Saturday, October 27, 2007

Before and After, Part 2

Two of the three remaining 18th century houses at Port Tobacco (Chimney House on the left and Stagg Hall on the right) are the subject of today's before and after photographs. It is difficult to take photos of these two houses now because of the dense vegetation in the front yards.

There are a few differences in the architecture of both houses. At the time of the black and white photo, Chimney House had two front doors and was presumably a duplex, and Stagg Hall has a front porch. The older photo also shows that the well (the caged area in front of Chimney House) was in a slightly different location than it is now. Although barely visible in the color photo above, the outbuilding adjacent to Stagg Hall is also still standing, as are several others.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Before and After

I have been checking the results of the current poll and it looks like visitors want to see more historic photographs of Port Tobacco. Today I present you with a "before" and "after" view. In both photos you can see the south wing of the courthouse on the extreme right. In the before photo you can see the Wade House, Centennial Hotel, and the Episcopal Church.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Look What We Have Done!

I knew we accomplished a lot of fieldwork this past weekend. I saw the "bushels" of artifacts and counted the number of shovel test pits. It seemed impressive but the shear volume of work done did not hit me until I saw Peter's updated site map (above). Compare this new site map with the map from just over a month ago.

About one third of downtown Port Tobacco has now been sampled at a 25-ft interval. We have gathered a wealth of data and the work to compile it all has just begun. Fieldwork is on hold while we focus on cleaning and cataloging the artifacts, processing the soil data, and gathering additional archival material. We will soon announce the details of how volunteers can help with these efforts.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A New Discovery at Port Tobacco

(scale in inches: 0.9 x o.6 x 0.4)
This past weekend we uncovered something new to our site at Port English Gunflint! While gunflints are common on archaeological sites dating to the 18th Century, this is a first for us.

Gunflints themselves can not be dated accurately but we can make a few deductions from the size, shape and color of the gunflint to identify where it is from and an estimated time of use. Gunflints come from beds of chalk, the English ones coming from the Suffok area where the industry started in the 17th Century and is still in use today (Noel Hume 1969).

The gunflints are made by striking the flint itself on several sides to get the desired slopes. There are various sizes and ways of doing this. Some are struck directly from the piece of flint as was done in the 17th Century and others during mass production in the 18th Century were struck from prepared blades of flint to get more uniformity and quantity of gunflints. Before the 17th Century gunflints were struck from chert, a similar stone to the flint but not derived from chalk (Noel Hume 1969).

These early types of "flint" are known as gunspalls and were imported into the Colonies and also locally produced (Miller and Keeler 1986). The piece found at Port Tobacco was a gunflint and not a gunspall. This can be seen in that it was not poorly struck and most likely was a manufactured piece from England. The shape and color--a black gray--and tiny fossilized sponge spicules and radiolaria (invertabrates) indicates to us that it is, in fact, English made.

Since Port Tobacco did have it's own militia and was involved in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, it is not surprising to find gunflint but it sure is exciting! Since I have no experience with gunflints I had some reading to do last night and this morning on the subject and thanks to Jim, I had all the material I needed at my disposal.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Work Continues At The Office

After a very successful volunteer weekend at Port Tobacco, it is time to clean, catalog, analyze artifacts and update our map on AutoCAD. Today I have been spending the day updating our map and entering our STP information into our database. This information is very important to our research and also helps us keep up to date on where we have excavated and what areas need to be focused on the next time we are out in the field.

I was excited to find out that a gunflint was found during this past weekend's excavations. Since I do not know much about them, I will be doing my own research tonight so stay tuned for an update on gunflints later this week!

April and Jim are working hard on getting grant applications ready to be sent out so we can get back into the field soon. Not only do they work hard in the field but they work hard during office days and well into the nights on the Port Tobacco Archaeological Project.

Tomorrow will be spent much like today as well as heading to the Maryland Historical Trust to drop off equipment and our artifacts for cleaning and identification.

- Peter

Monday, October 22, 2007

New Discoveries Made with New Friends and Old

I'm co-opting Peter's space today...he can write about artifacts tomorrow.

This weekend's effort was a roaring success: we found several buildings, including a probable earthfast house--built on posts rather than a brick or stone foundation--dating to the 18th century and well outside of the town core. We collected about three bushels of artifacts, each and every bag of which corresponds to a specific shovel test pit that was mapped by Tom Forhan and Scott Lawrence and their CAT trainees. We hope to set up a volunteer lab at the Maryland Historical Trust (Crownsville) as early as this week.

On behalf of April, Pete, Scott, and myself, I want to extend thanks to:
Sheila Geisert for arranging overnight accommodations and the marking of underground utilities;
Sheila Smith for providing 40 people with lunch on Saturday and her many other kindnesses;
Dr. Charlie Hall of the Maryland Historical Trust for his inestimable help and good humor;
My wife, Bonnie Persinger, for shelving her own work for a day to help work with our volunteers, many of whom were first-timers;
And, of course, the great people who joined us those last three days and helped us achieve far more than we had hoped to achieve.

I hope that we will return to the field soon and that all of you will join us again. In the meantime, we have a lot of washing, cataloguing, data entry, analysis, and reporting to complete. Without completing these critical tasks, we cannot intelligently move ahead with the investigation.


Sunday, October 21, 2007


Testing of the field where two probable earthfast buildings were located.

The artifact density was not as high in this field but the artifacts date to earlier time periods than elsewhere on the site.

The last day of the volunteer weekend was much like the first. A volunteer crew of 16 assisted the project staff in excavating approximately 25 shovel test pits. We also put our crack team of Peter, Carol, and Lucy on the excavation unit that we began on Saturday. The unit explored a brick and mortar foundation area in front of the courthouse, an area that is depicted as open space on all the late 1800s town maps. Unfortunately the limited artifacts from the unit make it impossible to assign a date to this building at this time.

Thank you to the 50 volunteers who donated their time this weekend. Special thanks to Shelia, who provided lunch for everyone on Saturday, and Carol, who was my right-hand assistant every day.

Check back all this week for photos and stories from the weekend.