Saturday, February 16, 2008

Chapman's Mill

Several weeks ago, after returning from a lecture that I had given on mills in Carroll County, I posted a blog about mills in the Port Tobacco area. Where were they? Did they produce for an exclusively local market or did they send wheat and rye flour, and corn meal out to the larger world? Did they supply local bakeries that made hard tack for ship's galleys?

Yesterday, working with Pete at the Maryland State Archives, I examined several microfilm copies of the Manufacturing Schedules of the US Census for the years 1850, 1860, and 1880. The Archives didn't have one for 1870, or at least I haven't found it yet. The census marshals appear not to have submitted returns for the Port Tobacco/First Election District in 1850 and 1860. In 1880, they listed three millers, one of whom was Andrew G. Chapman.

Chapman operated a gristmill and a sawmill on Kerricks Branch of the Wicomico River. The identical descriptions for the motive power--an overshot wheel 4'9" in breadth, turning at 6RPM and generating 16 horsepower under a 23' fall of water--suggests that the two operations were part of the same complex, a not uncommon arrangement, especially where good mill seats are few.

The grist mill had two run of stones (two pairs of milling stones) and could process as much as 200 bushels of grain per day. Three men and a boy worked the mill up to 12 hours a day from May through November and 8 hours a day from November to May. From June of 1879 through May of 1880, they ground 1200 bushels of wheat worth $1500 and 8,000 bushels of grain (probably maize and rye) valued at $5,500. They produced 240 barrels of wheat flour, 448,000 pounds of corn meal, and 30,800 pounds of livestock feed, earning $7,980. The mill did custom work, 'exclusively'; which is to say they were not shipping products aboard but fulfilled only local demand.

The grist mill remained idle nine months of the year, but the sawmill operated six months out of the year, suggesting that the crews moved back and forth between the two operations. The mill used a circular saw to produce 100,000 board feet, valued at $1,000, over the previous twelve months. The crew harvested much of the timber themselves, which probably kept them employed during some of the winter months.

This is, of course, an account of only one mill in one year. We know nothing about earlier operations in the area...yet.

On a personal note, and on behalf of April and Pete, I wish Scott a speedy recovery from his shoulder operation this past week.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Voting Season

Please exercise your right to vote in the Port Tobacco logo contest!
The poll is in the left hand column of the blog site. You can review the entries by clicking the link just above the poll.
We would really like to have at least 100 votes by the end of the month.
Everyone has an opinion.
What is yours?


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Documents in an Illiterate Land

Historical archaeologists blend data from documents, buildings, sediments, and artifacts to achieve a unique perspective on the past. And, because we do not rely solely on written materials, we have the ability to examine the lives of the many peoples that comprise a community, and not just the community's literate leaders.

In Southern Maryland, the majority of people in the 17th through 19th centuries--not just enslaved peoples, but the European American farmers, watermen, and tradesmen--were not literate. In a society in which property was so important, and in which rights to property were consigned to ink and paper, this could have been a problem for many residents. The document reproduced here is an example of a transfer of property rights by William Boswell to Michael Boswell. William closed the deal with his mark: M, or, perhaps, an inverted W for William? Clearly, he could neither read nor write. Because we haven't uncovered any legal dispute over the land warrant, and given the likelihood that William Boswell willingly conveyed rights to a son or brother, William probably was fully cognizant of what the document said, possibly with the reassurances of the man who served as testator, or witness, John Speake.

William Boswell had a warrant from the Lord Proprietary to have surveyed and laid out for him 92 acres. He conveyed that right to Michael. The transcription appears below, although you might want to click on the image to enlarge it and try reading it yourself. The 92 acres became a part of Boswell's Adventure near the head of Port Tobacco Branch and the land of William Boswell in Zachiah Manor.


