Friday, December 12, 2008

History Hootenanny at the College of Southern Maryland

It's just 11PM and I'm just back from La Plata. The College of Southern Maryland hosted the unveiling of a new book published by the Smallwood Foundation and attended by US Rep. Steny Hoyer, State Del. Murray Levy, all of the Charles County Commissioners, and a variety of other dignitaries and a large crowd of well-wishers. We were all there to celebrate the publication of Pathway to History, a scholarly work on the history of Charles County.

The project was spearheaded by Mike Sullivan--a native Countian of unbelievable energy and unquenchable love for his community and its history--and drew on the scholarship of Dr. Julie King, Dr. Christine Arnold-Lourie, and Ms Susan Shaffer, and the talents of a number of designers, photographers, editors, organizers.

I only flipped through the book, but it is well-illustrated and well-produced and, if the few snippets I read are any indication, well-researched and well-written. Just goes to show what the community of historians and archaeologists can do with leadership, hard work, and a clearly defined sense of purpose. Such lessons are worth the investment of a Friday night.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Modeling Town Lot Organization

Reconstructing the town requires that we figure out where each lot was located and which families were associated with which lots throughout the town's history. This graphic (see below) should convey some sense of the problem. On the left are 100 squares, each equal to 10,000 ft2, or about one-fifth of an acre. They could be larger, measuring as much as one acre. On the right is a reconstruction of the town boundaries based on the surveyor's metes and bounds, or description.
Now, arrange the numbered blocks in the correct order without knowing where to start or end. If you can imagine that, you have some sense of the problem.

This is not an impossible task. We can place a few lots on the ground today. We then use the land records to figure out which lots border a particular lot. Find enough clusters of lots that can be reliably arranged and relate them to a lot that can be defined on the ground and progress has been made in reconstructing the layout of the town. That done, we can relate archaeological finds to specific households and businesses.

Of course, all of this would be a hell of lot easier if we could find a copy of the 1728 plat!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Puzzle Continues

So the amount of information we have on deeds in Port Tobacco can be staggering to look at as a whole. You wouldn't think for such a small community that it would be that difficult to trace this stuff back to the original town...well I didn't think it would be...but it is.

And I keep getting side tracked by things I find in the deed records, which leads me to find out other information that we were looking into. It's a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Here's a few things I learned while doing deed research that may be of use to us in putting together the story of not only the town itself but its residents.

(1)Remember Joseph Cocking? The man hung on the bridge over the Port Tobacco River. Well, according to several deed references to part of the property of the "New Wade Store", one of the boundary lines runs along "the state road towards the new bridge over Cockings Run"! Could this be the replacement bridge for the one that he was hung on? I'm thinking this might be the bridge on MD Rt 6 going over PT Creek but there's still a lot of piecing together of records to do.

(2)I always love coming across names from our census records in the deed references too. One of those that stood out was Mary A. Scott. I saw it and in parenthesis was (then Shackelford). Both of those names clicked in my head and I went back to look at the census data. Here's what I found...stay with me's a bit tricky:

In 1860 Mary Shackelford is listed as married to John Shackelford, merchant. They have a 1 year old son named James Shackelford. In the same 1860 census, we have a Thomas H. Scott aged 18.
In 1868 (according to deed records), John Shackelford conveys land to Mary Scott (Shackelford). In the 1870 census, the only Shackelford on the census is 11 year old J.W. Shackelford. Mary Shackelford is now Mary Scott, 36, married to Thomas H. Scott, 26, carpenter.
Somewhere between 1860 and 1868, John Shackelford either dies or leaves and Mary Shackelford marries Thomas H. Scott. By 1880, the names Scott and Shackelford are gone from the census records.

While the lineage of the PT residents may not give us a whole lot of information at the moment, it will in the future as we piece this stuff together.

On a personal note, it's very interesting to me when we can make a family connection. I started a family genealogy years ago that my father took over from my meager beginnings and transformed it into a family database that stretches back to England in 1733 and includes Quantocks from around the world.

- Peter

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Survey of 1729

First, a correction: ASM has determined that the dates of the 2009 field session will be May 22 through June 1...mark your calendars.

Comparing Surveys
On 26 September 1729, Robert Hanson submitted his survey of the newly erected Charles Town (aka Port Tobacco) to the County Commissioners. Using his description, I have drawn the survey plat and placed it beside the 1888 plat of county surveyor H. C. Page. As you can see, the two drawings differ to the point where one cannot be aligned on the other with confidence.

Hanson divided the 60-acre town land into 100 lots with streets, reserving one acre for a market square and excluding the previously surveyed courthouse (3 acres) and church (1 acre) lots, which appear to have been circumscribed by the new town boundaries.

The 1729 survey is oddly shaped. I think it reflects, in part, the linear nature of the 18th-century town, with prospective lot owners vying for ready access to the creek for shipping. Locals registered 46 of the 100 lots between 1729 and 1732. Lots 20, 33, and 34 might already have been taken up by Francis Ware and John Speakes as residents of the former Chandlers Town. The smaller (50 acre) town of the late 19th century took the form of the New England village green. The creek, long filled with silt, no longer was the focus of the town...everything appears to have faced in toward the courthouse and church.

Here are the last lines of Hanson's survey. They tell us that there was a plat prepared of the town, presumably with the numbered lots illustrated.

"Containing and now laid out for Sixty acres Exclusive of one Acre for the Church & three acres formerly laid out whereon to build a Court house, and have also laid out one acre of the said Sixty acres for a market place and Divided the Remaining fifty nine acres into one hundred Lots staked out & numbered from one to one hundred, with Convenient Streets & Lanes according to the directions of the saud act which by the Platt hereunto annext may appear" (italics added).

This plat has not emerged and it may not survive.


Monday, December 8, 2008

ASM Field Session

April and I have begun planning the ASM's Tyler Bastian Annual Field Session in Archeology. The dates are May 15 through 25, 2009. Some fieldwork, however, will begin before the field session to prepare target areas. also, we will be organizing two or three workshops that will occur before, as well as during the field session. These will occur on one or more Saturdays. Although aimed at candidates in ASM's Certified Archeological Technician (CAT) program, these workshops are open to all ASM members and to non-members. Seating, however, is limited and preference will be given, in descending order of priority, to CAT candidates, ASM members, and then non-members. We will post workshop dates as soon as they have been selected and venues reserved.

We hope to offer workshops in those areas that will benefit field session participants for the duration of their stay at the field session and that are difficult to conduct efficiently during the field session. At this point, historic pottery, soils description, and aboriginal artifacts are the main contenders for the weeks leading up to field session.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Stagg Hall Invitation

Saturday afternoon I spoke to the Maryland Genealogical Society at their annual luncheon meeting in Catonsville. Before things got rolling, an old friend Betty Linton De Keyser, whose roots in Charles County run deep, gave me a photocopy of an invitation that she owns. I've reproduced it below.

On the back is inscribed the name Mrs. E. Nalley.

I've often wondered why one of Port Tobacco's surviving 18th-century buildings, Stagg Hall, is so named. What was Stag Hall (as spelled on the card)? A fraternal organization like the Masons? Or the Elks, an image of which appears on the card? Did they meet at Stagg Hall, the house now occupied by Mrs. Dorothy Barbour?

Perhaps the answers to some of these questions can be found in period newspapers.