Americans, we tend to think in terms of jurisdictional boundaries, but of course if there were boundaries in the 17th century, they differed from those of today. We can draw a link between research in central New York State with work in Pennsylvania to our ongoing work along the Port Tobacco River. Context, as we say in archaeology, is everything, and the levels of context critical to the interpretation of an artifact or deposit ramify out from the particular unit in which it is exposed, to the site, the county, the region, and often--for the historic period--the emerging global economy.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Fast Line Between Richmond and Washington

We have been talking a lot about the Civil War history of Port Tobacco lately. The town's location, between Richmond and Washington, ensured that it would have a part in that war.

Port Tobacco saw Richmond-Washington traffic long before the Civil War, as this advertisement shows.

From Daily National Intelligencer, Washington, Friday, September 30, 1814
Source: William and Mary Quarterly Vol 14 No. 2, April 1934 p 168-169


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Other Fields of Inquiry, Part 2

Since Jim and Scott weighed in on what else is going on in our lives, I guess this is a good time for an announcement. The Port Tobacco blog will be reducing its frequency from 7 days a week to 4 days a week during the month of May. The reason for this is that I will be away from the project for that time.

I have been awarded a Scholar in Residence Fellowship by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to continue my work on Susquehannock archaeology at the Pennsylvania State Museum. I will be back to Port Tobacco in June and everyone will be sick of me by the end of the ASM Field Session on June 23rd.

We should be back to 7 days a week of blogging in early June and we may be blogging more than once a day during the Field Session. So, enjoy the small respite while it lasts. It will be up to the Men of PTAP (Jim, Peter, and Scott) as to which 4 days they blog each week so I'll let them fill you in on that.

I've got a few more blog posts to do this weekend before I head to Harrisburg so you are not free of me yet.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mulberry Grove

Last week, April and I mapped the Mulberry Grove cemetery just down Chapel Point Rd from Port Tobacco. As you know, Mulberry Grove was the home to our first President John Hanson and some of his family is buried in that cemetery. There are two things I want to point out in terms of the work being done at Mulberry Grove.

First, we are going to take a look at the names of the people buried there and compare it to the census work that Carol has been doing. While these people were buried outside of Port Tobacco proper, were any of these people on the census records of Port Tobacco and thus living in the town itself? Do we need to expand our census probe to include the areas outside of the town? What role did these people play in the development and decline of Port Tobacco? Just a few of the questions we have in mind.

Second thing is the importance of good field work. And this is where I tell all of you that I messed up! That's right, even I make mistakes! While mapping the cemetery (which you can see below), there are things missing. There are duplicate names in the cemetery, which by itself is not surprising. What I didn't do was to write down more than the names of the persons buried to remember which tombstone belonged to whom! There are also a few missing coordinates for some of the tombstones. We have a list of all the people buried there and what the inscriptions say which is very helpful. What needs to be done now is to go back to the cemetery and match up the drawing below with the list we have and the actual tombstones to accurately describe them on our map.

- Peter

PS. We are also having some trouble posting a clear image of the cemetery. We are trying to rectify the problem Thanks for your patience.--Jim

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Rambler

I think it is nice that Jim can share some of the exciting things he and Peter do when they are not involved with Port Tobacco. My real job isn't so exciting. Guess what I did? I continued writing a paper on Reliability and Maintainability (RAM) for Psychological Operations Communications Platforms based out of Fort Bragg. I know. Ya'll are jealous.

I found the following information and thought it interesting. It gives an outsider's view of PT in the early 20th century. Please enjoy.

THE RAMBLER is the name given to a series of articles on Washington, District of Columbia, and its vicinity, written by John Harry Shannon from 1912-1927 and published by the Washington newspaper called THE EVENING STAR. Some of these articles are available on microfilm at the Fairfax County Public Library in Fairfax, Virginia, although they are very difficult to read.

On 26 December 1915 (vol. 1, no. 231), the Rambler wrote about Port Tobacco, an early settlement on the banks of the Potomac River, on the Maryland side. Port Tobacco was mentioned by Captain John Smith in his book about Virginia, A MAP OF VIRGINIA, WITH A DESCRIPTION OF THE COUNTRY....