Charles County

I do assign and set over unto Michael Boswell of

Charles County ninety two acres of Land Warrant Granted to me out

of his Lordships Land office the ffifth day of August 1725 to

have and to hold the ninety two acres of Warrant from

me and my heirs unto him the said Michael Boswell his

heirs and assigns forever--Witness my hand & seal this 21

this day of August 1725


William M Boswell


Test: John Speake

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

First Meeting Foiled ##$%^&

Yes, the first meeting of the Charles County Archaeological Society was canceled last night due to inclement weather. I left my house in Annapolis at 5PM and returned at 8PM, never having gone more than five miles from home. Traffic was gridlocked because of numerous accidents and temporary closure of US 50. Bridges and overpasses iced over during mid-afternoon sleeting. Apparently road surfaces should be treated under those conditions to avoid death, injury, and damage. Who knew?

Anyway, we will schedule the next first meeting for the second Tuesday in March at which Scott Lawrence, having recovered from shoulder surgery by then, will offer an illustrated talk on the search for and restoration of cemeteries. The topic has a direct bearing on the research at Port Tobacco where we hope to locate and restore the community's cemeteries.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Thomas Howe Ridgate

It seems that Port Tobacco certainly had its ups and downs through time. The economy prior to and following the American Revolution saw many prosperous merchants lose everything as a result of the War. Thomas Howe Ridgate was one such merchant. Ridgate lived at what we now call the Chimney House, one of only three surviving 18th century buildings left at Port Tobacco.

We have learned that there was a big push to move Port Tobacco to LaPlata in the late 19th century. There was also talk of moving the County Seat to Chapel Point at one time. Ridgate and others like Thomas Stone started a petition in 1783 to keep the Seat where it was and were successful...this time.

Ridgate was a partner in the firm Barnes and Ridgate whose function was the tobacco trade. Before the Revolution, the colonies traded almost exclusively with Great Britain and since the colonies revolted, the British developed a bit of an attitude toward fair trade with their insolent children. Ridgate (and others) developed heavy debts to sustain their lifestyle in the hopes that the war's end would bring them prosperity again. It was not to be. When Ridgate died in 1789, his estate was inventoried and included many personal belongings, some slave holdings, and property. His poor widow was entitled to little of it and was only able to retain her "dower amount", equivelent to 1/8th of the estate value.

The burial marker of Thomas Howe Ridgate at Betty's Delight in Port Tobacco.

The Chimney House spent much of the 19th century in need of repair and by the 20th century it was nearly lost. Fortuntely, it was saved and is an historic jewel today.

The Chimney House restored

The Chimney House in the 1970's. (Note in the foreground the foundation of the Brawner Hotel.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Upcoming Events

So we haven't been in the field for awhile so there is no news to report on field or lab work. April has posted the new poll for the logo contest (which has already gotten a great number of votes!). Jim has posted about the meeting of the Charles County chapter of ASM. So...what to blog about? Upcoming events sounds good to me.

For those of you who don't know, April is Archaeology Month in Maryland. Along with statewide events and lectures, there is also the annual symposium held at the Maryland Historical Trust and in March the annual workshop in archaeology. While the event names and dates for Archaeology Month have not been announced, the spring workshop has. It takes place on Saturday March 8, 2008 at the Maryland Historical Trust. Among other topics, Jim will be hosting a talk on mapping a Colonial town site in which he will discuss our ongoing efforts to map the town and outlying areas of Port Tobacco. I am looking forward to not only his talk but the entire day since this will be my first time attending the workshop. More information can be found at the ASM website:

The spring symposium will be all about town founding and will be held on April 12th, 2008 at the 1st Presbyterian Church on Duke of Gloucester Street in Annapolis, MD, from 9am-3pm.

News of upcoming events for Maryland Archaeology Month including will be posted here as well.

So stay tuned!


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Logo Contest Is On

Please take a moment to vote for the logo design you think we should adopt. These logos were submitted by our blog readers and each emphasizes a different aspect of out project. For descriptions of the logos provided by the designers, click on the logo tag at the bottom of this post.

Logo 1

Logo 2

Logo 3

Logo 4

Thanks to all our logo designers!

The poll will remain open (and in the left hand column of the blog) until Feb 29th.