Saturday, September 6, 2008

ASM Board Meeting

I'm in Columbia, Maryland, attending the quarterly meeting of the board of the Archeological Society of Maryland. We are having fruitful discussions about various issues confronting the Society and Maryland archaeology. One of the issues that we have discussed is the Tyler Bastian Annual Field Session in Archeology.

Port Tobacco hosted the second field session of 2008 (unprecedented, it is usually just one) this past June. the benefits of that effort are too numerous to recount right now. suffice it to say that it was incredibly successful from research and public relations perspectives. We have invited the ASM to return in May 2009.

The field session committee will make a decision by the end of the year.

We have also proposed to the administration of Stevenson University (was Villa Julie College in northern Baltimore) that we hold a formal field school for university credit. They should decide soon. In short, the prospects for a busy 2009 at Port Tobacco are building. Stay tuned.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Map Update

Earlier this week, Jim showed you an updated map of our site work. One of the problems with the picture, obviously, is that you can't click on it to blow it up for a better look. That problem has been solved thanks to the wondrous Dr. Beisaw! It seems it was a simple matter of using a different web browser to upload the pictures from other than internet explorer. Ah, the wonders of computer technology (which Jim and I have yet to master). An updated map will be coming soon with a "clickable" image.

Since you can't see the image clearly, I'll tell you that most of the units do not line up correctly. Some of our measurements were either incorrectly written down or not entered correctly in AutoCAD. Easy enough to fix and I am working on that now.

Also, I have finished digitizing two thirds of the profile drawings from the field session. After I get them all on the computer, I will make standardizing them the next priority. That includes making all the font the same, color and hatching, style, and information. Next will be matching the walls together to get longer profiles of the adjoining units.

These maps along with the analysis of the catalog will go a long way in helping Jim to write up the report for the field session.

That's all for now, hope everyone has a good weekend!

- Peter

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Odd Jobs

Wharfinger (wharf·in·ger) - an owner of a wharf

As I posted the other day, there are always a few things in the census data that I don't know the meaning of, as in today's post. I assumed from the name that the occupation was that of someone in the fishing or shipping business. It turns out that it is the owner of a wharf.

There isn't much out there (at least that I was able to find today) about the business of owning a wharf. From what I can gather, the owner of the wharf usually had a house/office on the premise of the wharf. A job description is pretty basic, he is the one who has custody of and is responsible for all goods delivered to the wharf as well as it's upkeep.

In the 1860 census of Port Tobacco, we have a wharfinger named Alfred Nalley (30 years old). There is mention of him being part of the 1870 census as well but I find no reference to him. Again, this is one of those times where the census data does not always match and also how inaccurate it can be for doing research.

As Port Tobacco was indeed a port town and many goods came in and out of the town, it would make sense to me that there would be more than one wharf owner, or a succession of owners over time. However, I haven't found any other references to them. That doesn't mean they're not out there!

I would be curious to know if there were more than one wharfingers in Port Tobacco? How many wharves were in Port Tobacco? Were they all commercial wharfs? Did the owners sell them before the river silted in? Were they aware of the silting problem before the town knew how bad it was getting? Lots of questions, very few answers. Just something to mull over and possibly research on another day.

- Peter

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

June Field Session Site Map

Pete is drafting figures for our report on the June field session. Here's a map that shows the distribution of units (blue squares with illegible numbers represent 5 ft by 5 ft excavation units).

It is remarkable how much we found in so few units. Of course, we hedged our bets by surveying the area with closely spaced (25 ft) shovel test pits the previous year. Still, the cluster of three units to the left exposed part of a cemetery and paling fence ditch, the cluster at the top of the figure revealed portions of the 1857-1896 jailhouse, and the cluster of five units to the left and below the outline of the Episcopal Church ruin yielded what is almost certainly a Contact period aboriginal site and and an 18th-century cellar hole.

These are points of departure for more extensive excavations that will expose features like the cellar hole, recover well-preserved artifacts, enhance what we know, beg new questions, and further fuel the excitement.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Everyday People

As I sort through the census data in Port Tobacco, I occasionally come across terms that I haven't heard before. Usually they are just abbreviations used by the government to shorten the census forms. This time, I am looking for information on the different jobs held by Port Tobacco residents for a paper April and I are writing for the upcoming Council for Northeast Historical Archaeology conference in October (

One of the jobs I came across was that of a milliner. Since I had no idea what a milliner did, I looked it up. Way back in October of 2007, millinery was mentioned in one of our blogs. It shows that Port Tobacco had two milliners in 1878 according to the Maryland Directory (Mrs. Adelaide Quenzel and Mrs. J.V. Smoot). In the 1870 census there is an entry for a milliner not mentioned in the 1878 Maryland Directory or the 1880 census...Mary H. Scott (correction: Mary was 36 years old in 1870, not 25).

A milliner is a businesswoman (almost always a woman in the 18th and 19th centuries) who makes and sells clothes and hats for women. In addition to being a tradeswoman who made fashion accessories, the milliner was also a businesswoman who sold a wide range of fashionable imported goods. It was not uncommon for a milliner in the colonies to advertise that she had just imported from London the very latest in mercery, haberdashery, jewelry, hosiery, shoes "and other items too tedious to mention."

It is not uncommon for people to be in one census and then gone in the next in Port Tobacco, as the population changed often. It is curious though to know what happened to these people. What happened to Mary Scott? While we have blogged about the famous (and infamous) people of Port Tobacco, it's the unknown people who make the town a town.

- Peter

Monday, September 1, 2008

Website on Thomas Arvin

Bonnie and I returned from Louisiana yesterday...a timely departure, to say the least. While there we received a comment on a blog posting from July 30, 2008. Since many of you will miss that comment, I thought I would insert it here and provide some explanation.

For some interesting information about this cemetery and Rev. Wilmer, please see my website. Best way to find it is simply Google for "Thomas Arvin" He is my fifth-great grandfather.
Robert Joseph Arvin, Jr.

Mr. Arvin is referring to the cemetery at Piney Church and to Reverend Wilmer's house site. His webpages (Parts 1 and 2) track the movements and life events of his ancestor, Thomas Arvin. He very effectively provides detailed contextual information, not only to better understand Thomas' life but to fill in where there is little data.

Mr. Arvin's story is long and the references to the cemetery occur at the end of Part 2, but for those interested in gaining a fuller understanding of Colonial Maryland and of what we, as historians and archaeologists, are trying to learn, it is well worth the investment of time.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Countdown to the Blog Birthday

Time flies when you are having we must be having great fun! The Port Tobacco Archaeological Project Blog turns 1 year old on September 9th! Don't you think we should do something special to celebrate?

I'd like to invite all the regular bloggers (Jim, Pete, Scott) and our regular volunteers and readers to think up an appropriate way to mark the 1 year anniversary. We don't all have to do the same thing so think about what you may like to do. Here are some ideas:

1. If you have been meaning to join the Archeological Society of Maryland of the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco, make September 9th the day you send in that membership form

2. If you have been meaning to go back and read some of our blog archives, make September 9th the day to do it.

3. If you have been thinking of volunteering with us, make September 9th the day you send email to Jim Gibb ( )to offer your time or resources.

4. If you live in Charles County or in Maryland, show your support for the project by calling your county or state representative's office and tell them what this project means to you.

5. If you may have had relatives who lived or worked in Port Tobacco, do some research on them and send it to us. You never know what piece of information can solve an entire puzzle.

I think you have got the idea!


P.S. Safe travels Dr. Gibb!