Saturday, November 15, 2008


Walter Ashby Plecker is one of the subjects of the last lecture of this semester's class on Chesapeake Indians at Stevenson University. This seemingly mild-mannered small town physician directed Virginia's Bureau of Vital Statistics from 1912 until 1945, just two years before his death.

Walter A. Plecker at the Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics

The class has read a little about him (or at least they are supposed to have) in a book by Helen Rountree and E. Randolph Turner on Virginia Indians. This man of science promoted institutional racism, supporting and enforcing Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924...a law that categorized the state's citizens as white or black and that prohibited interracial marriage. Few people have so energetically applied science...warped science...then or since. But he wasn't alone. He was merely a local manifestation of the international eugenics movement, racial supremicism masquerading as a science to improve the human condition and that was promoted by many prominent individuals and charitable organizations until Nazi rhetoric brought it into disfavor in the 1930s.

While the movement is largely dead, its effects ramify into the present. The practices instituted by Plecker and by many states played a significant role in the destruction of Native American culture and history. Those practices still pose a significant hurdle in attempts by Maryland and Virginia Indians to achieve state and federal recognition.

It is my hope that the PTAP team will work with the Indian peoples of Southern Maryland to help restore some of this lost past using the seemingly rich resources identified by our surveys and initial testing.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Jamestown Conference

Next Thursday, November 20th, Jim and I will be down in Williamsburg VA for the 2008 Jamestown Conference. The conference is small and fairly informal. The presentations will be about ongoing projects in the Chesapeake region, mostly in Virginia. Jim will be giving a presentation on the ongoing work at Port Tobacco.

More information can be found here, including a schedule. Hope to see a few of you there.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It's Time to Celebrate!

Many moons ago, I won't say how many, a boy was born. He was destined for greatness. People rejoiced in all the lands. Monuments were erected in his honor. Future children would be named after him. Books would be written about him. People stop and listen when he speaks. Who is this man and what's so special about today?

It's our very own Dr. James Gibb and its his birthday!! So wish him a Happy Birthday and stroke his ego as I have and all will be right with the world!

Happy Birthday Jim!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Restoring Memories

Yes, Scott and I did spend Veterans' Day at the St. Nicholas cemetery at Patuxent River Naval Air Station. I arrived on site a little before 9:30 AM. Scott, having arrived earlier, probed three areas for buried markers. We recovered seven, as well as several foot stones, and two of the markers were granite pedestals supporting cast steel crosses about 3.5 ft high, with names and dates (mid-19th century) in low relief.

At day's end, I looked around and marvelled at what we have accomplished. When we first started five or six years ago, St. Nicholas cemetery was a well-manicured lawn traversed by a pleasant, if deteriorated asphalt path. It was park-like and there was nothing to suggest that it had ever been a place of interment. At this point we have raised 90 markers, more than one-third of the stone markers (not including foot stones) known to have existed. Scott has repaired many of the marble markers. The place looks like a cemetery.

I'm not especially fond of cemeteries. It's not that I find them eerie or in any way disturbing. I just do not find them that interesting. Yet...these are the places at which we remember those who came before, those who built that which we now build upon. After we moved one of the markers into place...a marker that has been buried for 65 years...I said, "Welcome back, Ann." She is still dead...Scott and I don't work those kinds of miracles...but her marker now looks again across a little bit of Southern Maryland. Once again she is remembered, and that, to a great extant, is what history is about.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Just a few updates...

Jim and Scott are working out at the St. Nicholas cemetery again today. April is in the middle of the school semester out in Ohio. Dio is studying hard at the University of Virginia.

As April and Jim have mentioned, we are looking at the beginning of March to get back out to PT for a few days. I'm not sure if we will get out there sooner than that. Although it doesn't seem like it, November is upon us and the cold weather will be here soon.

I am working on title searches for the 1729 lots in Port Tobacco and a couple other projects at the same time. Searching the online land records is sometimes very easy, sometimes not.

In honor of Veteran's Day I leave you with this list from the Wearmouth's book on Port Tobacco:

Confederate Veterans from Port Tobacco Area*

Richard T. Boarman, Nicholas J. Miles, Capt. Robert Semmes Floyd(KIA), John J. Brawner, John Fergusson, William Penn Compton, Hugh Mitchell, Joseph H. Stonestreet, Sherrod C. Hannon, William Fendley Dement, John G. N. Harris, Basil Spalding, Joseph Harris, Col. Frank Neale, Thomas W. Latimer, William Roby(KIA), Capt. Michael Stone Robertson(KIA), Richard T. Boswell. KIA = killed in action.
*Christopher J. Iekel, compiler, unpublished manuscript, 2005.

A big salute from myself and the rest of the PTAP team to all the soldiers, past and present, who serve our country.

- Peter

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lot Reconstruction

Jim mentioned back in September that he has put together a Lot database from the 1729 time frame but couldn't put it up here due to some technical difficulties. I thought since I am working on trying to reestablish these lots for us that I would share what he found. Unfortunately I am having the same technical difficulties. So, instead I thought I'd share a few things about the list.

There are several names on the list that appear later in our research as well: Hanson (the surveyor), Coombs (same name as a store owner in the 19th Century), Neale (very prominent family in the 17th and 18th Century in Charles County). There are others and reconstructing the lots is not an easy task.

One thing Jim didn't mention is that when the lots were bought, the owner had one year to build on it or they had to reenter their lot with the county so they didn't lose the land. The law was set up so that the town would start to grow and not just be stagnant from landowners buying the land and not building on it.

As soon as we've made some progress on the reconstruction of the town lots, we'll post it for all to see.

- Peter

Sunday, November 9, 2008

St. Nicholas Cemetery Restoration

As Jim mentioned yesterday, we returned to St. Nicholas Cemetery at NAS PAX River. Let me provide a brief history of the project and how this relates to Port Tobacco.

The area known as Cedar Point in St. Mary's County was occupied by the English colonists from the early 17th century. Many manors and plantations grew over the years in the vacinity until 1942 when the Navy acquired the land for an aircraft test center. For reasons unknown, one of the acts of the Command was to bury the extant cemetery at St. Nicholas and to demolish the 1795 church. In 2002, I sought permission from the Navy to ressurect the cemetery and enlisted the help of Jim to complete the task.

To date, 83 stones have been repaired and or re-erected at the site. My records show at least another 140 stones to be recovered. Most of the almost 700 known burials are unmarked. We carefully and fully document all excavation procedures and, when the project is complete, will submit a full report to the Navy and the Maryland Historical Trust.

The techniques I have learned over the years can be directly applied to cemetery restoration and stone repairs at Port Tobacco, should any stones be recovered. Our techniques are proven and documented and we hope to find the funding for the recovery of the lost cemeteries known to exist at Port Tobacco. Think of the thrill of the rediscovery of this important resource!

Our day in the field was very productive. We recovered 10 stones including the obelisk shown below. While three of the stones we found were intact and immediately re-erected, the remaining need repair. Grave Concerns is going to make the repairs soon and they will be permanently replaced on site.

Consider your tax deductible donation to the PTAP project as well at the St. Nicholas Project. Funding and the dedication of professionals is what makes our past become the history of today.