Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hypothetical Lot Organization

This is not a map of Port Tobacco in 1728, although it is our best guess as to how the town was lotted. The numbered lots measured something more than one-quarter of an acre and probably straddled a 30 ft alley or street.

This view is based on the reconstruction of a parcel that combined Lots 3, 5, and 6, mention Lot 2, and the reconstruction of Lot 4.

Pete and I have been printing copies of deeds that date from 1724 through the 20th century. The pile is becoming very thick and Pete is organizing them as best he can. The volume of land conveyances is such that we are going to have to develop a more robust database structure to handle all of the data and to allow us to easily analyze that material and make sense of it.


Friday, December 19, 2008

"Lots 1" as Jim calls it

So Jim promised you guys that I would post something with a map of our reconstruction findings and how they all relate to one another. Well here it is...sort of.

While we have about a dozen lots mapped in AutoCAD, only one can be correctly (we think) placed in line with the 1729 courthouse lot. Now there are some complications with some of the metes and bounds. Exact measurements are not always given. Sometimes we have to go and find lot X to be able to create lot Y. A deed might say that Lot X is bounded on the North by lot Z and on the west by lot F (letters being someones name).

Now the 1729 plat of the courthouse is 3 acres of land. That's alot of land for just the courthouse and jail. It's going to be awhile before we get a real clear picture of the layout. Of course, Jim asks me every hour or so if I'm done with it. Sadly, I am not.

What you see below is the courthouse lot and lot 37 attached to it. Lot 37 was owned by John B. Mills Jr. in 1806 (I haven't finished tracing the lot, there is confusion in when and to whom it was bought and sold previously to 1806). In the descriptions of the metes and bounds it states that the 5th line stops "at a stone marked No. 6 at the SE corner of the Courthouse Square." It also states that there was a granary to the east of the lot and that the 4th line ends at "the SE corner of a granary". While frustrating, these clues will help put all these lots in line with each other.

Question the courthouse square the courthouse lot or the village green or the town square, all of which are mentioned in different deeds. Are they all the same area or is the Courthouse Lot to the west of the village green as it is today? Either Lot 37 fronts the Courthouse itself or the opposite side of the village green away from the Courthouse.
We'll figure it out one of these the title of the blog says and Jim says, this is attempt # 1 of our lot reconstruction.

- Peter

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lots of Lots

Pete has been out of the office all day on another task. While he was away, I did a little of my own town lot research. Using a tip from Elsie, I found a resident who owned parts of four town lots, some with surveyors' descriptions that include the lot lines of the courthouse square. Not the Rosetta Stone...probably more like a Rosetta pebble...but a significant find in our efforts to reconstruct the placement of numbered lots in Port Tobacco. I'll let Pete do the honors tomorrow in drafting and arranging the new lots.

One of the exciting things about this new find is that Charles Wheeler occupied a lot owned by Frederick Stone which adjoined one of the new-found lots. We do not know if Wheeler's widow continued to live there after his death, first with her new husband Henry O. Rose, then with George Atzerodt, but it is the best lead that we've had in awhile. And, by the way, thanks to Elsie's sleuthing it appears that Mrs. Wheeler's first name and middle initial were always Elizabeth B.--'Rose' was the family name of her second husband. Tune in tomorrow.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008


While preparing a few extra slides for this evening's presentation at Port Tobacco, I grabbed a handful of Buckley Ware sherds that we had collected from the South Field in May 2008. Pete had written a little about this ware in a previous blog, but I thought it might be nice to show some representative sherds.

Buckley Pottery from Port Tobacco.
Buckley pottery, made in Wales and northwestern England, and widely used in the Chesapeake region during the 18th century, is easily recognized by its generally thick body of swirled red and yellow clays, covered with thick black glaze. Rims are generally heavy and pronounced. They should not be confused with another Buckley...

Buckley the Dog from Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Buckley is a new member of the household joining fellow canids Amis and Ellie.

Whimsy aside, the distribution of Buckley ware along Port Tobacco Creek should provide clear evidence of the pre-Revolutionary War layout of the town. Accurate and precise mapping, as always, are critical to the interpretation of such evidence.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wednesday Evening Lecture

Lately, Pete has been yammering on about reconstructing the layout of numbered lots in Port Tobacco. This isn't just an obsession: his research is integral to our understanding of the town and its development. It is also critical for identifying the locations of specific households and businesses that the team is interested in studying. For the purposes of the Preserve America grant, we are particularly interested in locating the houselot of Rose Wheeler and George Atzerodt's carriage shop, both of which might have been in town.

We are a long way, yet, from convincingly assembling the town lots. But there is much else to report. Tomorrow night (Wednesday, December 17, 7:30) at the Port Tobacco Courthouse I will give an illustrated talk on what the PTAP team found and learned this year. I'll also talk about some preliminary plans for developing an interpretive trail from Thomas Stone National Historic Site to the north of town, through Port Tobacco and southward to Chapel Point State Park. This trail would thematically link the various sites that we have found, both to one another and to sites elsewhere in the Port Tobacco valley and in the Chesapeake region.

Come join us tomorrow night...hour, hour and a half tops with questions and answers.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Lot Reconstruction Update

I thought I'd share with you a bit more on reconstructing the lots. Below is a reconstructed lot map of the Burch House property that Jim did a while back. If you look at the image, you can see points where the lines join other properties. While they don't seem like a marker of much, the N-S street and boundary stone markers show up in many of the deed references. With time and a lot of luck, we will have the town reconstructed. It's slow going but productive.

Side note: We have references to the 1729 plat on at least 6 of the deed references we have going back to the late 18th Century with lot numbers (remember there were 100 lots in the town) mentioned. Whether or not they are the same lot numbers as the original 100 is still to be seen.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Preserve America

In May of this year, we received notification of award, Preserve America granting Charles County $60,000 to research and interpret Port Tobacco's Civil War era, focusing on the Lincoln conspiracy. I have now received the official notice to proceed from the county. We have already begun the archival research component and, after consultation with the Maryland Historical Trust, we will begin fieldwork after the first of the new year.

As always, we welcome participation. Refer to this blog for updates on what and when, and write or call me with specific questions. We will need help with all aspects of the work: archival, fieldwork, laboratory work, and all of the myriad activities that each aspect entails.