In its heyday, before settlement spread into the interior, Port Tobacco was the county seat. These are the last 2 paragraphs of this essay:"As you journey over the road and approach Port Tobacco you will notice that the hilltops are crowned with big old houses. There is quite a bit of decay now, but one cannot help getting the impression that this was a region of wealth. About many of these old places is an air of aristocracy. The village itself is nearly a ruin. Two little wings of the old court building are standing. Brawner’s Hotel is no more, but you stand on its debris-strewn site. Old natives will tell of Brawner and a fine horse called Rebel which he owned. A man named Shackleford kept the hotel before Brawner, and it was last run by a man named Birch. That was many years ago. Middleton’s Hotel, which was still operating in 1876 under the name of the Centennial Hotel, is a tenantless shell; where Christ Episcopal Church stood is a tree-grown lot. "All around the town on the ridges above it are the old farms and homes of the Brawners, Neals, Floyds, Jenkins, Hamiltons, Mitchells and Wingates. Some other time the Rambler will write more of the old families of the Port Tobacco region."

"Following is the advertisement of Moore’s Hotel, Leonardtown: ‘$35 per month: children under twelve years of age and nurses half price; steamer Thompson leaves Washington every Wednesday and Saturday and steamer Sue every Sunday. Herbert F. Moore, proprietor.’ Herbert’s brother, Jack, was proprietor of Brawner’s Hotel at Port Tobacco. That was the leading hotel in Port Tobacco at the time of the assassination of Lincoln, when Port Tobacco and its neighborhood were thronged with soldiers and secret service agents, and at that time Booth and Herold were in hiding in a bit of pines on the Cox farm (now Cox’s station on the Popes Creek line). Jones’ home, called Huckleberry, whence Booth and Herold crossed the Potomac to the Quesenberry place at Mathias point, was only a few miles from Port Tobacco."note: John Wilkes Booth was a Confederate sympathizer who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, just after the close of the Civil War. He was shot (or perhaps killed himself) a couple of weeks later, in a barn near Bowling Green, Virginia. Several people found guilty as co-conspirators were hanged.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Audio/Video Possibilities

Gearing up for any field session can be a time consuming task. Since we are in the office today because of the rain (hope none of our local readers got hit by the tornadoes yesterday!), we are putting together a list of all things we need to accomplish before June gets here. And June will be here before we know it!

Besides the usual things we would need and like to have, one of the things we would like to see and use is the use of audio video resources for our project. We always have lots of still photography, but I think it's time we added video to our work. April brought this up a while back but I wanted to talk about it again since we are getting so close to June.

If anyone has any experience in this department and would like to volunteer their time and equipment to videotape work being done on site, we would like to hear from you.

Some of the things I would like to see done are video of all aspects of the work: digging, screening, washing, etc. And also maybe some interviews with staff and volunteers. I think it would be nice to hear from the "mouths of the crew" what they think of the project, archaeology itself, or even just an introduction about themselves.

Contact us via email or through the blog here if you are interested in helping with this venture!

- Peter

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Other Fields of Inquiry

Lest our readers think that the PTAP team spends all of its time on Port Tobacco research, I thought I might share one of several projects that Pete and I are currently working on. (Scott and April have their own lengthy lists.) We have been working with the Northern Chesapeake Archeological Society on a one portion of the Maryland Canal, one of the nation's earliest canals, in operation between 1802 and the 1830s. Here is a view of one of the locks after Dan Coates, Jack Davis, and other members of that merry band finished clearing the brush. Dan provided the images.

We are documenting the canal locks, prism, and associated structures and deposits. I expect we will have something on the GAC website ( and the ASM website ( as soon as project leader Ann Perrson completes some of the analysis and Pete gets the drafting up to date. Stay tuned.
We'll present other tidbits from our non-Port Tobacco professional lives from time to time. I hope you will find them interesting. Tomorrow, back to the business of Port Tobacco.